Understanding the Absence of Unionized Workers in Rural Alberta, Canada

Bob Barnetson


This preliminary study spatially locates 333,881 unionized workers in the Canadian province of Alberta, identifying that a disproportionate percentage of unionized workers are located in urban centres and in bargaining units of greater than 100 members. Most unionized rural workers are found in large, public-sector bargaining units. Interviews with trade unionists suggest possible explanations for this pattern, including the unequal distribution of capital, rural workers’ spatial embeddedness, unions’ preference for large bargaining units, and the differentially and negative impact of weak labour laws on rural workers.

Keywords: unions; rural; labor geography; Alberta; Canada

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.