First as an academic and arbitrator in Ontario (1965-73), then as Chair of the B.C. Labour Relations Board (1973-78), and finally as a Professor at Harvard University (1979 to the present), Paul Weiler has developed a reputation as “the foremost labour law scholar in North America” (Financial Post profile). Besides producing seminal articles on arbitration (The Role of the Labour Arbitrator: Alternative Versions, 1969), Weiler is the author of two leading policy-oriented treatises on labour law (Reconcilable Differences, 1980 and Governing the Workplace, 1990). Since 1981, Professor Weiler has held the prestigious post of Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
A reformer by nature, and a pragmatist by experience, Professor Weiler has written and spoken widely on the need for a pluralist approach to labour relations, one which recognizes the importance to society of balancing countervailing powers, and of giving that balance concrete form through progressive labour laws administered by effective labour boards. But Weiler has not contented himself with explication; throughout his career, theory and practice have intersected, to the benefit of both. Thus, during his tenure at the B.C. Labour Relations Board, he fashioned and then administered a modern, progressive Labour Relations Code, which remains the cornerstone of labour relations law in B.C. and has had a major influence on labour law and policy across Canada. Subsequently, while at Harvard, he was appointed by President Clinton as Chief Counsel to the U.S. (Dunlop) Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations, and in influential articles has consistently called for changes that would encourage collective bargaining and level the playing field between labour and management.
In constitutional law, too, Weiler’s contribution has been considerable, first as author of the groundbreaking analysis of the Supreme Court of Canada (In the Last Resort, 1974), and then, in the early eighties, as adviser to the federal government in the drafting of the Charter of Rights. During that same decade, acting as special counsel to the Ontario government, he undertook a comprehensive examination of the province’s workers’ compensation scheme, and his reports led to fundamental changes in policy and administration, including creation of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal. In a profile published in the Labour Arbitration Yearbook (1996-97), Professor Morley Gunderson, of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Industrial Relations, eloquently described Professor Weiler’s achievements: “There are a variety of ways to capture the essence of Weiler’s myriad contributions. He continues to break down the barriers between the ivory tower and the real world by illustrating the relevance of sound academic scholarship to key issues of practical and policy importance. He illustrates that it is possible to be an expert in a wide range of areas and to apply theory to practice in important areas such as arbitration, the reform and design of labour codes and workers’ compensation systems, constitutional reform, and medical malpractice. He proves that it is possible to advance controversial propositions, such as the ‘notwithstanding’ clause in the Constitution and mandatory representation at the workplace, and yet maintain impeccable credentials in the academic and policy community. He demonstrates that it is possible to be a ‘citizen of the world’ and a key policy advisor in more than one country. He is living proof that it is possible to be a ‘sports nut’ as well as a world-renowned academic and policy and political advisor. Above all, he exemplifies that it is possible to do all of this and to indulge other passions in life at the same time.” As Professor Gunderson concludes: “Perhaps the ultimate tribute to Paul Weiler is that any one of these accomplishments would be an exceptional achievement. That he has achieved all of them is testimony to a truly remarkable career.”