Rights Won for Other Citizens

When unions stand up for fairness, they raise the bar for everyone. Many of the benefits first won by unions are enjoyed by all workers today, including maternity leave, vacation pay, and protection from discrimination and harassment.The following is a list of rights which society enjoys because unions worked to have them for union members:
  • Weekends;
  • Paid vacations;
  • The 8-hour work day;
  • Ending child labour;
  • Work breaks, including paid lunch breaks;
  • Equal pay for equal work for women;
  • Abolition of sweatshops;
  • Sick leave;
  • Canada Pension Plan;
  • Universal health care;
  • The minimum wage;
  • Pregnancy and parental Leave;
  • The right to strike;
  • Anti-discrimination rules at work;
  • Overtime pay;
  • Occupational health and safety;
  • 40 hour work week;
  • Worker’s compensation;
  • Employment Insurance;
  • Pensions;
  • Public education;
  • Collective bargaining rights for employees;
  • Wrongful termination laws;
  • Whistleblower protection laws;
  • Anti-sexual harassment laws; and
  • Holiday Pay
The scary thing about this is that as union density decreases it becomes more challenging for the gains negotiated by unions to be spread throughout society at large.


The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) recently released a study which examined the economic benefits of unions in communities. The analysis indicated that the cumulative impact of better paying union jobs in Canada was worth a cumulative $793 million more each week to our country – money spent in our communities and our economy.[1] This is called the Union Advantage.

But this advantage doesn’t just belong to union members. It benefits everyone. Workers in unions are an important part of the local community and economy because that’s where they spend their paychecks. Their incomes support local businesses (who create more local jobs) and bolster the local tax base, which supports public works and community services that add to everyone’s quality of life.

The benefits enjoyed by unionized workers – dental insurance, extended health care coverage and legal insurance, to name a few – attract and support local dentists, chiropractors, therapists, health specialists, and family lawyers whose services benefit everyone in the community.

Communities with more union members enjoy relatively higher incomes overall, and support a richer mix of businesses and services that diversify the local economy and add to the overall quality of life. They are better places to work and live. The Union Advantage Project highlights the benefits that workers with unions bring to Canada as a whole as well as 29 specific communities across the country.

Enhanced Democracy

Unions have been, and continue to be, an important force for democracy, not just in the workplace, but also in the community – locally, nationally, and globally. Unions make democracy work better. They press for better social, economic and environmental policies, through various forms of political action and through coalitions with others who have common aims.

A just and democratic society depends on a healthy and free labour movement. It is no coincidence that in countries where there are free and active trade union movements, there are more democratic, transparent and representative forms of government.

In those countries where there is no union movement or where the movement is vulnerable, the vast majority of citizens continue to be trapped in poverty. It is in these conditions that instability and extremism thrive at the expense of democracy.

Recent studies and found the the rate of unionization had an impact on voter participation.

Impact Upon Future Generations

As educators ETFO members play a significant role in ensuring that Canada is a better place - few would discount the impact a successful education has on an individual and their ability to positively contribute to society. Recent students have highlighted the positive impact that unions have had on student achievement.

In 2000, three professors writing in the Harvard Educational Review did a statistical analysis of state SAT/ACT scores, controlling for factors like race, median income, and parental education. They found that the presence of teachers unions in a state did have a measurable and significant correlation with increased test scores — that going to school in a union state would, for instance, raise average SATs by about 50 points.

Two other findings leap out from the Harvard Educational Review study. First, they concluded that Southern states’ poor academic performance could be explained almost entirely by that region’s lack of unionization, even when you didn’t take socioeconomic differences into account.

And second, they found that concrete improvements in the educational environment associated with teachers’ unions — lower class sizes, higher state spending on education, bigger teacher salaries — accounted for very little of the union/non-union variation. Teachers’ unions, in other words, don’t just help students by reducing class sizes or increasing educational spending. In their conclusion, they stated that “other mechanism(s) (ie, better working conditions; greater worker autonomy, security, and dignity; improved administration; better training of teachers; greater levels of faculty professionalism) must be at work here.”[2]
  1. ^ Canadian Labour Congress; August 21, 2012
  2. ^
    The Effect Of Teachers Unions On Student Achievement; ,