People may ask: 'why join a union?'

This video, created by the Canadian Media Guild, demonstrates why workers desire the protections that unions provide.

[1]

Without unions the workers are at the whim of their employer. With a good employer and a positive relationship things might not be so bad. However, as Jenny discovered in the above video, employers aren't always caring and kind. Unionized workplaces are set up in the principles of fairness and equity.

Unionized workplaces ensure that there is a process in place to deal with relationship issues i.e.harassment; discrimination, or abuse of authority. The union ensures that working conditions are appropriate and don't change unless it is through a process of negotiations. In short, they ensure that all workers are provided with a safe, healthy, fair place to work.

Over the years unions have made some significant advances for workers as shown in this video developed by MoveOn.org

[2]

A number of years ago, OSSTF, the union representing public Secondary School teachers and support staff created a video which is a spoof of the Twilight Zone. In it they envision an education system without a union . ..
[3]

The participants in the 8th ETFO Union School were ask to list the most significant benefits of the union on their lives.They listed the following:

  1. The first things I think of are the obvious things i.e.fair wages, sick leave, benefits, maternity leave and protection, safety in the workplace, weekends, actual work day hours.
  2. I have the security of knowing that I have back up when there is an issue regarding my health and safety at work. I know that here is a protocol that our workplaces are supposed to follow. The rules are clear and they are followed. When they are not followed there is a process that works to deal with that.
  3. In the future I have a pension that gives me an opportunity to retire at a decent age and ensures that I will not have to worry about working until I have run myself down too much.
  4. Having a collective voice for bargaining is a union’s chief benefit for elementary teachers, as almost all advances are done through formal and informal negotiations on behalf of the employees. If individual members had to try and advocate for themselves some might be successful but many would not - there is strength in the collective.
  5. Having the ability to appeal, grieve and enforce any gains is paramount to ensuring teacher rights are kept under careful watch. The union does this for us.
  6. The union is able to provide strong advocacy for all members, through our released officers who are able to intervene without fear or reprisals.
  7. The union is able to negotiate language which ensure equitable workload for all members i.e. class sizes.
  8. Thanks to the unions, it is not up to the administration to determine working hours and salaries. It is a negotiation process. Every employee is to be treated fairly and equitably. Salaries are determined through experience and qualifications, not according to who socializes with the boss.
  9. The union ensures that employees are treated with respect and fairly by management.
  10. The union provides an avenue for enhancing our legislated rights - a good example of this is with Maternity benefits. Firstly Unions were active in the struggle to get the basic benefit for new mothers and a return to work. Then when those basic rights were enshrined in the legislation the worked to negotiated enhanced rights for the members. For example, a 6-week top up (recently re-negotiated in some locals to 8) in addition to having the option of taking the rest of the year off to spend with our child. Maternity benefits were something the union fought for and won.
  11. Many don't recognize that unions ensure access to ongoing professional learning. Not only does ETFO provide amazing professional learning for the members of the union but they also work to ensure that school boards and the Ministry of Education provides training in healthy and safety, new curriculum, and new policies and procedures so that all members have the support they need to delivery the assigned program.
  12. Unions have worked to ensure appropriate funding for school programs; there would be far more corporate sponsorships in schools if it weren't for unions fighting to ensure students weren't 'used' be the big corporate interests.
  13. Related to funding is an equitable access to school funds so that all grades/subjects have fair treatment.
  14. Public education works best when all of the partners are working together - the union works to ensure that all the necessary voices are heard and that all the partners are respectful of one another.


Krista Haidner, one of the participants in the Union School was discussing the impact of the union on the lives of education workers with her staff. One of her colleagues, a long-time teacher who had taken time off of work with her children and returned to the teaching force later, provided her recollections of teaching at a time when there were fewer negotiated working conditions, health and safety provisions, and compensation.

She described living through the days where she took years off to have her children after being pressured by the administration at the time. She remembers being told that she had to wear skirts with nylons and no open toed shoes. She also wasn't able to wear her long hair down, it had to remain tied up. She described how the women teachers had been treated so differently, and she recalled a time when she wanted to teach intermediate students but was told that she was a woman and she needed to stay in primary. She talked about the thick smoke that was found in the staff room at lunch, while employees were smoking, and had to find other areas of the school to go to instead of relaxing in the common room. She talked about having to eat her lunch with her class and then take them outside for recess. There were no cap sizes and there were no local executives to help when problems arose...at least to her knowledge.[4]

Less senior members of ETFO forget that many of the things we most value about our jobs are recent gains. As we remember from our Bill 115 fight - these rights are fragile and we must protect them if we are to keep them.
  1. ^ 'Restructuring'; Canadian Media Guild; YouTube; 2012
  2. ^ 'What Have Unions Done for us?'; MoveOn.org; YouTube; 2012
  3. ^ 'The School Zone'; OSSTF' YouTube; 2009
  4. ^ K. Haidner; ETFO Union School; April 7, 2013