The Facts

The facts about unions

Unions are democratic

Canadian unions are run by people like you and their resources come from members' dues. Comparing "big unions" to big corporations is like comparing apples to oranges, but it's a trick that corporations and the media they own love to use.

Unions consist of everyday working people who elect representatives that try to get the best deal for them. Elected union officers are accountable to the membership and have to run for election, unlike corporate CEOs.

Unions negotiate

In Alberta, more than 98 per cent of contract negotiations are settled without a strike. No union wants a strike and one will only take place after the majority of members vote to do so. Strikes do occur when both sides cannot reach an agreement and the workers think the issues are too important or that other remedies won't work. More working days are lost in a year to workplace accidents and illnesses than are lost to strikes.

Union workplaces are good workplaces

Unions bargain for much more than wages. They have fought to eliminate sweat shops, address workplace discrimination, ensure pay equity, reduce the number of working hours, and improve health and safety conditions.

Unions also fight to preserve and enhance social programs like Medicare, public education, and pensions. Job security, retraining, and eliminating racism are also high on the list of union priorities.

Unions bargain in good faith

In contract negotiations, unions base their demands on the needs of the membership. The members themselves state what their needs are during meetings to set bargaining proposals. Negotiations are like any other part of life: we always try to get the best deal we can. But we also take into account the financial circumstances of the employer.

In Alberta, the vast majority of union contracts are negotiated fairly, and in a manner that benefits all parties involved.

Union dues are collected fairly

A union is formed in a workplace when a majority of workers voluntarily agree to sign union membership cards. Unions are democratic organizations, and the wishes of the majority rule.

Everyone in the workplace benefits from a union contract, so everyone pays dues. Like the saying goes, there are no free lunches. Unions require revenue to provide services and representation to members. And those services and representation are available to all members.

Unions are relevant to today’s workplace

Corporations are stronger than ever before. Global trade and investment deals threaten to put even more power in their hands, at the expense of citizens and our elected governments.

Workers need unions to do what would be next to impossible on their own: counterbalance the power of employers, protect members' rights, and work for further improvements.

Unions protect good employees

No collective agreement requires an employer to keep a worker who is incompetent or lazy. The union doesn't shelter a worker who is deliberately absent or always late for work.

But unions do make sure that discipline is for just cause and not because of personality clashes between a worker and the employer. A union contract is really job insurance for good employees.

Unions empower whole communities

The labour movement was a leader in the fight for civil rights, Medicare, public education, the minimum wage, and better working conditions including the 40-hour work week. Unions went on strike for pensions and set the standards for society.

Sure, union members want their own working conditions to improve, but we all have children, family, and friends who aren't unionized, and we want them to have a better life, too.

We believe that improving the prosperity and working conditions of all workers is in the best interest of union members.


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