Why We Need Unions
People who work for a living know about the inequality of power between workers and their employers. Workers want to have a voice at work so they can improve the quality of their lives, their job and their communities. Workers have a vested interest in the success of the company and feel that their input is valuable, but often feel ignored. The union changes that. Workers employed with the protection of a union contract have their basic rights protected and enforced. Members have a say in their jobs and are more productive due to the increased co-operation and better relations they have with management whom they work as equals with in order to remedy situations that might occur at work.
Higher union wages translate into a stronger tax base for local communities. This in turn provides for better schools and healthier local economies. When workers have a real say in their hours and working conditions, they can spend more quality time with their families. There’s a lot of talk, both positive and negative, about what union membership can or can’t do for you and your rights in the workplace. The best way you can learn how becoming a union member will affect your life is by finding out for yourself.
Look at the facts and then decide. And, when you’re ready to learn more, give the Organizing Department of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers a call at 416-510-3530. We’ll contact you as soon as possible to give you the answers that will allow you to make a choice that’s best for you and your family. All communication will be kept confidential.
Union or nonunion?
Unrepresented workers have very limited workplace rights, set out mainly in labour standards legislation.
Unionized workers enjoy far greater rights. They have the minimum protections guaranteed under the Employment Standards Act, plus rights under the Labour Relations Act and more refined rights defined by a Collective Agreement. These extra rights include the right to bargain collectively the right, the right to fair representation, to grieve, and the right to arbitration.
Unionized workers also enjoy enhanced health and safety protection, human rights guarantees, WSIB support services and professional representation.
To enjoy these enhanced rights, you need to join a union.
As a result of decades of pressure by the labour movement, most jurisdictions have enacted minimum standards legislation to protect the basic rights of all workers, whether or not they belong to a union.
This legislation sets out the basic obligations of employers in areas such as minimum wages, hours of work, legal holidays and vacations. For workers without a union, this legislation is the principle source of employee rights. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for non-union workers to get any enforcement of these minimum standards. When was the last time you asked the Ministry of Labour to enforce fair payment of overtime, vacation pay or health and safety standards, without the fear of getting fired?
What are the benefits of joining a Union?
The major benefits of joining a union are that it gives workers a collective voice with which to deal with management as well as access to the provisions of a collective agreement. Unions give workers access to due process and to rights in the workplace making it a much more democratic setting than would otherwise be the case.
It should also be stressed that the role of unions extends far beyond the workplace. A successful union is one which wins better wages and working conditions, rights and standards for its members through bargaining, but knows that the gains which are achieved will be more secure if they are shared by all workers. About one third of Canadian workers are unionized. Jobs covered by collective agreements pay about 40% more than jobs not covered by collective agreements.
What are other benefits of joining a Union?
With a Union your rights and benefits as a worker are spelled out in black and white. You have an opportunity to share in the profits you helped create by negotiating your wages, benefits and working conditions. You will have a procedure to deal with complaints. Union representatives and staff can assist you with problems on the job and with workers’ compensation appeals, employment insurance problems, pension information and more. By standing together as a Brotherhood, you and your co workers will be able to balance the power that is currently only in the hands of management.
Union Members Have Strong Retirement Plans.
Union members are also more likely to have a guaranteed retirement plan. Workers at Enron know the benefits of a guaranteed retirement plan. They didn’t have one and lost millions of dollars in their Pension savings due to management greed.
Why Organize into a Union?
In today’s political and economic climate, now more than ever workers benefit from sticking together. The IBEW can help create a fair playing field between you and your employer. It not only stands to reason, but the facts are that when you & your colleagues stand together to deal with your workplace issues, together you have more power than one voice.
… if your workplace is non-union
You are an “employee at will.” Your employer can discipline or fire you at any time for any reason; you have no recourse
“Open door” policy means the employer will listen to you… and then do whatever he or she wants.
Employer determines wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of work. If you’re not satisfied, your only option is to get another job
Wages, benefits and other terms and conditions can be changed by the employer at any time.
…if you join a union and have a contract
Discipline, up to and including discharge, is subject to a grievance procedure and binding arbitration, As outlined the terms of your contract.
Contract negotiations require both sides — labour and management — to listen, and reach reasonable compromises acceptable to both sides.
Wages, benefits and working conditions are negotiated. If you are not satisfied, you can work for changes during contract negotiations.
Neither labour nor management can make unilateral changes to a signed contract.
Unless workers have a union contract, they are at the mercy company policies. Workers without a contract are considered “employees at will.” That means they can be fired at any time and without reason, the only exceptions are termination for discrimination, or union organizing. It’s not surprising then that workers without a union are often subject to arbitrariness and unfairness on the job. No surprise then that union wages are better, union shops are safer and union jobs are more secure!
The Union Advantage in Pay and Benefits
Jobs covered specifically by an IBEW collective agreement pay an average of 100% more than jobs that are not. (based upon an average of $28 per hour for the non-union electrician and $56 per hour for union electricians which is the 2011 pay rate in Toronto’s collective agreement.)
Union workers earn more… But benefits are the biggest union advantage
Employees bargain with strength for wages, benefits and rights when they join together. That’s why it’s important to unionize. However, even though you have the right to form a union that does not mean it will be easy.
Companies can and will resist employee efforts to speak with a unified voice.
Companies will try to intimidate and even fire employees for speaking out. Or, threaten to close if employees unionize. These tactics, while illegal, are often used successfully to deny rights.
That’s why it is important to contact the IBEW before you start any efforts so that we can advise and guide you. All conversations between you and the IBEW are confidential.