Unions have raised the bar

Lately, labour and trade unions have been portrayed in a negative light by conservative media and business interests.
Doing so may serve the interests of those casting the stones. But the reality is that we owe unions our thanks for improving the economic and social well-being of working Canadians over the decades that they have been in existence.
Labour and trade unions have been a fixture in Canada since the 1800s, but did not become prominent until the last century as they engaged in high-profile battles for eight-hour work days and better pay for their members.
Even if you are not currently represented by a union, they probably are the reason you enjoy a safe working environment, two-day weekends, vacation pay, and protection from workplace harassment.
The right to “collective bargaining,” the process by which members of a union agree to pool their labour and negotiate as one with their employer(s), was first recognized in 1937 following a strike by the United Auto Workers at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ont.
Over the decades and through the collective bargaining process, unions have raised the bar for all employees across Canada. They pushed for health-care benefits, which helped lead the way towards the establishment of our national public health-care system, and forced various federal and provincial governments over the years to enact laws that protect worker’s health and safety.
In the case that an individual loses their job, unions also were the first to push for the creation of unemployment benefits so that people could continue to support their families in the short-term and between jobs.
Today, 4,562,800 Canadians belong to unions in all types of occupations from coast to coast to coast.
The impact of labour and trade unions on a local economy is both significant and overwhelmingly positive. In terms of wages, the average Canadian worker without union representation makes $21.39 an hour while those who are unionized make $26.50.
The whole community can benefit from the additional $5.11 per hour that is earned by unionized workers since those workers also pay $793 million more a week to our country and our communities through taxes.
When unionized workers, like non-unionized ones, spend their paycheque, they support local business and help prop up the local tax base. Benefits like dental insurance and extended health care and prescription coverage that union workers receive also attract and support these industries locally.
Union “locals” also tend to collect and use money from the dues paid by their members to support local charities like food banks and others.
While making a significant contribution to the local economy, we also should take pride in the high quality of the products and services produced by unions and their employers.
It may not always be apparent, especially if you tend to consult large corporate media outlets or listen to our federal government members speak, but unions do, in fact, significantly strengthen our country and communities.
They have raised the bar for working Canadians of all walks of life, unionized or not, and have made our workplaces safer while increasing the economic and social benefits paid to all working Canadians, and giving back to our local economy and communities by propping up the tax base and donating their resources to social services for those most in need.
I’m sure not all of you will agree with my assessment, but I do hope it provides some food for thought the next time you hear a stranger, friend, or member of the Harper government dumping on unions for making life more difficult for Canadians.
It really couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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