As DINKs our job categories range from personal finance, to educational institutions, and the technology sector. One topic we have never discussed in detail is our possible association with unions. I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of a union to our wages, our professional growth, as well as our job security.
As an employee in the financial services industry I do not have the luxury of being protected by a union. My friend Tricia who is a former financial services employee now works as an admissions officer for a local college. She is experiencing the benefits of a union and recently attended her first union meeting.
She was fascinated and impressed with the commitment by her union executive. A union executive is a group of people who are elected by the entire unionized workforce to represent them collectively with the company management. Coming from the cut throat world of finance, it is hard for Tricia to comprehend how the union executive put in an extended amount of time and effort on behalf of numerous employees whom they have never met.
According to Johnny, a former union president for a worldwide cereal manufacturer, the main purpose of a union is to establish and maintain workers’ rights and benefits in a consistent manner. A union also works with management in assuring fair and consistent implementation and utilization of the rules that ensure workers’ rights and benefits. Without sounding too patriotic a Union is an association by the people, and for the people to protect workers’ rights, job security, wages, and overall work environment.
I am the product of a union family. My Dad was an active (and card carrying) member of his union for over 25 years. I was marching in protests before I was selling Girl Guide cookies. I am always impressed by a union’s ability to bring people together. I will never forget the cold December day when I was deliberately absent from high school in protest of teachers job cuts. As I marched through my city alongside my Dad, I was impressed to see that almost every union in my town had representation. Alcohol and beer unions were marching alongside grain millers, spice producers, and auto manufacturers in support of protecting teacher’s jobs.
Very often I find that Unions get a bad reputation which I feel is unfair and unjust. My experience is that people who are anti union are either uneducated on the topic or afraid of their power. Johnny is a recently retired union president, who now offers his services as a labour relations consultant. Johnny has negotiated several Collective Agreements for workers during his time as a union president; it is all because he believes in the institution of a union. Equality for all people is something that our ancestors fought hard for over many years. If people are all treated equally, shouldn’t all workers receive the same equal treatment?
It is the union’s responsibility to negotiate a Collective Agreement on behalf of their employees. A collective agreement is an official document that outlines working conditions such as workers rights, rules for health and safety, employee wages, medical dental and health benefits, as well as dignity fairness and respect in the workplace. Once the union executive accepts a Collective Agreement they present it to their union members, who are the workers of a company, who then vote to accept or deny the Collective Agreement.
A union gives workers a voice. It gives us a voice about our working conditions that may otherwise be silenced in a union-less working environment. Once a Collective Agreement is accepted by the entire union membership it is the union’s job to ensure that the working conditions are followed and respected by all parties fairly and equally.