What is a Union?

A union is...

  • A democratic organization of workers who have united to improve their overall quality of life.
  • Unions represent workers in negotiations with employers.
  • Unions ensure workers have a say in their wages, benefits, safety, and health and well-being.
  • Unions give workers a strong voice in the workplace.

About 30% of Canadian employees belong to a union.

What have unions done for us?

Unions appeared in Canada around the Industrial Revolution. In those days, men and women (and sometimes children) were forced to work long hours in dangerous environments for very little pay.

Employers were focused on production and workers had little say about their working conditions.

After years of struggle, many workers formed unions to fight for change. They organized strikes and walk-outs. Workers risked their jobs – and sometimes their lives – to establish eight-hour workdays, 40-hour work weeks, child labour laws, minimum wage, basic supports (like employment insurance), and safe working conditions in coal mines, factories, plants and construction sites.

Today’s labour standards are a direct result of sacrifices early union members made.

Why are unions important today?

Unions ensure all workers are treated fairly at all times. Unions improve wages and benefits for workers.

Benefits of Unions

Today’s unions benefit workers in many ways:

  • Improve wages
  • Provide financial security during and after employment (sick leave, pensions)
  • Protect workers’ health (medical, dental and eye care benefits)
  • Protect workers’ safety
  • Protect workers’ rights
  • Improve workers’ bargaining power
  • Address workers’ concerns at work
  • Advocate for and represent members in disputes between workers and employers
  • Ensure high standard quality of work
  • Maintain a harmonious workplace

How do unions benefit society?

Unions protect our society’s middle class. We negotiate good pay, benefits and working conditions for workers. Unions are advocates. We lobby governments to change laws and policies to benefit all workers.