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Unions Matter contest winner understands that just as unions can help indigenous members, indigenous members can help their unions.
Ottawa (15 June 2016) — In the wake of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, this year's National Aboriginal Day on June 21 has special signficance: it's time, finally, to acknowledge the damages done in the past, but also to celebrate the incredible potential the future holds for all people on this land.
Iman Mahmoud's Why Unions Matter contest submission hones in on the notion that equality and respect is good for all.
"The relationship between unions and Indigenous Canadians is mutually beneficial," says Mahmoud, a high school student in Ottawa, in the short video, Unions Matter to Indigenous Canadians. "Unions gain new members who will contribute to their organization, while Indigenous Canadians gain a new and powerful ally."

Unions raise awareness, money, and attention
As Mahmoud notes in the video, unions have a long and successful history of supporting and encouraging working people to speak out and overcome against injustice. Indigenous people have long suffered extreme and systemic injustice, and Mahmoud rightly notes that unions have a responsibility to take part in the reconciliation.
"Unions have the power to talk about issues that are important to all Indigenous Canadians. They raise awareness, money, and are able to obtain the attention of those at the top. Issues such as sub-standard housing on reserves, un-drinkable water and missing and murdered aboriginal women," says Mahmoud in the video.
"In short, unions matter to Indigenous Canadians and Indigenous Canadians matter to unions."
New theme for next month
Next month, we'll be celebrating Canada Day. So throughout June, we're asking for Why Unions Matter contest submissions that say why unions matter to our country.
We’re looking forward to your responses! And here’s one tiny bit of advice: so far, the majority of the entries have been poems. We’ll continue to accept and consider poetry, but if you want your entry to stand out, think about crafting something other than a poem. 
Please email your entry to (link sends email).
More information: 
Why Unions Matter contest details
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
NUPGE Components: 

Latest contest winners show us that by encouraging their members to feel valuable and secure, unions help their members provide better service and care to their customers and clients.
Ottawa (09 May 2016) — Everybody knows that health care workers help all Canadians live better longer lives. As a Toronto rapper and community organizer Mohammad Ali Aumeer makes clear in his powerful song "Dreams, Part II," health care workers are people too, and they need just as much support as the rest of us — support provided by health care unions.

Ontario Superior Court rules that Conservative government's legislating postal workers back to work in 2011 violated their rights to freedom of association and expression.
Ottawa (02 May 2016) — On Thursday, April 28, 2016, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the Harper government violated the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) members’ freedom of association and expression by legislating them back to work in June 2011.
Legislation ruled unconstitutional
The former federal government introduced the Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act, Bill C-6, in June 2011, forcing locked-out postal workers back to work and imposing wage increases that were less than the employer’s last offer. It referred all other outstanding issues to a final offer selection (FOS) arbitration process, which the Court found to be “structurally inadequate and not impartial.”
This is the second positive labour rights ruling by the Ontario Superior Court in a week. On April 20, the Court found that Ontario government's Bill 115, Putting Students First Act, was unconstitutional for violating collective bargaining rights of educational workers.
In this most recent ruling, Justice Stephen Firestone found that Bill C-6 "violates the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression under sections 2(d) and 2(b) of the Charter." He declared "the Act is unconstitutional and of no force and effect." The decision scraps the law but not the agreement that CUPW were forced to sign on behalf of its members as a result of the deeply flawed and unfair arbitration process. That agreement has now expired, and CUPW are currently in negotiations with Canada Post for a new agreement.
Justice Firestone found that Bill C-6 “abrogated the right to strike of CUPW members. The effect of this abrogation was to substantially interfere with — and to disrupt the balance of — a meaningful process of collective bargaining between CUPW and Canada Post.”
Bill C-6’s arbitration process “structurally inadequate and not impartial”
Justice Firestone harshly criticized the FOS arbitration process that the Act established.
“It seems clear also that the arbitration process contemplated by the Act was structurally inadequate and not impartial.  The FOS process did not redress the loss of balance that was entailed by the Act. Far from putting the parties on an "equal footing," it instead created and exacerbated an imbalance between the parties that had not existed before the legislation was tabled on June 20," the Judge said in his ruling. 

After 67 years, the federal government has run out of excuses. It can no longer justify its refusal to ratify ILO Convention No. 98, since the right to organize and bargain collectively is now recognized as a constitutional right in Canada.

"In the last two years, courts across Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada, have ruled that collective bargaining rights deserve constitutional protection because they enhance Charter values of democracy, dignity and equality.” — James Clancy, NUPGE National President
Toronto (21 April 2016)  – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) and 4 other unions in Ontario’s education sector won a major court victory at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on April 20.
Bill 115 banned wage increases for 2 years and outlawed strikes and lockouts 
The court found that the Ontario government's Bill 115, Putting Students First Act, imposed in the fall of 2012, was a violation of collective bargaining rights of educational workers, which are protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Bill 115 severely restricted the collective bargaining process in the education sector by requiring that collective agreements between school boards and employees not include compensation increases for a two-year period beginning September 1, 2012. The legislation also outlawed strikes and lockouts without providing for independent binding arbitration and gave the minister of education unprecedented powers, which also included the right to deny strikes and lockouts and impose terms in collective agreements at any time.
Judge ruled that the Ontario government infringed on workers' rights
In his decision, Justice Lederer ruled that the passage of Bill 115 “substantially interfered with meaningful collective bargaining," and therefore infringed upon union members' rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Justice Lederer did not provide a remedy for the parties, but instead instructed them to meet to determine a remedy.  If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the matter will be referred back to Justice Lederer for a decision.
Ruling confirms rights protected under the Charter
"Yesterday's decision is a great victory for education workers in Ontario," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE). "It confirms what we’ve been saying all along, namely, that the Liberal government trampled those workers' Charter rights in its fanatical pursuit of reduced wages and working conditions.
"But what is just as important is that this case adds another brick to the legal foundation of collective bargaining rights in Canada,” he said. “Governments need to recognize that workers’ rights to unionize and take part in collective bargaining are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
While government's try to restrict workers' rights, Supreme Court upholds them

Unions Matter winners help celebrate Earth Day (April 22) and mark the Day of Mourning (April 28).
Ottawa (06 Apr. 2016) — Everybody understands that unions speak up for wages and working conditions, but Grade 12 student Emily Genyn knows that unions are also an important voice for the environment. After all, she writes, "There are no jobs on a dead planet."
"Sustainability does not necessarily mean cutting out parts of our everyday lives, but simply adjusting the way things are done in order to do it in a more lasting and less harmful way," writes the Windsor, Ont, native in her winning essay Unions Matter to the Environment.
'We must invest now in order to protect the planet’s future.'
After graduating high school, Genyn plans to go into the environmentals studies program at the University of Windsor. Although she's not yet a member of a union, her mother's boyfriend works at the Chrysler plant and belongs to Unifor and was able to put her in touch with the chair of his local's environmental committee.
"Unions play an important role in promoting a cleaner and safer earth by having environmental committees which work to educate workers, families, communities and governments that we must invest now in order to protect the planet’s future," she writes.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a right-wing campaign against unions is cause to celebrate. But it’s also a reminder that we can never let down our guard.

Ottawa (01 April 2016) — Democracy in the United States scored a huge victory earlier this week when, in a split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a well-funded right-wing campaign to starve unions of their dues.
The case, known as Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, sought to overturn the U.S. version of Canada’s Rand Formula, which decrees that all employees who benefit from collective bargaining must pay the costs of that bargaining in the form of union dues.
Similar to Lavigne case here in Canada
It was a case very similar to a 1991 case here in Canada called Lavigne v Ontario Public Service Employees Union. Led by a young Stephen Harper, the right-wing National Citizen’s Coalition bankrolled the case of an anti-union government employee who claimed he shouldn’t have to pay his union dues.
Canada’s Supreme Court rejected Lavigne’s claim. And this week, the American Supreme Court rejected the similar Friedrichs claim. But it was very close: the justices were split 4 — 4 on the decision. Had the right-wing justice Antonin Scalia not passed away earlier this year, Friedrichs would likely have been successful, and a terrible blow would have been dealt to all American unions and, because we know that strong unions are integral to healthy and active democracies, to American democracy itself.
We must remain vigilant
A victory is a victory, but this close call reminds us that our struggle to protect democracy and basic human rights will never be over — we can always count on the wealthy to do what they can to increase their wealth at our expense.
If you’re interested in learning more about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, there are links to two articles below that provide solid analysis of why all U.S. citizens will benefit from the decision:
In solidarity, 

“There is no better cure for precarious work than giving workers a voice. And there’s no better voice for workers than a union.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto (25 Feb. 2016) — In his new music video, “Same Job,” Toronto-based artist Mohammad Ali of Socialist Hip Hop raps about the plight of precarious part-time workers in Ontario's 24 community colleges.  “Same job, less hours, less pay, less power,” he rhymes. “Organize for a say, or watch your rights slip away.”

OSPEU/NUPGE continues its campaign to unionize part-time college support staff 
Part-time workers in Ontario colleges have many different jobs — some are lab technicians, library assistants and registration clerks — however, all have one thing in common: they work without many of the workplace protections other Ontarians enjoy. 
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) has been fighting for college part-timers’ right to unionize for over three decades. In September 2015, the union launched its latest campaign to organize thousands of part-time college support staff.  
Ontario Premier says precarious work is a problem, colleges should listen
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas thinks the colleges seem to forget that they are public entities, supported by public dollars.
“When the Premier says we need to do something about precarious work, the colleges ought to listen,” he said. “There is no better cure for precarious work than giving workers a voice. And there’s no better voice for workers than a union.”
Part-time workers want a voice to negotiate better working conditions
Marilou Martin, Chair of the OPSEU College Support Staff Division, says part-timers face serious challenges in the college system.
“The situation of Ontarians doing precarious work is appalling. College part‑time workers don’t have any paid sick or vacation time. They have no drug benefits and no job security,” Martin says. “It’s a system that takes blatant advantage of part-time workers.”
Part-time college support workers in Ontario can apply for membership to OPSEU/NUPGE directly via They are encouraged to check the Facebook group for updates on the campaign.
More information: 
OPSEU President launches union drive for part-time workers at Ontario colleges
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
NUPGE Components: 

Now, we're looking for entries that touch on why unions matter to women or why unions matter to racial minorities.

Ottawa (22 Feb. 2016) — When we asked people to tell us why unions matter to families or to African Canadians, in honour of Family Day and Black History month, we weren’t expecting to hear about upper-class families sneering at the poor, or about racism in the early days of the trade union movement. But the most recent contest winners defied our expectations, and came out on top because of it.
Unions Matter winners show talent and commitment
Take the entry from Sara Tatelman and Anya Baker. Friends since university, the two perform together under the name Date Squares and sent us a short song called The Union Folk that points out that blood family aren’t always appreciative of the good unions do:
My father taught free market rules and held to his silver spoonMy mother was a hostess in a house of many roomsBut I raised my sign on a picket line and they kicked me outMy family now is the union proud and “The Red Flag” I will shout.

"If this government really wants to help young workers and interns, it would ensure that their rights to employment standards regulations and protections were included in the Canada Labour Code." — James Clancy, NUPGE National President