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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 www.collegeworkers.org. 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
NUPGE 
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

The demise of those bills will be cause for all of us to celebrate. Let’s hope this represents the beginning of a new and important era of respect for labour rights and working people in Canada by our federal government.


Ottawa (01 Feb. 2016) — It’s not just unions and union members who will win when the federal Liberals make good on their pledge to repeal the anti-labour laws Harper forced through in the dying days of his government. The fact is that strong unions matter to every single Canadian.
Strong unions matter because the freedom to join together in groups and speak our minds freely is vital to the health and prosperity of our communities and our country. Put another way, unions matter to us all because they

  • Raise the standards of living for everybody, union members and non-union members alike
  • Reduce inequality, particularly income inequality
  • Protect our human rights by giving us the power to fight discrimination in all its forms
  • Strengthen our democracy by increasing voter participation

The Supreme Court understands
The Supreme Court of Canada understands this. Last year, it issued three strong judgements protecting the right of all Canadians to belong to a union and to exercise their right to strike. Unions, the Court wrote, support “the values of human dignity, equality, liberty, respect for the autonomy of the person and the enhancement of democracy.”
Bill C-377 would have required unions to provide an incredibly onerous level of detailed financial disclosure about their work on behalf of their members, and Bill C-525 would have made it harder for unions to organize in federally regulated workplaces.
Thankfully, our new federal government shares the Supreme Court’s understanding that unions matter. The majority of provincial premiers understand that, too. As do the Canadian Bar Association, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and a whole host of other organizations and civil society groups who spoke out loudly against C-377 and C-525.
Cause to celebrate
The demise of those bills will be cause for all of us to celebrate. Let’s hope this represents the beginning of a new and important era of respect for labour rights and working people in Canada by our federal government.
In solidarity, 

James ClancyNUPGE National President
NUPGE
James Clancy is the National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), 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
Issues and Campaigns: 

In honour of Black History Month and Family Day, we’re asking for entries that say why unions matter to African Canadians or why unions matter to your family.

Ottawa (18 Jan. 2016) — Since the Unions Matter contest was launched in late 2013, we’ve received hundreds of entries and awarded more than $20,000 in prizes. The winning entries have ranged from elementary school students to seasoned professionals. We’ve awarded prizes for poems (both written and spoken word), songs, music videos, personal reminiscences, and even a schematic.
The most recent winning entry, by a Kitchener retirement home cook named Nadeem Hajee, is something new altogether. It’s a short comic strip that shows why unions matter to three very different people: a first responder concerned about safety, an enthusiastic journalist who wants to be able to freely express her opinion, and a retiree who wants to maintain a comfortable living.
Wanted to be unique
“After looking at all the other submissions, I wanted to submit an entry that was unique and had not yet been done. All the other entries were really good so I made a list of things I could do,” says Nadeem, who is a proud member of Unifor Local 1106. “I was thinking of doing some sort of Power Point presentation or some kind of flowchart."
“But as I was writing down information that I wanted to present it just made more sense to present it through a comic strip.  A comic strip is visually more appealing to the reader and fun to make."

We were so taken by Nadeem’s idea of exploring the different ways in which unions matter to different people that we’ve decided to rework the contest a little bit.
Contest is adopting monthly themes
For the next number of months, we’ll be asking for entries focussed on timely themes. Since February is Black History Month, and also the month in which four provinces celebrate Family Day, we’re asking for entries on one of these two themes:

Contest winner writes: "Do unions matter? I've got a better question. Do human rights matter?"

Ottawa (18 Dec. 2015) — Jenifer Hutt is one of the latest winners of the Why Unions Matter contest because she knows that sometimes the best answer to a question is another question. 
“Do unions matter?” she asks in her winning contest entry. “I’ve a better question. Do human right’s matter? What about the right to fair wages or work conditions where your safety is paramount? Should people be compensated if they are injured due to practices in the workplace?”
Unions a cornerstone of rights
As the Nova Scotian points out, you can’t really say that you believe in human rights or workplace safety without also believing in unions. “Unions have long been the cornerstone to protecting and promoting human rights,” she says.
Charles Partridge would agree with that. But as the other most recent winner of the contest points out, protecting human rights are far from the only reason that unions matter. A social worker in Surrey, B.C., Partridge submitted an excellent short essay that strongly outlines unions’ many contributions to healthy economies and communities:

  • They reduce income inequality
  • They increase democratic participation
  • They reduce poverty

“If we are to break out of this vicious cycle of income inequality and start to rebuild both our economy and our communities in Canada, unions will once again have to lead the way,” he writes.
Contest still open
Congratulations to both Hutt and Partridge. The Why Unions Matter contest is still accepting entries for more prizes. Please email your entry to whyunionsmatter@nupge.ca.
More information: 
Why Unions Matter contest
NUPGEThe 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: 

Issues and Campaigns: 

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