Labor Unions in Canada - Canadian History.

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Labor Unions in Canada - Canadian History.
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Labor Unions in Canada - Canadian History.
I

INTRODUCTION

Labor Unions in Canada, organizations that represent Canadian workers in their negotiations with employers. Labor unions engage in collective bargaining with
employers to determine issues such as wages, the terms and conditions of work, and worker security. Unions also engage in political activities on behalf of workers and
have historically had ties to political parties, such as the New Democratic Party (NDP). At the beginning of the 21st century nearly 4.2 million workers in Canada
belonged to a union, or about one quarter of the country's workforce.

II

TYPES OF UNIONS

Unionized workers in Canada include industrial and office workers and public employees in government administration, school systems, and hospitals. They also include
engineers, professors, nurses, teachers, and other professional employees. Employees are less likely to be unionized in private service-sector firms such as retail stores,
restaurants, banks, and insurance companies, because employers in those areas have aggressively opposed unions.
Unions have traditionally been divided into craft unions and industrial unions. Craft unions, which were the earliest form of union, are formed by skilled workers in a
trade such as printing or carpentry, but they typically exclude unskilled workers. Industrial unions, by contrast, include all workers, skilled as well as unskilled, in a
single industry such as automobile or steel manufacturing.
In the late 20th century other types of unions arose in Canada. Public-sector unions emerged in the 1960s after the government passed laws allowing government
workers to organize (to form groups to protect their rights and interests) and bargain collectively. In the 1980s and 1990s general unions, which represent workers
from widely varying industries or occupations, became more common as unions broadened their membership to include people working in jobs outside the union's
original industry. For example, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) expanded to represent workers in the fishing and airline industries, among other areas. In the private
service sector, the CAW organized employees at the first unionized McDonald's restaurant in North America.

III

THE ROLE OF UNIONS

Unions help workers negotiate the terms and conditions of their work with their employers. Before unions existed, workers often labored for low wages and long hours in
unsafe or unhealthy workplaces. They could be fired without cause at the whim of an employer and thus had no job security. In unionized jobs, employees work under
conditions negotiated through the process of collective bargaining, in which the union negotiates with the employers on behalf of the employees. The collective
agreements they negotiate include clauses that outline job classifications, rates of pay, workday length, overtime rates, workers' health and safety measures, and work
distribution. Such agreements also include grievance and arbitration procedures that are designed to settle conflicts that arise during the term of a contract.
Unions also negotiate with employers to determine the level of union security (the extent to which workers are required to join or fund the union once it is established).
Types of union security arrangements include the closed-shop agreement, in which union membership is a condition of employment in a workplace, and the union-shop
agreement, in which a person does not have to be a union member to be hired but must join the union after becoming employed. A third form is known as the Rand
Formula, named after Canadian Supreme Court justice Ivan Rand, who created it when he arbitrated a strike against the Ford Motor Company in Windsor, Ontario, in
1945. The Rand Formula does not require all workers to join the union, but it requires them to pay union dues because they receive the benefit of the union's collective
bargaining. The formula also allows the employer to automatically deduct union dues from workers' paychecks.
Collective agreements last for a set period of time, after which they are renegotiated. If the employers and unions cannot reach a collective agreement, either party can
apply pressure to the other through a work stoppage. A work stoppage by workers is called a strike, while a stoppage created by an employer is known as a lockout.
Lockouts are less common than strikes. Often just the threat of a work stoppage is enough to push the two sides to an agreement. However, before a legal work
stoppage can occur in Canada, the parties must apply for conciliation. Under conciliation, a government-appointed mediator tries to help the two sides reach an
agreement. If they do not, a cooling-off period of about ten days follows, in which employees remain at work and the parties may continue to negotiate. Only after the
cooling-off period ends can the employers or employees begin a legal work stoppage.
In around 90 percent of negotiations, the parties reach collective agreements without a work stoppage. Most workers in Canada have the right to strike, except
firefighters, police, some hospital workers, and others who perform essential services. Those employees normally have another recourse to settle disputes such as
binding arbitration. In binding arbitration, an outside arbitrator hears the arguments of the parties involved and issues a decision that the parties must accept.
Unions in Canada have also taken an active role in politics. Much of this political work is done by central labor bodies, organizations formed by groups of unions to
represent the general concerns of unions and workers. Central labor bodies, the most prominent of which is the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), lobby for legislation
that is in the interest of their members and other workers. They have supported legislation setting workers' compensation and minimum standards for working
conditions. Unions have also pushed for social welfare measures, including universal medical coverage, unemployment insurance, and health and safety legislation. In
addition, unions have supported broader community issues, including human rights, pay equity for women, and environmental standards.
Historically the Canadian labor movement has affiliated itself with socialist and social-democratic political parties outside the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, the
two mainstream parties. In 1961 the CLC was instrumental in founding the New Democratic Party (NDP), which has remained an influential party in Canadian politics. A
substantial minority of union members follow organized labor's lead in supporting the NDP, but the majority of members more often support the mainstream parties.

IV

UNION ORGANIZATION

Labor organizations exist on a variety of levels, from local workplaces to international organizations. Most local unions belong to national or international unions that are
organized around an industry or an occupation--for example, the United Steelworkers of America or the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Unions also belong to
central labor bodies such as the CLC. Central labor bodies are not unions themselves because they do not directly represent workers in negotiations with employers.
Rather, they represent the general interests of workers and unions, particularly in the area of public policy.
At the local level, workers in a particular workplace can join a local union. Before a union can represent a group of employees at a workplace, it must apply to the
provincial labor board, a government agency, to be certified as the bargaining representative. To determine whether the union should be certified, the labor board
either counts union membership cards or holds a representation vote to determine if the union has the support of the majority of workers at the workplace. If a
majority supports the union, the board determines the appropriate bargaining unit (the group of workers that is represented in a specific collective agreement) at the
workplace and certifies the union. Once certified, a local union seeks to negotiate a collective agreement with the employer to determine the terms and conditions of
employment.
Workers in local unions elect local executives to supervise the work of the union. They also elect officials known as shop stewards to handle grievances that arise on the

job. Before collective bargaining begins, workers elect a bargaining committee. The bargaining committee determines the workers' demands and strategy in
negotiations with the employer.
Local unions usually are part of national or international unions. These national and international unions employ a staff for organizing workers at the local level, doing
research, educating union members about labor and political matters, and working with local union leaders. Unions hold regular conventions of delegates elected from
local unions to discuss...


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