Despite the criticism and negative perception unions receive, labour unions in Alberta have made a positive difference in the communities and industries that they serve. Alberta labour unions help workers organize and make important decisions about issues impacting their work life, such as wages, benefits, pensions, and schedules. In fact, it was the work of labour unions that fought for (and ultimately won) numerous benefits and rights that employees continue to receive today, like:
- Earning higher wages
- Paid vacation days
- Health and dental coverage
- Pension/Group RRSP’s
- Better working conditions
- Equality in the workplace
Here are some of the most common myths and facts about labour unions so you can better understand how a union can help you.
Myth #1: A union’s goal is always to go on strike.
The main goal of Alberta labour unions is to come to agreements, not to hit roadblocks. While the media might make it seem to like unions are constantly striking, that’s not actually the case in Canada. In fact, in Alberta, over 98% of contract negotiations are resolved without a strike. Strikes only happen when the majority of members vote in favor of one.
A strike will only happen when the union and its members agree by a vote that they are prepared to stop work until the employer agrees to the proposed terms of the collective bargaining. On the other hand, a lockout can occur when the employer tries to force the union to agree to its terms by “locking out” workers and refusing to allow them to work until an agreement is reached. These are also uncommon. Teamsters 987 and other unions are professional negotiators with experience working out the best deals possible on behalf of their members.
Myth #2: Employers are the union’s enemy
Unions are not the enemy of employers. The goal of an Alberta labour union is to ensure employers treat workers with respect and consideration for their quality of life. Maintaining functional relationships with management is important for achieving the most optimal negotiations for our members.
Myth #3: Unions have outlived their usefulness
The labour movement has played a vital role in shaping modern society for over 100 years. Unions have been instrumental in securing many key workers’ rights and protections, such as reasonable hours, a minimum wage, weekends, and paid holidays. To this day, unions remain the most effective way for workers to achieve economic security and have a voice in the workplace.
In Canada, corporations are becoming more powerful and income inequality continues to grow. Without the voice of unions and the organized workforce, who will stand up for equality?
Myth #4: Unions protect people who slack off on the job
Union contracts protect good workers from unfair punishment or dismissal, making sure that all members are treated equally in disciplinary situations. A union also ensures proper and equal procedures are followed when dismissing or disciplining an employee, and that these actions are done for a just cause. The union works with members and the employer to understand any personal challenges members are experiencing, such as addiction, mental illness, or family issues.
Myth #5: Workers are forced to join unions
When a workplace is unionizing, the Alberta Labour Relations Board ensures all employees have a fair and democratic vote. Everyone has the option to sign a union card. If the workplace votes to unionize, all workers are required to pay union dues, regardless of whether they signed a card. Why? Because once a collective bargaining agreement exists, everyone in that workplace receives its benefits. Management is held to a higher standard that applies to everyone.
Why do these myths about unions exist?
Time after time, the labour movement is presented in the media as an unreliable and disruptive part of the Canadian economy. The reality is when people feel helpless or powerless in their workplace, organizing the workplace can help to resolve their problems. By working together through the unionizing process, workers begin to understand that these common misconceptions about unions are not true.
Teamsters 987 can help you distinguish what is fact and what is fiction about labour unions in Alberta. If you have any other questions you would like answered about unions, don’t hesitate to contact us.