A union helps level the playing field between you and your em•ployer and, at the same time, gives you a voice in your workplace. With a union on your side, you'll never be alone. Suppose, for example, you have a specific problem with management. Would you rather deal with it alone, as you'd have to in a non-union work•place, or with the support of all of your fellow union members?
Sure, one person can be strong, but imagine the strength of all your supportive colleagues behind you.
You need a union because without one, there's risk that you'll be treated unfairly, without respect, be paid less than a decent wage, and be without benefits for you and your family. You could be disciplined or fired unjustly, denied promotions unfairly, harassed by bosses and coworkers, or be forced to work overtime without proper compensation. Those are some pretty sound reasons as to why it's good to have a union on your side.
When you started working at your current job, you began a relationship with the IBEW. Provincial labour laws recognize IBEW Local 37 as the exclusive bargaining agent* for all non-manage•ment employees within your company. So, as an employee within one of our bargaining units, you're now a union member, an important part of the IBEW family.
Academy Award winners Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon and Kevin Spacey don't think so. Neither did world-renowned physicist Albert Einstein. These are just a handful of the artists, scientists, journalists, educators, and others who have been at the top of their professions and have strongly supported their unions. Union member professionals also include teachers, doctors, lawyers, college professors, nurses, TV broadcasters, and librarians.
YES. And here's why.
If you haven't signed a card, you're not yet a full member of the union. Instead, you're known as a “Fee Payer”. Although Fee Payers are automatically covered by the IBEW collective agreement for their particular group, they do not get to enjoy the privileges of a full membership. By signing a union card you're eligible to:
- Vote on contracts and other matters
- Vote for leaders
- Run for elected positions
- Serve in leadership positions
- Sit on committees and negotiating teams
- Address the Executive Board
- Make motions and vote at union meetings
- Attend union sponsored training
- Apply for union scholarships & bursaries
- Receive benevolent support
- Receive special union communications
- Attend IBEW conferences
In the IBEW, there are two types of membership – “A” and “BA”, and Local 37 represents both.
“BA” members usually work for a single employer and have pensions and benefits negotiated as part of an IBEW collective agreement with the employer.
“A” membership is open to everyone, but it’s typically maintained by members who work for contractors in the construction and/or maintenance side of the industry, as well as all IBEW international officers and representatives. They pay for, and participate in, the IBEW pension and death benefit funds.
All “BA” members are encouraged to switch to an "A" member•ship and take advantage of the additional pension and death benefits. And switching is easy – just contact the Local 37 office to find out how!
Your union is a democratic organization run by members like you. Members elect other members to lead Local 37; vote on contracts, bylaws, and other important matters; and elect delegates to international conventions, who in turn elect international officers and vote on major issues affecting the union such as constitutional amendments. By working together, we can make the changes members want, share experiences and expertise, and deliver results that matter at work, home, and in our communities.
We certainly hope not. The main goal of having a union in the workplace is to negotiate fair working conditions and rules for everyone. Neither management, nor the union want to get in a fight. And it's worth noting that over 98% of collective agreements in Canada are negotiated without a work stoppage.
The decision to go on strike is a very serious one and occurs only when workers feel they must take dramatic action to protect their rights, wages, and benefits. IBEW Local 37 has gone over 35 years without a strike. We attribute this to the healthy relationship and mutual respect we share with our employers. Members only go on strike if they vote over-whelmingly to do so. The decision about what to fight for, and how hard to fight, is always up to the union members.
Unions protect workers from arbitrary employer actions relating to discipline and dismissals. For example, with a union you don't have to fear retaliation when you speak out about problems on the job. And through your collective agreement you can cut out favouritism, challenge unfair discipline, and make sure a fair approach is taken in the event of layoffs, promotions, transfers, and other decisions.
The biggest difference that separates unionized employees from non-union employees is having a collective agreement. Unions negotiate meaningful contracts that give unionized workers legally binding guarantees covering wages, benefits, rights and protections that aren't available to other workers.
Your collective agreement has a specified duration and must be renegotiated each time it expires. The negotiation process is called collective bargaining.
But before negotiations even start, all members of the bargaining unit are invited to send in suggestions (proposals) for improve•ments to the terms and conditions of the collective agreement. The team, led by a full time union staff member and assisted by appointed representatives from the bargaining unit, meets with the employer's negotiating team to exchange proposals and work to reach a tentative agreement. This process involves a series of meetings and can be very quick or take years. During negotiations, all of the terms and conditions of an expired collective agreement remain in effect until a new agreement is reached.
If negotiations reach an impasse, either team can request the assistance of an mediator from the labour board. The mediator's role is to promote objectivity and compromise, and can only make suggestions on how to make a settlement. If mediation doesn't work, both teams will consider other options.
Eventually a tentative agreement will be reached and the members of the bargaining unit will vote to ratify (accept) it. If the majority votes to accept the agreement, it becomes the new collective agreement.
Collective agreement specifics will vary from one workplace or employer, to the next, but generally they include provisions on:
- Wages, hours and benefits
- Health and safety
- Dues collection
- Grievance procedures
- Contract length
That's a big one to answer. For starters, you have the right to be treated fairly in the workplace. You have the right to be respec•ted by your employer. And you have the right to be paid appropriately for the work you do.
Those rights are laid out in your collective agreement. Notice the biggest word on the cover of your agreement is “Collective”. That's intentional because it's a deal worked out collectively between your union and your employer.
Language is a funny thing. Even after employees and managers agree to put certain words in a contract, we don't always agree on what that language means when a real-life situation comes up later. Sometimes it takes a third party to sort it out.
Your boss may ask you to do something that he/she believes is covered under the contract. You may not agree. What do you do? Check with your shop steward. If it's determined that the language of the contract is being violated, Local 37 will take the appropriate steps to make sure your rights are respected.
Both your union and your employer won't tolerate bullying or any type of harassment in the workplace. If you feel you've been harassed, bullied or discriminated against, your Local 37 shop steward will guide you through the process to help you file a written complaint to your employer's human resources department.
Your contract allows you to speak up with confidence and know that you won't be punished for doing so. There's zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment. Your complaints will always be taken seriously. By speaking up, you might be saving other employees from similar grief.
If you've been accused of harassment, Local 37 will also represent you. And if one union member complains of being harassed by another member, the union has obligations to protect the legiti•mate interests of both parties while the complaint is being inve•stigated and beyond.
Sometimes conflict can occur between members. If that happens, and representation is requested, Local 37 will assign a representative to each member.
You have the right to refuse a work assignment if you have reasonable grounds to believe you'll be exposed to danger to your health, safety or physical well being, or would expose someone else to the same danger. You must inform your supervisor as soon as possible of your concerns and your refusal to work. It's also a good idea to tell a shop steward or other union representative in case you need representation related to your refusal to work.
The sooner you call, the sooner the matter can be dealt with. Local 37 will work with you to resolve the issue. Remember, we're always here for you!
Your first call or visit should be with a shop steward. Shop stewards are trained and experienced in dealing with the day-to•day affairs of the union in your workplace, including resolving disputes with local management, grievances, and other issues. To see the current list of shop stewards available in your workplace visit the Local 37 website or call the union office.
For whatever reason, sometimes members have issues or questions that can't be solved locally. If that's the case, please contact the Local 37 office so that you can be put in touch with one of our staff.
Unfortunately, no – a grievance must be filed within a specific timeline described in your collective agreement – for example, within five working days of the incident. Please talk to a shop steward as soon as you think you might need to file a grievance.
If you're called to a disciplinary meeting with your employer, you have the right to have a shop steward or another Local 37 representative with you at the meeting. You also have the right to have access to your personal file.
The collective agreement outlines your rights as an employee. Reasonable people don't get angry when it comes to your basic rights. On the other hand, Local 37 is here for you to deal with people who do get angry and try to erode your rights.
Due to the Privacy Act, your employer will not provide these changes to the union office, so please let us know of any neces•sary changes that need to be made to your contact information.