#millennials-the kids are not all right.

Who are the Millennials? A millennial is anyone born between the early 80’s and the late 90’s – they are a pretty large cohort. Basically, if they’re younger than YOU, they’re millennials. If they’re annoying you, they’re millennials. If you don’t like a style, a trend or a new reality, blame that demographic. Everybody’s doing it. According to the press, they’ve killed the serviette industry and Sears. Really.

Millennials catch hell for just about everything they do or don’t do, buy or choose not to buy. Millennials are scapegoated or mocked almost daily in the media as lazy, vain, celebrity crazed and s­till living with their parents at 30. In fact, they are a socially conscious, diverse and well educated generation, busy challenging the status quo and changing the world in some profound ways.

As workers in their early 20’s to late 30’s, millennials comprise an enormous chunk of the work force. Many struggle to find an entry point into steroid enhanced housing markets, while staggering under crushing student debt. Too many work in jobs that are precarious and poorly paid with few benefits, little security and no hope of a pension. 

The stable union jobs that allowed their parents’ generation to thrive have all but disappeared. The wages that allowed home ownership were the outcome of negotiated collective agreements, but no-one is talking to young people about unions. Organized labour has been so demonized by corporate interests that many union members feel little pride in their membership. As a result, they don’t talk with their kids about the very real advantages of union membership.

Millennials are the first generation who will find it difficult to achieve the same financial stability their parents enjoyed.

In fact, studies have shown that a university educated 30 year old today earns about the same as someone without a degree in 1989, in today’s dollars but of course, the cost of living has skyrocketed.

Few young workers have had much exposure to unions and the bargaining power unionization allows. With many millennials working as interns,  contract labourers or navigating the new “sharing economy”, the idea of collective bargaining seems out of reach. Without it, decent salaries on which to raise a family, buy a home, and save for the future are unlikely.

Millennials starting families are faced with some hard choices. It’s almost impossible to afford daycare for more than one child, but few young families can afford to have one parent stay home – housing costs alone make that choice increasingly difficult. Young workers have some very compelling reasons to join a union and to support the ideals of the labour movement.

Union activism in young workers is in decline, so it’s up to the more seasoned union members to encourage them to look for unionized jobs. Talk to young workers – help them organize their places of work. The loss of good jobs won’t just affect millennials and their children, it will affect every Canadian.

Low wages mean a shrinking tax base, and an ever diminishing ability to fund the services and programs Canadians count on. Canada’s healthcare system will undoubtedly suffer without healthy incomes for this and future generations.

Let’s stop blaming millennials for the real world problems they have inherited. Let’s remember how important unions and union jobs are to communities and families. Let’s support young workers as they try to organize their places of work, and let’s encourage contract workers to find unions that connect and empower free-lance and sharing economy labourers.

Non-Profits & Yukon Employees’ Union: A Note from the President’s Desk

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 In the last few years YEU has seen a marked increase in the number of workers employed by non-profit groups who wish to organize their workplaces.
YEU does not have an organizing budget or organizing staff and we don’t go out into workplaces looking to organize them. Workers come to us looking for information, for support and assistance. Sometimes those organic internal organizing drives are successful and we sign a new bargaining unit and sometimes the workers aren’t interested or ready to unionize. Either way we’ve learned a lot from our new non-profit groups.

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Teegatha’Oh Zheh Bargaining Team

It may seem a bit counter-intuitive to unionize a non-profit. After all, those who work in such organizations often choose to do so because the organization’s goals align closely with their own belief systems.  Few pursue a career in a field populated by non-profits and NGO’s because they expect to make a lot of money; that decision is usually driven by a deeply held conviction or interest. The truth is these organizations often have precarious budgets and suffer from lack of long term financial certainty.

So how on earth does bringing a union into the mix help a precariously funded not for profit organization? Well, there are lots of reasons to unionize and money isn’t always top of the list. In fact it’s almost never the main reason groups decide to organize.

Many of our new smaller units are governed by volunteer boards. A Board of Directors provides oversight and direction to an Executive Director (in some cases), who manages staff. The problems we see often stem from the challenges created when well-meaning directors attempt to make human resource, policy and management decisions without a background in human resources, policy development or NFP management. Decisions made for financial or ideological reasons can impact staff in ways that are unexpected and negative.

Inviting a union in helps to establish a structure that benefits all parties who contribute skill and energy to the function of the NFP. A well-crafted contract ensures the needs of workers and management are met, and roles and expectations are clear. It also creates a fair and predictable workplace – an enormous advantage in what is often an otherwise unpredictable environment. And a secure workplace means less turn over of staff, which is more economical.
Last weekend I attended a Talking Union Basics course. It was exciting to see so many people taking this union fundamentals course and especially rewarding to see members from our newer locals attending union training.

The one thing that stands out for me about our Union is that we are a truly democratic organization. That commitment to democracy is evident from the moment employees decide they want to organize and join YEU; a majority of workers must sign cards to be granted union certification with the federally regulated Canadian Industrial Relations Board. From that moment on,  decisions like what goes into their collective agreement, whether to accept or reject that collective agreement are in the workers’ hands.

 

I want to recognize the workers of Help & Hope for Families, Teegatha ’Oh Zeh and Skookum Jim Emergency After Hours Outreach Services for devoting endless hours to an organizing process that can feel extremely frustrating at times. To you and to those groups quietly working toward union certification, I say congratulations & welcome to YEU.

Steve Geick, President

Yukon Employees’ Union

Yukon’s Community Nurses Need Resourses STAT!

Community Ncarmacks-health-centre-signursing Stations serve the medical needs of residents and visitors in some of the most isolated corners of the Yukon.  In the absence of multiple healthcare facilities, these clinics offer a dizzying array of services from first response to referral. When doctors visit from Whitehorse, the health centres get even busier. Community Nurses provide prenatal care, counselling, nutrition support, maternal health programming, diabetes education and more.

Year after year more programs are added to the responsibilities of Community nurses with no increase in staffing to reflect the added workload. Consequently, nurses are frustrated and burning out; there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. They are relied upon heavily by local RCMP detachments and work hand in hand with social services and First Nations. In communities with volunteer EMS teams, the nurses must frequently step in to fill the gap when volunteers are unavailable and resources are few.

Nurses are at daily risk of workplace violence. In small communities they face dramatically increased incidences of physical & verbal abuse on the job. Respite is critical to ensure these workers stay healthy. Time away from the intense stress levels of a sometimes 24/7 job can make the difference between doing the job well and suffering a tremendous physical and emotional toll.

In June of this year PSAC’s Regional REVP and National Vice President travelled to several Yukon Community Health Centres with me. Their conversations with nurses in those centPelly Crossing Health Centre signres were sobering.

Despite improvements to Collective Agreement language in recent contracts, the employer continues to deny earned vacation leave to exhausted nurses, citing “operational requirements” and lack of staffing.  Staffing levels are a genuine concern. When a nurse works an on-call shift rotation lasting up to 10 days, the resultant lack of sleep and downtime can be nearly debilitating and there’s often no relief in sight.

Nurses tell us that vacant positions remain un-filled; medical centres that are intended to be staffed by 2 nurses at all times frequently rely on a single nurse with no back-up. A 7 day work week is the rule and not the exception and a knock on the nurse’s door at home in the middle of the night is all too common. No matter how far in advance leave is requested it is often denied simply because there is no-one available to cover. Nurses often seek coverage themselves, in fact, before applying for vacation.

These nurses fill a vital Meadow-with-mug CMYKrole in the communities they serve. Their level of personal sacrifice is testament to their degree of commitment and professionalism, but there must be relief in sight.  As YEU and YG enter bargaining this year there is hope that some of the chronic issues plaguing Community Nursing will be resolved.

Unfortunately there is only so much we can accomplish at the bargaining table. The issues Community Nurses face will only be resolved if the Yukon Government steps up, takes notice and shows the political will to do so. Nurses simply cannot continue to provide the level of care they so desperately want to, that all Yukoners expect and deserve, with ever dwindling numbers and little hope of meaningful change. YEU’s voice and the voice of the nurses will only go so far. If you live in a community or have ever had to rely on this amazing group of professionals I urge you to write to your MLA, the Premier, the Minister of Health and any other entity that will listen. It’s your health, your family’s health and that of the nurses at stake.  Ultimately it’s up to the politicians to ensure adequate healthcare resources are available to everyone…especially those providing the care.

In the meantime, we salute all nurses for the important and difficult work they do.

Steve Geick, YEU President
& Proud Community Nurse

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Sick Leave: Ours to Protect!

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Government of Yukon Workers: Bargaining Input is now open.

bargaining team mugIf you work for the Government of Yukon, your contract is due to be renegotiated. YOU can help craft your next agreement.

  • YOU help determine the priorities of your bargaining team.
  • YOU choose your Bargaining Team!

GET INVOLVED!

Is there something that has driven you crazy about your collective agreement?

Is there a clause in the contract you feel is flawed, lacking clarity or even missing entirely? Submit it!

Submit a Bargaining Input form that clearly spells out the changes you want to see in the next agreement. If it’s something you and your co-workers have talked about, make sure to have them add their signatures to your submission. The more members sign a proposal the greater the chance it will make it to the bargaining table.

YEU members employed by the Government of Yukon can expect a special issue newsletter in their mailbox at the start of May. This mailing will explain all the steps of the negotiation process including selection of your pre-bargaining committee and the Main Table Bargaining Team. All forms will be included in the special mailing.

Get involved in the Bargaining process… stay involved from the bargaining input stage right through contract ratification. The best thing about being in a union is that your working conditions come about through your own participation.

Download the Bargaining Input Form here (Download & print pdf)

Nominate someone to the Bargaining Input Committee here (Download & print pdf)

Stay connected through the blog (SUBSCRIBE TODAY) or visit us at our website!

Yukon Employees’ Union: Yukon, Born & Raised

In November of 1965, Yu1966-1kon’s civil servants were among the few remaining Canadian government employees lacking any form of unionized association. On a Sunday afternoon in late 1965, this union was founded by a dedicated few who sought fair equity and representation for themselves at a time when their government had not even recognized a union for its federal employees. November 21, 1965 saw the formation of the Yukon Territorial Public Service Association. At the Whitehorse Canadian Legion Hall, the Yukon Territorial Public Service Association (YTPSA) was founded.

YTPSA founding members included first President Bob Smith, Directors Jean Besier and Harry Thompson and Ione Christianson. Though initially intended to represent workers in Whitehorse, it was Ms. Christianson who advised that the membership expand to include the rural areas as well. The constitution adopted at the first meeting stated the union’s purpose was “to unite all employees of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the promotion of their several interests and to promote their welfare and the betterment of their economic and cultural interests.” By promoting “a spirit of amity, unity, loyalty and efficiency in the Public Service” and through affiliation as a component of the Civil Service Federation of Canada (CSFC) the group sought the right to negotiate Collective Agreements for their members.

The first order of business for the new union was a pay raise. Working conditions and very low rates of pay at the time contributed to a powerful sense of inequality with both provincial Government employees and Federal workers. President Bob Smith approached Yukon Commissioner G.R. Cameron requesting an immediate 10% raise in pay. The union’s strong argument defending the request was forwarded to Arthur Laing, then Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. In April of 1996, thanks to the determination of the group and the “enlightened thinking” of Commissioner Cameron, the YTPSA and its members achieved their wage increase request.News-Photo-First-Yukon-Agreement-Signing1971

This was accomplished without the legal right to bargain collectively on behalf of the growing YTPSA membership. By early 1967, records show that the YTPSA was pressing the Commissioner to introduce Collective Bargaining Legislation. This was denied. At the time, the signed membership constituted less than the required 50% plus one of the eligible 380 employees. The YTPSA was by now a fully accredited Local of the newly formed Public Service Alliance of Canada (previously the CSFC) and it was this association that helped drive up membership numbers.

In 1971, the YTPSA celebrated their first Collective Agreement. The event was marked by the visits of PSAC President Claude Edwards and the PSAC Executive Vice-President J. K. Wylie.

Rates of pay in the 1973 Collective Agreement show that a Key Punch Operator’s wage range was from $6571 to $7607 per year, while a Lottery and Games of Chance Manager could expect a top salary of 16,524. Vacation leave (an important bargaining win) was offered in the sum of 3 weeks leave for the first 5 years of employment, 4 weeks of vacation from the sixth year and 5 weeks for those employees with 15 or more years of service.

There was no dental plan at the time though the employer was seeking a plan provider. Medicare costs were increased in the 1973 CA from a 50/50 premium split to a 60% payment from the employer. Maternity leave was in force; a woman who was pregnant was expected to take maternity leave starting 11 weeks before her due date and ending no later than 16 weeks after delivery. This was leave without pay, and was subject to employer approval. At any time however, “notwithstanding the above, the Employer may direct a female employee who is pregnant to proceed on maternity leave at any time where, in its opinion, the interest of the Employer so requires”. Male employees were offered a day of paid specialteamster-raid-cropsSHORT leave at the discretion of the Employer on the occasion of the birth of his son or daughter. We’ve come a long way!

The YTPSA faced many challenges during its first decades. A determined first raid effort by the Teamsters saw the resignation of the entire Executive in 1975, and was followed by another attempt several years later. There were struggles with the PSAC and internal conflicts amongst elected officials of the YTPSA. All the growing pains however happened alongside the continued strengthening of the Union. As the years passed, new Bargaining Units were certified and the membership grew to exceed 5000 members and more than 20 different employers.

We’ll be telling more of the history of YEU over the coming months; we hope you’ll check back. If you were part of the story please contact us toUnion-Boss-Survives-1985 share what you remember. There are many gaps in our records of those early years.

YEU, YGEU, YTPSA has a proud history. We were born in the Yukon, raised in the Yukon. Our story is not one of a group of workers “organized” by any big outside force. We did this for ourselves, by ourselves. YEU developed largely independent of the guidance and structures that were available to other unions.   Our leaders were hardworking and flawed without a doubt, but they pressed on through mistakes as they learned how to achieve their collective goals. We are grateful for their solidarity.