Here’s looking at YEU in 2015; thanks for a great 2014!

steve elizabeth food bankThis has been a busy year. We have welcomed workers into the YEU Hall from four new bargaining units. These, our newest members, have made the sometimes difficult decision to pursue unionization as a means to an equitable workplace. 2014 saw us announce the certification of Help & Hope for Families in Watson Lake, Takhini Transport bus drivers, the municipal workers of Haines Junction and the support staff of Teegatha’Oh Zheh.

In each case, unionizing was a decision made by the employees and they approached us for help moving forward. We are grateful that they look to us for assistance in crafting contract language to improve their working lives.

YEU had our Triennial Convention in October; we welcomed new faces to our Executive and bid a grateful farewell to several outgoing elected officials. Loralee Kesler served three terms as our elected VP, and we wish her all the very best as she begins her next adventures. Brother Blair Andre (Brother Bear) has stepped away from our Executive, as have Sister Girlie Austin and Brother Mark Bowers. We are grateful for their long service as activist Directors on the YEU Executive.

We also bid farewell, in a way, to our long time activist Jack Bourassa in June when he was elected Regional Executive Vice-President of the North for PSAC. He has relocated with his family to Yellowknife but his work is pan-northern and he will continue to be a fixture in the Yukon through his term as REVP.

YEU has seen several staffing changes over the last year, as we say adieu to long time staffers and welcome new faces and energy. If you haven’t popped in to meet everyone yet, please do… we’re a friendly bunch and the coffee is always on.

Looking ahead, we’re excited to launch into 2015. This year will mark the 50th Anniversary of this small northern union. What began as a small regional group of upstarts challenging the status quo has evolved into a much larger group of upstarts challenging the status quo…. Some things don’t really change I guess!

Our community involvement continues, and I’m very proud of the work done by our activists, Locals and even staff over the last year. We have participated in events that bring attention to some serious issues nationally and locally. We have helped raise awareness, funds and food for the Whitehorse Food Bank and honoured Human Rights Day with a series of meaningful talks. Our activists work on committees that are out there doing real work all year long, often without any acknowledgement or reward. We thank them, and invite all of you to join a committee or come out next time we join a community challenge.

The year is shaping up to be a busy one internally for YEU as well. We have a lot of work planned; there are issues we plan to address in the delivery of training for our Shop Stewards, in the support offered to our Locals and more. As always, we appeal to you… the members, to guide our work. Here’s an invitation to join a training discussion for Stewards January 22nd; if you’re a Steward, PLEASE find time to attend. If you wonder why your workplace doesn’t have a Steward, call us.

And hey… if you came out to one of our events in the last year, thanks! Our plan is to carry on. In fact we’ve proudly made donations once again this year to a number of local groups. We also plan to keep that up.

This is, now as it was 50 years ago, YOUR union. YEU is a small but mighty union, and we are bucking the trends. While other unions shrink, we continue to grow in strength and in numbers.

So here’s to you this holiday. We wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and Solidarity Forever!

NO Politics with your paycheque?

marchIf you’re a member of YEU, chances are that’s an accident. You got a job in a “union shop” where workers had already decided to unionize, often many years before you were hired. As a new employee you were given a union card to sign and a Collective Agreement – your contract with those who write your paycheque.  Maybe you signed the card and mailed it to the union, maybe you didn’t. Either way, because of where you work you are unionized. You pay union dues and are protected by a collective agreement whether you think about it or not. Maybe you think it’s great to have a union job; better pay, better working conditions and probably a pension. Maybe you don’t give union membership a thought; you get a newsletter now and again and every few years someone tries to get you out to a contract ratification meeting. Whatever; sometimes you notice, sometimes you don’t.

What does it mean to be a union member if you don’t really care one way or another? Is union membership something you identify with? Do you consider yourself “union”? Many of our members don’t like to think of themselves as “union”. We’re curious about that. We’re curious about the kind of disinterest that allows some to accept all the benefits of membership on the one hand while disassociating on the other or worse, calling out unions as bad or selfish, greedy or political.  Most of the advantages we take for granted are the direct result of union membership. We’re not talking about the historical gains of unions long ago but the actions of your union representatives now – every day, every year and through every single round of bargaining. The contract you enjoy is the result of an ongoing act of will – a series of determined actions by colleagues whose names you don’t know. Maybe you do know who they are, in fact, but because they’re “union” you don’t associate too closely with them.

Look around the country at what’s happening to unionized workers at every level of the professional and pay scale. If you pay attention to what’s been happening in to the teachers in BC or to fast food industry workers, bullied and pushed around by huge multinationals making billions in profit you can see that those with the money hold the power. The tide of profitability will carry away workers who are not organized. Being organized, being in a union is the only real power available to workers. Solidarity is not just a song… it’s an adhesive force that allows workers the strength to hold on to what they’ve got. Don’t think for a minute that the benefits you enjoy as a union member would continue unchanged if unions suddenly evaporated. What would possess any employer to willingly eat into their bottom line with the kind of pay and benefits unions have secured?

If you disagree with labour’s political agenda it’s important to think that through. The labour movement IS political by its very nature. The labour movement has had to be a political force since the very first collective was formed. Then as now, no business owners wanted unions to gain a foothold. Intense pressure was put on governments to staunch workers’ power a hundred years ago and that pressure has only intensified.

Business interests, corporations, commercial advocacy groups and industry lobbyists work the political system hard to ensure their way is clear. Legislation is constantly being changed, tweaked or neutered so big business can keep making big money.  They have millions, even billions of dollars to advance their agendas. Unions have to fight back.

Labour will continue to be political; YEU/PSAC will continue to be political because it’s all we’ve got. We must push lawmakers and legislators to keep the needs of workers, of average Canadian families on their collective radars. We won’t tell you who we think you should vote for. We WILL support candidates and parties whose platforms promote workers’ rights. We WILL call out and challenge those parties & officials who ignore the rights of Canadian workers. If Labour stepped out of politics completely, the loudest voices governments would hear would be the strident and insistent demands of those who already have all the power in this country; the corporations.

Maybe you feel your dues shouldn’t go to support any political activity by your union. Maybe you don’t want to read about it in your newsletter or see your union involved in political action in the community. We respect your opinion. We also respect your right to a strong Collective Agreement, to collective bargaining rights and to a decent pension. So we will continue to agitate, advocate and work on behalf of Canadian workers. Labour will continue to push against laws that strip away protections and undermine the ability of unions to ensure our members jobs and lives are protected.

You may not be “union” but if you enjoy a union paycheque, union benefits and the security of a negotiated contract, guess what? Even those members who aren’t “union” – we’ll keep right on fighting for you too.