YEU Needs Shop Stewards!

YEU needs Shop Stewards…workers like you who are willing to take some training and be available to help colleagues who need an ear, someone to accompany them to a meeting or to help find a solution to a problem at work.

Who can be a Steward?  Any member in good standing of Yukon Employees’ Union can be a Shop Steward in their Local.

What about training? YEU has created a new staff position dedicated to strengthening our Shop Steward team. New training initiatives will be announced over the next year; it’s a very good time to step forward as a Steward!

YEU currently offers monthly Shop Steward Round Table sessions held the 3rd Wednesday morning of each month. These informal presentations offer opportunities to ask questions and learn from others. The PSAC office in Whitehorse also offers regular training on things like union structure, roles, Local Officers training and more. There is online training available through PSAC’s Education program and workshops are offered by affiliate organizations throughout the year.

Rob-Jones-Y010-President-2016Yukon Government has an employer/union co-facilitated course on the Grievance Process – required training for all YG Stewards which can be accessed by all YG members through the Quarterly. No union leave is required for this training. For other training approved during your regular work hours, YEU reimburses your employer for your time; you will not lose pay to attend.

What will I be expected to do? Your co-workers will likely ask you questions about the contract, the union or their own work situations. Stewards are called by our Intake Officer at YEU to accompany members to fact finding meetings with their manager or supervisor. Your role at these meetings is usually as an observer, note taker and provider of moral support. In some cases and with appropriate training, you may be asked to participate more fully in discussions at meetings, but not until you have received coaching and feel prepared to do so.

Is it all volunteer work?  Most contracts have a clause that permits Shop Stewards to do union work while on the job. You submit a leave form citing the appropriate article from your collective agreement for the time you spend researching or representing a member. Your pay will not be disrupted. Representation work done outside your normal work hours is done on a voluntary basis and is not compensated.

My workplace already has a Steward. Stewards represent workers from their Local, not just from their specific workplace so don’t let that stop you. The more well-trained Stewards we have the better.Teresa-Acheson-Miscal-Avano-Nesgaard

If I make a mistake, will someone lose their job? No. You will have a network of support including our well trained & experienced Union Advisors. As a Shop Steward you will have regular conversations with our staff in order to ensure everyone is working in unison for members.

How do I become a Shop Steward? Each Local’s bylaws are worded differently. Some dictate that Stewards are elected at the Local’s AGM, others allow for nominations and elections at any time.

Your Chief Shop Steward or your Local President will guide you through the process. Once we’re advised by your Local that you’re a Shop Steward, you’ll be invited to our office to be sworn in by our President or Vice-President. You’ll get an orientation to our office, staff and procedures and receive your New Steward’s package. Once you’ve met everyone, you’ll be registered for upcoming training.

Will becoming a Steward make me a target for my employer? Shop Stewards who are well trained and level-headed help create workplaces that function smoothly. Employers recognize the benefit of a union liaison in the workplace and are usually very happy to work with them. It’s in everyone’s best interest to solve problems quickly and cleanly. It is very rare that our Stewards find themselves in conflict with their employer simply by virtue of stepping forward as a representative.

Will co-workers expect me to be an instant expert on our contract, labour law and all things union?
Your role is to ensure members have fair representation and that all pertinent information is recorded, provided to the Union Advisor and kept confidential. You’ll need to get to know your contract but we do not expect you to interpret the agreement or be up to date on all labour issues.Talk to a steward

A Steward needs to be compassionate and organized. The Steward’s role is one of problem solver and witness.

At some point in their careers about 50% of workers call their union. It might be a simple question about vacation leave, a scheduling issue or ongoing and persistent harassment from a co-worker or supervisor. To meet our members’ needs when they need support we need your help. Please call your Chief Shop Steward, Local President or the YEU Office today. Visit for contact info.

Remember; join us the 3rd Wednesday of each month for Shop Steward Round Table training sessions; informal workshops geared to skill building. We also invite you to an informal Sandwich Session at lunch the 1st Tuesday of each month. This is a training fee casual get together just to build our network and get to know each other. Call David Anderson at YEU, 667-2331 or email

Guatemala, March 2015………… YOU may be forever changed.


Invitation to the Guatemala project 2015: 4 Young Worker subsidies available!

The PSAC Social Justice Fund invites you to participate in the next Education In Action project in Guatemala for 2 weeks in spring, March 6 – 20, 2015. The Education In Action (EIA) organization is supported in part by the PSAC Social Justice Fund and engages Canadian volunteers to deepen their understanding of Guatemala, building solidarity by working closely with the Comité  Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA) who are strengthening communities in Guatemala.

The PSAC Social Justice Fund (SJF) Sponsorship program  will subsidize the costs of participation for 4 PSAC Youth members (aged 18-30).  Each subsidy of up to $2500 covers the project participation fee and contributes to travel costs, food and accommodation while in Guatemala. This subsidy does not cover loss of salary.

In addition to the 4 youth subsidies, the project is open to all PSAC members who are able to cover their own airfare expenses plus $600 participation fee (covers travel, food and accommodation in Guatemala).

Interested? Download the application form HERE for the March 6-20 2015 Education in Action trip to Guatemala.

In March 2014, YEU President Steve Geick joined the EIA team and visited Guatemala.  Steve’s story is here, if you wish to learn more.

Education in Action Inspires Members

EIA has inspired many PSAC members to get involved in meaningful solidarity with Guatemala. Twenty-seven PSAC members have participated in the program to build homes for impoverished families in the rural areas of the Guatemalan highlands. So far, 82 homes, 3 community centres and 3 schools have been built since 2006, when the program was founded by former PSAC member Roberto Miranda. Through EIA, members have an opportunity to work side-by-side with Indigenous families who are members of a Guatemalan farmers’ cooperative, the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA), a grassroots organization working with Mayan farmers to improve their livelihoods.

The CCDA has been defending the economic, social and cultural rights of the Mayan people since 1982, struggling for equitable land distribution, carrying out sustainable agricultural development, and encouraging the economic empowerment of women.

The CCDA also produces the organic and fairly traded coffee, Café Justicia, sold by volunteers across Canada. Café Justicia is made available to members through the Social Justice Fund office in Ottawa. All proceeds are designated for the housing program, paying the salary of a full-time school teacher, improving access to potable water and food security for the population.

Over the last few years, many rural families in Guatemala have faced a food crisis due to a serious drought and an aggressive blight that has destroyed the coffee harvest throughout Central America. Small producers have recorded major losses and many jobs have been lost.

Since 2006, 27 members of the PSAC have participated in the delegations to Guatemala organized by the SJF and Education in Action. Members from AGR, CEIU, NHU, UCTE, UEW,

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YEU Standing Committees; we need YOU!

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Yukon Employees’ Union is governed by Bylaws created and modified by its membership. The elected Executive meets monthly and reports on the work they do as committee chairs, Local liaisons and Directors.  Each Executive member is tasked with convening a committee to oversee certain areas of union business; the committees are made up of members interested in donating a few hours a month to their Union.

Building Committee: To monitor, protect and preserve the YEU Building by advising Executive on technical maintenance issues, renovations, etc. Oversees maintenance contracts and acts as liaison with tenants.  Committee members might be called upon to meet with YEU staff occasionally to discuss building functionality etc.

Education Committee: Oversees the provision of education opportunities to YEU members, enhancing our ability to be effective and responsive to membership needs. Meets on an occasional basis to review education applications and assist in the development of training plans for the Union.

Equity Committee: Chaired by a member of the YEU Executive, this committee invites 2-6 members interested in issues of human rights and equity. The goal of this group is to promote and assist in union action around human rights issues & to appoint the PSAC EO Committee member.

Public Relations Committee: Actively promotes union ideals throughout the Yukon. Considers donation requests, administers hardship fund and is responsible for YEU Educational Bursaries.

All these committees, through their Chair, report regularly to the Executive at monthly meetings.  If you are interested in participating as a member of any of these committees please email

If you’d like to review the Bylaws, you can do so HERE.

Taking Union leave? Make sure you get paid!

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Union work takes time; Shop Stewards, Committee members and elected Local Executive members know it! If you’re doing sanctioned union work, your CA allows for you to do so without losing pay. You MUST, however, cite the correct article from your agreement if you don’t want to end up in a sticky situation. In some contracts, the language requires that YEU reimburse you for your loss of salary but in most workplaces we reimburse your employer for your time.

YEU Finance Officer Tammy Olsen spends hours trying to reconcile our records with the invoices your employers send us for your time. If you do NOT cite the correct article, your loss of salary will not be reimbursed to your employer; you will have that time taken off your pay. If you attend training, Convention, a national or regional event; check your Collective Agreement and get it right!

Here are the articles for union members in some of our larger bargaining units; if yours is not listed here, please read your CA or go to to check the language in your contract.
YG: Article 11.13- ensures you stay on payroll. You must also cite the specific sub-article that covers the reason for your leave. These include training, conventions, bargaining, representation etc. (11.01-11.15 depending on the situation).

COW: Article 18 keeps you on payroll but you must also cite the sub article (18.07 for paid leave along with sub .04, .05 or .06 as appropriate.
Yukon College: Article 19 – Cite 19.10 to stay on payroll and the sub-article (19.01 – 19.08 as appropriate).

Remember: be specific and make sure you provide YEU with a copy of your signed leave form every time!

If you would like to review the language in your collective agreement, visit YEU’s website and read up.

Building Hope in the Highlands of Guatemala

My name is Steve Geick and I am the President of Yukon Employees’ Union. We are a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada in Whitehorse Yukon, representing approximately 5000 members across the Yukon Territory of Canada.

In March I traveled to Guatemala with a group of Canadian volunteers to learn about the realities of life and the work of several social justice organizations supported by the PSAC. We began in Guatemala City but spent most of our time visiting the highlands in the Lake Atitlán region.

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We had to cancel a trip to the village of Coban. We had planned to work on roof repairs at a school named for the father of a member of our Canadian team.  Roberto Miranda was a trade unionist who believed in the power of solidarity.  He worked to organize teachers with his brothers who lost their lives for their efforts.
A young father, he fled Guatemala in the 1980’s after his life was repeatedly threatened. He moved his family to Canada, but continued the work he began in his home land.  For many Guatemalans, he is a hero.

In the few days before our scheduled visit, life in Coban was threatened by armed militia. As in many Guatemalan villages, the campesinos are squatters on state land. The purchase of land is very difficult and expensive, and most privately owned land is held by the very wealthy. A powerful plantation owner decided he needed the land on which the village stood so a private guard of armed militia came to town and ordered the villagers out. When they refused to go, the private army returned with more than 30 men bearing automatic weapons. The local police force did little to interfere, and 126 villagers were locked in the village church and told the church would be set on fire.

Thankfully the villagers escaped into the jungle. A handful of these escapees made it to Guatemala City, assisted by members of the CCDA and Break the Silence, to meet with the United Nations and high ranking Justice officials. In the days since our return, the militia has left Coban and the villagers have slowly begun to return from their hiding places in the jungle.

It’s against this backdrop that the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) has grown to over 360,000 members. Founded in 1982, the organization works to defend the rights of workers on large coffee, sugar and cotton plantations. They also work to recover lands taken from the Mayan communities over the past centuries. In many ways, the efforts of the CCDA mirror those of Canadian First Nations activists, and the parallels between treatment of indigenous peoples in Canada and Guatemala are stark and tragic.

When it formed, the organization was considered a threat to the government and many of its founders were “disappeared”, exiled or assassinated.   CCDA was granted legal status in 2000, and now supports economic initiatives and social infrastructure development throughout the region.

The main fundraising component of the CCDA is its Café Justicia project. When Guatemala’s civil war ended in 1996, the CCDA began using funds from peace accords to obtain land for its members. Cooperatives of farmers in the highlands now produce over 60,000 pounds of organic coffee, the best of which are purchased by the CCDA for export as Café Justicia, a Fair-Trade Plus brand.  Through the funds raised by their coffee, the CCDA is able to assist villages that have not yet achieved self-sufficiency, building schools, clinics and community centres.

Our party of 12 included three Yukoners, one Manitoban, a Nova Scotian and a handful of activists from Ontario.  Our trips were funded either through our own fundraising efforts or by the organizations we represented. While in Guatemala, we knew we were going to work hard and live rough. No fancy hotels or restaurants for us. cropped rooftop for newsletter
The itinerary was packed with opportunities to learn about the real history of Guatemala. We saw the strength of its indigenous people and their pressure for social justice. We also saw the legacy of violence and grief from 30 years of civil war. We met with activists, teachers and their students, farmers and villagers. We helped build two community centres, repaired a school roof and assisted at a community medical clinic in Quixaya.

It’s not enough to say that this trip changed me. The determination of the Campesinos and the achievements they have made to improve the lives of their members amaze me.

Hijos graffittiThe Hijos or youth activists whose family members were “disappeared” during and after the civil war work with steely determination to ensure their loved ones are never forgotten. Their efforts to hold police and the paramilitary to account while striving to defend marginalized youth from police violence are staggering in their audacity and strength.
I’m awed by women who support their communities through artisan and agricultural cooperatives, accessing micro-loans for projects to build capacity and self-reliance.
Most of the people I met in Guatemala were poor subsistence farmers and villagers. In their poverty there was strength, determination and the quiet confidence that solidarity can provide. No-one who belongs to an organization of 360,000 members is alone.cropped solidarity

There’s no question who holds the power in the hills of Guatemala. It’s not the peasants, or Campesinos. It’s not the villagers, teachers or farmers, or even the doctors and nurses trying to provide medical care to people not even registered with their government. It’s the plantation owners, the wealthy. It’s the armed militia backed by silent money and invisible alliances between land owners and the state, between foreign corporations and corrupt leaders. This is changing, however. Slowly but surely the power is beginning to be more evenly distributed.

Through pure force of will and ingenuity, the CCDA’s committed activists and citizens work for one another, with the support of international partners like the PSAC. I am very proud to have been amongst this year’s contingent of observers. We will continue to honor the work they do, and we will continue to bear witness to the struggles they face.

To learn more about the CCDA, please visit their site 

Learn more about Breaking the Silence (organizers of this volunteer project) Here

You can purchase Café Justicia in Whitehorse through the PSAC Regional Office and committees; call 667-2331.  A small selection of the coffee will be available for purchase at the YEU booth at the Yukon Trade Show May 2-4 2014.


June 19, 2014 UPDATE – Related News: Landmark Suit against Canadian Mining firm filed in BC.  Human rights group seeks to hold BC-based company liable for shootings at Guatemalan mine.