Happy Labour Day from YEU

 

Happy 124th Labour day, Canada!  From its humble beginnings in 1872, it was over 20 years before a National Holiday honoring workers was declared in 1894.  Canadian workers paid dearly with blood, sweat, tears and sometimes their lives to achieve a 58 hour work week – the first battle won by the early, newly organized labour activists.

As organized labour we’ve come a long way in 124 years – a relatively short period of time. With globalization and increasing pressures from the right, it’s more important than ever that we don’t forget the sacrifices made by a few over a hundred years ago. Let’s take some time this Monday to reflect on where we came from and how we can continue to make Canada a better place for all workers.

The Yukon is a pretty well-organized place, at least when compared to the rest of Canada. With almost 33% of our workers unionized, we boast the highest union density per capita and that density has been maintained for over 50 years. In many ways, Yukon is a big union town. This Labour Day, we want to thank everyone who works so hard to keep this territory and this country strong.

This historical photo shows Dawson’s Labour Day Parade in 1906. In the middle of the last century, Yukon’s workers began organizing in earnest. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 2499 was chartered in 1947, while the Yukon Teacher’s Association formed in 1955. The UA, or United Association of Allied Workers representing plumbers, pipe fitters and welders established a Yukon presence in 1958 and the Yukon Territorial Public Service Association (YTPSA) formed in 1965. The YTPSA was the first incarnation of what is now the Yukon Employees’ Union, or YEU/PSAC.

This year, YEU and PSAC are bargaining on behalf of members working for Yukon employers large and small. We are up against some serious challenges to the rights we have fought for over the years. Several of our bargaining units have been forced to prove their solidarity through strike votes and strike action. In these anti-union times, it’s not easy to hold on to what we have. We can’t rest on our laurels or believe that everything we have all worked so hard for is secure.

Employers have their own agendas, and it’s up to all of us to keep the pressure on, and protect the rights of Yukons’ workers, unionized or not.

We hope you’ll join us as we celebrate with our 24th annual Free Labour Day Barbeque in Shipyards Park. Each year our activists pull off one of the largest – probably THE largest free public meal in the territory, complete with fun kids’ activities and coffee provided by Midnight Sun Coffee.  We’ll also be collecting your donations for the Whitehorse Food Bank, building our 2nd Annual Mountain of Mac & Cheese! Hope to see you there!

In solidarity,

Steve Geick,

President, Yukon Employees’ Union

#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.

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.

PSAC Launches Online Member Survey

PSAC-Survey-graphic

The Public Service Alliance of Canada launches an online membership poll

PSAC will soon be conducting an important poll of the membership as part of its ongoing process to ensure that your voices are heard and that your priorities are reflected in the work of our union.  Members of the Yukon Employees’ Union are component members of the PSAC and may be contacted to participate.

Environics Research Group, a well-known and respected polling firm, will be conducting the online survey for PSAC, asking questions about union priorities.

Here are some things you should know about the survey:

  • The survey will be sent by email to members whose email is up to date in our database as as of January 20, 2015.
  • A random sample of members from all of our union’s bargaining units will be contacted.
  • Members who are contacted may accept or decline to participate in the survey.
  • The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
  • Individual information collected through the survey is confidential.  Also, responses are anonymous – at no time will the opinions of individual members be identified.

If you receive an email to participate in the survey, we hope you’ll click yes. Your opinions are important!


Sondage électronique des membres de l’AFPC

 L’AFPC réalisera bientôt un sondage de grande envergure auprès de ses membres. Vous aurez ainsi l’occasion de vous exprimer puisque le travail de votre syndicat doit être le reflet de vos priorités.

Environics Research Group, une maison de sondage bien connue et respectée, sera chargée du sondage électronique.

Points à retenir au sujet du sondage

  • Le questionnaire sera envoyé par courriel aux membres dont l’adresse courriel se trouve dans la base de données syndicale le 20 janvier 2015.
  • On communiquera avec un échantillon de membres de toutes les unités de négociation.
  • Si l’on communique avec vous, vous êtes libre de refuser de participer.
  • Le sondage devrait prendre environ 15 minutes.
  • Les données personnelles recueillies dans le cadre du sondage sont strictement confidentielles. Vos réponses et opinions demeurent anonymes.

Si vous recevez un courriel vous demandant de participer au sondage, nous espérons que vous accepterez. Votre opinion est importante!

Domestic Violence at Work | Canadian Labour Congress

Domestic Violence at Work | Canadian Labour Congress.

initial findings on domestic violence survey

Canadian employers lose $77.9 million annually due to the direct and indirect impacts of domestic violence, and the costs, to individuals, families and society, go far beyond that. However, we know very little about the scope and impacts of this problem in Canada.

The Canadian Labour Congress partnered with researchers at the University of Western Ontario and conducted the first ever Canadian survey on domestic violence in the workplace. We did this because there is almost no data on this issue in Canada and we know that women with a history of domestic violence have a more disrupted work history, are consequently on lower personal incomes, have had to change jobs more often, and more often work in casual and part time roles than women without violence experiences.

Being a perpetrator of domestic violence also significantly impacts a worker and their workplace. A recent study found that 53% of offenders felt their job performance was negatively impacted, 75% had a hard time concentrating on their work, and 19% reported causing or nearly causing workplace accidents due to their violent relationship. Their behaviours lead to a loss of paid and unpaid work time, a decrease in productivity, and safety hazards for their co-workers.

Here are some of the things we learned from this survey:

Experiences of Domestic Violence

prevalence and gender

A third (33.6%) of respondents reported ever experiencing domestic violence from an intimate partner, and there were differences by gender (figure 2).

Aboriginal respondents, respondents with disabilities, and those indicating a sexual orientation other than heterosexual (e.g., lesbian, gay or bisexual) were particularly likely to have reported experiencing DV in their lifetime. In terms of indirect domestic violence experience, 35.4% of respondents reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is experiencing, or has previously experienced, domestic violence and 11.8% reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is being abusive, or has previously been abusive, toward his/her partner.

The Impact of DV on Workers and Workplaces

DV in the workplace

Of those who reported DV experience, 38% indicated it impacted their ability to get to work (including being late, missing work, or both).

In total, 8.5% of DV victims indicated they had lost their job because of it.  

Over half (53.5%) of those reporting DV experiences indicated that at least one type of abusive act occurred at or near the workplace. Of these, the most common were abusive phone calls or text messages (40.6%) and stalking or harassment near the workplace (20.5%; Figure 3).

Ultimately, stronger evidence will help to shape legislation, policies, and practices that promote violence prevention and safety in workplaces, that hold abusers accountable for their behaviour, and that lift the burden from victims so they need not deal with domestic violence alone.

Disclosure of DV in the Workplace and Support Received

Overall, 43.2% of those experiencing DV reported they discussed it with someone at work. There are apparent differences according to gender, with men being particularly unlikely to discuss domestic violence at work.  Among all respondents, 28% said they had received information about domestic disclosure of dv in the workplace

violence from their employer. Among unionized respondents, 27.2% received information about domestic violence from their union.

Only 10.6% of all respondents think that employers are aware when domestic violence is affecting their workers, but among those who said yes, 62.3% believe employers act in a positive way to help workers experiencing domestic violence. Similarly, only 11.3% of all respondents think union officials are aware when domestic violence is affecting members, and among them, 86.6% believe unions act in a positive way to help members.

Where do we go from here?

This research has identified the scope and impact of domestic violence on workers and workplaces, but is only a first step. Immediate next steps include encouraging use of these results by governments, unions and employers to establish proactive practices to address the impact of domestic violence at work. Some immediate changes in the labour movement include:

The Yukon Teachers’ Association has negotiated special leave that can be used when workers need time off due to domestic violence.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has a network of social stewards who are provided training to develop listening skills, learn about available resources, and assist in prevention of a range of difficulties, including family-related problems. The program is particularly effective in Quebec.

Download the entire report and learn more about what we are doing on this issue.

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!