Unifor consists of over 680 local unions spread out across the country and across a range of economic and industrial sectors. The size of our locals are diverse, ranging from as small as four members to as large as 10,000.
All Unifor locals can be broadly divided into two main types:
• Single-unit local unions; and
• Amalgamated local unions
What is an amalgamated local?
Simply put, it is a local comprised of two or more bargaining units. Currently, only about 40 per cent of local unions are structured as amalgamated locals. However, these locals represent about 80 per cent of Unifor’s total membership.
Unifor’s Constitution (unifor.org/constitution) provides guidelines on how locals can initiate a merger, as well as provisions specifically applicable to amalgamated locals, such as participating in conventions and regional councils or organizing members’ meetings. More on mergers can be found in section III of this guide.
Strengthening our amalgamated locals
For those already in amalgamated local unions or locals that may have recently merged, we want to highlight a few key areas where work can be done to increase your local membership’s overall strength and internal/ external engagement. These areas include: databases and communications; national office resources; equitable representation and community engagement.
Membership database and communications
A key element towards fostering dynamic and engaged amalgamated local unions is communications.
Maintaining a consolidated and up to date local union membership database is an important tool to ensure that all local members are kept up to date on important collective bargaining news, national union affairs, upcoming meetings and events, educational opportunities, and community actions. It is encouraged that a point person(s) is designated and responsible for collecting all members’ pertinent contact information, including: name, address, telephone number and email address.
We encourage locals to use our online Local Administration System (LAS) to help track and upload their membership information to the national office. The LAS system also has useful accounting tools to keep track of local finances and can be used to order Unifor material directly online. Please contact email@example.com for more information and to access the LAS user manual.
Holding regular membership meetings are not only required, but provide an invaluable opportunity to keep members up to date, informed, and engaged in union affairs. It is important to note that amalgamated locals commonly hold both regular unit meetings and general membership meetings. An amalgamated local’s biggest strength is its diverse membership, allowing for a broad range of perspectives and insights. As such, members should feel like their voices and opinions are being heard and acknowledged. This will help to empower members who feel like their feedback is valued and the contributions are recognized, which will foster increased member engagement.
Best Practices for Amalgamated Locals: Communications and membership database
- Maintain an up to date database of member contact information
- Make use of the online Local Administration System (LAS) to upload membership info to the national office
- Gather feedback from members as to the format they prefer to receive
communications (e.g., electronic or print)
- Ensure advance notice is given about upcoming events and in accessible formats
- Provide members with training on social media platforms
- Membership meetings that allow for greater opportunities for members to have their voices heard can boost engagement
- Have local member volunteers help with any translation or interpretation to assist those who may have difficulty communicating in English
Choosing the right method to communicate information is also important, and it is critical to know what local union members want and in what format. If local members request materials be provided in print format, then locals should find ways to facilitate this format as much as possible.
With amalgamated locals sharing resources, costs of providing printed materials can be greatly reduced. We also encourage the use of technology to communicate with members (e.g., email, texting, Facebook, Twitter), as setting up single or joint local accounts for online communications/social media platforms can often be more cost-effective, faster, and reach a wider audience.
While not all members may be comfortable with digital communications, we encourage locals to provide members with training on these platforms so everyone has a basic knowledge and understanding of how they work.
Again, in matters of communications and database support, our national union’s Communications Department is always there to provide your local with assistance and training on how to effectively communicate with members.