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  5. The amalgamated Local Union’s relationship to national union

Amalgamated local unions have access to a variety of national Unifor resources to assist and support their operations. This could include: National Representatives that service bargaining units; in-house legal support (with prior approval from the National President’s Assistants); pension and benefits experts; industry and sector specialists and directors; researchers and economists; communications, political action and government relations teams; adult education trainers and union educators; human rights and health and safety experts; specialists in women’s rights and child care initiatives, and more. Area and Regional Directors, along with National staff representatives, are a critical resource and liaison with the national office in order to get the full support your local requires.

Learn more about the union’s structure at unifor.org/yourunion

Equitable representation

Ensuring equal representation by sector, industry, and geography on the local executive is a good starting point to making certain one bargaining unit does not dominate the local. However, equity is just as important to take into consideration, to ensure that equity seeking groups, such as: women, workers of
colour, new immigrants, Aboriginal workers, LGTBQ, young workers, or workers with disabilities, also have opportunities to hold executive and officer positions, and reflect the diverse nature of our locals and our union.

Gaining greater knowledge of a local union’s membership demographics will assist the local to ensure that all equity-seeking groups are fully included in local affairs and help facilitate the removal of barriers to participation for specific groups. An effective way to collect this data is during contract negotiations and with the distribution of bargaining surveys with member demographic questions included for easy collection. Local unions should also consider implementing a formalized mentorship program to build better stronger links between members.

Visit unifor.org/mentorship to learn more.

Another structure under the Constitution that provides for equitable representation for bargaining units in amalgamated local unions are joint councils. Joint councils allow for proportional representation based on bargaining unit size with a minimum of two representatives from each bargaining unit. Please refer to ‘Article 15, Section J’ of Unifor’s Constitution (unifor.org/constitution) for additional information on joint councils.

Amalgamated local unions will have an increased ability to develop full Local Union Standing Committees, as is recommended by Unifor’s Constitution. This is often a struggle for smaller local unions, yet a considerable strength for amalgamated locals. Examples of Local Union Standing Committees include: Human Rights, Health and Safety, Workers with Disabilities, Women’s, LGBTQ, and Aboriginal and Workers’ of Colour Committees. Ensuring equitable representation on all 13 Local Union Standing Committees (listed in Article 15, Section D of Unifor’s Constitution), is also important and gives amalgamated locals an advantage of fully utilizing member skills and knowledge to effectively manage the local’s day-to-day business, and to promote the local in their respective communities and workplaces.

Local member and community engagement

Building Unifor’s connections within the community is the key to our strength as a movement and a core foundation of social unionism. Amalgamated local unions will find greater opportunities to become involved in campaigns at the community-level and providing ways for members to become more engaged in local issues while developing their capacities as trade union activists.

Many of Unifor’s local unions already participate in community initiatives in a variety of ways, including participating in labour councils, non-profit community organizations (e.g. food banks and shelters),
community fundraising initiatives (e.g. local United Way fundraising campaigns, toy drives), political campaigns (e.g. municipal, provincial and federal elections), and celebratory events (e.g. Labour Day and International Women’s Day). This type of work not only helps to develop strong bonds between the community and locals and individual members, but also raises the profile of our union in our communities, by highlighting the good and important work that we do. While strengthening community connections is important, so too is building up an amalgamated local’s own internal connection and solidarity as well. This is especially important for new amalgamated local unions that are incorporating new bargaining unit members. Finding opportunities to bring members together requires identifying barriers to participation that may impede member participation and finding innovative ways around them.

“We couldn’t get many people to participate at the meetings, and there were lots of workplace locations, so we tried a Skype meeting and got 20 new people to join in.”

– Local Union Task Force Participant

This can include:

  • Using technology to allow members who are geographically spread out to participate in meetings (such as Skype);
  • Developing an amalgamated local website, newsletter, or smart phone app to share news and updates;
  • Providing orientation to new members who may not be familiar with how local unions operate;
  • Offering interpretation for members who have difficulties with English; offering child care;
  • Finding more opportunities to create social and family-oriented activities, such as regional BBQs, picnics, or sporting activities.

“Our local travelled to workplaces across the region with a BBQ. It allowed a space for members to interact with us and each other – to have conversation and ask questions about upcoming and current negotiations.”

– Local Union Task Force Participant

 

“We offer funds for child/ elder care in order for members to attend meetings in hopes of removing this obstacle.”

– Local Union Task Force Participant

Best Practices for Amalgamated Locals: Local and community relations

  • Building strong connections in the community is a core foundation of social unionism
  • Find local community organizations that members can volunteer with; participate in local labour councils; get members engaged in local political campaigns and special community events such as Labour Day
  • Promote the good work you are doing in the community to raise the union and local’s profile
  • Identify barriers to participation for members and find effective solutions to increase engagement, such as child care or interpretation
  • Organize fun and familyoriented activities such as BBQs, picnics, and sports

DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE TO AMALGAMATED LOCAL UNIONS IN PDF FORMAT

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