Mergers are nothing new within the labour movement. Unifor itself is the result of a series of mergers and amalgamations of 87 different unions, dating back from the earliest craft unions of the 1800s. Unifor’s Constitution encourages locals to merge to create stronger local unions, and there are several reasons for this. These might include:
Pooling and accessing new and greater resources
Accessing office or meeting spaces, securing funds to attend workshops or conferences, or even organizing an event in the community can often be a challenge for small locals that do not have substantial resources. Pooling and combining resources between locals can provide greater access to member services as well as opportunities to promote union activism and engagement.
Community and movement building
Small locals in remote regions of the country may feel like their needs are not being met or that they are disconnected from other union activities. Merging locals can boost members’ sense of belonging while providing greater opportunities to develop stronger networks and ties both in the community as well as with other Unifor members.
Servicing multiple units can be costly. Job losses and layoffs put added financial strain on local union resources. Often, local unions operating in close proximity to one another (or even representing workers in the same workplace) may be duplicating resources, which can be otherwise be put to use in other areas such as training and education, communications, or increased representation.
Leveraging worker power
Merging local unions is an effective way to build a stronger base and presence in our communities and increase our political organizing and bargaining power to affect change. In an era of continued political and employer threats, combined with increasing employment precarity and insecurity, it is critical that we leverage all our power and resources to become stronger and united.
Bringing together diverse groups of members and leadership creates opportunities for sharing of knowledge and innovative best practices between various bargaining units as well as between experienced and new local union members. A concern smaller locals may have in merging with another local is the perceived loss of identity, autonomy, and decision-making power. While this is a valid concern, there are ways in which amalgamated local unions can work to ensure that there is equitable representation amongst various bargaining units, industries, regions, and members. Additionally, while smaller locals benefit most from mergers, it is worth emphasizing that mergers are intended to have overall positive benefits for all involved – with increased members, resources, expertise, and community and union engagement. Whatever the motivation behind a local union’s interest in merging, this guide aims to help locals understand the thinking, planning and procedures that can ease the process and make for more effective outcomes.