Forming a Union: Frequently asked questions:
8. Can an individual department be unionized or does the whole company have to be organized at one time?
It's relatively simple. If you and some of your co-workers want to form a union, we begin signing union membership cards. These cards indicate that employees are interested in forming a union.
If a majority of employees sign up, the union applies to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for certification. They’re a neutral government body that oversees Ontario laws that protect workers' rights to join the union.
The labour board then conducts a vote. If most of those voting agree that they want a union, the board will certify the union as the employees' representative. This means that the company is legally obliged to recognize the union and bargain with it.
We will work with you during the entire process and ensure that the process goes smoothly. Unifor 87-M has experienced organizers that can speak to you more about the process. Give us a call at 416-461-2461, or send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org
When cards are submitted to the Labour Board, an official of the Board checks the signatures against a company-provided sample of employee signatures in order to verify that the union has legitimately signed up most employees. The company will find out how many employees signed, but will never know exactly who. The information is not released by the Labour Board. After certification, the leaders of the newly unionized group will be elected and the company will know who they are, but by that time it’s too late for the company to stop a union drive.
Employers cannot prohibit you from discussing the union provided the conversation is within the usual range of social interaction that is allowed in the workplace. However, discussion about the union, or signing union cards, cannot interfere with anyone getting their work done.
A: No, this is illegal.
In our experience, most companies are sophisticated enough not to resort to intimidation. However company lawyers will advise managers to make statements that spark fears about strikes or tough bargaining by the employer. While it is illegal for any company to fire or penalize an employee who wants to form a union, most employees feel more comfortable if union organizing is done without the company's knowledge. The company will find out if the organizing drive is successful, since the labour board will order a vote.
About 98% of contracts are achieved through dispute-free negotiation. But if the members at a particular workplace are not willing to accept an inferior settlement they can decide to take a strike vote. A strike vote raises the stakes in negotiations, and contracts are most often settled after a strike vote but before a strike is begun.
No strike can occur without a majority vote by secret ballot, and only the bargaining team of elected employee representatives may actually call the strike.
A: Any full-time or part time employee is eligible.
However, labour laws exclude from unionization anyone who exercises managerial authority, including for example, the authority to hire and fire. Often we have disagreements with companies over who is managerial and the labour board has to decide. We usually argue that anyone who wants to be protected by a union should have that right.
The best way to answer these complicated questions is to discuss with us your own particular circumstances. Give us a call at 416-461-2461, or send us an email email@example.com.
A: All contract employees are recognized by Ontario labour law as part of the bargaining unit covered by the union. All Local 87-M union contracts allow the company to hire temporary contract employees to cover maternity leaves and other short term coverage situations. Any contract employee can sign a union card and cast a ballot in the union certification vote.
Freelance is often another word for not on the payroll. The Ontario Labour Relations Board has ruled that freelancers are actually permanent employees if they work extensive hours (full-time or nearly full-time) and are under the managerial control of the company. These full-time freelancers can sign a union card and cast a ballot in the union certification vote.
8: Can an individual department be unionized or does the whole company have to be organized at one time?
A: In the media industry, unlike most others, the Labour Board will allow certification of a union representing only one department. But these one-department bargaining units usually have less bargaining power. For this reason, we usually prefer to organize an entire workplace at once, particularly when it is a small one.
In other industries, such as advertising or marketing, it depends on the size and variety of departments in the company.
If you think there is support for a union in only one department, the best thing is to discuss it with us and we can help advise you on the best strategy. Give us a call at 416-461-2461, or send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A: That depends on what the members want, and what we can negotiate with the company. The members at your workplace determine their own priorities, and negotiations will reflect those priorities.
Members have the right to ratify any settlement that is reached, by secret ballot vote. However, it is fair to say that most newly organized groups negotiate contracts that are similar to those negotiated in similar-sized unionized publications.
Even hard-nosed companies must comply with the law. Ontario labour law requires a company to bargain in good faith and make all reasonable efforts to reach a contract. The Ontario Labour Relations Board enforces that. A company that bargains unreasonably is subject to binding arbitration by an independent adjudicator to settle a first union contract.
A: For a lot of reasons.
To start with, your boss today may not be your boss tomorrow. Without a union contract, you have no guarantee that your wages and working conditions will not be undercut by a new boss or, for that matter, by a new owner.
Union’s can provide dignity in the workplace by ensuring that the employee-employer relationship is not controlled by just one party. Individual employees standing alone have little or no power of persuasion over wealthy and sometimes ruthless publishers. The only strength employees can hope to enjoy is the strength they lend each other.
And if your boss genuinely likes you now, he or she will respect your right to choose a union. This choice will not damage a positive relationship.
Local 87-M will not protect any member who is incompetent or guilty of gross misconduct. But in a unionized environment, a company cannot simply fire someone without having adequate grounds and being able to prove its case that firing is justified. If an employee believes he or she has been treated unfairly, the employee has a right to union representation; if the union believes a case can be made, we will pursue it.
A: Union dues are 1.49% of gross salary, and are taken by payroll deduction, like CPP premiums. Union dues are tax deductible.
Union dues are not paid by new members until the your elected bargaining representatives have negotiated a contract with the company and the staff have approved that contract in a majority vote.
A: Local 87-M is a non-profit organization that only receives money from its members dues. The biggest expenditures are the salaries of Local 87-M office staff and professional employees, who ensure that contracts are negotiated professionally and that grievances are pursued.
Another large expenditure is grievance arbitration which is the legal process for solving disputes over contract interpretation. For example, if a member is fired unjustly, he or she has access to arbitration, often including the services of a lawyer, with all costs paid by the union.
The union also invests in developing our member’s skills by financially supporting educational courses.
Finally, a portion of dues is set aside for strike funds that provide income to strikers in the event that a strike is necessary to achieve a fair settlement.
A: Local 87-M is run by its members. Bargaining units (in other words, each workplace) elect their own officers and manage their own affairs in accordance with Local 87-M bylaws and the constitution of our parent union, Unifor. Under our bylaws, executive elections must be held once a year.
The executive of Local 87-M, consisting of elected officers from each workplace plus seven officers elected at large, make decisions on financial and policy matters.
Within Unifor, a convention is held every two years, to which Local 87-M elects delegates. The convention sets the national union's policies and priorities.
By going to the bargaining table together, employees get better wages and benefits from their employer.
Now multiply that improvement times the thousands of unionized workplaces across Canada. When more people are paid well and enjoy job security, the taxes they pay ensures stronger and safer communities. Those who belong to unions and benefit from good jobs help those in their community.
The larger societal benefits go beyond economic prosperity. Interesting research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives argues that unions have a long history of protecting human rights, defending workers, and making life more secure. Check out the following reports:
· The Union Card: A Ticket Into Middle Class Stability (2015): Compares unionization and income data in Canada to show the impact declining union membership has had on the middle class.
· Unions and Democracy (2014): Unions have a positive influence on communities, Canadian society and the quality of democracy.
· Unions Boost Democracy and Prosperity for All (2015): An investigation on how Canadian unions work together across the country to fight for workers rights and social justice. Together they lobby the government for fair labour laws and workers’ safety and by fighting for fair wages they help people climb the economic ladder.