- Myth 1: "Unions are too big and powerful."
- Myth 2: "Unions always want to strike."
- Myth 3: "Unions are only interested in money."
- Myth 4: "Unions make unreasonable demands."
- Myth 5: "Unions force people to join and pay dues."
- Myth 6: "Unions have outlived their usefulness."
- Myth 7: "Unions protect people who are lazy and should be fired."
- Myth 8: "Unions only care about themselves."
Facts: Canadian unions are run by people like you and their resources come from members' dues. Comparing "big unions" to big corporations is like comparing apples to oranges, but it's a trick that corporations and the media they own love to use.
Unions consist of everyday working people who elected representatives try to get the best deal for them. Elected union officers are accountable to the membership and have to run for election, unlike corporate CEOs.
Facts: In Alberta more than 98% of contract negotiations are settled without a strike. No union wants a strike and one will only take place after the majority of members vote to do so. Strikes do occur when both sides can't reach an agreement and the workers think that the issues are too important or that remedies won't work. More working days are lost in a year to workplace accidents and illnesses than are lost to strikes.
Facts: Unions bargain for much more than wages. They have fought to eliminate sweat shops, reduce the number of working hours, and improve health and safety conditions.
Unions also fight to preserve and enhance social programs like Medicare, public education, and pensions. Job security, retraining, and eliminating racism are also high on the list of union priorities.
Facts: To some people in Canada, any demand by workers is too much. In contract negotiations, unions base their demands on the needs of the membership. The members themselves state what their needs are during meetings to set bargaining proposals. Unions also take into account the financial circumstances of the employer. Negotiations are like any other part of life: we always try to get the best deal we can.
Facts: A union is formed in a workplace when a majority of workers voluntarily agree to sign union membership cards. No one is forced to sign a card. Unions are democratic organizations, and the wishes of the majority rule.
Everyone in the workplace benefits from a union contract, so everyone pays dues. Like the saying goes, there are no free lunches. Unions require revenue to provide services and representation to members. And those services and representation are available to all members.
Facts: How many times have you heard that unions were needed in the past, but not anymore? That's what the Toronto Globe newspaper said in an editorial in 1886. And unions went on to negotiate pension plans, medical coverage, disability protection, equal pay for equal work, pay equity, and health and safety programs.
Today, corporations are stronger than every before. And global trade and investment deals threaten to put even more power in their hands, at the expense of citizens and our elected governments.
Workers need unions to do what would be next to impossible on their own: counterbalance the power of employers, protect members' rights, and work for further improvements.
Facts: No collective agreement requires an employer to keep a worker who is incompetent or lazy. The union doesn't shelter a worker who is deliberately absent or always late for work.
But unions do make sure that discipline is for just cause and not because of personality clashes between a worker and the employer. A union contract is really job insurance for good employees.
Facts: Did you know that many of the benefits and rights that Canadians enjoy were fought for and won by unions? The labour movement was a leader in the fight for civil rights, Medicare, public education, the minimum wage, and better working conditions including the 40-hour work week. Unions went on strike for pensions and set the standards for society.
Sure, union members want their own working conditions to improve, but we all have children, family, and friends who aren't unionized, and we want them to have a better life, too.