6 Trade Unions Standing Up For Workers In Canada

All over the world, workers have had to get together and fight collectively in order to win and defend the rights that their bosses would rather deny them, and Canada is no exception. From Newfoundland to the Yukon, proletarians of the Great White North have established trade unions to represent their interests at the bargaining table and in the halls of government. In no particular order, this list examines labor organizations making a difference in Canada.

First on the list, at #1, the BC Nurses' Union represents more than 48,000 professional healthcare workers, who toil in British Columbia's hospitals, long-term care facilities, and in communities. Formed in 1981 through a split from another labor organization, it has become the largest union of its kind in the province, and the only to represent those employed in research, clinical practice, leadership, and education.

BCNU pursues the health and social and economic well-being of its members, their profession, and the people they serve. This includes negotiating contracts through bargaining associations, and advocating for measures that protect workplace safety. The Union's educational programs offer opportunities for members to develop both personally and professionally.

#2 on the list is the Canadian Union of Public Employees. With 700,000 members across the country, CUPE represents workers in a wide range of sectors. These include health care, emergency services, education, early learning and child care, municipalities, social services, libraries, utilities, transportation, airlines, and more.

Founded in 1963, CUPE today is Canada's largest union. The group advocates for its members through collective bargaining, helping them provide a higher level of service to the public by ensuring they are safe and healthy at work and receive fair pay and benefits. Additionally, it intervenes in broader political issues that affect all workers.

The #3 entry is the National Union of Public and General Employees, which conglomerates 11 component and three affiliate organizations into a federated structure. The majority of its nearly 400,000 members work to deliver public services of every kind to the citizens of their home provinces, though a growing portion of members work for private businesses.

The group works to monitor provincial and federal labor laws and developments, and reports on and contributes to legislation affecting the workplace. It gives members a national presence through participation in the Canadian Labour Congress, as well as globally through Public Services International.

Coming in at #4, the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers represents educators in the province's English-language system. It operates to protect members' individual rights, work towards the collective good of all teachers in the region, and to ensure quality student learning conditions and public education.

As a provincial organization, QPAT contains ten local member unions. Its efforts include information campaigns to educate members and the general public; an annual teachers' convention that takes place in Montreal; and processing grievances and arbitration in cases where there is a disagreement between the local union and the school board.

For #5, we have UNITE HERE Local 75, the Greater Toronto-area branch of the North American hospitality workers' union. The organization's diverse membership includes those who labor in hotels, restaurants, racetracks and casinos, laundry and food service companies, airport concessions and apparel, and general manufacturing and distribution centers.

UNITE HERE believes that union power comes from its grassroots membership. Rank-and-file workers are active in all aspects of the group's efforts, and function as decision-makers and organizers. The Local is governed by an executive board that represents all of the Toronto-area companies at which the union has organized workers.

Closing things out in the #6 position, Unifor is Canada's largest private sector union, with more than 315,000 members working in every major sector of the country's economy. The group believes itself to have developed a novel approach to unionism, updated for the twenty-first century through the creation of new tools and with feedback from members.

Unifor was founded in 2013 through a merger of existing unions. The group strives to protect the economic rights of members and workers generally by running issue campaigns, forming coalitions with other labor organizations, operating sectoral bargaining units, staging conventions that bring stakeholders together, and developing policy proposals.