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Why join CMAW Local 1995?

Plenty of reasons. Members of CMAW Local 1995 have access to:

  • Health and welfare benefits, including the best union-managed pension fund in Canada. (This fund is professionally administered, under the stewardship of working carpenters.)
  • The right and the opportunity to be involved in the day to day function of the union through regular membership meetings and interaction with other members.
  • A voice on their jobsites to decide for themselves what is safe and what is not. With the enforcement of collective agreements by management and elected job stewards, terms/conditions, and standards of employment are met and often exceeded.
  • A high level of training with a low journeyperson to apprentice ratio. Apprentices can be indentured to us which allows them to work for more than one contactor without it negatively affecting their apprenticeship.
  • Apprenticeship bursaries while attending apprentice training and offer other courses in house. For example: Scaffolding, concrete stair building, rigging, door and hardware, blue print reading, first aid, IP/TQ Refresher courses, and many more.
  • Respect. The employers respect the rights of Members of CMAW Local 1995, as workers and as individuals, not simply because it is the law but because they see the effectiveness and benefit of treating people fairly and as equals.

What are the benefits of a been a unionized worker?

The Union’s goals in a workplace are its members’ goals:

Health and Safety in the Workplace. Hours of work. Employment Equity. Top wages in the industry, pension and benefits. Dignity and Respect (union security). Democratization of the work place.

What is a Union?

You are the Union – you and a majority of your co-workers in the workplace.

The basic idea of a Union is that by joining together with co-workers you will have a greater ability to be more effective in collectively improving conditions at the workplace.

These workplace improvements are achieved through the process of collective bargaining, which concludes with a legally-binding collective agreement, signed between the union and the employer.

How do you know just what union to choose?

It is in the interest of each group of unorganized workers to join a union with experience and proven effectiveness in representing compatible workers in the same industry, service (public or private) or trade. The Carpenters Union of British Columbia, Canada has a long and proud history representing the wishes, needs and aspirations of workers here in BC.

As a modern trade union CMAW Local 1995 represents much more than Carpenters. We represent school board employees who cover a wide range of work skills, in addition to many specialist workers in construction and the building trades.

Will my call be confidential?

Yes. CMAW Local 1995 will handle all contacts in the strictest confidence.

What are Union dues used for?

Union Members pay dues to finance the operation of their union.

Union dues pay for a variety of services, including operating a local union, costs associated with bargaining, hiring staff, legal services, health and safety programs, strike funds, education and training and per capita portions to central bodies such as the BC Fed or CLC.

If the union costs nothing, it probably wouldn’t be worth anything.

Another large portion of most unions’ dues is spent on “organizing the unorganized”.

About one-third of all Canadians workers are represented by unions.

There are literally millions of people without protection and employers are able to use these workers to undercut hard-won and decent union contracts by operating non-union workplaces and cheaper competition to already unionized establishments. How much unionized workers receive in wages and benefits depends on how strongly unions have organized the industry or service.

What is a reasonable wage demand?

One that meets the workers’ needs? One based on the employer’s ability to pay? One that’s tied to productivity? Or one that the media thinks is responsible?

The fact is that nobody has yet devised a workable formula for determining wage increases that would be considered reasonable by the workers, by their employer, by the public, by the press and by the government. One group or another will always be unhappy.

Besides, most employers – except occasionally when in genuine financial stress – still refuse to open their books to union negotiators. Unions are thus denied access to the data on profits, productivity and labour costs that they must have in order to formulate “reasonable” demands. The best alternative for you and other workers in our private enterprise society is to go for as much as they think their Members are entitled to.   Unionized workers don’t have these worries about lay-offs, job security or on-the-job injuries .

But Unions have always been concerned about more than wages. Some of the first goals of organized labour were better working conditions: eliminating the child sweatshops, expanding public education and reducing the number of working hours.

Over the years, labour has led the fight for Medicare, for workers’ compensation, for occupational health laws, tougher human rights codes and equal pay for work of equal value.

Unions have also supported all serious attempts to make jobs less boring and safer.

Productivity increases when work has more meaning, absenteeism falls and the economy and community are improved.

Unions must always be responsive to their Memberships’ needs and desires.

Today union members say they are primarily concerned with issues such as job security, health and safety, retraining and education. It should come as no surprise that Union demands reflect these concerns.

Aren’t Unions too big and powerful?

Comparing “BIG UNIONS” to “BIG CORPORATIONS” and “BIG GOVERNMENT” is a favorite trick of the media and other groups like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“Big” and “powerful” are relative terms. In actual fact, most Canadian unions are quite small, and together they represent less than 40% of the country’s workforce.

Even the largest unions, in terms of size and resources, pale by comparison with multinational corporations such as Teck, Wal-mart, CN Rail or General Motors.

In Canada, few politicians ever dare interfere with “free enterprise”.

Business can set their prices, sell their products and throw their money into anything from advertising to a new executive washroom without supervision or restraint. Governments will usually give them money or tax breaks to do this.

Politicians feel differently about Unions. They have required legal certification, formal backing from a majority of the workers they wish to represent and a long, complicated legal process before they can call a strike. Governments can intervene in strikes; force workers back to the job and impose a settlement. They can fine or jail workers who refuse to work.

Do you ever see governments try those tactics on companies?

Unions were good at one time but haven’t they outlived their usefulness?   The Toronto Globe and Mail made this argument on May 6, 1886. Over 100 years have passed and unions continue to grow and become a more acceptable part of Canadian life. The simple truth is that unions will never be out of date so long as employers and governments control the lives of others by determining how much they earn or work or what kind of job they are entitled to.

Today employers are pushing even harder for lower safety standards, lower wages and fewer benefits. Just look at the six-dollar training wage. It is more important than ever to recognize that without a collective agreement outlining the conditions of work, wages and benefits, the employer has the right to treat its workers in any way it wants.   No Union contract requires an employer to keep a worker who is incompetent or constantly absent or tardy. What the Union does is make sure dismissals are for ‘just cause’ – for real reasons – not personality clashes between supervisors and employees.

Older employees can’t be fired as they once were when they‘re considered less useful to their employer. Women who have a Union can’t suffer discrimination from their boss because the boss fears they may get pregnant. In this way, Unions do protect people’s jobs. That’s the purpose of a Union.

Some management people understand this and support it. Robert S. Hatfield, former chairman of the Continental Group, one of the world’s biggest firms says, “When I first started working in a factory in 1936…The whim of the boss could make the difference, and sometimes that meant swallowing a lot of abuse, with no way to talk back… It came home to me then, as never before, that human dignity is very precious….Now when I think of the humanity and dignity that underpins the relationships today of all working people… I know that our unions have a lot to be proud of, because it was the union movement that spearheaded the effort and made it happen.”

Why do these myths about Unions exist?

Right-wing think tanks and anti-union groups funded by big corporations, not only have nothing nice to say about unions, there interested in seeing unions and workers’ power disappear. Why?

So they won’t have to pay you a fair wage.

So it becomes easier to fire you.

So they don’t have to provide safe workplaces.

So there’s no one raising the alarm about how corporations operate.

Well funded, these groups along with other employer associations lobby governments for a lower minimum wage, call for reduced child labour standards, want longer work weeks with fewer benefits and want laws changed to make it harder for you to join a Union.

They see Unions and workers as standing in their way. In this case they’re right.