“With warmth and personality, your submission beautifully captures the essence of the good that unions do: they empower people to speak up for what they know is right,” NUPGE National President James Clancy wrote to winner Jay Jeworski. “That’s particularly important these days in which, as you say, profits seem to be valued over the well-being of the employees that generate them.”
Ottawa (03 June 2014) — In the four years that Jay Jeworski spent at business school, he wasn’t taught very much about organized labour. “I was an HR major, but I think we only had one course on unions,” says the 25-year-old who lives in Calgary. “I can understand why there are so many people out there who see unions in a really limited scope: we're not taught very much about them.”
Calgarian writes his way to winning fourth prize in Unions Matter contest
But fortunately for Jay, he already knew first-hand just how important and powerful unions can be. His parents were both active in CUPW and took both he and his brother to stand with them on the picket lines, as they struggled for things like maternity leave which help ensure basic equality for all Canadians.
“They take a lot of pride in the things that they fought for,” says Jay.
Jay takes pride in them, too, and sent us a short essay about his parents, along with a photograph of him and his brother Walter as youngsters on the picket line.
“With warmth and personality, your submission beautifully captures the essence of the good that unions do: they empower people to speak up for what they know is right,” NUPGE National President James Clancy wrote to Jeworski. “That’s particularly important these days in which, as you say, profits seem to be valued above all else.”
My name is Jay Jeworski. My father, Keith, has been a member of CUPW for longer than I have been alive, including around a decade as the local president. My mother is also a 25-year CUPW member.
I grew up in an environment where the union was a fundamental part of day-to-day life. I have fond childhood memories standing on a picket line with my brother during a freezing Regina winter day, bundled up looking like marshmallows, holding signs and drinking hot chocolate. Lengthy arbitrations and out-of-province mediations involving my dad were also usual, which placed occasional limitations on family time.
As a human resources major in university, I felt motivated to study some of the history of Canadian unions. Of interest was a period from 1955-65, where the volume of mail in Canada doubled, while postal workers remained static. Work conditions were grueling and employees were often forced to work 12-hour days, subject to frequent supervisor harassment, and no additional pay. In 1965, a two-week wildcat strike by postal workers across Canada led to changes in working conditions and the establishment of collective bargaining rights for all public sector employees.
Now a full-time member of the workforce myself, I’ve come to recognize the importance unions play first-hand, particularly in a business landscape, which is driven ever more by profit motives. Unions matter by providing a critical voice for an assembly of workers that would otherwise have none.
I’m proud that my parents are members of a union that has such a prominent history of fighting for its own members and those of other public sector employees. My hope is that all Canadian unions will continue to draw from their rich pasts and remain strong and effective in the battle for workers’ rights into the future.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE