There are no jobs on a dead planet and there's no productivity when a worker's been hurt

Unions Matter winners help celebrate Earth Day (April 22) and mark the Day of Mourning (April 28).

Ottawa (06 Apr. 2016) — Everybody understands that unions speak up for wages and working conditions, but Grade 12 student Emily Genyn knows that unions are also an important voice for the environment. After all, she writes, "There are no jobs on a dead planet."

"Sustainability does not necessarily mean cutting out parts of our everyday lives, but simply adjusting the way things are done in order to do it in a more lasting and less harmful way," writes the Windsor, Ont, native in her winning essay Unions Matter to the Environment.

'We must invest now in order to protect the planet’s future.'

After graduating high school, Genyn plans to go into the environmentals studies program at the University of Windsor. Although she's not yet a member of a union, her mother's boyfriend works at the Chrysler plant and belongs to Unifor and was able to put her in touch with the chair of his local's environmental committee.

"Unions play an important role in promoting a cleaner and safer earth by having environmental committees which work to educate workers, families, communities and governments that we must invest now in order to protect the planet’s future," she writes.

Unions also protect safety of individual workers

Just as unions help protect our environment, so they also help protect individual workers on the job. Nova Scotia mason and bricklayer Thom Zwicker knows this from painful firsthand experience, having worked on non-union projects with unrealistically short deadlines.

"Thom was expected to get the job done on time. This meant working long hours and overtime with no additional pay," says Thom's wife Natasha in their winning short video Canadian Unions Protect My Safety. "He frequently missed his breaks. Thom became tired but he still continued climbing tall buildings for more than 12 hours a day and wore improper safety equipment ... CRASH!"

Fortunately, Thom himself has never suffered a fall. But a person he worked with did, which was one of the main reasons why, 10 years ago, he joined Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers (BAC) Local 1 Nova Scotia.

"Thanks to Canadian unions protecting my safety, I’m still here and working hard," says Thom in his video.

Congratulations to Genyn and the Zwickers for their excellent entries.

New theme for next month

There are lots of commemorative events in May. The entire month of May is Asian Heritage Month. The first week of May is Mental Health Week. May 7 is National Child and Youth Mental Health Day. May 12 is Canada Health Day. And May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

So throughout April, we're asking for Why Unions Matter contest submissions that touch on one of the following three themes:

  • Why unions matter to Asian Canadians
  • Why unions matter to your health
  • Why unions matter to people in the LGBT communities

Entries just have to touch on one of those three themes. And depending on the quality of the entries, the judges might award prizes for each theme, or just one prize for the best entry in one of the themes.

We’re looking forward to your responses! And here’s one tiny bit of advice: so far, the majority of the entries have been poems. We’ll continue to accept and consider poetry, but if you want your entry to stand out, think about crafting something other than a poem. 

Please email your entry to whyunionsmatter@nupge.ca (link sends email).

More information: 

Why Unions Matter contest details

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 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

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