Unions matter because they help their members help others

Latest contest winners show us that by encouraging their members to feel valuable and secure, unions help their members provide better service and care to their customers and clients.

Ottawa (09 May 2016) — Everybody knows that health care workers help all Canadians live better longer lives. As a Toronto rapper and community organizer Mohammad Ali Aumeer makes clear in his powerful song "Dreams, Part II," health care workers are people too, and they need just as much support as the rest of us — support provided by health care unions.

"What a shame it would be if some government cuts / brought her back to where she started, six hundred a month," raps Mohammad about "Michelle," a young single mother who builds a career for herself as a nurse so that she can provide a decent life for her own child.

"Her daughter's smiling face, that's a cue she's back home / From playing the role of the community backbone."

With a host of health care-related events this month — from Mental Health Week happening right now (to May 8) to National Nursing Week (May 9 to May 16), and Canada Health Day on May 12 — "Dreams, Part II" was a natural winner of NUPGE's Why Unions Matter contest.

Gender discrimination poisons everything

The entry by Winnipeg's Carly McFall also won over the jury.

"They told me that 'it just wasn't working out.' They claimed that my personal life had nothing to do with their decision to let me go," writes Carly in her fictional memoir "The Importance of Unions for the LGBT Community."

Like many other Canadians — far too many other Canadians — the character in Carly's entry was subjected to hateful and demeaning discrimination based on sexuality. On the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, (May 17), her poignant piece has been chosen as a contest winner.

Being discriminated against poisons everything about work life.

"My paycheque suffered from this, but I was in no position to challenge my employer's power over me," Carly writes. "I was expendable. So, I shut my mouth in an effort to save my position.  As you can tell, it didn't work."

Fortunately, Carly's character was able to find a new job in a unionized workplace where a culture of respect has been created.

"I'm now a part of a company that sees my potential and views me as an equal. I joined a union once I was hired so that I would not have to worry about the past repeating itself," she writes. "With the support of my union, I have come to the realization that being gay does not decrease my value as a human being, or as a member of the workforce."

New theme for next month

Next month, we'll be celebrating National Aboriginal Day on June 21. So throughout May, we're asking for Why Unions Matter contest submissions that say why unions matter to Aboriginal peoples.

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.

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