Five Great Union Songs For Your Playlist

Music has always been a universal language, a tool for social change and a platform to be heard. This is something that has been especially true for artists who have supported labour unions, and there are a lot of them.

It was a tough task narrowing down the list, but we managed to choose five classic songs about unions that are perfect for your playlist. So whether you turn up these tunes during a hot summer road trip, on your morning drive into work or at your next barbecue, we hope you enjoy some of our choices.

Bruce Springsteen,  Factory

The boss has always been known as a blue collar hero, but it was on the album Darkness On The Edge Of Town that he really began to focus his lyrical themes on working class life. This song was featured on the 1978 album.

Billy Brag, Power in a Union

This song was originally written in the early 1900’s, but British Folk-Punk legend and union supporter Billy Brag re-recorded it in 1986.

Tom Morello, Union Town

The former Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist has always been politically active and a big supporter of unions. And in 2003 they supported him when he was part of a tour that was put together in part by unions.

Pete Seeger, Solidarity Forever

Folk legend Pete Seeger is a prominent singer of protest music and this song might be one of the most popular he recorded. The song is still played at union rallies around the world.

Steve Earle, Harlan Man

Earle has always voiced his support for unions and in 2011 he released a two-track digital single (including Harlan Man) that benefited The America Votes Labor Unity Fund through SaveWorkers.org.


Teamsters 362 Takes Part In Brianne's Run

The animated film ‘Spirit’ was one of Brianne Zabot’s favourite movies, with a title that is appropriate for the strong little girl that dealt with a debilitating and mysterious disease.

Now her mother Patti keeps her courageous spirit going with the non-profit organization Brianne’s LEAP of Hope.

The organization is dedicated to ‘raising public awareness into rare, childhood, metabolic diseases, especially those that affect the white matter of the brain.’

The 12th annual Brianne’s Run will be taking place this year at the Calgary Girls School on June 25 and the Teamsters truck will be out to rally the participants, a tradition for Local 362 since the run started over a decade ago.

The truck acts as the centre stage for the day, with different grades performing skits for the crowd.

“I’m proud to be participating, because it’s the kids that are involved in the event” said Teamsters 362 Business Agent David Frost of the event.

Frost said that Teamsters 362 has been honoured to be involved with Patti and her organization each year.

At just 11 months old Brianne was taken to the Alberta Children’s Hospital  when she had a partial focal seizure.

“Brianne seemed to have recovered from this ordeal and we were sure it was over. Sadly, in January of 2000, the jerking reappeared in her head and neck,” Patti wrote in an online journal which can be found on the LEAP website.

She said that each day the seizures worsened and eventually the young girl was admitted for five weeks to the hospital where the seizures spread to all of her body – limbs, head and neck.

She was suffering from a rare metabolic disease, leaving parents Rick and Patti feeling helpless.

Over the next few years Brianne was in and out of the hospital and what became known to many as “Brianne’s Brave Battle” sadly ended when she passed away in 2003.

But out of that sadness came LEAP of Hope, where Brianne’s legacy could live on through helping other children.

As stated on the website, the goal of LEAP is to educate the public mainly through community fundraising events – such as Brianne’s annual run. The money raised goes towards supporting various children’s charities, which ‘were instrumental in Brianne’s medical care and in her personal life.’

To find out how you can help visit http://www.briannesleapofhope.org.


Knowing You're Never Alone: Teamster Talks About Benefits Of Being A Member

When it comes to dealing with health issues of a loved one, worrying about the cost of medical services is the last thing you want to think about.

This is something Sandra, an administrator with Jacobs and Teamster member of 6 years, knows about all too well.

“You have too many things to worry about. You don’t want to think about 'where am I going to get the money for his medication or the ambulance,'” she said.

With the Teamsters health benefits, Sandra explained that she doesn’t have to worry about medical costs.

She said one of the biggest benefits of being with the Teamsters is knowing that you have people standing behind you.

“I have thousands of brothers and sisters behind me and that really means something to me,” said Sandra. “You're never alone with your family, same thing at work – I’m never alone.”


Controversial Bill C-51 Recently Passed In The Senate - What Does This Mean For Canadians?

On June 9, with a vote of 44-28, the Senate passed a controversial anti-terrorism bill. Bill C-51 has been hot topic on social media, debated by Canadians across the country since it was introduced in January. It was brought forward to extend Canada’s anti-terror laws, something that was heightened by the attacks on Canadian soldiers in October.

Although the government says this bill was moved forward to protect Canadians, many say it threatens some of our basic rights and free speech.

So exactly what is in this legislation that has been drawing so much attention from activists, union leaders and politicians? According to a CBC article there are several changes to the way Canada would deal with ‘terrorism.’

1.    Changes to arrest policy

Law enforcement agencies could arrest someone if the think a terrorist act ‘may be carried out’ instead of believing that it ‘will be carried out.’

2.    CSIS would be allowed to disrupt certain activities

This includes interfering with travel plans, financial transactions and online communications.

3.    Promoting terrorism will be criminalized

This is the ban of the promotion of terrorism or intentional advocacy, broadened from the previous legislation which criminalized encouraging someone to commit terrorism.

4.    Sealing of court proceedings

The government would be allowed to seal proceedings at any point during the court process

5.    Terrorist material to be removed from internet

Officials could foce a website to remove any material that they feel promote or encourage acts of terrorism

6.    No fly list expanded

Anyone who officials believe may be travelling to engage in terrorism would be added to the no-fly list.
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Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff said that the bill is so broad that it could ‘be used to stifle labour unrest, strikes and other forms of civil protests’.

As reported by Rabble, Yussuf explained that the bill broadens the actual definition of a national security threat to include ‘interference with critical infrastrutucre and the economic or financial stability of Canada.' This is language that many have said casts too wide of a net.

Many others have spoken out against the bill including Margaret Atwood, First Nations Leaders and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

In a statement released on the CUPE website they stated that Bill C-51 poses an enormous threat to Canadian democracy by limiting free speech, denying due process and violating personal privacy, creating a threat to every single Canadian.

What all critics seem to have in common is the concern over the rights of Canadians, asking all of us to think about what the future of free speech and activism will look like in our country.


Changing The Productivity Narrative: More Training Needed For Employees and Employers

Do you ever feel like your employer could be offering more training opportunities for your workplace? Apparently, they could be.

Employees in Western Canada are lacking skills in industries all across the board and productivity is being hurt because of it, according to a new study.

study by the Canada West Foundation found that 40 per cent of the workforce ‘does not have the essential skills needed’ and nearly one-third of 16 to 25-year-olds are ‘short of some essential skills for their jobs.’

The report pointed out that it is not highly advanced or technical skills that these employees are missing, but basic ‘computer skills, literacy, numeracy and the ability to work with others’

And employers should care because increased productivity and improved workplace safety are two of the biggest direct benefits of skill training. Other benefits include reduced absenteeism, greater teamwork amongst employees and a reduction in errors – essential to any functioning workplace.

“Increasing productivity means getting the most from your employees, and the best way to ensure their success is to invest in them,” the report stated. “Investing in upgrading essential skills would provide the West with an opportunity to change the productivity narrative.”

The solution for employers is fairly simple as laid out in the study, which suggested things such as funding for existing employees to enhance their skills, training as part of hiring new workers and adjusting job descriptions for employees to ensure skills are maintained.

“Building these essential skills would improve the capacity of workers to do their jobs well and provide a much needed boost to labour productivity,” continued the study. “Every sector of the economy could improve its productivity by helping its workers increase essential skills.“


Teamsters And GardaWorld Cash Services Tentative Agreement Ratified

On June 4 a new collective agreement was ratified for GardaWorld Cash Services workers affiliated with the Teamsters Union. Ballots indicated that 93.5 percent of workers voted in favour of the new proposal.

Over 450 workers are represented at GardaWorld Cash Services across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Lance Wallace, Assistant Director of the Armoured Car Division of Teamsters Canada, said that both parities involved worked ‘diligently to improve the workers conditions.’

“The bargaining committee did a hell of a job and they deserve to be congratulated,” said Wallace.

The workers are getting better health and welfare benefits, improvements to their pension plan and 3.5 per cent wage improvements for the first two years of the contract that will end in 2018.

They will also join the Teamsters Prairie Provinces Pension Plan and the Prairie Teamsters Health & Welfare Plan.

The Teamsters represents 120,000 members in Canada in all industries. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.


The Precarious Problem - How Unstable Work Is Hurting The Canadian Workforce

Precarious work is a word that has been coming up a lot when discussing labour in Canada. Precarious is becoming prevalent, raising concerns about what that type of employment is doing to Canadian society.

This type of employment is insecure, unprotected and typically not well paid.

But precarious workers are not just employees making the minimum wage – they are freelancers, tech industry workers, people working multiple jobs, hired on contract and unpaid interns.

Professor of Labour Studies Wayne Lewchuk said in a recent interview with CBC news that precarious work has become a way of ‘keeping down wages’ and that companies have become addicted to it.

He said people involved in precarious work earn 46 per cent less than workers in the same field who have standard jobs causing major financial strain.

Micheline Laflèche with the United Way also pointed out in the article that this type of insecurity in a persons career can cause people to feel ‘socially isolated’ and are ‘less engaged with their community.’

"It hurts our democratic commonality and our democratic values because people don't feel like they belong. We don't have a healthy society," said Laflèche.

And this issue is starting at a young age, with close to half of temporary workers under the age of 30 according to another article from the CBC.

This is a major concern because the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that the ‘opportunity to move out of low-wage, insecure employment as a worker becomes older is becoming increasingly limited.’

The Precarity Report, a study in Ontario on the impact of employment precarity, stated that people with insecure jobs don’t have pensions, don’t receive benefits, experience income stress, have trouble finding childcare and  little access to training.

The report advised that employers would need to embrace a more stable and adaptable workforce and implement changes to their employment practices.

 “The place to start is acknowledging that change is in our midst, and that it is having significant negative impacts on our workforce and our communities,” the report stated. “How we respond to the challenges created by the changing nature of employment will influence our shared prosperity and the economic health of our region.”


The Debate Over The Debate: Why Change Is Needed To Our Political Environments Before It's Too Late.

The number one topic surrounding upcoming election recently has been ‘the great debate about the debate.’

Last week the Conservative government announced that they were not going to take part in the leader debates organized by the four national broadcast organizations CBC, CTV, Global and Radio Canada – known as the consortium.

These are the debates that drew in an incredible 14 million viewers during the 2011 election campaign.

Last week on CBC’s Power and Politics Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke said that the party was going to pick the five debates that they think are the best and that ‘the consortium didn't make the cut.'
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The Conservatives have said that this new approach to the debates is supposed to ‘democratize' or 'shake up’ the traditional format of the debate process in Canada.

But some are doubtful of the Conservative’s motives, pointing to their documented dislike of the CBC and troubling policies regarding the media.

Globe and Mail national affairs columnist Jeffery Simpson wrote in a recent column that ‘ a more closed-shop government has never existed in Canada’ and neither has one that is ‘more hostile to the media or public dissent from the government’s line of argument.’

“The correct reaction must be complete incredulity to the Harper Conservatives’ claim that they are for more democracy and a more informed public discourse,” wrote Simpson.

A recent editorial by the Toronto Star also echoed this sentiment, pointing out that having at least a few nationally broadcast and independently organized debates are still ‘key to exposing the largest possible number of voters to the leaders and the campaign issues.’

These widely viewed televised debates allow for the largest number of Canadians to watch the debates between all party leaders, allowing for a more informed decision when voting.
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“The networks’ obligation, as holders of licences, is to provide opportunities for the public to be informed of the issues and personalities at play in the election. A debate, or more than one debate, provides that opportunity for the citizenry,” continued Simpson in his column.

And what about the other political parties?

According to the CBC, NDP leader Thomas Mulclair has ‘agreed in principle’ to the same debates as the Conservatives, but has said he will participate in others.

Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have not committed to any proposals, but said that they will be participating in an equal number of debates in French and English.

The question still remains of what the consortium debate will look like without Prime Minister Stephen Harper there to answer questions.