Reconciliation in the Workplace

This year we have celebrated 150 years of Canada, its history, people and landscape. But one area that we have to improve on is reconciliation with our Indigenous population.

Workplaces are where we spend a large amount of our time, so it is important for both employees and employers to be aware that reconciliation is a really important topic to deal with.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a document with 94 calls to action that were divided into ‘Legacy’ and ‘Reconciliation’. One of the sub-categories under Reconciliation was titled ‘Business and Reconciliation’ and called on the corporate sector in Canada to ‘adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources.’

This document describes both individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples all around the world, not just Canada. It also offers guidance on cooperative relationships with Indigenous peoples based on ‘the principles of equality, partnership, good faith and mutual respect.’

Jessica Dumas, is a past chair of the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce in Winnipeg. In an interview with CBC News said that education and discussion will break cycles of stereotypes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous workers. She said having a workplace where there is an environment for people to feel comfortable asking questions is key.

Labour unions have a long history of standing up for human rights and have taken pride in standing by Indigenous people in Canada. Unions stood beside Indigenous people in the call for a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Indigenous workers earned 8.47/hour more with a union, than without a union.

Canada is an amazing place to live and work, and together we can make sure it is for all Canadians no matter their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity.


We Need to Fix the Income Gap for Visible Minorities, Immigrants and Indigenous Workers

When most people think of diversity in a city they tend to picture high populated major cities such as Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary. But you should actually be picturing the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray.

Fort McMurray is one of the most diverse cities in the country. There are more than 80 languages spoken in the region, and according to statistics Canada 21 per cent of residents are immigrants and 26 per cent are visible minorities. These numbers are probably much larger as the ‘short-term commuter workforce’ is not counted.

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This is something that is celebrated by local residents and Alberta, but there is a disturbing trend in Fort McMurray that is reflecting a wider problem across Canada.

A recent study by statistics Canada has found that the income gap between visible minorities, Indigenous or recent immigrants and the rest of Canada remains large, with the gap only narrowing by 2 per cent for Indigenous and recent immigrants and widening by 1 per cent for visible minorities between 2006 to 2016.

In Fort McMurray, visible minorities had a median income of $50,735, while non-visible minorities had a median income of $106,696. First Nations individuals had a median income of $46,925.

Experts pointed out that labour reform, including more access to unionization, is key. In Alberta alone, immigrants earned $3.49/hour more with a union, and Aboriginal workers earned $8.47/hour more.

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Not only are you going to get a fair wage with a union, you also know you have someone to stand up to discrimination in the workplace.

Making sure that this gap is made smaller is not just important to visible minorities and Indigenous workers, but also to all Canadians.


The Importance of being an Ally

Unions have a long history of standing up for human rights and standing with groups whose voices are not always heard.

Teamsters Local 362 has been working on implementing committees of rank and file members to represent the five key equity groups recognized by the Canadian Labour Congress including workers of colour, workers with disabilities, women, Indigenous workers and LGBTQ.

One of the most important parts of supporting these equity groups is to be an ally, but not everyone knows what exactly that means. It also isn’t as easy as it sounds. It is hard work.

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According to the website ‘Guide to Allyship’, being an ally really means that you don’t necessarily 100% understand what it feels like to be oppressed. It means you are taking on the struggle as your own.

Here are four ways you can be an ally inside and outside of the workplace.

1.     Acknowledge it is a learning process

Part of being an ally is always educating yourself and being proactive in that education. It is okay if you don’t understand something. This is part of taking on someone else’s struggle as your own and understanding the issues other equity groups face.

2.     Listen

This is one of the most important elements of being an ally, just listening. We all experience the world in different ways and understanding how those you want to support experience the world is so important.

3.     Don’t take breaks

Being an ally isn’t something you should just turn on and off, because oppression doesn’t take a break. Being an ally means always being ready to stand up against discrimination at all times. However, it is important to acknowledge that it also isn’t about being in the spotlight.

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4.     Acknowledge your privilege

Part of being an ally is being uncomfortable and being willing to make mistakes. This means confronting your own privilege. It is important to understand how you are put in a position of power and that there is a lot you need to learn and unlearn after being in this position for so long.


Unions Will Continue to Support LGBTQ Rights

This month the NDP government in Alberta introduced Bill 24, An Act to Protect Gay-Straight Alliances.

Gays-Straight Alliances (GSA’s) are peer support networks that promote welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students and their allies.

Bill 24 has been described as an act that is necessary to protect LGBTQ students and would make it illegal for teachers to inform parents if their child has joined a GSA, unless the child consented.

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United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, spoke out against the bill.

“Our caucus has come to a consensus to support students, parents and teachers by opposing Bill 24. Teachers, not politicians, should decide when it makes sense to engage parents,” he said.

Many Albertans and LGBTQ advocates are disappointed with Kenney’s remarks.

We should be supporting the LGBTQ community not in Alberta, not alienating them. If teacher was forced to ‘out’ a student to an unsupportive parent, this could have huge repercussions for the child.

GSA’s are supposed to be a place of support, not somewhere someone should be afraid to go.

Unions have a long history of supporting LGBTQ rights and continue to do so both inside and outside of the workplace. Many advancements in workplace rights have been linked to LGBTQ equality, and unions have been proud to support equal benefits, parental leave and right to marriage.

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The Teamsters union is proud to have an LGBTQ Caucus with the purpose of s to unify, educate and empower Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the workforce at large, ‘to ensure equality in the workplace and to enhance workers’ power at the bargaining table, in organizing campaigns, and in the political arena.’

Teamsters Local 362 intends on implementing committees of rank and file members to represent the five key equity groups recognized by the Canadian Labour Congress including workers of colour, workers with disabilities, women, Indigenous workers and LGBTQ.

No matter your race, gender, sexual orientation all Albertan’s deserve to be treated with respect at school, home and in the workplace and unions are proud to fight for those rights.


Human Rights and Labour Unions Will Always Be Connected

The topic of peaceful protest has been all over the news this past year, and especially this week.

United States President Donald Trump stated during a rally last week that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. He then took to twitter saying ‘Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!’ and that ‘Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!’

In Canada, players from certain CFL teams also locked arms and players voiced their support of players in the NFL.

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The right to peacefully protest is something fundamental in both countries, and something unions have fought for for decades.

Teamsters have a strong history of being tied to the civil rights movement. They provided money and supplies to many civil rights groups and had a good working relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. When King was killed in Tenessee in 1968, he was there to support African American garbage workers who were ‘, who were on strike to protest unsafe conditions, abusive white supervisors, and low wages — and to gain recognition for their union.’

Unions in Canada have welcomed refugees, fought against racism and discrimination and lobbied the government for the rights of all Canadians inside and outside of the workplace.

Teamsters 362 has fought for better mental health support in workplaces across Canada and supported Fort McMurray during the devastating forest fires last year.

The important connection between unions and human rights have been highlighted by Amnesty International and the United Nations.

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report by the United Nations pointed out that there is a ‘growing concentration of corporate power weakens labour rights.’ and that ‘workers need protection now more than ever’ in the age of globalization.

The connection between human rights, peaceful protest and labour unions will always be interconnected. As these important things come under fire, it is crucial to find strength in solidarity.


Islamophobia Must Not Be Tolerated In The Workplace

One of the biggest discrimination issues facing our country has been Islamophobia.

Just recently a video went viral where NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh was confronted by a heckler who accused him of trying to impose Shariah law, an Islamic legal code based on the Qur'an.

Singh, who is Sikh, responded that ‘we don't want to be intimidated by hate. We don't want hatred to ruin a positive event.’

The heckler left, but the issue still remains.

Some of the highest levels of government in Canada are addressing Islamophobia.

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Last year, MP Iqra Khalid introduced a motion calling for parliamentarians to condemn Islamophobia. It was passed last spring and officially ‘called on the House to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.’

Recently Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to fight Islamophobia.

"Whether we are in a big city or a small town, we must continue to stand together, united against racism, hatred and Islamophobia," said Trudeau. "This is just who we are as Canadians. We are there for each other. We stand up for each other."

Despite these efforts, the issue still remains and has also entered the workplace.

A recent example took place in Alberta when Amino Rashid was fired from her oilsands job with Newcast Contracting Inc, a subcontractor of Husky.

She said she and two other colleagues were fired after complaining about an incident of Islamophobia. She has issued a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Despite incidents like this as a recent survey has found that the majority of Canadians do have a generally positive impression of Muslims.

Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed said Muslims should be treated no differently than any other Canadian and 78 per cent thought they should maintain their religious and cultural practices.

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A majority of respondents thought that there was ‘an increasing climate of hatred and fear towards Muslims in Canada and that it will get worse.’

Canadians pride themselves on being a country that is diverse and open to all cultures. As incidents of Islamophobia rise, we need to all do our part to show that we will not accept this kind of hate in the workplace or anywhere in society.

Teamsters Local 362 intends on implementing committees of rank and file members to represent the five key equity groups recognized by the Canadian Labour Congress. These committees will help address many forms of discrimination in the workplace and in the community.

Unions have fought hard against all forms of discrimination in the workplace, including Islamophobia. No matter your race, religion or gender, you always deserve rights at your place of work and shouldn’t have to worry about losing your job.

 


Why You Should Thank A Union Member This Labour Day

The Labour Day Weekend is known as the last weekend of the summer. The time where Canadians have one last barbecue and look back on the highlights of the last few months as we head into fall.

But there is a lot more to this weekend then just getting out for the last days of warm weather. It is a weekend to remember all that the labour movement has done, and is still doing for Canadian workers.

According to The Tyee, the origins of Labour Day in Canada can be traced back nearly 150 years to 1872 when there was a parade held to support a Toronto Unions strike for a 58-hour work week. Ten years later in 1873, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald committed to repeal the law that banned union activity and in 1894 Prime Minister John Thompson declared Labour Day an official holiday.

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Here are five reasons to thank a union member this labour day weekend:

1.     Safe Work Environments

It is because of unions that we are able to work without worrying about whether or not we may be hurt on the job. Many decades ago unions led the fight to implement the Canada Labour (Safety) Code that clearly set out laws and regulations for safety in Canada. Today unions continue to fight to make sure all workers, whether union or non-union are both physically and mentally safe in their work environment. 

2.     A Standard Work Week

Working a set number of hours for a set number of days is something that every worker should be entitled to and is something unions put in place. Today with the rise of precarious work, it is important to remember where those initial standards came from. The Toronto Typographical Union made that possible in 1872 when they first demanded better working hours. Now workers in Canada are able to enjoy weekends and parts of their day to take time to themselves or hang with friends and family.

3.     A Fair Wage

Unions have a long history of fighting for fair wages in Canada and have set the standard for not only union employees, but non-union as well. Once the bar is raised for union employees, other employers have to follow suit. And the fight for fair wages across North America continues with the social movement ‘Fight for 15’ making sure all workers are entitled to a fair living wage.

4. Community Involvement and Advocacy

Labour unions have long played a role for human rights both inside and outside of the workplace and have always had a large role in supporting the community. During the devastating Fort McMurray fires, Teamsters 362 and Teamsters Canada stepped up to help the community by raising money that was donated to the Red Cross and various school lunch programs and the local Fire Department. Teamsters 362 has also advocated for better awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention across the country.

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5.   Solidarity

Feeling alone or isolated at your place of work can be extremely stressful and that is why having a union to back you up is so important. You know you have brothers and sisters looking out for you not only in the workplace, but outside as well. Being part of a union is like being a part of a family and you know that you are never alone.

 


Inequality An Issue In Canada's Major Cities

Inequality in Canada continues to rise across the country, but a recent study has shown that this problem is mainly in our biggest cities.

The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) released a report on inequality and found that our major cities have had most of the income inequality since the early 80s.

Those cities are Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.

While Calgary has a lot to be proud of as a city over the past few decades, income equality is not one of them. Calgary's inequality has grown four times faster than the national average, followed by Toronto and Vancouver.

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Alberta as a province has the highest rate of inequality across Canada.

So why does this matter?

Because 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities, and 40 per cent of them live in the four cities mentioned above.

Francis Fong, chief economist for CPA Canada said that the replacement of 'middle-skilled jobs' may have contributed to the rise in cities in particular. He added that cities aren’t equipped with the proper means to fight the problem because those resources and funding are usually found at the federal and provincial levels.

Studies have shown that countries with a high level of income inequality are unhappy, with people reporting lower life satisfaction and ‘more negative daily emotional experiences.’

One answer to this is union membership.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, researchers used data from five different years between 1980 and the mid-2000′s to study the effect of union membership on life satisfaction.

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They found that overall union members are ‘more satisfied with their lives than those who are not members and that the substantive effect of union membership on life satisfaction is large and rivals other common predictors of quality of life.’

Unions built the middle class and guarantee their members good wages, collective bargains and health care benefits.

With the shrinking middle class and the steady rise of inequality, it is clear that unions are needed more now than ever in Canada.


Islamophobia in the Workplace

Canada is known as a country that is accepting of others – a cultural mosaic made up of different languages and cultures. We also strive to make our workplaces reflect this diversity.

But the problem of Islamophobia has become an issue in Canada, both inside and outside of the workplace.

The most recent example took place in Alberta when Amino Rashid was fired from her oilsands job with Newcast Contracting Inc, a subcontractor of Husky.

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She said she and two other colleagues were fired after complaining about an incident of Islamophobia. She has issued a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

The energy company has launched an inquiry, saying that it requires all of its contractors ‘to comply with its workplace diversity policy.’

"Given the seriousness of these allegations, we will be investigating with the contractor to ensure all of Husky's policies and procedures were being followed," spokesperson Mel Duvall wrote to CBC News.

Islamophobia isn’t just an Alberta problem, it has been an issue across Canada.

According to Statistics Canada the number of police-reported anti-Muslim hate crimes jumped by 60 per cent in 2015.

So what can be done in the workplace for anyone who is facing Islamophobia or any type of discrimination?

First, make sure you document what is happening. Keep a written record of any incidents of discrimination you or your coworkers face in the workplace. Make sure the descriptions are detailed and include names, dates and times, and be sure to keep it somewhere safe and secure.

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Also, tell someone in the workplace that you trust about what is happening. If you are unionized, reach out to a Shop Steward – they are your union representative in the workplace. They are there to make sure your rights are protected on the job.

Unions have fought hard against all forms of discrimination in the workplace, including Islamophobia. No matter your race, religion or gender, you always deserve rights at your place of work and shouldn’t have to worry about losing your job.

Canadians pride themselves on being a country that is diverse and open to all cultures. As incidents of Islamophobia rise, we need to all do our part to show that we will not accept this kind of hate in the workplace or anywhere in society.

 


Disability Rights Need To Be Addressed In The Workplace According To Study

Although many employers are encouraging diversity in the workplace, there is one group who continues to be ignored when it comes to human rights in the workplace.

In 2012, just around four million ‘working-age’ Canadians identified themselves as disabled – covering everything from visible disabilities such as being in a wheelchair to invisible disabilities such as a mental health issue.

And a recent study has found that half of Canadians believe ‘it’s understandable if an employer thinks it’s too risky to hire someone with a physical disability.’

The survey was done by the Angus Reid Institute and the Rick Hansen Foundation. The study also found that Canadians vastly underestimate the number of disabled people in the population.

“There seemed to be a split intuitively between how people were thinking about disability and where sometimes we thought we were,” said Mr. Hansen about the need for this new survey by the Globe and Mail. “I am always asked everywhere I go, ‘So, how accessible is Canada?’ ‘What are Canadians thinking?’ And so the notion started to emerge that we needed to do more research on this issue ….”

Hansen said advocates for disability rights must now ‘tackle the business world.’

This is an issue in Alberta as well, with 80 per cent of all complaints made to the

Robert A. Philp, Queen’s Counsel for the Alberta Human Rights Commission falling under unemployment.

Thirty four per cent of those complaints fell under physical disability and 16 per cent under mental disability.

“Employers have people in their workforce with disabilities whether they acknowledge it or not,” said Alexi Davis, a senior manager at Prospect Human Services for Disability Employment.

“So being intentional about fostering strategies in a culture and policies that support your employee base that already exists and opening to potential talent as you recruit … really strengthens your workforce,” she explained.

According to an article in the Financial Post one of the most important things an employer can do is have an ‘open-door policy’ to discuss disabilities and job seekers and employees must feel supported and safe in sharing their disability.

If you are part of a union, reaching out to a shop steward or business agent is also an option those with disabilities can take. These representatives from the union are there to make sure your human rights are respected in the workplace, which includes not having to face discrimination due to a disability – visible or non-visible.

With more studies and attention been drawn to disability and accessibility rights in the workplace, advocates are hoping that the high unemployment rates of those with disabilities will begin to decrease.

Disability rights are human rights, and all Canadians need to be more aware of that fact.