Table of Contents


1.  Labour Organizing in the Service Sector   1

2.  Establishing Union Culture                3

3.  Getting Started                           5

3.  Finding a Union                           7

4.  Know Your Rights                          9
       THE UNION CAN'T ...

5.  Certification                            11

6.  Direct Action                            14

7.  Communication                            15

8.  Management's Anti-Union Tactics          18
       LIES & DECEIT

9.  More Information                         22




Workers in the private service sector suffer at the hands of managers and owners: low wages, unsafe working conditions, and no job security. Managers get away with skirting the already insufficient labour laws that protect us.

 Show them that we have the power to fight back and win!

 Exercise your right to organize a union in your workplace.


In 1951 45% of Canadians worked in the service sector.

In 1991 almost 73% did.

In 1996 almost 4 million people worked in the sales and service industry in Canada. Only 1O% were unionized.

In Alberta, 391,175 people work in the service industry: nearly two thirds of these employees are women.

Accommodation and food services industries grew by 81,000 employees between 1994 and 1998 in Canada.

In Alberta, over one hundred thousand people work in the accommodation and food services industry.

Despite this amazing growth, only 8.2% belong to a union.

We can do better than that.



With a union, workers enjoy greater job security and have a grievance process: NO MORE firing any employee they want without cause with just a couple of weeks worth of severance pay. NO MORE losing shifts to this week's ??


* With a union, workers can bargain for better working conditions. NO MORE barely getting by on minimum wage with no health benefits.

* With a union, health and safety committees can be established to make sure working conditions are safe. NO MORE risking your health working in unsafe environments which may even be against the law.

* With a union, you have more control over scheduling and you will work the shifts you are scheduled for. NO MORE making you wait around for hours only to send you home if it doesn't get busy.

With a union, every employee is paid for every hour that they work. NO MORE making you train for days without pay.


We can fight back!

Managers in sales and service establishments think they have it made. The unionization rate is very low, partly because there are many things about the service sector that make it difficult to organize.

1 . Service workers are very young compared to other industries in Canada. The average age for service employees across Canada is only 35. Many of these young workers do not plan to stay in one job for very long; they don't think of their jobs as careers.

2. There is a great deal of turnover in this industry. Even if you get enough people together to vote for a union, half of them may be gone before the vote takes place.

3. Shift work is another obstacle to organizing. It is hard to create an atmosphere of solidarity in the workplace when only a few people work together at a time.

4. Finally, many employees are part time and may not spend enough time at the workplace to think it is worth the hassle to change working conditions.



This book will tell you everything you need to know to form a union in your workplace.

We will supply all the information you need.

You supply the anger over your present working conditions, the hope of a better way, and the enthusiasm and courage it takes to take on your boss, and win ... together.



In order to organize a union, it is important to be able to recognize the factors which need to be in place in order to be successful. After all, our ultimate goal is victory against the bosses.

The most important factor that you must achieve to win is to have a group of workers who all feel positively about unions in general. If the general attitude towards unions is not strong approval, a few militant anti-union workers can taint the entire workplace. If the workers generally view unions in a positive light, then it is important to make sure that there is a high level of unity. There is strength in numbers. If an entire workplace is fighting for the same thing then your chances of winning a union victory are high.

If you find that some of your fellow workers are not terribly enthusiastic about unionization, you should attempt to let their attitude be swayed by close contact with more enthusiastic employees.

Unity amongst workers is so important because of people's natural desire to feed off one another. In a unified workplace, workers should, simply through feeding off one another, become more committed and militant as the fight goes on. In order to ensure that this is the case, it is important that the group leaders that emerge are pro-union and not the other way around. These leaders should constantly be reinforcing the mandate of the workers. They need to remain enthusiastic and monitor the attitudes of their fellow workers at all times.

In the service sector where turnover is high, it is extremely important to establish a long-term pro-union environment. This is called union culture. Union culture can overcome some of the obstacles presented by a workplace with high turnover and a great amount of part-time labour. Union culture allows the new workers to integrate into the union environment and ensures more long-term pro-union unity amongst the workers.

Service sector enterprises like McDonald's have successfully certified in the past. Where they have failed is in keeping the group dynamic which existed initially. If you have enough workers on board to certify then you certainly have enough to form a cohesive team that is pro-union. These teams need leaders who are willing to stay with the organization and maintain a union friendly environment, because the boss will continuously look for an opening to decertify. New workers must constantly be made to feel a part of the group and that their voice is important. If they feel empowered by the union environment then they will be likely to be pro-union.

If a leader leaves a situation where there is a strong union culture, there would be a multitude of others who would gladly take their place. The factors which typically plague the service sector would not be able to interfere with the group dynamic which is central to establishing and maintaining certification.




In the early stages of organizing, always keep union activity under wraps. As long as management is unaware of your plans, you can continue to organize without the harassment, manipulation and lies that you will encounter later on in the campaign. You want to keep operating this way until you are ready to move to the next step as it allows you develop the union culture necessary for a successful drive. Look for other workers who are interested in being key organizers, make a phone list of employees (see Chapter 7), find an interested union (see Chapter 3), put together a list of issues to highlight and work on your pro-union arguments. During this initial phase, don't distribute any flyers because they will give you away to management. The meetings you organize at the beginning of the campaign will probably be the best attended ones, because the management has no began to use their anti-union tactics (see Chapter 8).

The Organizing Committee

The workers on the Organizing Committee are the people who will do most of the work on the campaign and take most of the flack from management. This group of workers must be committed, well organized, willing to risk losing their jobs. They must be in continuous contact with one-another and be willing to drop everything else in their lives to deal with a crisis if needed. The organizers are the ones who write, print and distribute leaflets (see Chapter 7), circulate union cards, represent the other workers in dealings with management and the public, organize job actions, correct management's anti-union misinformation, and do everything else that is needed to keep the workers unified and vote yes. Sometimes the Organizing Committee will attract outside organizers who may not be as committed - who support you intellectually, but won't do any of the dirty work, or they flake out for weeks at a time, then complain about decisions you've made at meetings they didn't attend. Don't get frustrated with these people. Take all the help you can get and realize that not everyone is in a position where they can devote as much time and energy to the campaign as the key organizers.

The Issues

Consider the reasons that most employees would actually want a union. What company policies, practices or rules are most unfair; what are your grievances? Are your wages fair? Do they force employees into competition with one another? Are performance reviews humiliating and unfair? Is there a grievance procedure for harassment? Do you want benefits? Does the boss overhire and underschedule you? Do management's favourites get all the good shifts?

Put together a list of grievances that the workers would like addressed in a union contract. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Keep in mind that you aren't putting together a list of problems that will automatically disappear once you unionize. Choose the issues that you think are most realistic to fight for in a union contract. You have to pick your fights. In the first contract you will want the basic rights that will guarantee that you will be able to maintain a strong union presence in the workplace. You will be able to fight for material improvements in the second contract.

The Basic Details

Once the campaign is underway, the organizers can expect to spend at least as much time organizing as they do working for wages. The organizers need to stay in continuous contact with each other and the other workers to ensure that everyone knows what is happening. Organizers should probably call each other at least once a day (phone or e-mail is OK, but they are not secure methods of communicating). The Organizing Committee will need voicemail or answering machines they can contact from elsewhere, pagers, and even 3-way calling and speaker phones to make it easier to communicate and make decisions quickly. E-mail makes it easy to send leaflets in a rush and for mass mail-outs to other workers and/or media. The union office should have a computer, but it would be best if at leas one member of the Organizing Committee had their own. Sometimes you might need to make leaflets in the middle of the night and the union office will be closed. If no-one has access to a computer, there is often a 24-hour copy shop around (We Can Copy or Kinkos). In addition, the organizers will need fast, reliable transportation. If you don't have a car, a bike might do the trick.




The first thing to keep in mind in looking for a union is that the workers are the union- not the paid staff or officials. If you and your fellow workers are not willing to be active in the union, it might be lost along with any benefits that-you fought for. The union is an organization of you and your co-workers, not an external force. By joining a union, you gain a number of advantages, not least of which is financial support. You don't have to pay for the costs of the organizing campaign out of pocket, you'll have access to the union's photocopier, telephones, fax machines, organizing staff, and legal counsel.

Not all unions are equally good- "business unions" may sometimes act over the workers heads and be undemocratic in structure. The unions we have listed are all unions committed to democracy, and also have high levels of social awareness and commitment, which is why we would recommend them. Just as a note, due to a number of factors we will not get into here, the name of a union has little bearing on the workers they organize, for example, the Canadian Auto Workers have organized KFC'S, and Starbucks in BC.

Canadian Auto Workers (CAW)

The CAW is the largest private sector union in Canada, representing over 215 000 workers, and it has experience in organizing in the service sector, having organized service workers in BC. They are a strong democratic union, firmly committed to rank and file control, that is control by the membership. They can offer a great deal of support for the workers who want to organize. Dues are 2.5 times the hourly rate of employment (if you are paid $10/hour, dues would be $25 a month for full-time workers). Dues are fully deductible, and are not payable until after the first contract has been negotiated.

Edmonton: 1-800-890-9608 or (780)448-5865
Outside Edmonton: 1-800-665-3353 (BC number, but you will be
referred to the closest CAW organizer who can help you)

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)

The AUPE was originally founded to represent provincial public sector workers. It represents over 38 000 workers in a broad range of occupations. In the AUPE, each local is autonomous, that is, it has control over its own affairs, ensuring it is democratic, although it does not have as strong a social commitment as the CAW or CUPE. It offers good support for the locals, with 8 regional offices. Dues are 1.25% of the workers salary.

Head office- Edmonton: (780)930-3300

Toll Free: 1-800-232-7284
Hotline: (780)930-3333
Calgary: (403)531-8600
Toll Free: 1-800-318-1427
Hotline: (403)531-8611
Camrose: (780)672-8877
Grande Prairie: (780)538-2626
Lethbridge: (403)329-1210
Peace River: (780)624-2424
Red Deer: (403)343-2100
St. Paul: (780)645-6556

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

CUPE represents 465 000 members, and like the CAW and AUPE, it is a democratic union, where members make decisions and set policy. Dues are set by the local union's membership, and are currently at 0.85% of average monthly wages.

Edmonton (Alberta Regional Office): (780)484-7644
Lethbridge: (403)329-0266
Red Deer: (403)343-3353
Calgary: (403)235-6955
Grande Prairie: (780)538-1669
Medicine Hat: (430)526-5239

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

The IWW is a union committed to the principles of direct democracy and direct action. They are a revolutionary union in fighting for workers rights and worker control. They are probably the most democractic union today, however, they have few resources to back up workers in the day to day affairs of a union, such as grievances procedures, relying more upon direct action by the workers (see the appendix). To support an IWW local, the workers need to all be committed fully and have high levels of dedication, and there might be problems with certification, as the IWW is not legally recognized in Alberta.

However, the IWW also supports dual membership in unions. For example, a few of the members might join the IWW to make sure that the union that has been chosen remains democratic, to keep the union in check, as it were, to make sure it is true to the workers in that workplace. Dues are low, with an initiation fee of $20.00, and monthly minimum dues (for workers who earn less than $3000.00 a month) of $6.00 a month.

Edmonton- Telephone: (780)988-3022




Did you know...

That your employer can't fire or discriminate any employee for...

1. being a union member

2. applying for union membership

3. being suspended or expelled from a union (except when this occurred because the individual didn't pay the union dues)

4. filing complaints under the "Labour Relations Code"

5. participating in a strike permitted under the conditions of the "Code"


In addition, your employer can't...

1 . interfere with the formation or administration of a union

2. contribute money to a union

3. compel employees to cease unionization

4. fire or discriminate against any employee who refuses to take over a striking employee's duties

5. express his/her views in a coercive, intimidating, or threatening way


Once given notice of an application for certification, your employer can't...

1. alter an employee's rate of pay

2. alter any term or condition of employment

3. alter any rights or privileges of an employee

4. withhold any pension or insurance rights or benefits


In general, your employer (and this includes anyone acting for the employer; management, etc.) can't interfere with the unionization process. You have the right to collective bargaining. If your employer has violated your rights, it is an "unfair labour practice " and you can take action.


You should also be aware that...

A Union can't...

1. persuade membership or non-membership during an employee's working hours

2. require the employer to fire someone who's been suspended or expelled from it's membership

Nobody can...

1. use a person or organization who's not involved in a dispute to interfere or break-up lawful strikes or lockouts

2. engage in "misconduct" - where "misconduct" is: incitement, intimidation, coercion, provocation, infiltration, with the intent to stop the rights listed above



Make sure you know who is to be included in your "bargaining unit".

The "Alberta Labour Relations Board" (ALRB) looks for an "appropriate" bargaining unit during the certification process. They will define a bargaining unit as a unit of employees that it makes "labour relations sense" to group together for the purposes of collective bargaining.

The following is some of what the ALRB has listed in their bulletin as needed for an appropriate unit:

l. "community of interest"

-how common are the interests, duties, skills, and conditions of the unit of employees you're considering?

2. "nature of employer's organization"

-does your employer operate several locations? -it is sometimes difficult to include employees who move from location to location in your bargaining unit

3. "viable bargaining units"

-the larger the unit the better

4. "agreement of parties"

-if both your employer and the organizing employees agree on the unit, the ALRB is more likely to find it appropriate


Try to find out how likely it is that the unit of employees your considering will be seen as appropriate by the ALRB before you apply for certification. Your employer may try to pit some workers against each other because of the differences in the jobs. (In the service industry, an example would be the differences between the servers and the kitchen staff)



Once a bargaining unit has been established, and a union has been chosen to represent it in collective bargaining, an application for certification of the union must be made to the Alberta Labour Relations Board. The following is an outline of the steps that need to be taken.

Copies of the "Application for Certification " can be picked up at one oj' the local offices of the ALRB. The application must be filled out and include evidence of a 40% support of the union by the group of employees applying for certification. A list of these supporters should be included with the application. In addition, the application must include a declaration from a union organizer.

The evidence of the 40% support of the union can be in either of two forms:

1. union membership evidence

-the union supplies evidence of membership by submitting copies of "union cards" (union membership application cards) and proof of a payment of at least $2.00 for that membership

-the union card must have been filled out no more than 90 days before the date of the certification application

2. petition evidence

-each employee can sign a petition that supports the application for certification

-a copy of this petition can be included with the application

Note: 40% support must be proved in eitherof the two formats. This means that the 40% can't be made up of a combination of the two.

Once the ALRB receives the "Application for Certification," it appoints an officer to investigate. This officer will contact your employer, informing them of your application.



This is a guideline to the formal processes of organizing your workplace

1. Once you've talked with your co-workers about their thoughts on unionizing your workplace, and discussed which union would best represent your collective needs, proof of support needs to be gathered. As discussed in the section called "Applying for Certification" of this guide, the proof of support you need is either union cards or a signed petition. It is in your interests to go through this step without your employer and management knowing because it leaves them unprepared, and this works in your favor. The union cards or the petition is never shown to them, and you should make all employees aware of this.

2. As a safeguard, you may want to form-ally inform your employer that you're organizing. Do this when you think the nine is right (when you're certain of the kind of support that you are getting from your fellow workers). Have all interested workers sign an official document that identifies an "organizing committee." This step can protect the employees from the kind of actions listed in the "Your Rights" section of this guide. If you can prove that your employer knew of the employee's intentions, the chances of the employer being able to argue that the dismissal was for a separate reason is reduced. The only problem with doing this is that a particularly anti-union employer who decides to target the "union sympathizers" in the workplace, and isn't worried about your rights, may choose to take some action. You may find it better to avoid t e hassle.

3. An Application for Certification needs to be made to the ALRB. This process is outlined in the "Applying for Certification" section of this guide.

4. A hearing may or may not take place where the union and the employer have the opportunity to object. For example, the union or the employer may have objections to the report filed by the officer appointed to investigate the application. If there are no objections, the vote is scheduled.

5. Following a hearing, if it was needed, a "Notice of Vote" is posted at the work site by the officer. The union must win a representation vote in order to be certified. Usually, this vote is held on the employer's premises. However, you may have reason to argue that this is unsatisfactory. If so, you must do this within 24 hours of the preliminary notice which takes place before the actual "Notice of Vote."

6. Each party may appoint "scrutineers" to oversee the voting procedure. This allows the employer and employees to have a representative oversee a fair vote.

7. The vote is held that determines the success or the failure of the application.



Direct Action is the fastest way to get results. It also lets the boss know that the workers are committed to their cause and serious about it. On-the-job protests, pickets and strikes are all forms of direct action and they are capable of avenging injustices far faster than any union lawyer or grievance with the Labour Board. Direct Action is the most democratic, non-bureaucratic and powerful tool that workers have at their disposal. Included with our booklet is a pamphlet by the I.W.W. on direct action.



If communication between workers breaks down, the the campaign is unlikely to succeed. Management will be spreading misinformation and if you don't have the means to set the record straight, you will rumours, so be doomed, as the success of the union depends upon how willing people are to get behind it. Be prepared to answer the same questions over and over, and even if you addressed something in print does not mean you may not have to repeat it in individual conversations. Make sure to talk face-to-face, one-on-one, and outside of the earshot of management. Try to talk on as informal a basis as possible, and make it fun- hang out with co-workers, go out for coffee or drinks after work, show up at parties. The organizers need to be as accessible as possible, and avoid dominating conversations with union rhetoric. When face-to-face conversations are not possible, you can use some of the strategies below to communicate with workers.

Phone Lists

Try to get a list of names and phone numbers of all the workers at your workplace. If a worker does not want to give you their number, do not try to look it up in a phone book or get it from a third party. It is better if you talk to them at work instead, you will lose people's trust if you sneak around behind their backs. If you need to call everyone on the list, split up the list among the organizers so that people are calling people they know, and have a good rapport with. If an organizer has a conflict with a person on the phone list, get someone else to make the call. Only organizers inside the workplace should call other workers, because if union staff call these people, they may feel as if their privacy has been invaded by an "outsider".

Leaflet Writing

In order to communicate with the greatest number of fellow workers in the shortest time period, it is a good idea to make leaflets. They can be used to expose lies presented by management, to inform fellow workers on why unionization is a good idea and to agitate people - to get them to question injustices and offensive policies and think about changing them, rather than just complaining in private. Remember that management will be photocopying your flyers and leaflets to give to their lawyers. The lawyers will scrutinize the leaflets to see what they can use against you.

 Here are some things to keep in mind when writing the leaflets

* Write the flyers yourselves. Don't leave it up to the union, because they may misinterpret some of the concerns that fellow workers have. If union staff does any writing, make sure that the Organizing Committee has final edit.

* Typically, the more you write, the less people read. Try to limit leaflets to a page or half-page.

* Write flyers almost like newspaper articles. All of the unimportant information should go in the headline and first sentence.

* Use point form to articulate arguments where possible. It reduces tile amount of useless information that the reader has to sift through to get to the point. Plus it makes your argui-nent look well organized.

* Don't bore people with legal details. If certain workers are comforted by legal documents and Labour Board decisions, give them individual copies of everything. Not everyone is interested in legal details.

* Use "we" and "us" and refer to your boss by name. Your fellow workers are more likely to read and trust something written by service workers, for service workers than some union or Labour Board official. Don't bother distributing any of the generic glossy union pamphlets for the same reason. You can easily enough rewrite it using more familiar terms and concepts as well as examples specific to your work site.

* Don't lie, don't make promises, don't get sensationalistic and always get your facts straight. Everything you write will be examined over and over again by your employer's lawyers and they can discredit you in front of fellow workers if you are not using sound arguments or are inaccurate.

Leaflet Design and Distribution

* Include your logo on all of your flyers. Design something that is more eye-catching, personalized and relevant to your workplace than that of the union's.

* Put "(Your workplace's name) Organizing Committee" and the name of the union at the bottom of every flyer. This proves that it is an "official" union flyer, so if the management tears it down, You can file all unfair labour practice charge. If management already knows who the principal organizers are then it would be a good idea to put your phone numbers on the flyer so other workers call contact you.

* If employees have a cubby or a locker, slip the flyers into them. This is an especially good idea if there are already a ton of notices on boards and/or management keeps ripping your flyers down.

* Find other enthusiastic workers to distribute leaflets and help out with footwork.


People don't generally like to go to meetings, so avoid calling one unless you are sure of a good turnout. If you call a meeting and attendance is low, word might get out that interest in the union is waning. Meetings can be intimidating, boring, or may give an impression that the union is an 'de force. Other problems include scheduling conflicts, with people working different shifts, and having school. Although the organizing committee should meet weekly, general meetings only need to be called at key moments in the campaign. These are some tips for holding meetings:

Coffee Klatches

Instead of holding big meetings, try arranging for one or two organizers to hang out in a coffee shop near the workplace in "shifts" over the course of several hours. This makes it easy for workers to drop in before or after work, or during breaks to get information they need and to give organizers input.


Meetings may be seen as boring, so union gatherings should be fun, and worth going to. Informal coffee house chats and parties will likely be better attended than meetings. You can talk about campaign issues, answer questions, and do all the things you might like to do at a meeting.

Management Meetings

If management ever calls a meeting, hold a union meeting directly afterwards. Attendance will be higher since people are already there, often eager to vent about something the company might have announced to make them angry.



Don't let management keep you on the defensive. Combine responses to lies and i-nisinformation with positive reasons that people should vote for a union. The final flyer that you distribute before the vote should not even deal with the most recent management lie, but rather remind fellow workers of why you actually began to organize in the first place. It might be a good idea to re-list your concerns and the issues that the union will attempt to deal with. Remember to always re-emphasize the big issues that brought people together in the first place. Here is a list of tactics that the management are likely to use to "bust" the union. Wam workers of these tactics in advance, so they are less likely to fall for them. Remember that the boss has better access to the employees than the union does, so it is the Organizing Committee that must remain vigilant.

Lies and Deceit

Management will lie. Expect no less of them. Sometimes these lies will only be half-truths, manipulations of history and distortions of the facts. If your boss already sucks this behaviour won't be surprising, but for people who have a superficially cordial relationship with the boss, it may be hard to get used to lies and deceit on a regular basis. It is important to recognize that the boss isn't lying to you because lie or she is a demon, but because it is in their own self-interest to do so. The organizers will be characterized by management as paranoid, hysterical lunatics. It is important to be careful with the people who are used to a cordial relationship with the manager because they are susceptible to believe them incapable of these things.

Some common management lies:

* the union will "make" you strike

* the union will fine you

* dues will be high

* management will say they want to make the changes you are demanding, but can't because they are frozen from making changes during a union drive.

Management "anti-union cards"

Managers may distribute cards that allow you to rescind your union cards. They will tell you that these cards are for people who made a "mistake" to "nullify" their union memberships. These cards are props and have no legal significance.

Divide and Conquer

Management will probably be hiring new workers during the campaign. Try not to alienate these new workers or any old ones who might be sceptical of unions. Management is going to try to divide you, so don't give them any help. Don't make fence-sitters your enemy, because a good number of them may actually end up on your side after tiring of management's tactics. Because service industry turnover is high, management has the ability to tell new hires that the pro-union workers are actually "spreading rumours" about problems that have since been fixed. Although the boss is not officially supposed to question any potential employees as to their position on unions, they might do it anyway. After all, the Organizing Committee is not there to verify that the boss isn't breaking the law.

"Captive Audience" Meetings

Management will probably hold paid, mandatory meetings in which workers will be exposed to the "horrors" of what a unionized workplace would look like. They will probably probe workers to find out which way they will vote and maybe even intimidate the workers into voting against the union. Performance Review sessions may also be used for this purpose. Never let management have the last word. Make every effort to "deprogram" workers who are subjected to these brainwashing sessions. Distribute flyers prior to or even during these sessions to tell fellow workers what to expect. Tell them it is OK to still vote "yes" even If they told the boss that they would vote "no" in one of these meetings.

Unit Packing

Management may go on a hiring frenzy in order to destroy the union majority, This management tactic is often referred to as "unit packing" or "sandbagging the bargaining unit". Sometimes the employer is willing to take a loss by overhiring just to ensure that they can bust the union eventually. One McDonald's in B.C. was overstaffed for a year in order to win a decertification vote. Here are some tactics to counter union packing:

* Plant "yes" votes

Since turnover is high, employers will always be hiring new workers. It might be possible to appeal to some friends who are sympathetic to the union and looking for a job to apply for one at your workplace (without mentioning you). It might even be a motivation to move from a similar job to your workplace if the union does get certified.

* Communicate with new workers.

Write a letter or flyer for all new employees that addresses your concerns, lets them in on the history of the dispute and lets them know that they are a welcome part of the pro-union movement. Management will revise history often to confuse and persuade the new recruits to vote no. If you have won any concessions from the boss, make it clear that it was the Workers who established those concessions, not the company of their own good will. Don't let any new people fall through the cracks. Always talk to them right away. They are an integral part of maintaining union culture in the workplace. Management will probably be treating the new recruits like royalty, so a friendly attitude is important. Be approachable and non-confrontational. Chat to them about non-union stuff at first and be helpful in showing them the ropes (if possible). If they trust you at first, they will be more likely to listen to you when you talk about the union. The boss will be looking to hire people who are not dependent upon wages for survival (i.e. high-school and college students who live with their parents). These people are the most unpredictable, because they may not have any reason to pledge allegiance to the union, but neither do they necessarily have any sympathy for the company. If the union side is more fun, they may just side with the agitators on that basis. Pro-union parties may be a good idea for social networking.

Threats and Harassment

Expect management to break the law. Don't be caught off guard. They will threaten ringleaders with disciplinary action and may actually carry through on some of their threats. Expect that management will hire a team of lawyers who specialize in masking threats and harassment under legal means. They will possibly manufacture "legitimate" reasons for firing key organizers and clog up the union's legal resources with bogus "libel" suits over the content of flyers. If someone is fired, it is not necessarily over for them. They will probably be able to get their job back if the Labour Board finds it to be an unfair labour practice. Unfortunately, Alberta is one of the only jurisdictions without "reverse onus". What this means is that burden of proof (of unfair dismissal) is on the union, not the employer. This makes it harder to win a ruling on behalf of the workers. The major agitators should be model employees, just so that management's lawyers have less ammunition to work with. Keep your nose clean.


The company might also threaten to close down. This is usually a lie. If the business is really profitable, it will be profitable with or without a union.

Brutal Tyrant or Benevolent Dictator?

Often union drives are met immediately with heavy-handed repression, but sometimes the employer may attempt to placate the workers or "buddy-up" to them. This is a more underhanded and successful approach. The boss can use subtle tactics to psychologically manipulate workers and deteriorate solidarity. The managers may start crying and say that the company is "like a family" to them and that these "outsiders" (the union) are meddling and pitting everyone against each other. They might say that these are all "misunderstandings" and that everything can change if the union is out of the picture. Once the boss has broken worker unity, they usually proceed to play hardball and can easily get rid of the "troublemakers". Don't be caught off guard by this strategy. It usually involves giving workers more hours, better shifts, etc. If you warn people in advance of the psychological manipulation that management might use it will make them look like asses, backfiring on them. Sure the company is like a family: management treats the workers like children! If they really cared so much, wily did it take the threat of unionization to get them off their butts'? Remind your fellow workers of this. Don't let them forget that the company is looking out for its own best interests (maximum profit) not yours!



The sections dealing with the process of certification and the rights of employees/employers is intended as a general guide. We recommend that someone from your organizing committee review the actual bulletins provided by the Alberta Labour Relations Board. Most of the material is straight forward and easy to understand. Copies of the material can be picked up at the local offices of the ALRB, and you can find this location in the "blue pages" of your phone book. For information, call 1-800-463-2572. We found the ALRB web.vite a valuable tool in understanding the procedures. The address is

This booklet was put together by:

Mark Vermin
Jenny Cleaver
Wes Morgan
Cam Barnes

Cover Graphic and Layout by Mark Vermin.

Cartoons by Carol Simpson Productions.

This pamphlet is available in Acrobat format on the net at:
There is no copyright except for the graphics by Carol Simpson Productions. Contact them for reproduction rights.