This has been the year of human rights. From athlete protests to the #MeToo movement, people are standing up for what they believe in. With these movements, it is crucial to find strength in solidarity and that is something unions believe in.
Here are a few of the important human rights issues unions helped fight for in 2017.
1. Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention
Although the #MeToo movement started in the United States, sexual harassment and assault are an issue around the world including Canadian workplaces. A new survey has found that more than half of women in Canada have experienced sexual harassment at work. Unions have fought to protect workers from harassment no matter their race, gender or age.
2. LGBTW2S Rights
This year Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a formal apology to ‘individuals harmed by federal legislation, policies, and practices that led to the oppression of and discrimination against LGBTQ2S people in Canada.’ This was another important step in making sure those in the LGBTQ2S are treated fairly inside and outside of the workplace.
The Teamsters union is proud to have an LGBTQ Caucus with the goal to unifying, educating and empowering 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.’
3. Reconciliation and Indigenous rights
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a document with 94 calls to action . One of the sub-categories 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.’
Labour unions 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 also earned 8.47/hour more with a union, than without a union.
4. Income Gap
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.
Experts have 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.
NAFTA negotiations have been going on all year and Teamsters have been active in fighting for workers rights.
Teamsters Canada President Francois Laporte pointed out that like members in the U.S., Canadian Teamsters recognize that the new NAFTA must contain a new chapter that will protect workers’ rights. Teamsters are participating in talks with the Steelworkers, the AFL-CIO and fellow unions from Canada and Mexico to ensure a successful NAFTA renegotiation.
6. Disaster Relief for Hurricane Victims
Canadian Teamster local unions and joint councils, along with Teamsters Canada, have raised over $100,000 for the Teamsters Disaster Relief Fund. The donation comes in response to three back-to- back hurricanes that hit the United States in less than a month.
“As Teamsters, we have a duty to assist our sisters and brothers in their time of need. The level of devastation from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria demands action,” stated François Laporte, President of Teamsters Canada.