With her local readying proposals for upcoming bargaining, Tracey Pinder went to a recent social services conference in Ontario determined to learn everything she could. A workshop about CUPE’s new Bargaining Equality tool delivered what she needed.
“There have been some issues (with the employer) of people feeling that they are being discriminated against,” says Pinder, who as president of CUPE 3771 represents 25 members who work at JobStart, a non-profit organization in Toronto. “It gave me an idea of what other people had. I wrote right on our collective agreement – add this, add this.”
“We wanted it to be very practical to use,” says Fred Hahn, co-facilitator of the workshop Pinder attended, and an eight-year veteran of CUPE’s National Pink Triangle Committee.
Hahn was involved in piloting draft versions of Bargaining Equality, a workplace for all. Just released in binder form, it shows CUPE locals how to get a broad range of equality issues to the bargaining table and negotiate agreements that protect their members’ rights.
“It isn’t simply about the language, it’s about all these other issues,” Hahn says. “How do you even start to build support once you propose the language?”
“Bargaining Equality is for CUPE locals that want to make their workplaces better for all their members,” says Barb Ames, who has served on CUPE’s National Women’s Committee.
“All workers deserve dignity and respect and this is what this is about,” she says. “As a women worker, I see this as the next step to the Up with Women’s Wages kit, the next piece of action – really sitting down and analyzing how we do our bargaining. Is it reflective of equality-seeking groups’ needs?”
Calling on members to “open it up and get their heads wrapped around it,” Ames sees the binder as a key tool to help local activists – anti-racism, women’s, health and safety activists and others.
“It’ll be those people that will urge on the bargaining committee – or get involved in bargaining,” says Ames.
She says Bargaining Equality works because it puts the issues out front and says what needs to be said.
“It identifies areas that sometimes people may be thinking but they are afraid to bring up,” she says. “There are things in the binder that apply to me, to my life, to my workplace. And to see it in print validates my feelings of what’s right and what’s wrong.”
“There are a lot of workers who are experiencing this on a day-to-day basis and they don’t know where to go,” she says. “This is going to be an excellent tool to have at hand.”
Ames also believes Bargaining Equality will give locals an encouraging benchmark for measuring their progress.
“You can look in the binder and say, ‘Hey, we have this in our collective agreement’,” she says. “I think it really gives a clear picture of how far people have come and how far they have yet to go.”
Pinder says finding that her local had a lot of things covered made her feel pretty good but “there’s always room for improvement.”
“Our collective agreement doesn’t say anything particular about gender identity,” she says. “Often when you’re talking about equality issues, it’s usually race that you’re looking at but there are all kinds of other issues. It made me think: who do I really represent in the bargaining unit.”
Hahn says Bargaining Equality works because it functions two ways.
“Equality seekers don’t often know about the structures of the union – don’t know about collective bargaining,” he says, while members who know about bargaining “might not know about the issues. It also gives them the tools so they can get to members.”
For Hahn, the half-day workshops are important to help members build confidence and to overcome possible fears about seeing all the equality issues together in one binder as “some big, hairy, ominous thing.”
A woman member told Hahn that just one hour of looking through the “lens of equality” had changed the way she will look at her collective agreement forever.
“This is something we can do,” he says.