The workers who keep Toronto’s most vulnerable pedestrians safe are now enjoying greater well-being themselves. The 386 crossing guards who are members of CUPE 5519 and employed by ASP Security Services voted last week to ratify their first collective agreement by an overwhelming majority with 96.4% of votes cast in favour.

Following a year-long grassroots organizing effort, the crossing guards joined CUPE in November 2021. This two-year collective agreement sees major wins for workers, including a 14% wage increase that will help raise workers above the poverty line, protections around full-time work, paid sick days, and bereavement leave. Crossing guards have physically demanding jobs and members will also see increases to critical benefits for eyeglasses and orthotics.

Cities across the province have faced crossing guard shortages in recent year; these contract improvements will help ensure there are enough crossing guards in the future to keep students safe.

“Most people don’t think about crossing guards at all, and if they do think of us, they assume we’re retirees. But that’s not the case in Toronto,” explains CUPE 5519 acting President Myra Chico. “We’re moms and dads. We’re single parents. Many of us have second and third jobs. We’re just trying to make ends meet, and this agreement will help my coworkers do that. I am so proud of my coworkers and we’re looking forward to working with the city on a renewed contract.”

Crossing guard services are coordinated through the city of Toronto’s transportation service division. The work is demanding and often precarious with workers taking on split morning and afternoon shifts, forced to commute long distances several times a day or sit in their vehicle until their second shift starts. Crossing guards work in all-weather at some of the city’s busiest and most dangerous intersections, putting themselves in harm’s way to protect children and the elderly. And they face regular harassment from aggressive drivers.

“These workers have been overlooked and taken advantage of for too long. They are precisely the type of workers who need the protection of a union,” says Daniela Scarpelli, a CUPE representative who helped organize the workplace. “This collective agreement is part of CUPE’s wider efforts to fight for good union jobs across the city. All workers deserve a say and a vote in their future.”

CUPE has more than 715,000 members across Canada who work in healthcare, social services, universities, schools, transportation, municipalities, and communications. CUPE 5519 members join more than 27,000 proud CUPE City of Toronto employees, contributing to vibrant communities through good union jobs.