Unifor’s Organizing Department is adapting quickly to the new challenges of giving workers a voice in their workplace during a pandemic.
“The reality is that during this crisis, workers need the protections that come with being in a union more than ever,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
“Many workers are dealing with layoffs and an uncertain future, and others are finding themselves on the frontlines of a health crisis and needing a voice in the workplace to keep themselves and their families safe.”
As one example, the Organizing Department has developed an online membership card that can be filled out and signed digitally.
“Traditionally, we would meet with workers in person so they could sign a physical card. We’d hold meetings and hand out flyers outside of workplaces,” Organizing Director Kellie Scanlan said.
“In a time of physical distancing, however, that’s just not possible. Even mail-in cards, which we’ve used before, are problematic, so we moved fully online.”
The Ontario Labour Relations Board recently moved to be more open to various forms of online organizing, including electronic certification votes and online membership cards. The Organizing Department is exploring similar opportunities in other provinces and federally.
“This is all new ground, so we are moving ahead carefully but decisively. We have been moving more and more online in the last couple of years, but the pandemic has sped things up,” Scanlan said.
The Organizing Department is also making greater use of online and email communications with workers seeking to join a union, and phoning workers directly.
Unifor has several organizing drives at long term care facilities and warehouses where workers are really seeing the value of being in a union during the pandemic, Scanlan said.