Unifor opens its doors — and arms — to locals

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Six people standing smiling

Unifor locals embraced the opportunity to meet-and-greet with the union’s leadership and various departments at an Open House at the national office in Toronto on Jan. 24.

“We’re pleased to welcome our members to their union’s national office,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “A lot of great work happens here, and our work is for and with members every single day.”

This is the first time since moving into its Gordon Baker Rd. building during the pandemic that the union has held an open house. It was a chance for locals to see the renovated space, including a state-of-the-art third-floor conference space where National Executive Board, Strategic Planning Committee and other leadership meetings take place.

It was also an opportunity for members to ask questions and develop relationships with departments and get a sense of key services the union offers — from the Education department to Health, Safety and Environment, Pensions and Benefits, Communications and Research, to Retired Workers and Skilled Trades, among others.

“I found visiting all the department tables helpful,” said Drew Kerrigan, president of Unifor Local 42 in Hamilton covering the telecommunications sector. “We do Paid Education Leave (PEL) courses in our collective agreement and having more info on that is useful.”

A large group sitting at tables with swag bags.

Visitors toured the floors of the eight-storey building, chatting with staff from the different departments to get a better sense of the work they do and got to meet the national president and speak about their experiences inside their workplaces and sectors.

“I’m pretty new to Unifor and in general, unionization, so I wanted to see what the union does,” said Sara Moussette, the unit chair of Local 673 in Toronto, who works at Benecaid, a subsidiary of Green Shield Canada health insurance.

“It’s always good to be in touch. I’ve been to Port Elgin events a few times and I’ve always found most of the topics interesting. I wanted to have an overall of what the union does and tell our members the resources it has.”

Moussette added it was refreshing to see a union support a number of social justice causes, whether it’s local or international.

Sandy Carroll, a retired worker at City-TV Toronto from Local 723-M, was grateful for the experience of the tour.

Two women talking looking at info booth

“I think these (events) should be a regular thing,” he said. “You see everyone, even staff, interacting in new and different ways than usual. You really get a sense that the national is working together and with its members. It really is like having an ‘open arms’ approach.”

Locals in other parts of the country are also encouraged to reach out to benefit from all of the union’s available resources.

Payne said the union plans on hosting more of these open events to locals and members.

“We do workplace tours out there and this is a way for the locals to interact with us,” she said.  

“This is going to be a regular thing now — we’ll have a barbecue in the summer and give members a chance to have informal discussions and allow people a better scope to see all the important work the union does.”

Two men talking facing each other