Unifor strives to protect the economic rights of our members and every member of the workforce (employed or unemployed). We are committed to building the strongest and most effective union to bargain on behalf of our members, working with our members to improve their rights in the workplace, and extending the benefits of unions to non-unionized workers and other interested Canadians.
Unifor was officially formed on August 31, 2013, at a Founding Convention in Toronto, Ontario. It marked the coming together of the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) – two of Canada’s largest and most influential labour unions.
The birth of Unifor represented a sign of hope for the Canadian labour movement, and working people more generally.
For decades, union membership (as a share of total employment) had been in steady decline – particularly in the private sector. Running parallel to this decline in union density had been a sharp rise in income inequality, growing threats to retirement security, chronic unemployment and underemployment (particularly for young people) and a noticeable rise in insecure, precarious forms of work, especially among newcomers. The decline of union influence coincided with the rise of grossly imbalanced business-friendly policies, starting in the 1980s, that included tax cuts, labour market deregulation and corporate-led free trade deals.
Unifor was a bold answer to the question: “How do Canadian unions respond to the changing economy and these challenging times?”
Its large and diverse membership (that includes nearly every sector of the economy), makes it one of the most representative voices of our national economy. Its representative organizational structure and innovative forms of membership means it can better address regional economic and political matters on behalf of working people. Its core mandate – to be an effective union that is built by its members and deeply rooted in community – brings Unifor’s work into the day-to-day lives of Canadian families.
The Unifor project began as a discussion about union renewal in the fall of 2011 between former CAW President Ken Lewenza and former CEP President Dave Coles. Informal discussions led to formal talks among union leadership and staff. A formal discussion paper was prepared, which lead to a comprehensive, open and inclusive union revitalization project, spanning 20-months. Members were invited to follow developments of the New Union Project through regularly published reports, a frequently updated website, and were also asked to participate in telephone town hall meetings and online polls.
From its inception, Unifor has become a source of optimism and inspiration that a fairer, more secure future can be won for working people, that unions can adapt to changing times and remain a relevant voice for workplace and social justice.
When was Unifor established?
Unifor was officially formed on August 31, 2013. Established in a time of rising income inequality, declining levels of private sector union density, and aggressive corporate and government attacks on the wages and benefits of Canadian workers, Unifor is the product of an ambitious revitalization project undertaken by the former Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).
CAW and CEP leadership set a goal to form a new Canadian union, with a new structure and identity that would better represent its members, organize and empower all workers (whether in the union or not) and build a more cohesive and strategic movement of working people.
What sets Unifor apart from other unions in Canada?
Unifor is Canada’s largest private sector union, with over 300,000 members in a diverse range of sectors, across the country. Unifor is the certified collective bargaining agent for workers in thousands of workplaces, but also provides an opportunity for all workers – even those without collective bargaining rights – to hold union membership, through its innovative community chapters program.
Unifor is staffed with leading experts in the field of labour relations, economics, communications, research, pensions and benefits, labour law and adult education along with a team of strategic contract negotiators that are the best in the world.
Unifor also boasts the only union owned and operated Family Education Centre, located in beautiful Port Elgin, Ontario. The FEC houses national and international conferences, education seminars and other union-sponsored events, including Unifor’s trademark Paid Education Leave program.
What does the name “Unifor” mean?
The name “Unifor” is intentionally ambiguous. It means different and personal things to a union membership that is increasingly diverse. The name doesn’t peg us to any one sector of the economy, or a particular workplace. Unifor is a union built for workers. But it’s also a union that reaches out to the unemployed and self-employed; to marginalized and racialized groups union; to women and young workers. Simply put Unifor is a union for everyone.
As a national Canadian union it was essential that our name be bilingual. In French, the name “Unifor” combines the words ‘unis’ (united) and ‘fort’ (strong). Unifor reflects, in both languages, the core values that our new union stands for: unity and solidarity, strength and determination, and a modern, forward-looking perspective.
How many members does Unifor represent?
Unifor represents more than 300,000 members that work in nearly every industry in the private and public sector, and maintains close connections with members who have retired. No union offers such a diverse range of perspectives and experiences across our national industries and across local communities. Our total membership reflects one the most representative samples of the Canadian economy.
There are 750 local unions operating under the Unifor banner, of all different shapes and sizes. Some Unifor local unions have membership that span the country, from coast to coast to coast. Others are firmly rooted in the fabric of single-industry communities.
How can Unifor help me?
Unifor starts from the premise that working people can accomplish greater things through collective action. That means working together, for the greater good – in our workplaces and in society. By organizing your workplace through Unifor, we’ll ensure you’re equipped to negotiate a strong, legally-binding collective agreement with your employer. You and your co-workers will have an equal say in your working conditions and standard of living.
As a Unifor member, you’re entitled to participate in our union’s democratic structures. Every member has an equal vote at membership meetings and in local union elections. And every member has the right to run for election as a workplace union representative.
Unifor members have access to expert staff in a variety of fields. Members can also apply to participate in valuable education and training workshops, to gain practical leadership, campaigning, community-building and workplace representation skills that can be put to good use in your workplace and community.