The Labour and United Way National Partnership
United Way Centraide and organized labour have a long history of working together. Both organizations are committed to the collective good. For United Ways - Centraides, it's in our communities, while for labour, it's for working men and women. But both movements also understand that workers live in communities and communities depend on workers. Not surprisingly, both movements see many of the same faces.
In 1988, United Way Canada – Centraide Canada signed a formal partnership agreement with the Canadian Labour Congress, the largest umbrella organization of unions and other labour bodies in Canada, representing over three million members. The partnership agreement, which includes the Statement of Principles, was updated in 1999 and is aimed at providing a context for our organizations to work toward goals we hold in common, while respecting our different approaches and structures.
Today, our organizations assist workers and their families through labour and community programs based in a number of United Ways – Centraides across Canada. A key activity is providing union counsellor training (see below) to unionized workers. The training allows these workers to connect fellow union members in need with the community services their donations support.
The 1988 Statement of Principles between United Way Canada - Centraide Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress laid out several principles, namely:
- Joint recognition of the importance of social and public services and opposition to any unilateral attempt to dismantle this system.
- Commitments from United Way of Canada - Centraide Canada that, in agencies funded by United Way- Centraide, paid employees would not be displaced or replaced by volunteers, including during strikes and lock-outs;
- volunteers would not work in positions providing on-going service for which funding could and should be made available.
- Commitments by the Canadian Labour Congress to provide leadership and encourage members to support the voluntary sector through personal participation and financial contribution to the United Way- Centraide campaigns.
- Recognition by United Way of Canada - Centraide Canada of the importance of labor's contribution to the voluntary sector and endorsement of labour participation in decision-making and representation on boards and committees.
- Joint recognition of the importance of the relationship.
Labour Community Advocate Training Program
The Labour movement along with the United Way, share the common vision of building a society which provides a wide range of social and public services that are accessible, affordable, universal and of the highest quality. We believe in their mutually held objective of assisting all people to live life to the fullest in health and dignity. Based on the fact that United Ways get much of their funding from workers, organized labour has a role and a responsibility to actively participate.In the 1970's, trade unionists recognized that many union members were unaware of the existence of community social services for which they helped to pay either through taxes or charitable donations. Recognizing that unions needed to develop an organized way to put members and their families in touch with community social services in times of need, these trade unionists put forward the concept of the "Union Counselling Program".
The program was to be administered and the counselors trained by a "Labour Staff Representative" hired by the local United Way and Labour Council. The program would be mandated by the Labour Council and funded by the United Way. In 1978, the Canadian Labour Congress Executive Council gave its full endorsement and support to the Union Counsellor Program. An agreement was signed with United Way/Centraide Canada to implement the program.
Labour staff representatives were hired in a number of United Ways across Canada with some working out of the United Way offices, some out of the Labour Council offices, and some out of independent offices – all under the banner of "Labour Participation" and/or "Labour Community Services". Union Counsellors were then recruited from local unions and trained as referral counselors by the Labour staff representative to assist co-workers, union members and their families in times of distress.
A partnership agreement between the United Way Regina and the Regina & District Labour Council was signed in 1983 and resulted in the hiring of the first United Way Regina Labour Staff Representative that same year.
The Union Counsellor Program is also a monitoring system of the accessibility and effectiveness of local services and programs. Union Counsellors are in a position to draw attention to situations where necessary services are not being provided by member and/or other agencies in the community. Through social action, the Union Counsellors are able to take an active part in the policy-making and allocation processes of the boards and committees of the United Way, the agencies funded by the United Way and other local social service agencies.
Labour also recruits volunteers to the United Way Board of Directors as well as to the various United Way committees that oversee the annual fundraising campaign and the allocations process to funded partner agencies.