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This short & informative electronic newsletter is filled with tips for building an effective Union and is published monthly by Janet Stewart.

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The great value
of diversity

What it is and why we should care (a lot)

Canadian unions have lead the way in strengthening diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace and in society. And that’s one of the reasons why Canada has a better record than most other Western countries for those positive changes. Something Union members and all Canadians should feel pride in.

What is “diversity”?
What does diversity mean to you? It can call to mind many things, and in fact the list is appropriately quite diverse:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Physical abilities/challenges
  • Sexual orientation
  • Work background
  • Income
  • Marital status
  • Military experience
  • Religious beliefs
  • Geographic location
  • Parental status
  • Education

All of the above effect how each of us think, feels and behaves. Unfortunately, sometimes these differences can create barriers and influence your Members’ relationships. Someone’s contribution could be overlooked because of the value that you place on one or more of these components. For example, if you value youth over age, you might be inclined to overlook the creative ideas of an older Union Member.


Ultimately, it is important to recognize that everyone within your Union has ideas to contribute and that we must learn to value the diversity in each person. In fact, Labour Unions that make an effort to tap into this collective wisdom and wealth of varied perspectives, prosper!




“Great discoveries and achievements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.”

- Alexander Graham Bell

How Do I Do It?


  • I get it in theory, but how do I put it into practice?
  • Am I doing anything that I shouldn’t be? How do I know?
  • I think I’m doing my part, but could I be doing more?

Here are some tips to help you Respect Diversity within both your Union and your Workplace!


Recognize that diversity is a good thing. Union Members as well as Employers must learn about people, their differences and accept that the differences contribute in a positive way toward productivity and a healthy workplace relationship between the two.


Know that everyone responds differently to the same stimuli. Recognize that each of us is a culturally-diverse entity. None of us has exactly the same programming because we get our cultural teachings from a variety of sources.


Don’t be a space invader. Everyone has his/her own personal boundaries; a good guideline to remember is to stay about one arm’s length from Follow-Members when talking.


Respect style and dress choices. Many people dress according to religious beliefs. Make-up and hairstyle (or lack of them) may indicate something about a person’s culture.


Use small acts to show respect. Acknowledge that a person has entered the room - say “good morning,” for example.


Provide and respect flexibility for “coffee” and lunch breaks. Many people eat different foods at different times as a result of their cultural backgrounds.


Where possible, allow for flexibility when scheduling holidays and special celebrations. National holidays are more or less significant to different people. Try to celebrate other special cultural dates in your Unit, Local and workplace.


Recognize that non-verbal, for example, play a major role in one’s effectiveness as a communicator. Someone’s lack of eye contact can be very distracting if you are not aware that the other person believes he/she is communicating appropriately, according to the “rules” of his/her culture.


Be aware that in some cultures, the workplace hierarchy may cause problems because of gender, position, etc. In some cultures, a man will not work for a woman, as a working woman indicates deficiency in a male’s performance as a provider. In others, students don’t question teachers; individuals don’t challenge authority; and employees don’t confront managers. Respect these differing opinions and work to solve any problems that may arise.


Find out the Employers’ anti-discrimination and an anti-harassment policy. Make sure that it complies with federal and provincial/state laws. Review the policy at a Members’ meeting and facilitate an open discussion about it.


Invest time and expense into diversity training and awareness. Many types of harassment and discrimination issues between Members spring from ignorance. Educated Members, who are taught to respect other cultures, races and gender, may be less likely to engage in harassing or discriminatory behavior.


Take any complaints of discrimination and harassment seriously. Representatives have an affirmative duty to promptly investigate all complaints of discrimination and harassment.


Communicate with your Members. Adopt an open door policy between Stewards, Health & Safety Representatives, Members, and Executive Committees and put it into practice. This will help you find out about problems early on, when you can “nip them in the bud”. And it will show your Members that you value their opinions, an important component of positive Union relations.


Be consistent. Apply the same standards of performance and conduct to all of your Members. Successful discrimination lawsuits can result when you treat Members in the same situation differently.


Recognize the help and achievements of Members. Offer praise to co-workers or Members for a job well done or a simple “thank you” if they pitched in to make your work a little easier. Show your appreciation and watch how a few simple words can improve relations and make someone’s day.


Don’t make negative comments or jokes. Be aware of what you say about another person’s work, skill, background, etc. It’s just good work protocol!


Be a good listener. Show you care and respect co-workers’ ideas by giving them your full attention during conversations. Let fellow Members speak without interrupting and actively listen to what they have to say.


Include others. Make an effort to get feedback and ideas from Fellow Members. Doing so lets them know that you value their input and boosts team spirit.


Remember that there are many right answers. Instead of forcing others to accept your ideas, stay open to other possibilities. The most successful teams are those that can pool the strengths of each person to achieve a final result that everyone is happy with.


Smile. Everyone understands and appreciates it!


Final Thought…


By reflecting on your own actions and remembering that there is always time to be polite and considerate - say thanks, compliment achievements and deal with people in an open, well-mannered way - you can spread respect throughout your Union.


Appreciating and valuing the diversity of the Membership within your Union, will open up your thinking to a whole new world of understanding and opportunity and make you a Stronger Union.

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