F A Q
Frequently asked questions of Unifor Unifaith Community Chapter
1. Where did the Unifor Unifaith Community Chapter come from?
- Two years of research and discussions resulted in the 2004 launch of Clergy United, the ministers’ Solidarity movement supported by the CAW
- This led to the founding of Unifor Unifaith Community Chapter when Unifor was created when the CAW and the CEP unions merged in 2013
2. What is a community chapter?
- Unifor's Community Chapters are a new form of union membership that aims to reach out to groups of workers that are generally excluded from union membership.
- Potential groups of people may include workers in workplaces where organizing campaigns have not yet succeeded; workers in precarious jobs; unemployed workers; students and any other group of workers hoping to improve their economic and social conditions.
- Becoming a Unifor Community Chapter member is much more than just choosing, as an individual, to join the union. It is rooted in a process of building the collective power of working people.
- Community Chapters may be formed where there is a critical mass of interest among people who are not members but who wish to come together. By uniting under a Community Chapter, they can form a new structure to work together for economic and social justice in their workplace and community.
- The criteria to determine if a group is eligible to create a community chapter include:
- Commonality: The potential Community Chapter members must share some common interest that creates the potential for sustained shared activity. This point of commonality can be based in a workplace, a community or an interest.
- Critical mass: The potential Community Chapter must show the commitment of a sufficient number of dedicated and active members.
- Action plan: The potential Community Chapter must submit a clear strategy for how they will use the collective power of the union to better their conditions and win victories from employers, governments, or other campaign targets.
- Union principles: The potential Community Chapter members must support the founding principles of Unifor and adhere to the Unifor Constitution.
3. Why are ministers forming a union? Isn’t ministry a vocation?
- Individual experiences of harassment/bullying
- Concern for colleagues in ministry and their families
- Inability and/or failure of the church to support adequately in certain areas
- Theology of justice
- Need for ministers to meet as colleagues to develop and enhance ministry as a profession
- Need for retired ministers to have a respectful, beneficial organization that connects them to likeminded retirees locally and nationally and that represents their concerns regarding pensions, benefits and support for retired clergy and their partners/spouses
4. Before I join Unifaith, I want to know: What’s in it for me?
- Unifaith exists for: faith workers working within The United Church of Canada and their families, including students, retirees and ministers between calls, on leave, on DSL or otherwise.
- United Church clergy and faith workers lack a professional organization of their own formation and direction, that represents, defends and advances their interests and concerns relating to their covenants and employment agreements
- Clergy and faith workers’ partners/spouses are often impacted in ways unique to people who work in and serve the church: Unifaith helps unite partners/spouses so they are not alone and provides advocacy for partners/spouses’ own concerns related to the church
- As Unifaith lives out its message of strength in solidarity, it works to resolve:
- Underemployment, gaps in employment and unemployment
- Workers serving in “desolation” and isolation
- Workplace violence and harassment
- Unreasonable application of employment policy
- Unifaith offers its members:
- Answers, advice and advocacy in matter relating to the member’s employment terms and conditions, i.e. employment contracts, tax deductions, disciplinary action
- Confidential listening and care
- A strong collective voice to express members’ concerns and advance viable solutions
- Opportunities to connect with other members for peer support, to remedy feelings of isolation, to share wisdom and enjoy social contact
- Educational, professional development recreational and restorative events, in person and online
- Timely information via Unifaith emails, postal service, website and social media
- Access to Unifor’s residential Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario and the family programs Unifor offer
- Unifor discounts on travel, various insurances including health insurance and more
- Connection with Sisters and Brothers within Unifor and the national and international Solidarity Movement
- Evolving and expanding services as defined by Unifaith’s growing membership
- Unifaith celebrates:
- The profound heritage of The United Church in solidarity with the Union Movement in Canada and around the world
- Serving in solidarity, encouraging one another, inspiring one another, and protecting one another
5. Does it matter whether faith workers have a union, association or network?
- Yes, it does.
- Professional associations are typically not unions with collective agreements that have been voted on democratically by the membership. Even an association with all the rights and powers of a certified union is still weaker than being part of a much larger labour body, such as Unifor. Networks have even less ability to influence real, positive change for its members.
- As Unifor Unifaith Community Chapter, we are both an association and a union – but a union without a collective agreement.
- When Unifaith members decide they are ready to vote to become a certified union within each province in accordance with labour law, our ministers will have the legal right to negotiate a collective agreement with the church and grieve breaches of that agreement on behalf of the union’s members.
- Unifaith membership currently also includes other faith workers, such as church secretaries, musicians or custodians, giving them a collective voice when addressing employment conditions and issues.
6. Will ministers go on strike?
- No. As a community chapter without a collective agreement, we don’t have the right to strike. Even when we eventually become a certified union, we do not believe our ministers and faith workers will want to go on strike.
- There are many ways to use our collective voice to serve the interests of our members.
7. Who can join?
- United Church of Canada clergy and other faith workers, working and non-working, and their partners/spouses
8. What are the dues?
- $10 per month per waged worker
- $5 per month per non-waged worker
- 100% of Unifaith members’ dues stay within Unifaith to support its members and the work or the organization
9. How can I get more information?
- ask a Member
10. What does the United Church think about a clergy union?
- In view of the economy and realities for working people and retirees, our faith worker community chapter is reopening the discussion and commitment of the United Church's historical endorsement and engagement of unions for all workers.
- Recently, the United Church’s Fishing on the Other Side report produced by the United Church’s Comprehensive Review Task Group recommend there be an Association of Ministers. Later, the group revised that to strongly encouraging clergy to form such a body. (The Comprehensive Review Task Group’s report can be read at http://www.unitedchurch.ca/communications/news/general/141125-0). To read Unifaith’s comparison of the original recommendation, please visit http://www.unifaith.ca/compare.html).
- Unifor Unifaith Community Chapter is a professional organization, legally chartered and nationally supported by Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union.
- Considering more than one-third of Canadians are union members - teachers, nurses, psychologists, social workers, counsellors, etc. - having a clergy union can open pathways to union members and Labour organizations. Clergy United and Unifaith have already attracted new members to the United Church who respond to likeminded Solidarity. By forming Unifaith, clergy and faith workers are also showing their respect for union members who are already United Church members.
11. Are there any other clergy unions, or is this a first?
- Britain – Unite Faith Workers Union has been in place since 1994 and includes clergy and faith worker of ALL denominations in the UK
- Scandinavia – Government Union for Clergy
12. Some church members have threatened to leave the church or remove bequests to the United Church from their wills should their ministers join the union.
- The United Church's own policies enshrined at various General Councils uphold the right of all workers, including the church's workers, to organize and join unions. Some of these are copies below:
24th General Council (1971), Niagara Falls, Ontario
THAT, in light of present industrial organization and relations, the principle of collective bargaining is still the best means of enabling employer and employee to bargain on equal terms with the objective of securing economic justice. At the same time, in our free society, the church must affirm the right of all people to earn a living and the right to choose whether or not they will engage in the collective bargaining process.
2 THAT, as a visible expression of the church‘s concern for economic justice, The United Church of Canada adhere to the following principles:
a) In any line of business, the Publishing Department, Divisions, Board, Departments and Committees of The United Church of Canada shall, as a matter of policy, do business with those firms practising high standards in merchandising, competitive prices for equal quality of merchandise or service and, above all, fair labour practices, especially in the areas of wage rates and working conditions.
b) All persons in the church‘s employ be accorded the choice without prejudice to organize and bargain collectively.
3 THAT this General Council encourage conferences, presbyteries, presbyterials, and congregations to ensure fair labour practices, especially in relation to wage rates and working conditions.
4 THAT the General Council of The United Church of Canada commend the labour movement for its social concerns as exemplified in the Canadian Labour Congress‘ new department of social concern, and urges the church at large to work in cooperation with labour and other sectors of society by participating in the common goal of the fight against poverty.
5 THAT this General Council encourage the labour movement to continue and intensify its policy of supporting poorer elements of society in their struggle for a better economic life through the collective bargaining process.
6 THAT, in the event of the implementation of the New Division with The United Church of Canada, the functions of the Department of Church in Society include a liaison role with labour through the Religion-Labour Committee of the National Committee of the Church and Industrial Society.
1971 ROP, p. 69, 75, 105, 167, 173-74
Labour Relations – Guidelines from The Church and the Economic Crisis
30th General Council (1984), Morden, Manitoba
a. SUPPORT of policies which:
i) place the needs for employment and well-being of people and sustainability of communities ahead of the free movement of capital; ii) move society in the direction of greater equality and increased security of income for the poor; … v) provide equal compensation for work of equal value; … viii) expedite methods of consultation, mediation and arbitration between employees and employers in seeking to avoid strike action in the settlement of disputes.
b. OPPOSING policies which:
iii) attack or reduce participation in trade unions and free collective bargaining.
1984 ROP p. 106, 325-28. Also: http://www.united-church.ca/beliefs/policies/1984/c721
Moderator’s Consultation on Faith and The Economy
The Consultation’s Declaration on Faith and the Economy
37th General Council (2000)
Believing that human history has entered a new era of both change and opportunity, we wish to make the following declaration:
2. All of life is intimately and wondrously connected within a vast fabric of potential harmony. Economic, political, social, ecological, and spiritual realities are bound inseparably into this fabric, and cannot be separated from each other….
14. We are called to encourage people‘s desire to be responsible citizens in exercising their rights.
15. We are called to build new forms of global governance to balance and hold accountable the power of global corporations.
16. We are called into new partnerships of faith communities, civil society, unions, governments and business in re-weaving the tattered social fabric of the common good….
UNIFAITH. United FOR You. United FOR All.