Tell us Why Unions Matter and you could win $1,000!

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Unions Matter: A Reader

Unions Matter: A Reader Vol 1  Unions Matter: A Reader Vol 2

It is a great and resounding truth that unions make life better for millions upon millions of people in very concrete ways every day. But this is too narrow a truth. Unions give us more. Something less tangible but more enduring. They give us an idea: the idea that our lives matter.

To help celebrate the countless ways in which unions have help spread this idea, NUPGE has been inviting all Canadians to share with us, in their own personal way, Why Unions Matter. We’ve received poems, stories, pictures, videos, and songs, and we’re looking for more.

We consider the entries every month and award a $1,000 prize to our favourites. So be bold. Be creative. Be heartfelt.

Why unions matter to Canada

Recently, we've decided to call for entries that follow particular themes. To help celebrate Canada Day, we're asking that throughout June, people submit entries that show why unions matter to our country. 

Future themes will be:

  • July 2016: Why unions matter to your community
  • August 2016: Why unions matter to your education or to world peace
  • September 2016: Why unions matter to Islamic Canadians or to social justice
  • October 2016: Why unions matter to children
  • November 2016: Why unions matter to disabled Canadians and to human rights

After reading our contest rules and regulations below, please email your entry (or a link to your entry) to

Why Unions Matter Contest Winners

  • British Columbia's Kathleen MacKillop for her short memoir, Why Unions Matter to Canada
  • Ottawa's Iman Mahmoud for her short video, Unions Matter to Indigenous Canadians
  • Ontario's Emily Genyn for her short essay, Unions Matter to the Environment.
  • Nova Scotia's Natasha and Thom Zwicker for their short video, Canadian Unions Protect My Safety.
  • Prince Edward Island's Julia Richardson for her essay Passing on the Torch,  about the strength mothers and daughters can find in unions.
  • Toronto's Adele Zhang for her spoken-word poem, Life as Minority Woman.
  • Sara Tatelman and Anya Baker, two friends since university, for their short but powerful song The Union Folk.
  • Victoria high school student Natalie Blecha for her short essay Racism in Canada and the Importance of Unions.
  • Nadeem Hajee, a retirement home cook in Kitchener, for his a comic strip that shows why Unions Matter to three very different people.
  • Charles Partridge, a social worker in BC, for his short essay on the variety of reasons Why Unions Matter.
  • Nova Scotia's Jenifer Hutt for her short exercise in logic, Do Unions Matter?
  • Lana Hood, a federal government employee in Beausejour, MB, for her autobiographical poem, My Childhood View.
  • Melissa LeBlanc, a 22-year-old sociology student at the University of New Brunswick, for her reminiscence Why Unions Matter.
  • Madison Hill, an Environmental Studies student from the Six Nations Reserve in southern Ontario, for her poem, Why Unions Matter to Me.
  • Raegan Zdunick, an Agriculture and Bioresources student at the University of Saskatchewan, for her essay, Unions and Women.
  • Nicholas LeBlanc, a University of New Brunswick student, for his schematic A Young Person Graphically Organizes Three Ways Unions Matter.
  • Niagara Falls LCBO worker (and OPSEU Local 286 member) Jessica Turgeon for her poem Why Unions Matter
  • Alexandria Kay, a 17-year-old high school student from Regina, for her poem Unions Do Matter … Looking Thru A Child’s Eyes.
  • Campbellton, NL's, Samantha Budgell for her essay Why Unions Matter, which touches on the range of the ways in which unions empower people to do better for themselves and their communities.
  • Toronto's Vicky Yu for her poem The Working Man, which tells the story of one person who is able to enjoy a stable life because he belongs to a union.  
  • Sandra Mountain, a facilitator for kids with disabilities at Douglas College in Burnaby, B.C., by submitting a poem about how important her membership in the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) is to her as a single mother. Check out her winning entry.
  • Alberta Registered Dietitian Melissa Baker for her short essay, Unions = Job Security = Food Security, about her experience struggling through the Welfare Food Challenge in which she lived for a week with just $26 for groceries.
  • Ottawa labour activist Corinne Baumgarten for Union Style, her fun yet fierce take take on the massive music hit Gangnam Style. Check out her winning entry

  • Ontario singer Ben Cottrill by submitting a video of a positive protest song called United that he wrote and performed. Check out his winning entry!
  • Journalist Matt Creed by submitting a poem called The Union about the often unrecognized "super-powers" that unions give us. Check out his winning entry!
  • HR graduate Jay Jeworksi by submitting an old photograph and some childhood memories of walking the line with his parents, who were active in CUPW. Check out his winning entry!
  • Grade 10 student Aimee Shannon won her $1,000 prize by submitting a spoken-word poem and uploading it to YouTube. Check out her winning entry!
  • Cathy MacKinnon from PEI was choosen for the Why Unions Matter contest after submitting a poem describing how she came to understand and appreciate the value that unions can play in our lives. You can find Cathy's poem here.
  • Frank O'Neill submitted a moving letter about life on the picket line after years of loyal work for a multi-national corporation. "Frank's writing shows what these workers have been up against - a multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporation looking for concessions from 45 members in order to institute a global bargaining strategy, "said James Clancy, NUPGE National President. You can find Frank's full submission here.
  • The first winner of the Why Unions Matter contest was nine-year-old Ezra Barrett won us over. "Your poem Why Unions Matter beautifully captures a slice of the good that unions do, from empowering teachers to stand up for themselves and their students to providing your parents a chance to help their friends and co-workers live more secure, content, and productive lives," said NUPGE National President James Clancy. Read Ezra's full poem.


Rules & Regulation of the Why Unions Matter Contest

SCOPE OF CONTEST: NUPGE's Why Unions Matter contest began on September 1, 2013 and we continue to accept submissions. Every month, until the contest is declared closed, one submission will be chosen as the winner, and the creator will win a $1,000 prize.

HOW TO ENTER: Submissions may include videos, poems or songs (300 words maximum). Videos must be uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, or the online video-sharing service of your choice. Once uploaded, you must send an email to containing a link to the video along with your name, address, and telephone number.

Poems or songs may be submitted in writing (or video) to as well.

Detailed Rules and Regulations

1. REQUIREMENTS: Entries must be a maximum of three minutes long, or 300 words in length. Video entries must be uploaded to your video-sharing site. Video links, photos, poems, songs and other writing must be emailed to for entry into the contest.

2. SELECTION PROCESS: By the 15th of each month, NUPGE will select the winner from all entries received the previous month. The month of entry will be determined by the submission date. The winning entrants will be notified by telephone and/or email and will be posted on  The decisions of the judges will be final.

3. PRIZES: Each month's winner will receive a prize of $1,000.

4. ELIGIBILITY: All entrants must be residents of Canada. Entries are subject to verification and may be declared invalid in NUPGE's sole discretion. Neither NUPGE elected officials, NUPGE staff members, nor immediate family members of NUPGE elected officials or staff members are eligible.

5. RELEASES AND CONSENTS: It is the sole responsibility of all entrants to ensure that entries submitted are original works and do not violate any law or agreement. Without limiting the foregoing, entrants specifically warrant and agree that they have obtained any release and consent that may be required of:

a) persons appearing in the entry, or a parent or guardian in the case of persons under 18;

b) owners of personal property featured in the entry; and

c) copyright holders of any images, music, or written or spoken words included in the entry.

6. COPYRIGHT: Entrants grant to NUPGE, without further compensation, the right in perpetuity to publication, reproduction and full use of entries, including, but not limited to, publishing on any NUPGE website, presentation at NUPGE meetings or conventions, or any other purpose. Entrants further grant to NUPGE the right to edit, shorten, or clarify sections of the entry.

7. NO RESPONSIBILITY: Entrants release, indemnify and hold harmless NUPGE, its officers, directors, and employees and their affiliates of NUPGE and all of their officers, directors and employees from any claim, loss, expense or other liability which may arise in connection with the competition, the preparation of entries or the content of any entry, as a result of a prize being awarded, or otherwise.

8. PERSONAL INFORMATION: Entrants expressly consent to NUPGE collecting, storing, and using personal information submitted for the purposes of administering the contest, and as necessary for promotion and future use of entries as per NUPGE's sole discretion.

9. RIGHT TO CANCEL: NUPGE reserves the right in its sole discretion, to amend competition rules at any time during the competition period or to cancel or suspend the competition.

10. ENTRANTS' AGREEMENT: By entering this contest, entrants agree they have read, understood and are legally bound by these rules and the foregoing warranties, consents, waivers, releases, and statements of indemnification.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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