08/23/2013 05:22 EDT | Updated 10/23/2013 05:12 EDT

Are You Living in One of These Superior Canadian Communities?

Researchers at the Canadian Labour Congress have found that on average unionized workers in Canada earn $4.97 an hour more than do other, non-union workers. That extra money in the pockets of the country's 4.67 million unionized employees translates into an added $785.8 million every week paid into the national economy.

We studied 30 communities from St. John's in Newfoundland and Labrador to Victoria on Vancouver Island. We found that decent middle class family-supporting wages translate into vibrant communities. Unionized workers spend their pay cheques close to home. They buy at local businesses and bolster the tax base which, in turn, supports public works, community services and charities. We have found that centres with more union members support a richer mix of businesses and services -- dentists, chiropractors, therapists, health specialists and family lawyers. These services benefit everyone. In short, these communities are better places in which to live and work.

But it doesn't end there. Many of the things first won by unions are enjoyed by all workers today, including minimum wages, overtime pay, workplace safety standards, parental leaves, vacation pay and protection from discrimination and harassment.

We believe in the old saying that what we want for ourselves we seek for all. We have pushed those who hold elected office in our local boards, city councils and legislatures to provide a broad range of family-supporting public programs and services. That is why, for example, the labour movement is working to convince governments to improve Canada Pension Plan benefits. This would ensure sure that every retired Canadian -- whether or not they belonged to a union -- will receive a liveable retirement income from CPP. It can easily be done and it's only fair.

Being in a union is especially important for women and younger workers. CLC researchers found that women in Canada who belong to unions earn an average of $6.61 an hour more than do women in non-unionized workplaces. In Canada as a whole, young workers aged 15 to 29 earn an additional $5.53 an hour if they belong to unions. That is important as they build lives for themselves, paying off student loans, taking mortgages and starting families.

We in the labour movement take satisfaction in knowing that we have helped to build a stronger middle class and a more secure economy for everyone in our country. When unions stand up for fairness, they raise the bar for everyone.

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