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A Special Partnership

The roots of labour’s support for the United Way Centraide (UWC) reach back to the early 1900s as part of our Good and Welfare tradition – caring for those in need.  Over the years our work together has supported workers and families in many communities devastated by unemployment and poverty, particularly during crises like the Great Depression. In 1988 the Canadian Labour Congress and United Way Centraide Canada formalized our long-term cooperative relationship. 

Our partnership has deepened over the past decade as the UWC movement has shifted from being primarily a fundraiser to a movement focused on addressing the root causes of social problems. This has opened new potential for our work together.

In 2012, the CLC and UWC renewed our national partnership with both parties encouraging the active participation of labour at all levels of the UWC and the establishment of joint initiatives where we have common cause.  The new Agreement reflects the UWC Movement’s shift from focusing on fundraising, to becoming a movement dedicated to addressing the fundamental causes of social problems.

These agreements provide the basis for our local partnerships and the over 35 programs currently in place. The new Agreement reflects our experiences working together and economic changes that have taken place over the past 23 years.

Union members and their families represent a broad spectrum of community members. They are donors and volunteers in the community, as well as users of the programs and services our donations fund. Unions are also active in the community in our own right, providing cooperative housing, childcare and other services. It just makes sense for labour and UWC to work together.

Our continuing partnership is important because:

  • Working people donate over 56 percent of the UWC’s national total campaign, which was over $500 million in 2011, through individual workplace donations. Even when facing economic challenges, working people continue to provide the backbone for UWCs and for their communities. It’s important that our voice be at the UWC table.
  • We jointly deliver the three-level Labour Community Advocate training program which teaches union members about the resources available in their community and raises issues of concern to community members. It explores how unions can contribute and get more involved with their communities. Elements of the program, such as workers’ legal employment rights, are also available for delivery to non-unionized workers, new Canadians and young workers. Program graduates are also able to provide direct support to co-workers who are seeking assistance with personal challenges.
  • Together we can make a difference for workers. Local UWCs and labour councils have teamed up to support workers who have lost their jobs due to workplace closures or mass layoffs. In some locations, they have established community-wide adjustment centres to assist workers in their search for alternate and comparable employment, catching workers who fall between the cracks.
  • Together we can make a difference for the most vulnerable. Our programs provide meals to hungry community members; backpacks with school supplies for kids whose parents can’t afford them; and renovation and repair for community organizations working on a shoe-string budget. Our members have a lot to offer the community.
  • Today, over 75 labour activists sit on UWC boards across Canada and there are almost 50 Labour Programs and Services (LPS) staff [link to Find your labour staff on UW webpage] in communities across Canada. LPS staff are UWC-funded, jointly directed workers engaged in bringing our two movements together for the benefit of working families and our communities.

For more information about the CLC-UWC Partnership or Labour Programs and Services, visit their web site.

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