Building a Strong Directly Chartered Local

PSAC can’t be a strong and effective union without a strong foundation. 

Locals can build strength by giving members opportunities to:

  • participate 

  • learn what is in the collective agreement 

  • understand their rights in the workplace and in their union 

  • develop skills to defend their rights 

  • talk about union issues in the workplace 

Best practices to inspire participation  

There is lots a local can do to increase membership participation; 

  • Hold interesting and engaging membership meetings or information sessions that are well advertised in advance. Turnout is usually higher when the meeting agenda addresses relevant issues; the content is educational and social; when there is a reason to attend (even door prizes help). 

  • Organize a sign-up campaign to bring into PSAC those who haven’t yet joined. 

  • Ask members what they care about and respond to key concerns; this can be done through formal or informal surveys, visits to departments or work sites, easily accessible open forums in person or on-line 

  • Post current information on the Union bulletin board 

  • Inspire others with a positive attitude and a willingness to listen 

  • Welcome new hires to their union with an orientation and an invitation to participate 

  • Involve members in PSAC activities including education, rallies, political forums 

  • Create a supporting atmosphere and ongoing mechanisms for members to air their concerns and issues 

  • Represent members when problems occur and involve them throughout the process: grievances, harassment complaints, and abuse of authority 

  • Celebrate victories like successful grievance resolutions and newly negotiated collective agreements 

  • Supporting community initiatives   

  • Involve members in district labour councils  

Local elected representatives make a difference 

A positive attitude and professional approach by local representatives inspire membership engagement and support. Creativity and thoughtfulness go a long way. Local representatives build strong locals by: 

  • Bringing the executive and committees to work as a team 

  • Seeking training to learn how to lead a local, chair meetings, communicate effectively, and solve problems creatively  

  • Keeping informed and sharing information with members 

  • Establishing networks within the union  

  • Seeking assistance when things aren’t going well  

  • Finding creative ways to engage members  

Stewards as local builders 

Stewards play an important role in daily operations of the local. Stewards are often members’ first link to their union. Stewards are the eyes and ears of the union in the workplace. They communicate with members daily and welcome new members. Stewards play the following roles: 

  • Represent members who are experiencing conflict and may need to file a grievance 

  • Identify opportunities for members to participate in their union 

  • Communicate union information to the membership 

  • Problem-solve when members have issues  

  • Network with other stewards to learn, share and build skills 

  • Seek additional training in order to build their capacity  

  • Seek guidance from PSAC staff reps when the need arises 

Communicate to grow the local  

Communication is key to the success of any organization. A local is no different. Starting with the basics, members need to know who their representatives are and how to access them. This information should be readily available on local websites, bulletin boards or as lists given to each member.  


Committees are an important way for members to get active in their union. Not all members aspire to be elected to leadership positions or to take on roles with a lot of responsibility. But many members are eager to engage in their union through the work of union committees.  

The committee local bylaws often set out the roles of committee chairs. This provides for a level of accountability and coordination of the committee’s activities.  

Committees provide opportunities to: 

  • Engage members in the work of the local  

  • Broaden and diversify participation  

  • Educate members about specific topics 

  • Host social activities 

  • Plug into community groups with shared goals 

  • Build the skills of those involved 

  • Demonstrate the strength of the local to the employer 

  • Create links to PSAC’s regional committees  

  • Create opportunities for engagement at conferences 

Types of committees locals create: 

  • Collective Bargaining Committee 

  • Education Committee 

  • Health and Safety Committee 

  • Human Rights/Equity Committee 

  • Anti-racism Committee 

  • Labour-Management Consultation Committee 

  • Political Action Committee 

  • Resolutions Committee 

  • Stewards' Committee 

  • Strike Committee 

  • Women's Committee 

  • Hardship Fund Committee 

Tips for Committee Success 

  • Meet regularly to maintain momentum and interest 

  • Send meeting notices in advance  

  • Consider setting a regular time for committee meetings, for example, the first Thursday of every month at noon 

  • Recruit formally for new members through newsletters, posters, email blasts 

  • Recruit informally for new members (conversations in the lunch room, for example) 

  • Committee Chairs should provide regular reports to the executive  

  • Committees should report on their activities in newsletters, webposts, and at membership meetings 

Joint Committees 

Your collective agreement may establish joint committees with the employer to address specific issues.  Make sure the union seats on these committees are filled, that the committees meet regularly, and that the union representatives report back to the local executive and remain accountable to the local membership.  

Joint occupational health and safety committees are mandated in many workplaces by law; make sure the union representative who serve on these committees are informed of the law, understand the health and safety protections in the collective agreement, and receive regular training in health and safety.  

Union Management Consultation Committees should meet regularly to carry out their mandate. This forum can help to foster a strong labour relations regime in the workplace, and union represnetatives can use it to press for solutions to problems.  

Taking the Pulse of the Membership 

It is impossible to know at all times and with certainty what members want from their union.   

The concerns and interests of members change constantly. A great way to gauge the membership is to survey them and get their input directly. Consider an annual survey to take the temperature of the membership and find out what has changed.   

There are many free digital tools that can be used to survey members, including Google Forms.  

Membership Data 

Accurate membership data is valuable. Locals need to keep membership records up-to-date. Effective and reliable communication with members is impossible if the local does not have current email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses.  

Many locals keep their own membership lists or use digital tools (with good privacy settings) to track who has been hired, transferred, or is not longer in the bargaining unit.  

PSAC is introducing MemberLink, which will allow members to update their contact information directly into the PSAC database.  

Accurate membership information, including personal email addresses, is important to keep members informed about: 

  • strike votes 

  • ratification votes (more of which are being done electronically) 

  • mobilizing initiatives 

  • targeted messaging from the union 

Accurate membership data also helps locals to keep track of members who have not yet formally signed their membership card.  


December 12, 2019