If you would like to discuss joining RWDSU please contact Garry Burkart, the RWDSU Secretary Treasurer.



Chances are that family and friends you know who have good jobs and careers are also union members. Even doctors, lawyers, judges and engineers are organized. Here are some of the important reasons why people who have unions want to keep them:

INCOME SECURITY: Rates of pay are guaranteed in writing and cannot be changed. Negotiated regular increases are a fact of life under a Union contract. In the event of layoffs, our Agreements insure that senior employees are retained. If your employer should permanently close the company, only a Union can help you. Being a Unionized Employee means you must be given proper notice, severance pay and workplace adjustment programs.

HOURS OF WORK: Belonging to a Union guarantees you will have defined hours of work and properly posted schedules. Paid rest periods and decent meal breaks are part of the contract of employment. Overtime is always voluntary and, if worked, must be paid at no less than time and one-half your rate of pay.

HEALTH AND WELFARE BENEFITS: The standard Collective Bargaining Agreement contains provisions for paid sick leave, paid compassionate leave, paid bereavement leave, life insurance, long-term disability, enhanced medical insurance, and dental and pension plans. For the most part, health and welfare benefits are fully paid by employers.

PROBLEM SOLVING IN THE WORKPLACE: All Union contracts provide a method for settling employee concerns covering all workplace issues. Employers are forced to deal with legitimate complaints in a timely manner because of the “grievance procedure”. The Union guarantees problems will be aired in a fair and impartial manner.

FREE ADVOCACY: Having a Union not only helps you on the job but also offers assistance with Workers’ Compensation Appeals, Employment Insurance, Human Rights complaints, Labour Standards violations and Occupational Health and Safety concerns.


Some employers initially work against unions but sooner or later reasonable employers accept the Union. While employers are not allowed to discuss unionization with their employees, they have been known to make some of the following threats:

The Company will have to close its doors or move away. This is almost always said by employers but closures have never happened in the RWDSU because of an organizing campaign. After the shock wears off, employers always get back to the business of making money.

Wages will be reduced and they will not be increased. RWDSU has never signed a contract where newly organized workers did not get a wage increase. Studies in Canada and the United States have repeatedly shown that unionized workers earn higher wages and benefits than non-union workers. Furthermore, the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act prohibits employers from unilaterally reducing wages or changing terms and conditions of employment to discourage unionization.

Organizing will not improve job security. This is the big lie! Unions always improve job security. Any management decisions affecting your job must abide by the contract and the seniority provisions within it. In the event you are fired, the company’s actions must stand up to contractual and legal scrutiny which may even end up at the Labour Relations Board or the courts.

In a Union, you will have no voice. This is false! Unions are the most democratic organizations in our society. The RWDSU does not negotiate or make decisions without talking to its members. Everyone has a voice and vote in determining union policy and, most importantly, on what goes in the contract. On the other hand, employers do not operate in a democratic fashion and, for the most part, are not responsible to anyone.


Unions are classed as non-profit organizations and must prepare and file audited statements every year. Our financial statements are set out in a very straight forward manner which can be readily understood. There are no secrets. Except for per capita fees, all money stays in Saskatchewan. Union dues are set out in the constitution. In addition to regular dues, all new members pay a “one time only” initiation fee of $20.00. Local unions will occasionally levy small assessments for various reasons. Union dues and assessments cannot be changed unless the majority of members agree. all monies paid to the Union are tax deductible. The following are some of the expenditures made on members’ behalf:
* Arbitration Board costs for grievances employers refuse to resolve at the workplace;
* Court costs for actions at the Court of Queen’s Bench, court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada;
* Legal fees for all of the above including research and consultations with our lawyers;
* Salaries and expenses for 6 full-time Union Representatives and a Secretary-Treasurer as well as 3 full-time Clerical Staff working from offices in Regina and Saskatoon;
* Lost wages and expenses for members while doing Union business or attending educationals and other meetings;
* Leaflets, bulletins and several regular publications;
* Campaigns to change legislation to gain advantages for the membership;
* Per Capita fees to the I.L.W.U., CLC, SFL and Labour Councils;
* The Strike Fund which is automatically accessible to all Union members in the event of a strike or lockout


Trade Unions are the most democratic of all organizations. There are more laws, regulations and procedures governing unions than any other institution. It is democratic decision making through the Union in the workplace that employers respect and fear most of all. When the majority speaks, employers have to listen. Through its structure, the RWDSU operates very openly and inclusively.

The Bargaining Unit: This is the basic building block of the RWDSU. The employees of every separate employer are in their own unit. Only members in the unit can authorize bargaining proposals, settle agreements or establish shop policies. Most important is the strike vote to conduct militant activities against the employer. Only bargaining-unit members can make that decision. Units annually elect their own Shop Stewards, Grievance Committee and Occupational Health and Safety Committee.

The Local Union: All bargaining units belong to a Local. The RWDSU has 16 autonomous Locals situated around the province. All bargaining-unit employees are automatic voting members of the Local and eligible to hold office. Every Local has its own treasury and annually elects a full slate of officers. Locals meet almost every month, usually in the same place and at the same time.

The Saskachewan Joint Board and Biennial Conventions: The RWDSU holds a provincial convention every 2 years in the month of May. At the convention, delegates elect officers to implement policy decisions and to manage the Union between Conventions. To include all of the different types of shops RWDSU represents, the Executive is elected out of three distinct divisions of the Union. These are: The Food Division which is made up of major food retailers and wholesale suppliers; The Co-op Division which is exclusively workers employed in co-operatives and credit unions; and The General Division which is our largest division and includes any group that is not a grocery supplier or a Co-op. Each Division has its own Vice-President, 3 Executive Board Members and 2 Alternate Board Members. At our 2003 convention, delegates added three Youth Executive Board Members representating each Division. A President and a Secretary-Treasurer are also elected out of the Convention at large. The Convention is perhaps the single most important event in the RWDSU and every bargaining unit, no matter how small, is entitled to send at least one delegate.

Formal Alliances: The RWDSU is affiliated with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Canada (I.L.W.U.). We are proud of this relationship with a very old, progressive and much respected Union worldwide. The I.L.W.U. does not concern itself with the internal operation of the RWDSU but it gives unconditional support for all of our struggles and initiatives, the Grain Services Union and the British Columbia Retail, Wholesale Union are also affiliated with the I.L.W.U. All in all, we enjoy the comradely and support of three other very important and committed organizations. Additionally, the RWDSU through its affiliation, is an active member in the Canadian Labour Congress and Labour Councils in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, North Battleford and Weyburn. We are also affiliated with the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour where the RWDSU holds one of the permanent vice-president positions.


The RWDSU is Saskatchewan’s largest private sector Union with a history that reaches back to the 1930’s. Currently, there are almost 6,000 members employed in a wide range of industries and businesses. The RWDSU’s contracts are second to none and it has led the way in quite a number of areas such as seniority, scheduling for hours of work, part-timers’ benefits and so on. The RWDSU is an independent Canadian Union known for it’s commitment to it’s members and is always prepared to do battle with unjust employers. The impact of our Union has been felt in every major centre and community in the Province and we continue to change and grow. Just ask any of the workers in the following locations and they will tell you they want and need their union.
Local 454 (Regina) FreshCo / Sobeys Capital Inc. (Safeway Operations) / McKesson    Canada Ltd. / Sobeys / Sysco Food Service Inc.
Local 455 (Moose Jaw & Area) Casino Moose Jaw / Clean-Brite / Southland Co-op at   Assiniboia and Gravelbourg / Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa and Thunder Creek Pork
Local 480 (Saskatoon) Freshco / Sobeys Capital Inc. (Safeway Operations)/ Saskatoon  Co-op
Local 496 Lake Country Co-op / Beeland Co-op in Tisdale / Safeway in Prince Albert  /  Prairie North Co-op in Melfort
Local 539 (Regina) Sherwood Co-operative at Regina, White City and Indian Head
Local 540 (Regina) Federated Co-operatives Ltd. in Regina, Estevan, Yorkton, Swift Current and Maple Creek
Local 544 (North Battleford) Discovery Co-operative Ltd.
Local 544-K (Kindersley) Kindersley Co-operative at Kindersley and Eatonia
Local 545 (Humboldt) Humboldt Co-operative / Young Co-operative
Local 558 (Saskatoon & Regina) ALSCO Uniforms & Linen Services / Brinks Canada Ltd. / Canadian Linen & Uniform Supply / Coca-Cola Canada / Pepsico Beverage Co. / Unemployed Workers’ Centre
Local 568 (Regina) Briarpatch / Brink’s Canada LTD. / Canadian Linen and Uniform Service Co. / Casino Regina (Food and Beverage Dept.) / Compass Group / Conexus Arts Centre / Holiday Inn Express and Suites / Regina Exhibition Association Limited / Saskatchewan Institute on Community Living.
Local 635 (Weyburn) Prairie Sky Co-operative Ltd.
Local S-635 (Estevan) Southern Plains Co-op at Estevan and Oxbow
Local 950 (Swift Current Area) Sobeys Capital Inc. (Safeway Operations) / Pioneer Co-operative at Swift Current, Tompkins, Gull Lake, Kyle, Stewart Valley and Hodgeville
Local 955 (Yorkton Area) Quality Inn Suites / Leon’s Mfg. Co. Ltd. / Yorkton Co-operative / Cornerstone Credit Union at Yorkton, Saltcoats, Ituna,  Kelliher, Wynyard and Foam Lake
Local S-955 (Wynyard & Area) Foam Lake Co-operative / Sofina Foods Inc. / Wynyard  Co-operative


The United Nations: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Article 23(4) states: “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his/her interests”.

The Government of Canada: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is enshrined in the Constitution at Section 2(d) says: “Everyone has the fundamental freedom of association.”

The Province of Saskatchewan: The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code in Part 1, Section 6, restates the right to form unions: “Every person and every class of persons shall enjoy the right to peaceable assembly with others and to form with others association of any character under the law.”

The Law in Saskatchewan: Section 3 of the Trade Union Act states: “3. Employees have the right to organize in and to form, join or assist trade unions and to bargain collectively through a trade union of their own choosing” and Section 11 (1)(a) goes on to say “11(1)(a) It shall be an unfair labour practice for an employer, employer’s agent or any other person acting on behalf of the employer in any manner, including by communication, to interfere with, restrain, intimidate, threaten or coerce an employee in the exercise of any right conferred by this Act.”


When it comes right down to it, a Union is simply an organization of people who have come together to improve their working lives. Unions are developed to bring people together so that their combined effort can accomplish what is beyond the ability of an individual. With a Union, the employees decide what requests they will make and then elect a committee which goes to management and speaks for all employees together. Each workplace is a separate bargaining unit and is entitled to set their own direction headed up by their own elected committee. The Bargaining Committee is assisted by a Staff Representative of the Union who provides expertise, advice and resources. Having a Union means management is legally obligated to meet and negotiate with the Committee and Union members can accomplish a lot through bargaining.

Fair wages and regular increases: Having a Collective Agreement ensures that wage increases occur in a regular fashion not just on the whim of management. Unions negotiate for wage increases that are a fair measure of the value of your work and the contribution you make to your company.

A method to solving problems: all Union members have the right to a grievance procedure. It is an orderly process in which the employee, with the assistance of a Union Representative, can challenge an employer’s decision that he or she thinks is unfair. Many employees have won promotions or transfers initially denied to them and achieved reinstatement after being unjustly dismissed. Fairness is no longer a question of chance. It is a right.

Fairness and recognition: For many workers, the issue of promotions and transfers tops the list of concerns. there is nothing more demoralizing than feeling you have been unfairly overlooked. Union members enjoy posting and selection processes that ensure fairness. Decisions are based on seniority and qualifications. Employees are judged on what they know, not who they know.

In addition, Unions negotiate for benefits such as paid sick leave, dental, health, pension and welfare plans, layoff procedures that provide proper notice and bumping rights, leaves of absence for maternity, parental and bereavement leave. These are but a few of the benefits resulting from your ability to negotiate your terms and conditions of employment.

The democratic structure of Unions ensures that workers have a voice and a vote in deciding what issues they want tackled and what they are prepared to have contained in a negotiated Collective Agreement.

Despite what the media and employers may say about bargaining, 95% of Collective Agreements in Canada are settled without a strike or lockout. That is just another myth designed to scare workers and prevent them from improving their working conditions.

Despite what the media and employers may say about bargaining, 95% of Collective Agreements in Canada are settled without a strike or lockout. That is just another myth designed to scare workers and prevent them from improving their working conditions.

Sask Joint Board RWDSU Executive Flow Chart

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Saskatchewan Joint Board Executive RWDSU

All of the Executive positions are elected at the RWDSU convention

Wanda Bartlett is the President of RWDSU

Bonnie Lewis is the Vice-President of the Co-op Division.

Blair Estey is Vice-President of the Food Division.

Craig Horbay is Vice-President of the General Division

Garry Burkart is RWDSU’s Secretary Treasurer

Kevin Stark – Co-op Division – Executive

Darren Deck – Co-op Division – Executive

Anna Pierno – Co-op Division – Executive

Alicia Friesen – Co-op Division – Young Worker

Shaynee Modien – Co-op Division – Executive 1st Alternate

Brenda Krasiun – Co-op Division – Executive 2nd Alternate

Andrew Van Norren – Co-op Division – Young Worker Alternate

Susan Butson – Food Division – Executive

Jeremy Jijian – Food Division – Executive

Elaine Davies – Food Division – Executive

Shayna Kavanagh – Food Division – Young Worker Executive

Ken Mayes – Food Division – 1st Alternate

Sheri Kavanagh – Food Division – 2nd Alternate

Katey McGovern – General Division – Executive

Dean Colbow – General Division – Executive

Lee Racette – General Division – Executive

Kyle Hynne – General Division – Young Worker

Melissa Patterson -General Division – 1st Alternate

Dean Welcher -General Division – 2nd Alternate

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