Your Union is here to represent you. You hear that often, it is CUPE’s constant refrain.
You may also be told: “You are the Union”. There is a lot of truth to that as well.
But what do those two statements mean? How do they apply practically? How does your union as a structure function to help you on a daily basis as well as in your time of crisis or need?
Let’s start with the basics. You are part of a collective group; your union. You are either a member of mainline Air Canada or Air Canada Rouge and represented by your Local, the Air Canada Component of CUPE, the Airline Division as well as CUPE National.
The order in which these bodies are listed may make it seem like National is at the very top of a pyramid, filtering responsibility and power downwards. However CUPE’s unique structure operates quite the opposite, unlike any other union in Canada.
CUPE prides itself in its ‘grassroots’ structure. In other words the power starts with you, the member. You make your intents and direction known to your Local President through motions at membership meetings and in turn, they direct your Air Canada Component through meetings of ACCEX (the Air Canada Component Executive).
Your representatives, in the form of your elected delegates, also bring your concerns to the floor at the CUPE National Convention, which takes place every two years. You can learn more about the governing structure of CUPE National here: https://cupe.ca/governance.
ACCEX functions somewhat as a Board of Directors and is comprised of the Rouge President, the four mainline base Presidents and your three Component Officers (President, Vice-President and Secretary Treasurer).
CUPE (the Canadian Union of Public Employees) is Canada’s largest union, comprised of over 650,000 members. Although CUPE primarily functions representatively on the provincial level, as part of the Airline Sector we are part of one of its federally regulated divisions.
CUPE National represents workers in health care, emergency services, education, early learning and child care, municipalities, social services, libraries, utilities, transportation, airlines and more. 
So what does that mean for you? It means that your Locals and Component have access to all of the resources that CUPE offers, whether it be legal, research, PR etc.
How do you benefit?
“Unions make a difference both at work and in the quality of life you earn. We call that difference the union advantage.” 
You benefit daily from the guidance and resources of your union. Your negotiated and ratified Collective Agreement stipulates virtually all contractual rules which mould and govern your work day (ie block rules, reserve rules, hotel requirements) as well as your benefits and entitlements (ie pension, sick leave, vacation).
How can you participate?
As a member we strongly encourage you to participate. This can take many forms in varying degrees. For instance, you can write an email to your Officers to express opinion, attend a Local meeting and voice your opinion at the mic, make a motion for action at the same meeting, volunteer on a committee, run for a position and of course, your most important contribution is making your position known through voting, whether in referendums or elections.
How can your union help you in your time of need?
In a myriad of ways. We are here to counsel, assist, guide and represent for starters.
First and foremost we are here to listen. Whether that comes in the form of heeding the membership’s concerns on a particular labour issue in the workplace or lending an ear to an individual in time of need, we are here to listen.
We are your bargaining unit. CUPE engages in collective bargaining with the Employer, fighting for the best possible work standards, wages, benefits and entitlements. By uniting, you increase your negotiating power. When you stand strong behind us, you benefit most.
“Collective bargaining agreements reflect economic realities and the desire of unions to maintain good jobs for all their members. Unions have been an important defender of human rights and economic equality, and a major reason why extreme income inequality is less pronounced in Canada.”
–The Broadbent Institute 
Your union is also a valuable resource. When applicable, we can help with navigating associated areas of labour, benefits, healthcare, maternity, workplace safety, government benefits etc. Even if we may not be the appropriate venue to directly assist you with a particular question, nevertheless your union often has accurate information to impart and to guide you in the right direction.
Finally, your union acts as an intermediary between you and the Company. If you feel your workplace rights have been violated, if you are facing personal challenges or have stumbled, we are here to represent you, the individual.
This is typically done through the grievance process. If needed, an arbitrator or mediator will assist by determining whether or not there has been an infraction on either party’s part and if a remedy is in order. Your union is your sole representative in such matters and we will stand beside you at every step of the way.
In conclusion; your Locals, your Air Canada Component and CUPE National are all here to represent you in many ways and on their many levels. However, we are only as strong as you make us. By collectively uniting, you empower your union to fiercely further your interests and be your voice.
If you would like to learn more or participate more fully, we can not encourage you enough to reach out to your Local for more information.