A group of crossing guards have finally been able to join Canadian Union Public Employees (CUPE) after their employer challenged the results of their unionization vote. The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has recognized workers’ desire to join the union and certified their unionization on March 15, approximately 8 months after the vote.

An overwhelming majority of workers voted in favor of joining the union in July 2021—however, the employer asserted that the union’s application to certify them as members was invalid, since the application was filed in the summer when a cohort of the members were laid off. Historically, those same laid off members would come back to work in September when school re-opens.

“Employers attempt to stall unionization efforts in a number of ways, including contesting the validity of ballots cast in favor of joining a union,” says Daniela Scarpelli, a CUPE staff member who assisted workers in their campaign to join the union. “It takes considerable courage and perseverance to stand up to your employer. I’m incredibly proud of these crossing guards’ resolve to stand together to improve their working conditions, and in turn, the safety and wellbeing of children and pedestrians in our communities.”

Being part of a union helps to level the balance of power, where workers’ health and safety concerns can be further addressed in a collective agreement and necessary joint health and safety committees are established to facilitate dialogue between workers and employers to address workplace safety.

“Ultimately, this is a huge win for children and families who rely on crossing guards every day to help keep them safe,” says Scarpelli.

Being a crossing guard is dangerous work, “near misses” on the rise

“Crossing guards face unique working conditions—it’s inherently dangerous work that is historically underpaid. Drivers are increasingly distracted and fail to yield to pedestrians, especially now as more individuals return to working at the office,” says Mark Slade, President of CUPE Local 1115.

School crossing guards are vital to help ensure that children safely cross the street during their routes to and from school. They also remind drivers of the presence of pedestrians at intersections.

“With Crossing Guard Appreciation Day coming up on March 23, this is a historic win for workers and an important reminder of the importance of solidarity and union building.”

CUPE warmly welcomes 36 crossing guards, who support children and families in the City of Welland community, to the union.