Written for Mediaplanet’s industry/labour awareness campaign.
Published in Maclean’s magazine in December 2015.
When Rodrigo Gutierrez first started out as a painter, he was on his own. It was up to him to find work, keep up with industry practices, and if an accident occurred, it was on him.
“As you’re getting older — you realize you’re not going to get rich working by the hour — so I was thinking ‘what if something happened to me?’ I’ve got to think about my family,” says Gutierrez, an Albertan of Chilean descent and a father of two.
Gutierrez, 44, found his answer from a union representative who described some of the benefits of being a union member — highlighting things like training, work opportunities, a set rate of pay, health and dental coverage, and a pension.
In Canada, more than 71 percent of the public sector workforce, and 15 percent of the private sector, is unionized, according to Statistics Canada. After working for 15 years as a non-union painter, Gutierrez decided to give the union a try. One decade later, he says that his only regret is that he didn’t join sooner.