By Evert Hoogers, retired postal worker and former CUPW National Union Representative.
This gripping labour documentary takes 34 minutes to provide an inspiring account of 40 years of struggle by rural and suburban mail couriers in successfully winning the right to unionize, joining the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and finally gaining pay equity with their long-unionized urban counterparts. Comprised of at least 70 per cent women workers, the stories of these rural activist/organizers emerge from the background of many years of resistance by an employer that cynically used federal legislation declaring them “independent contractors” – and thus a “competitive advantage” – that denied them the right to unionize and earn a living wage. Filmmaker Michael Ostroff captures their emotion, determination, sense of purpose and joy as their insistence this race to the bottom could not continue ended in victory.
This documentary is very much the story of these courageous women. It also pulls back the curtain on the savvy strategic decisions these activists made in close collaboration with the CUPW leadership to recruit an often fearful – for good reason – group of rural workers to participate in the fight for union recognition. The documentary also references some internal friction arising from the resolute support of CUPW leaders, reflecting concerns within a segment of the traditional membership that achieving advances for rural postal workers would result in losses of potential gains in existing union agreements.
Most significantly, “Justice and Dignity for All” effectively recounts a labour victory in an environment where such achievements have proven to be rare. The analysis underscoring this film invites trade unionists and socialists to consider how the labour movement can use this labour victory in the very closely related organizing efforts in the world of the gig economy.