The seeds for the All Together Now! (ATN) campaign were planted a year ahead of the global financial collapse in 2009. Our union, the 390,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), had been witnessing growing income inequality, slashes to public services by austerity-driven governments, and more restrictions on workers' rights.
Employers were cutting wages and benefits. The tax system was benefiting corporations and the wealthy. And there wasn't any government strategy to help hard-working Canadians maintain what they had, let alone get ahead. The gap between the wealthy and the rest of us was growing, and we knew we couldn't sit on the sidelines, we had to fight. Fight for our members and everyone else.
SOLUTIONS TO RISING INCOME INEQUALITY
There was no time to sit around and complain: we had work to do. So, we created a campaign that examined the causes of income inequality. We had some ideas about what we could all do to turn the situation around, and we wanted to share those ideas. We knew there was public support, we just needed to reach people. And we used our best resources — our members — to engage in one-on-one conversations with friends, family and co-workers, urging them to join us to influence governments on this issue.
We had to show the connection between good jobs, strong labour rights, fair taxes and well-funded (or stable) public services and reduced income inequality.
ATN & THE FAIRNESS EXPRESS
So, ATN was born. We canvassed our workplaces talking about the problem of rising income inequality. We presented our vision of solutions to city councils, Chambers of Commerce, employers, and lobbied politicians at every level, urging them to act boldly to close the inequality gap. The campaign hit its stride, reaching way beyond our union.
We built on what we'd started by taking the campaign right to where people live. We toured the country on the Fairness Express, a.k.a. the Big Green Bus, to meet people, listen to their issues and share solutions.
We went to places where people never expected to see a union. We popped up at fairs and parks, festivals and parades. We hit big cities, and small communities. We talked to everyday people who had never heard of a union, or the term income inequality, despite feeling the effects of it.
Often we were asked, “Why does a union care about what's happening to me?” Our answer was clear: Because when we work all together, we can make a difference.
THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW!
Now we're kicking off the next phase of ATN. Sort of ATN2.
It's still All Together Now! just fresher and a little edgier. We're still proposing solutions and working with our allies to find exciting ways to strengthen the movement for a fairer country, a country where people are treated as valuable resources not a cheap, disposable workforce.
Income inequality is not inevitable. We're not the only ones talking about it now. We've helped build a growing movement of people and organizations who understand what we need to do to stop the growing gap of inequality.
As a union, we're fighting for fairness for everyone.
If it matters to you, we are fighting for it.
Why? Because unions are f#@king great!