Staff at The Gathering Place are newest members of the CUPE family

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Employees at The Gathering Place, a community health centre in St. John’s, have voted overwhelmingly yes to becoming members of CUPE. The 84 employees provide services, meals and an overnight shelter to people in the community who struggle with daily living.

Aaron Brickman, a CUPE organizer, says everything happened quickly, with voting taking place in June and July. “When the votes were finally tallied this week, it was a whopping 89 percent in favour of joining the union,” he says.

Jon Bennett leads the Guest Support team at the centre and is interim president of the new CUPE Local, 5478. He says the rapid growth of the organization in response to increasing needs was one reason the employees felt the need to form a union.

“The expansion of services has been happening so quickly that we haven’t had an opportunity to voice our concerns,” he says. “There is a lot of complexity to the work, and a lot of stress. The staff are feeling the need to have more protections and support.”

He says the rapidly rising cost of living makes the ability to sit down and bargain compensation even more important.

“Ultimately, a union creates stronger workplaces and more collaboration between staff and management,” he says. “We can build the future of the organization together. As front line staff, we have a lot to contribute, and we need a stronger voice in these conversations.”

The new CUPE members include the Guest Support team, kitchen staff who serve up three meals a day, social workers, administrative and maintenance staff, dental assistants, volunteer co-ordinators and boutique and guest empowerment staff. The evening staff assist with the overnight emergency shelter which is open 8 pm- 8 am daily.