Limitations to Inclusive Unions from the Perspectives of White and Aboriginal Women Forest Workers in the Northern Prairies


  • Suzanne E Mills



Several authors have argued that broadening the traditional understandings of union solidarity is necessary for union renewal. Concerns specific to workers from marginalized groups have been shown to challenge traditional understandings of union collectivity. This paper draws on interviews with white and Aboriginal women forest processing workers to argue that interrogating marginalized workers' negative representations of their unions can provide insights that will help to broaden traditional understandings of union solidarity. I use thematic analysis followed by critical discourse analysis to examine women workers' negative talk about unions. I present examples of how women's negative representations of their unions can be understood as different forms of collectivism when examined in the context of their lived experiences of work and unionism. Some white and Aboriginal women's representations of their unions wove individualistic anti-union statements together with their previous experiences of work highlighting the inequality between unionized and non-unionized workers in the community. The talk of other Aboriginal women critiqued the union for not representing them while demonstrating a sense of collectivity with other Aboriginal workers. By exploring linkages between women's negative representations of unions and their work experiences, unions can better understand the negative union sentiment of marginalized workers and use this to create more inclusive forms of solidarity.


Barling, J., Fullagar, C. and E. K. Kelloway 1992. The Union and its Members: Psychological Approach. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Barron, F. L. 1997. Walking in Indian Moccasins: the Native Policies of Tommy Douglas and the CCF. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Briskin, L. 1999. “Feminism, Feminization, and Democratization in Canadian Unions”. In: Feminist Success Stories. K. H. Blackford and M.-L. Garceaux (eds.) Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, pp. 267-285.

Dunk, T. W. 1994. It's a Working Man's Town: Male Working-Class Culture. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press.

Hansen, L. L. 2004. "Does the Future of Unions Depend on the Integration of Diversity?" Industrielle Beziehungen. Vol 11, No. 1/2, pp. 129-142.

Hyman, R. 2002. "The future of unions." Just Labour. Vol. 1, pp. 7-15.

Fairclough, N. 1992. Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Fairclough, N. 2003. Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. New York: Routledge. DOI:

Government of Canada 2002. Report on Aboriginal Participation in Mining. Sub-Committee of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Mineral Industry. Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Kuhn, T. 2006. "A 'Demented Work Ethic' and a 'Lifestyle Firm': Discourse, Identity, and Workplace Time Commitments." Organization Studies Vol. 27, No. 9, pp.1339-1358. DOI:

Levesque, C., Murray, G. and S. Le Queux 2005. "Union Disaffection and Social Identity: Deomocracy as a Source of Union Revitalization". Work and Occupation. Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 400-422. DOI:

Lopez, S. H. 2004. Reorganizing the Rust Belt: an Inside Study of the American Labor Movement. Berkley: University of California Press.

Marsden, M. (1997). The Relationship Between Working Life and Individualisation: a Study Among Danish Trade Union Members. Work, employment and society. Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 197-217. DOI:

Moran, D. 2006. "Aboriginal Organizing in Saskatchewan: the Experience of CUPE". Just Labour. Vol. 8, pp. 70-81.

Penney, R. A. 2004. “Workers Against Unions: Union Organizing and Anti-Union Counter-mobilizations”. In: Rebuilding Labor: Organizing and Organizers in the New Union Movement. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 88-113.

Quiring, D. M. 2004. CCF Colonialism in Northern Saskatchewan: Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers and Fur Sharks. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Schenk, C. 2004. "Forum: Reorganizing Unions. Union Organizing: an Ontario Perspective". Studies in Political Economy. Vol.74, pp. 181-190. DOI:

Smith, C. 2006. "The Double Indeterminacy of Labour Power: Labour Effort and Labour Mobility." Work, employment and society. Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 389-402. DOI:

Teskey, A. G. and J. H. Smyth. 1975. Saskatchewan's Forest Industry and its Economic Importance. Information Report NOR-X140. Edmonton: Northern Forest Research Centre. Canadian Forest Service and Environment Canada.

Valkenburg, B. and R. Zoll. 1995. "Modernization, Individualization and Solidarity: Two Perspectives on European Trade Unionism Today". European Journal of Industrial Relations. Vol. 1, pp. 119-144. DOI:

Voyageur, C. J. 1997. Employment Equity and Aboriginal People in Canada. M.A.Thesis. Edmonton: University of Alberta.

Wodak, R. 2001. “What CDA is About: a Summary of its History, Important Concepts and its Developments”. In: Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. R. Wodak and M. Meyer. (eds.) Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Inc., pp. 1-13. DOI:

Yates, C. A. B. 2005. "Segmented Labour; United Unions? How Unions in Canada Cope with Increased Diversity". Transfer. Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 617-628 DOI:



— Updated on 2007-10-01


  • 2007-10-01 (2)
  • (1)

How to Cite

Mills, S. E. (2007). Limitations to Inclusive Unions from the Perspectives of White and Aboriginal Women Forest Workers in the Northern Prairies. Just Labour, 11.