Red Seal Reeds — Her Cusw Membership Means Opportunity
The Canadian Union of Skilled Workers represents tradespeople and journeymen, including advocacy on behalf of its members and provides additional training. It’s also one of the rare unions that accepts that its members at times take a non-union job.
Tracy Reeds is a member who has benefited from that policy.
Today, she is an electrician but as is the case for many, her journey didn’t start there.
Originally, she obtained a three-year business diploma at Durham College in Oshawa and was selling women’s work wear. “I decided I wanted to make a certain wage by a certain age. I’ve always been handy and my father’s a mechanic.” Reeds met a female electrician who owned her own company. “She said she loved it.” So Reeds volunteered with her first. “I put my toes in before I committed. And I loved the work.” She obtained her training and soon was hired part-time.“It wasn’t really enough to keep me going, though. At the time there wasn’t a lot of work here. I had a contact in Edmonton so I moved there to apprentice.”
Reeds undertook the majority of her apprenticeship there, where she completed her journeyman’s exam as an electrician, then followed up with her Red Seal exam. The Red Seal is an inter-provincial certification, allowing tradespersons’ qualifications to be recognized in most of the country.
She returned to Ontario to be closer to family, applied to CUSW and was accepted for Ontario membership. “I was eligible because of my Red Seal,” she said. “I was working on solar farms at the time and my application was pre-approved.”
That work was non-union. “It took a few weeks until a CUSW job came up so I continued the non-union work for a bit.” She appreciates that aspect of CUSW membership. “Being with CUSW—it’s all about helping you, even not taking a job if it’s hard for your family. Furthermore, they don’t post jobs unless they’re good.”
Her first union job was at the Ontario Power Generation nuclear plant in Darlington. “It was a really great experience. I had done most of my apprenticeship in a commercial building, so this was my first industrial site. She enjoyed being on a big site with 40 other union members.
However, when she’s on stand down at the plant, she goes back to the solar installations. “I can work for my old boss, which I appreciate.”
She’s also had the opportunity to take a number of courses and get additional training through the union. In Alberta there is less of a union presence and so when she returned and joined CUSW, she says she noticed a big difference. CUSW helped her immensely.
Trades provide good practical skills, good rewards and good pay — and that’s one of her principal reasons for becoming an electrician in the first place. She also likes the security. “If I can’t do something as physical anymore, or travel for jobs because I have children in the future, there are jobs within the union itself.”
Reeds credits CUSW for having her back. “CUSW gave me the opportunity to go places I wouldn’t have been able to go on my own.” And there is no doubt she will continue to soar.