Guide to Steelworkers’ Involvement in Federal Elections

Steelworkers can and should be very active during any federal election

The Canada Elections Act, amended in 2018, sets out the rules on union activities and communications during federal elections. Below are the main points guiding us.

The USW maintains that all member-to-member activity is within our democratic rights

Our union firmly believes that Steelworkers are free to engage in any political communications, mobilization and engagement with USW members including promotion of the NDP, its policies and candidates.

There are no outside limits on what money or resources we can spend on political activities and materials within our union, speaking to members.

This includes handing out flyers, running phone banks and taking part in activities to encourage members to support the candidates and party the union supports and the party that supports working people.

USW newsletters, leaflets, publications, email, social media and text messages are encouraged

Use email, newsletters, leaflets, publications, social media and text messages to talk to our members about the election!

No restrictions or reporting is required, so long as we are communicating directly with our members and not the public.

Phoning during the election period requires registering with the CRTC

Political phoning during the election period has specific rules.

Whether it’s live phone banks or recorded calls, phoning during the election requires registering with the CRTC’s Voter Contact Registry and following the CRTC’s unsolicited telecommunications rules (see below).

Steelworkers can run as candidates

USW members and staff can run as candidates and in some cases, the employer may grant paid or unpaid leave during the nomination/campaign period.

Steelworkers can volunteer in NDP campaigns

USW members and staff can work in federal campaigns as volunteers after work hours or using unpaid leave, vacation or accumulated overtime.

USW members and staff can work as paid campaign staff, but the campaign must pay/reimburse equivalent wages/benefits and declare the expense. Unions can’t release staff to campaigns. Our union is focusing on member-to-member efforts instead.

The fine print

Elections Canada has an interpretation of “partisan activities” that would mean a range of communications to our members (e.g., phone calls, emails, texts, websites, mailings, organic social media content, door-to-door canvassing and rallies) which promote or oppose a political party or candidate may be considered “partisan activities,” which would mean registering as third parties, reporting and counting the cost of these activities against Elections Act spending limits.

The USW and the Canadian Labour Congress believe this interpretation infringes on the Constitutional rights of our members and that we should be able to communicate with our members without restriction.

There is no pre-election period until June, 2023

If there is an election before the fixed election date of Oct. 16, 2023, there is no pre-election period. This means where we normally talk about the pre-writ period, this period does not exist in this current context of a possible early election.

Individual union members can donate

Individual union members can contribute to candidates and parties (under the normal election rules). Check the latest donation limits at elections.ca.

Unions can encourage individual members to make donations. Unions are not permitted to make any financial contributions to federal candidates or parties.

Third party advertising

USW will be registering as a third party with Elections Canada for the election period.

Any USW Local or other USW entity (e.g., Area Council) that intends to spend more than $500 after the election is called on advertising or partisan activities directed at the public (rather than USW members) must contact the USW National Office, as these expenses

count against our spending limit and must be included in our third-party advertiser reports filed with Elections Canada.

Third parties must not collude with each other or with any political party.

Spending limits apply to partisan activities, advertising and election surveys (opinion polling research).

USW does not consider member-to-member communications which is not directed at the general public to be advertising or partisan activities.

Learn more at elections.ca.

Websites, Facebook and social media

Use of union websites, Facebook and social media channels to promote political action is permitted, so long as the content posted is ‘organic,’ in other words, no payments are made to sponsor or ‘boost’ the content. Paid content crosses the line into third party advertising.

Election period phoning / CRTC Voter Contact Registry

During the election, if you are phoning members, register with the CRTC Voter Contact Registry within 48 hours. This applies to in-person calls and automated calling.

National Do Not Call rules do not apply, as we are calling our members with whom we have an existing relationship.

However, you must maintain Do Not Call records (DNC) – keep track of any phone numbers if the person has asked to be removed from our phone lists. Please forward DNC records to the USW National Office promptly so we can convey the records to USW in Pittsburgh so that it is updated centrally.

With recorded calls, include up front: a person’s name (on behalf of whom you are calling); identify the organization; provide a local or toll-free number; and an email or mailing address.

If the recorded message is longer than 60 seconds, repeat this information at the end of the call.

Use a valid call-display number that originates within Canada.

Keep copies of scripts or recordings, a log of the dates the scripts/recordings were used and a list of the phone numbers called. These records must be kept for one year following the election.

If your local would like clarification on election rules, contact the USW Communications and Political Action department at communications@usw.ca

Download PDF