Fonds RBSC-ARC-1491 - Service, Office and Retail Workers Union of Canada, Locals 2 and 4 fonds

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Service, Office and Retail Workers Union of Canada, Locals 2 and 4 fonds

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Physical description

8.8 m of textual records

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Administrative history

The Service, Office and Retail Workers Union of Canada (SORWUC) was an independent union, established in 1972 by a Founding Convention of 24 women, with the intention of representing and organizing occupations that were not included in the traditional trade unions of the time. The union developed out of the Working Women’s Association, an organization that sought to provide support to the adversities facing working women, such as obtaining equal pay, day care provision, and job security. SORWUC was an unaffiliated, feminist, member-controlled union, and the constitution stated their aims as being: to bargain collectively on behalf of members; to improve working conditions; and to help provide job security. Their constitution was "designed to allow and encourage maximum worker participation and decentralization of control over decision-making and negotiations by limiting the salary and terms of office of leaders, and by requiring referendum votes on major union decisions." (1) While many By 1976, SORWUC had organized four day care centres, five social service units, one legal office, one student office, and a tuxedo rental store. SORWUC also began organizing bank workers in 1975 and eventually established a specific chapter for the workers in the finance industry, Local 2, United Bank Workers, and later, Local 4, Bank and Finance Workers. The union was financially supported by its members and by donations from other unions and organizations, and ran its offices on a volunteer basis. The majority of the workers SORWUC organized were women, and often they fought for equal pay, maternity leave, living wages, and legislation against sexual harassment, and gender and race based discrimination in the workplace. SORWUC gained public attention in 1978 when the union became involved in the Muckamuck Restaurant strike that developed into a long dispute between workers and management which was never resolved.While SORWUC was a national union, operating in both Saskatchewan and B.C., it was primarily active in British Columbia, its place of origin and the location of its headquarters. After over a decade of organizing, SORWUC disbanded in 1986 due to lack of funds and the prevalence of more nationally focused unions.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of records related to the Service, Office, and Retail Workers Union of Canada’s (SORWUC’s) local chapters 2 and 4 administrative activities, organizing endeavours and legal proceedings. Although the records are primarily related to the United Bank Works (UBW), local 2, and Bank and Finance Workers Union, local 4, many records are related to SORWUC’s national activities as a trade union. These activities include organization and certification of new bargaining units, filing unfair labour practices on behalf of union members, pamphleting and raising funds for the union as a whole, organizing strikes, and fighting court battles for the right to organize in new sectors, such as the banks. Additionally, SORWUC kept various reference materials on topics related to feminism and the rights of laborers. The fonds reflect these different organizational activities in three series: Legal, Organizing, and Administration.

The Legal series consists of records related to the union’s legal activities. These records include Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) charges filed against banks and heard by the Canadian Labour Relations Board (CLRB), applications for certification in the CLRB, notes, correspondence, news clippings, and legal briefs.

The Organizing series consists of material relating to the organizing activities of SORWUC, including correspondence, research, membership forms, sign-up sheets and information relating to bank branches seeking certification. Also included are contract proposals, organizing committee papers by branch, and minutes of negotiation meetings, press clippings and press releases.

The Administration series relates to the various administrative activities of SORWUC locals 2 and 4; including financial activities, research for court cases, as well as related issues to the union such as unemployment and racism; public relations documents including press releases; and minutes of meetings.

Notes area

Physical condition

Records are in good condition.

Immediate source of acquisition

All files were acquired from directly from creator.


The fonds was originally arranged and described in 1989 by RBSC staff. At that time it was determined that the material had no discernible arrangement, and thus an intellectual order was imposed on the material and physical order remained in tact. In the fall of 2017 further work on the fonds was completed in order to make a file list accessible on this database. The intellectual and physical order previously established was maintained throughout this process.

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Restrictions on access

Some files are temporarily restricted - see archivist for details.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Permission to reproduce copyrighted materials must be obtained from the copyright holder(s).

Finding aids

The first arrangement and description of the SORWUC Local 2 and 4 records occurred in 1989 and the finding aid to reflect this arrangement is available as a PDF. In the fall of 2017 further work on the fonds was completed resulting in the file list accessible in this database. It is recommended to access both the finding aid as PDF and the online file list when consulting records within the fonds.

Associated materials


No further accruals are expected at this time.

General note

Boxes 12 and 18 are missing from the fonds. While box 8 of the Service, Office and Retail Workers Union (SORWUC) fonds looks to have been originally labeled as box 18 of the local 2 and 4 fonds, the contents do not match the file description of the original inventory. Furthermore, several files were found empty of any contents, and have been included in this arrangement to represent the original order, with solely a photocopy of the empty folder enclosed.

General note

While the SORWUC local 2 and 4 fonds was donated separately from the SORWUC fonds, and each have their own finding aid available in this database, please note that many records in both fonds relate to one another, as well as to the records of Helen Potrebanko, the 'one-woman bargaining unit' in Vancouver, and a member of SORWUC.

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The first processing of SORWUC Local 4 records was arranged and described by RBSC staff in 1989.
The finding aid was updated by Claire Williams in October 2017.

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Records within the fonds
Finding aid prepared by RBSC staff in 1989 (see attached PDF)
“Organizing the Unorganized: The Service, Office, and Retail Workers’ Union of Canada (SORWUC), 1972-1986 by Julia Maureen Smith B.A. (Hons.) Simon Fraser University, 2007, Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts In the Department of History.

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