The union, which dates from 1919, is divided into 550 different bargaining units. Half of the BCGEU membership work in the direct government service. The other half include instructors and support staff for colleges and institutes, community health care workers, group homes staff members, bank and credit union employees, and employees in hotels, department stores, first nations governments, theatres, and casinos, amongst other places.
The BCGEU first gained full bargaining rights under the BC Labour Code in 1974. Since then the BCGEU has been involved in a number of precedent-setting legal cases, including BCGEU v. British Columbia on picketing rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Meiorin case on the test for discrimination.
The union is divided into a component structure. This is the union's component structure:
As the nature of public sector employment has changed in recent decades in British Columbia, the number of BCGEU members who work directly for the government has declined while the number of BCGEU members doing work that has been devolved from government or contracted to the private sector has increased.