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Exactly 100 years ago, in March 1911, the first International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated following its establishment at the second Socialist International Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark the year previous. Delegates at the conference unanimously agreed to establish a day honouring women’s struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

It was also in March 1911 that tragedy struck a garment factory in New York, when flames engulfed the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, killing more than 140 workers, the vast majority of whom were women. The fire highlighted the dreadful working conditions women faced in factories and became a symbol of the struggle for justice and fair treatment.

One hundred years later, spurred by these events and the work of unions and other organizations, March 8 has become internationally recognized, commemorated at the United Nations and designated in many countries as a national holiday. While it remains primarily a day to honour the struggle for equality, it is also a celebration of the progress women have made.

In spite of this progress, recent attacks on the public sector and public sector unions are putting gains in women’s equality at risk. Check out a statement from Public Services International for more information.

CUPE National President Paul Moist and Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux issued a letter commemorating the date, explaining its significance, and describing the work that CUPE has done to support the push for equality.

CUPE’s National office has developed a poster commemorating women’s ongoing struggles in the workplace. Many regional CUPE offices have developed their own posters as well.

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) issued a statement on their website addressing the continuing wage gap between men and women and how good pensions are critical to ensuring women’s equality.

Meanwhile, CUPE members from coast to coast will participate in a variety of events organized by locals, regional offices and other organizations.

In Summerside, PEI CUPE members are attending special educational sessions and a special event featuring performer Georgia Scott.

In Montreal, a rally for women against a proposed user-pay health and social services tax will be held at noon at the Complexe Desjardins.

In Ottawa, an event titled “I might be a feminist, but…” will take place at the National Archives and will feature “Canada’s Next Top Feminist and “the Femmys (the National Capital Region Feminist Awards).”

In Winnipeg, a special breakfast followed by a workshop titled “The F-Word, the History of Women in the Labour Movement and Radical Cheerleading” will be held at the Union Centre.

In Vernon, B.C., a special comedy night, titled “I Am Woman Hear Me Laff” will be held at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

Many other events are planned across the country. Check out CUPE’s regional websites or consult your local bulletin board for more information.