Barbara Ames, a member of CUPE 38, is the Alberta representative on the CUPE National Womens Committee. She sits on a number of other womens committees, including the Calgary District Labour Council womens committee, which she describes below. The committee deals with all kinds of issues, from poverty to racism.
We dont have real structured move-a-motion, pass-a-motion meetings. We meet here, or we meet in a restaurant.
Our meetings are simple. This is what we need to do, this is who we need to lobby, so-and-so: write the letter. Were very informal without being hung up on political structure. If you miss a meeting, people tell you they miss you.
I guess its a reflection of who the women are that are on the committee. Some have quite a bit of experience but we also have women with hardly any experience. Were not intimidating because we dont have that structure its an easy way for women to come into the meeting and feel comfortable. It works because were sharing the successes.
From my perspective, our responsibility as leaders and people who have been around awhile is mentorship. Its vital to the labour movement. I see men grooming men but I dont see women grooming other women.
Hlne Simard is a member of the CUPE Qub0065c womens committee and the chair of CUPE 2929s womens committee. The womens committee in CUPE Qub0065c is very active, and provides support to local union womens committees through education on equality issues, skills building and regular communications. Here is an example of how that support made a real difference to the lives of the women in Hlne Simards local.
The womens committee in Qub0065c has done a lot of training on affirmative action and I took part in that training. I didnt realize at the time that it would pay off in a concrete way for our local.
Our employer, the Socit immobilir0065 du Qub0065c, was going to lay off some of our clerical workers, who were all women. At the same time, The Socit had vacancies for trained electricians and was looking to fill these positions from outside.
Of course, we wanted to stop these layoffs. I thought about what the union could do, and suggested our local propose that the employer apply for government funding to train the clerical women as electricians. The employer agreed to do this. And now, 5 women are working at the Socit as trained electricians. Theyre not out of a job. They have a much higher classification than before: they went from a classification of 7 to 17. And they got a big wage increase, too $155 a week more!
Our CUPE Qub0065c womens committee puts a tremendous amount of effort into helping to develop and support local union womens committees. Taking the course on affirmative action and knowing that an effort was being made in Qub0065c to put women into non-traditional jobs was what did it. The light went on, and this is the happy result.
Shellie Bird is the education officer for CUPE 2204, which represents child care workers in Ottawa. After the last CUPE womens conference in Ottawa, the local became fired up and decided to start a womens committee. The committee is working on the two main issues of the World March of Women 2000: poverty and violence.
In the short term, were looking at what we could do in our local to get a better understanding of poverty among women. Our longer-term goal is to work on setting up some sort of support system within the local around issues of violence.
The first thing were doing is an evening with Joan Grant Cummings (National Action Committee on the Status of Women Chair). Were encouraging the public to come. Were reaching out. Were even inviting the local womens groups to come in and plan together.
Hopefully were going to get 250 women out to this meeting. Were going to set the room up into postal codes women will sit in their postal code. Once everybodys settled and sitting down, well say, Look around, these women live in your community. If you need a ride home, you know whos going in your direction. Its a practical example of solidarity, how we can support each other. Thats what were after practical ways to change peoples lives without theoretical big ideas.
Louise Hutchinson is co-chair of the CUPE National Womens Committee and its representative from the Hospital Employees Union, CUPEs B.C. Health Services Division. This is an abridged excerpt from her report about the HEUs womens committee to the national committee.
We have an extensive action plan prepared for the March 2000, 6-month period. A banner is being designed with the word “women” in many languages. We will have 20 banners and the committee members will take banners throughout the province to gatherings of our union sisters who will write/draw/sketch their own demands for the international march against poverty and violence against women.
We will be having a special day of training on public speaking as well as tips for handling those tough questions. Committee members will be making presentations on the March in gatherings around the province and so we want to be prepared in every regard.
We are planning a special event to be held at our provincial division convention. Our idea is to have a womens Decade Achievement Award and present our banners from the different regions/cities/ towns to the convention while honouring the achievements of the women who went before us.
Anne Holland is a member of CUPE 4150 in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and a member of the CUPE National Womens Committee.
As the chair of CUPE Nova Scotias equal opportunity committee, she is involved in efforts to make equality issues a priority and to encourage the formation of local union womens committees in the province.
Earlier this year, the provincial equal opportunity committee and the human rights committee co-sponsored a workshop on harassment in the workplace as part of CUPE Nova Scotias Education Conference. We got very good feedback on the workshop, which dealt with harassment in all its forms ways to prevent it, recognize it and fight it. And many locals that were not able to attend requested that it be put on again, so we will be doing that. I feel that our committee can play a useful role in providing this kind of education and raising awareness about equality issues.
The committee is also involved in putting forward a number of resolutions to the division convention around some of the World March of Women 2000 issues poverty, child care and violence against women.
One of the things we will be focusing on now is to encourage CUPE women from Nova Scotia to start local union womens committees, because this is very important in order to move our issues forward in the workplace. Our provincial committee can be an important source of information and support to local committees.