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For CUPE members and for people around the world, March 21 has become an important symbol in the struggle to end racial discrimination in all its forms.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been commemorated on that date every year since a 1966 declaration by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The date was chosen in honour of the 69 people killed in Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960, when security forces opened fired on a peaceful demonstration protesting apartheid “pass laws.” These laws severely limited the movement of Black South Africans, requiring them to carry special passes at all times outside designated areas.

Much progress has been made since the day was first honoured—the push for equality has taken many forms in many different countries—but there is still more work to be done.

CUPE national president Paul Moist and secretary-treasurer Claude Généreux recently issued a letter to CUPE organizations discussing some of the difficulties workers are subjected to.

Workers continue to see the ugly face of racism on the job, in their communities and in government policies. Foreign credentials are still not recognized, racial profiling and surveillance and security measures continue to rise. Migrant and foreign temporary  workers are continually being exploited and have no rights whatsoever and many other workers feel that their employment rights are violated due to racism and discrimination in their workplaces, ” said Moist and Généreux.

We need to honour the memory of those who died in Sharpeville and other racist incidents abroad and in Canada by redoubling our efforts to eradicate all forms of racism and racial discrimination.”

Every year, CUPE activists across the country organize events to honour the occasion and increase public awareness. If your local is taking action on this date, let us know and send pictures to equality@cupe.ca.

Here’s a list of things you can do to combat racism in your workplace:

  • Take action against racist acts – jokes, slurs, graffiti, name calling, etc.

  • Organize education on anti-racism in your local.

  • Identify barriers to equality at work and find ways to remove them.

  • Include equality issues on your local’s bargaining agenda.

  • Join or support organizations that are working to build inclusive communities.

  • Stand with racially visible communities and speak out against hatred and racism.

  • Challenge racist and discriminatory laws and policies locally and globally.


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Take a stand against racism and hate!