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OTTAWA One of Canada’s most powerful union leaders and the country’s fiercest opponent of privatization has announced she’s stepping down in October. Judy Darcy, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canada’s largest union, announced this week she’s not running for reelection at the next national convention slated for the autumn.

“I feel as passionate today as I always have about workers’ rights, privatization, equality and peace,” said Darcy. “But I think that after twelve years as head of CUPE, it’s time for me to wage these battles in other ways.”

Under Darcy’s leadership, CUPE has been in the vanguard, fighting for the rights of public service workers and against corporate control of public services and opposing the privatization of health care, water, education, power and other vital community services. In the workplace, in the streets, in the courts and in the halls of legislatures across the country, CUPE has been a key actor in stopping or stalling for-profit delivery of public services.

“I’m proud of the success we’ve had in stopping privatization,” said Darcy, citing such key victories as scuttling the sale of Hydro One, stopping privatization of water treatment in Vancouver and ensuring a new hospital in PEI was public, not private. “We’ve helped make privatization a number one issue for Canadians by taking it on at the bargaining table and in countless community and national campaigns.”

During Darcy’s six terms as president, CUPE has grown from 410,000 to 527,000 members, making it not only Canada’s largest but fastest growing union. Darcy attributes much of that growth to the union’s militant defense of workers’ rights. Six months after her election, CUPE organized a general strike in New Brunswick, forcing the government to withdraw wage control legislation and paving the way for public sector wage increases across the country after years of restraint.

That same year, she launched the union’s first national campaign to save Medicare, an issue she has championed continuously ever since.

The hallmark of Darcy’s leadership has been her commitment to building grassroots activism and to being on the front line with CUPE members from coast to coast. She has earned a reputation as an articulate, tireless and passionate advocate for workers’ rights and people’s rights.

“Workers know that the best on-the-job protection they can have is a CUPE contract,” said Darcy. “Whether it is wages or workload or working conditions, CUPE has demonstrated its strength in defending workers’ rights. We’ve been aggressive in organizing the unorganized and in negotiating mergers and as a result, we’ve continued to grow.”

First elected in 1991, Darcy was for many years the only woman to head a major union in Canada. She has been a leader in the fight for equality for women, helping to win major breakthroughs from parental leave to pay equity. Under her leadership, CUPE took the federal government to court, securing the right to same-sex spousal pension benefits in a landmark decision. CUPE has also negotiated groundbreaking employment equity measures, including agreements that increase the representation of Aboriginal workers in the public sector.

Darcy plans to move to British Columbia with her family. “I don’t know what I’m going to be doing next,” Darcy said. “I do know there are huge battles to fight against Gordon Campbell in British Columbia and against our Prime Minister-in-waiting Paul Martin not to mention against privatizers and warmongers everywhere.

“I am eagerly looking forward to being part of all of those fights,” Darcy added. “I’m certainly not planning to retire.”

Darcy has been a CUPE activist since 1972, working as a library clerical worker in Toronto. She was elected National Secretary-Treasurer in 1989, National President two years later, and has been re-elected to six successive terms.

Elections to replace Darcy will take place at CUPE’s biennial convention to be held in Quebec City in October 2003.


For further information:
Robert Fox, CUPE Communications (613) 795-4977