David Jacks | CUPE Communications

When you ask Lori Schroen what connects child care advocacy to the work of the union, her answer is simple: if you have good child care, you’ll have a better work environment.

An activist for 35 years, Schroen has dedicated herself to her work and community. Working at child care centres during the day, and taking Early Childhood Education (ECE) courses during the evening, she developed a solid idea of inequalities that exist in the child care world. “I started seeing some unfairness in the way staff at child care centres were being treated,” said Schroen. “From abysmal wages to poor working conditions, we knew we had to unite as staff to address these issues.”

Serving as a shop steward, and then as elected president of CUPE 1543 at the Fort Rouge Co-op Day Nursery in Winnipeg, she has run the gambit of challenges facing child care workers. Describing her experience in the 1995 lock-out at the Nursery, she recalled how CUPE members from other sectors came out to support the three-person picket line. “It was a huge inspiration to me to have that kind of support,” said Schroen.

In addition to her work within the union, Schroen has been active in the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba, and has been at the forefront in the Canada-wide call for a national child care program. “Waiting lists have been a huge challenge for parents and the only way we’ll be able to deal with this is by pushing the government to take child care seriously—parents, workers, the community— we all have a role to play,” said Schroen.

Working together with community coalitions and associations has been very empowering in the fight for better child care, and Schroen sees this as the strength of the movement. “Right now, the wheels are turning, we are working together, and people are feeling optimism,” she said.

“There is a shift in thinking, and it is absolutely possible to win this fight.”