The striking womens shelter workers in Amherst, Nova Scotia refuse to do anything quietly even when it comes to marking a dark day. On November 18, they celebrated 100 days on the picket line with a rousing ceremony in the centre of town. Several dozen friends turned out to show their support, sing Solidarity Forever and sign letters to Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm demanding an end to the dispute.
Morale is good, says Terry Cove, president of CUPE 4326, which represents the ten women at Autumn House shelter. Even when one of us is down, the others are up. Were hanging in there, and weve still got tricks up our sleeve.
Cove and the others are fighting to stop major concessions in their contract, including an end to paid maternity leave. Were not going back until we have the job security and benefits weve had for the last 15 years, she says defiantly. Fortunately, the women are getting a lot of help from their brothers and sisters across Canada. Recently, the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour donated $7600 to the Autumn House strike fund and the Canadian Staff Union (representing the majority of workers at CUPE) gave another $5200. As well, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is topping up each strikers salary by $75 a week, for a total of $275.
We would not have been able to hang on this long and stand up for our rights without those donations, says Cove. We all live according to our incomes, but when you arent getting a regular pay cheque, its hard to stand up for what you believe in. This money means we wont cave in. We appreciate it very much.
The women are stepping up the pressure on the Hamm government to appoint a special mediator and next week, theyre all traveling to Montague, Prince Edward Island to meet with the Fearless Five a small group of women group home workers who recently endured a yearlong strike. Were going to ask them for strategies and find out what they did to keep their spirits up, says Cove.
The Autumn House workers also have a new website and theyre looking for feedback: please check out autumnhouse and drop an e-note of encouragement!