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VICTORIA—The Union Sisterhood was alive and well in the provincial capital last week as 208 union women from B.C., California, Oregon and Washington State gathered at the University of Victoria for the Western Regional Summer Institute for Union Women (July 9-13), hosted by the BC Federation of Labour.

The theme, “Women Behaving Politically: Organizing for Change”, reflected labour’s commitment to providing women with both the skills and strategies to understand the key issues for labour and how that understanding can help women participate in the upcoming elections. The summer school also helped participants develop stronger leadership among women within their unions and political institutions.

“We need the world to hear more women’s voices speaking out on issues that matter to us, like: pay equity, a higher minimum wage, universal childcare, health care, the economy, poverty and the right to join a union,” said CUPE 951 treasurer Michele Favarger.

In addition to courses on building community partnerships, basic campaign skills, understanding public health care and an economy that works for women, Sisters celebrated other forms of communication and expression through dance, art, poetry and music.

CUPE Locals 951 and 1048 co-sponsored a film night at the Cinecenta Theatre at UVIC, which provided participants with the opportunity to see the film “Bread and Roses”, and the riveting story of the “Justice for Janitors” campaign in Los Angeles in 2000.

CUPE Sisters led a surprise canta historia, a form of street theatre that celebrates Unions and their importance to workers, outdoors on the campus. Sisters who were enjoying their lunch break under the Victoria sunshine became immediately engaged in the story being told.

As participants left on Sunday morning, they were energized and ready to take on the challenge of engaging in politics on both sides of the border—particularly the five Sisters who committed to running as candidates in elections scheduled during the next year.

The 2009 Western Regional Summer Institute for Union Women will be held at UCLA next August.

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