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The National Womens Committee recommended to CUPEs national convention that womens wages be a major focus for our union in the coming two years and the “Up With Womens Wages Campaign” is underway. The campaign is aimed at motivating members and local unions to step up action to raise womens wages. A key goal of the CUPE campaign is to mobilize womens committees in every local of the union. 2000 womens committees starting in the year 2000!

Material for the womens wages campaign is now being prepared for all locals. The buttons and leaflets will be out within days. The button says simply, “Up With Womens Wages”. The leaflet advertises the campaign and the “Up With Womens Wages” campaign kit and includes an order form for the kit, as well as buttons. It also encourages locals to let us know if they have a womens committee, and if they dont, asks if they want information about how to start one.

In support of the campaign, an excellent educational and mobilizing workshop on womens wages (that can be modified for any group) has been prepared. It was a big success at the recent Ontario school board workers conference and we are identifying other opportunities to offer it. The workshop helps locals explore how to frame bargaining demands in a way that addresses the specific wage problems of our women members.

Work on the “womens wages web site” will get underway this summer. This will be advertised as a place to go for more information on the womens wages issue and will include lots of interactive pages, including a calculator that will allow individual women to calculate what the wage gap means for them in terms of lost wages over a lifetime.

A key part of the campaign is to make womens wages an issue in bargaining, as well as to highlight that many of our wage struggles are about womens wages. For example, we know of several key bargaining struggles already where womens wages are a major issue. One of these is the fight for New Brunswick court stenographers for a significant wage increase that will break the provincial pattern. They are a female group in fact all women. They have already had a one-day illegal strike. We are looking to link this struggle with our womens wages campaign. We believe that if struggles such as this one were presented and seen as a struggle for womens equity, they would enjoy even higher public support and the chances of a breakthrough would be that much greater. Another example of a key round of bargaining that is addressing womens wages is Bargaining 2000 in B.C. where proposals are being tabled to eliminate increment steps and negotiating is taking place to equalize the base rates of inside and outside workers. (Pay equity was also a key issue in recent school board, colleges and universities bargaining in B.C.).

Our campaign to up womens wages will be a long-term effort. We are launching it as our contribution to the International Womens March 2000 but we expect to be at it long after the march is officially over next October. It will take many, many years of hard work to significantly raise womens wages. It will take work at the bargaining table, and it will also take forcing governments to pass laws to address womens economic situation. This includes pay equity laws, but it also includes other legislative issues such as higher employment standards, better enforcement of these standards, improved pensions and restoration of unemployment insurance


The Womens Committee, Pink Triangle Committee and Rainbow Committee all met together for one day at the conclusion of their separate meetings in May to develop joint strategies and share experiences. Geraldine and I met with the committee members to discuss strategies and hear concerns regarding reducing the number of members on the Pink Triangle Committee. In December, the NEB voted to equalize representation on the Pink Triangle Committee across the country resulting in each province having only one representative on the committee. Geraldine and I agreed to improve the lines of communication and consultation in the future when matters such as this arise.

All three committees have very active months ahead of them. The Pink Triangle Committee is pursuing an active outreach campaign and promoting “Pride in CUPE” across the union and across the country. The Womens Committee is gearing up for the World Womens March on Parliament Hill in October and the Rainbow Committee is active in several projects, including developing plans for outreach to more Aboriginal workers and workers of colour and planning for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Racism.