Candace Rennick | National Secretary-Treasurer
I have been watching recent organizing drives at corporate giants like Starbucks, Amazon, and Indigo with interest. It is inspiring that this charge has been led in large part by young people standing up and fighting for their rights.
I have been a member of CUPE since I started working at a Peterborough long-term care home at the age of 16. So, I have known my whole working life that young workers – and all workers - do better in a union.
We have seen this play out repeatedly during the pandemic: for workers who didn’t have a union to fight for their health and safety on the job, confronting COVID-19 on the front lines was even more dangerous.
Are we doing enough to meet young workers’ needs inside our union? The National Young Workers Committee recently ran a survey among our youngest members, and I look forward to hearing about their experiences.
But to make change, we need to find fresh ways to bring young workers together and advance and fight for their demands at the bargaining table. I see lots of inspiring activity in CUPE that is contributing to that effort.
The 2021 historic strike in New Brunswick is a perfect example of what is possible. More than 22,000 workers, some of the lowest paid across Canada, were united in fighting for an increase in pay and fair treatment.
And recently in Ontario, education workers at the bargaining table with the conservative government have tabled a flat rate increase instead of a percentage. CUPE did this years ago through an “up with women’s wages” campaign, and it is one strategy we can use to close the gap for those at the bottom of the wage scale, where women, young workers and precarious workers often sit.
These are just two recent examples of mass mobilization at CUPE. We are living through some serious upheaval right now. The pandemic is not over, the economy is volatile, the climate crisis is worsening, and technology is changing how we live and work at an incredible pace.
Ultimately, what is essential for workplaces to be sustainable and attract and keep new workers has not changed much. It starts with respecting and paying workers fairly.
There is no doubt unions are as needed as ever in the struggle to protect workers’ rights and to build worker power. But, for the labour movement to grow, we must keep tackling the fight for higher wages, stronger labour laws, and a climate-conscious economy, and we must do so in new ways. For young workers and all workers to thrive, we need to adapt.
I am proud to be in this fight with all of you.