“CUPE knows that the fight to end systemic racism has to be led and organized by grassroot members, especially Black, Indigenous and racialized members. Although we have the skills and the ability to do the work, we are passed over for many opportunities. We don’t see ourselves reflected enough in leadership, and it’s unacceptable.” – Yolanda McClean, CUPE National Diversity Vice-President

Representation matters.

It is vital for marginalized members to see themselves reflected in leadership.

That’s especially true for Black, Indigenous, and racialized folks, including those with intersecting identities, who have historically been excluded from leadership roles in the union and society at large.

With 700,000 members nationwide, there is no doubt that CUPE has an incredibly diverse membership – but that diversity is not always represented around decision-making tables within our union. This equates to unequal representation and undermines the fundamental union principle of solidarity and inclusion.

It’s clear we need to do more as a labour union to ensure that the leadership of our union, from the local level to the national level, represents the broad range of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences that make up our membership.

That’s why, as part of our new Anti-Racism Strategy, CUPE will create more leadership training and mentorship programs for Black, Indigenous and racialized members. We will also commit to creating more regional and national organizing spaces for Black, Indigenous and racialized members.

At the local level, we will also encourage and promote the creation of equity positions on local executives, much like our National Diversity Vice-President positions and the creation of local anti-racism committees.

These are just some of the steps we can take to ensure better, more inclusive representation exists at all levels of our union.

Between now and our National Convention in November, ask what actions you and your Local can make to increase the representation of Black, Indigenous and racialized workers in leadership roles in our union and in the workplace.

This is the second in a series of ten features profiling the goals of CUPE’s Anti-Racism Strategy. Read the full series here.