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The National Women’s Task Force, launched on March 8th, International Women’s Day, is reaching out to CUPE members across the country. Its purpose: to make our union stronger by increasing women’s participation and representation in the union.

This is one of the most important initiatives that our union has undertaken in years,” said CUPE’s National Officers, President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux, in a letter to all members. The mandate of the Task Force is to consult widely across CUPE’s membership, looking at the status of women in our union and in society generally.

The Task Force has 16 member representatives and help from assigned staff in the regions and at national. Full-time coordinator is Cheryl Stadnichuk, reassigned from her research position in Saskatchewan.

The Task Force is about working from the bottom up to get results,” said Co-chair Barb Moore from Nova Scotia at the Task Force’s first meeting in February. “We’re going out to the members to find out about the issues and come up with solutions, small and large, that will make a difference for women. Solutions that will make CUPE stronger.”

While two-thirds of CUPE’s members are women, their numbers in leadership at national and provincial levels have declined in the last decade. Yet, more women are now in the paid workforce – 58 per cent of women aged 15 and over. Many of those women are caring for children or elders. Many do it alone. Many work part-time to shoulder those responsibilities. That can drive down their wages and pensions (if they’re lucky enough to have one) and keep them poor.

I can’t think of a greater barrier to being involved in our union than to have to hold down three jobs,” said President Paul Moist, the other Task Force Co-chair. “More than a quarter of our sisters are part-timers.”

For all these reasons, women need unions. And CUPE needs women so we can continue the fight against privatization, raise wages, achieve pay equity, secure pensions and gain a national child care program.

Over the next 18 months, the work of the National Women’s Task Force will bring together sisters and brothers across our union. That work will strengthen and empower our entire union.