WISH Drip in Centre LogoSupportive Employment Program, SEP, Leads at WISH Drop-In Centre Society in Vancouver, British Columbia have unionized with CUPE 1936, a multi-unit local of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, BC’s largest union.

“CUPE 1936 is pleased to welcome Supportive Employment Leads into our membership,” shared CUPE 1936 President Sheryl Burns. “Our local is grateful to have the opportunity to lift these workers up so they can now enjoy the same rights and privileges as other members they work alongside at WISH.”

The six SEP Leads, better known as Peer Workers, when working in the harm reduction community, will join other workers at the centre who are already members of CUPE 1936, as well as over 1700 other community social service workers in more than 20 agencies across the Lower Mainland.

“I think to me, recognition as Peer Workers is one of the most important aspects of becoming a member of CUPE,” said Nes Ozhusrev, who works as a Supportive Employment Lead at WISH and was involved in the movement to unionize with CUPE. “For too long, we have been overlooked. This is a new chapter of inclusion, recognition, and working collectively as part of a team that respects one another.”

Members who work at WISH support the health, safety, and well-being of self-identified women, including trans women, currently or formerly involved in Vancouver’s street-based sex trade.

“Not only will we survive, but we will thrive and support the participant’s growth; adding value to their lives and to the vision of WISH,” added Ozhusrev. “At the end of the day, this is what we believe harm reduction is also about.”

The application to vary CUPE 1936’s union certification and include the Supportive Employment Program Leads from WISH Drop-In Centre Society was granted by the British Columbia Labour Relations Board on June 19, 2024.