Candace Rennick | National Secretary-Treasurer
We stand at an important moment in our history. We face the risk of major setbacks. Misogyny, racism, violence, and hate are on the rise. Most governments in Canada are Conservative or worse, and their leaders are shifting Canadian politics further into the extreme right. This, at a time when our economy is moving into a recession, when the central bank is promoting austerity once again, when employers are pushing back, and workers are at the end of their rope.
The pandemic hit us all hard. But it was hardest on those of us who are the most vulnerable. It made inequities impossible to ignore, and it exposed the fragility of our economy.
As the weak spots in our social safety net were revealed, we used our strength and solidarity to demand better. And we had some big wins.
Federally, we won 10 days of paid sick leave as a minimum standard, and similar improvements in several other jurisdictions. We won paid domestic violence leave for almost all workers across the country. And after 50 years of relentless campaigning, we finally got the federal government to make universal child care a priority.
These gains, and many others, were won with hard work, and with persistent struggle led by a diversity of women, including CUPE women, from different sectors and backgrounds, who took the lead.
This shows us that we can win when we mobilize, when we set our expectations high and then fight our hardest to meet them. But it also shows us that we only win when we make room for all of our members to take leadership roles in the union.
It shows us that we can only win if we refuse to let racism, misogyny or any other forms of discrimination or oppression divide us.
In order to push back against right-wing governments and make real gains for working people, we need to build a stronger, more inclusive union — one that fights for all of us.
This is why the Safe Union Spaces Working Group’s recommendations are so important to address the serious and ongoing issues of sexual harassment, gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination that set us back. We know these problems are systemic. And like all systemic problems, they are embedded in our union’s culture — that is, our way of doing things that perpetuates inequity, consciously or unconsciously.
This is why, through our Water is life campaign, CUPE’s commitment to reconciliation extends to support Indigenous peoples in their fight for safe drinking water and working to protect and heal water in their territories.
We must dig deep and get at what lies at our foundation. We must better understand the different barriers that each of us face and build more inclusive and equitable communities, workplaces and union.
And shifting that culture — making our union safer for all — is a collective and ongoing responsibility that involves all of us. It is a continuing struggle that will make us stronger.
We can’t delay one minute longer. We must fight together to have true solidarity, for it is only with this unity that we can win the fights ahead.