Simon Ouellette | CUPE Communications

In 1988, Pamela Hicks started working for the Town of Sackville, New Brunswick. Twenty years ago, she became a CUPE member and is now recording secretary with the municipal workers of CUPE 1188. For the last 14 years, Pamela has held the position of accounts payable clerk with the town.

Hicks’s career has been marked by a clear penchant for activism. “I was born in Sackville, lived and worked here all my life. I’ve always had a soft spot to help co-workers, not only because of my natural attachment to the community, but also because of my personality: I just can’t stand injustices,” said Hicks. “In a sense, it’s also my employer’s actions that led me to get active in my union,” she added.

Hicks is known by her co-workers as a woman who fights for deeply held principles. “I have never held a ‘spokesperson’ position with the union, but have often been either recording secretary or treasurer. That certainly never stopped me from speaking my mind – even during those times when I was not on the executive,” said Hicks.

In late 2016 and early 2017, Hicks was involved in the difficult negotiations that led to the “Seniority Matters” campaign.

“That is certainly one of my proudest moments with the union. It was sure as hell stressful, but the outcome was great. I rallied right along with my brothers and sisters. We stood up for what was right, and we won,” said Hicks. “Standing up for our future members’ right to seniority felt good.”

She attributes the campaign’s victory to the strength of the local’s membership and community involvement. “When we had the first big rally in front of the town hall, when I saw all those people, with their flags, who came down just for us… that was the tipping point for the campaign. Sure, we had already put signs up all over town and gathered hundreds of signatures for our petition, but it was seeing all those people that made the most hesitant among us ‘get it’,” said Hicks.

“Having an informed and united membership makes the difference when you ask the community for support. We had a good mix of younger and older activist members. That helped us connect with different groups in the community.” 

Her advice to other locals facing concessions is clear: “Once you find strength within your membership – at least a good majority of it – everyone should put their egos behind and share the grunt work. Then, there is no shame in asking for help from your immediate allies – family, friends, but especially other locals – who recognize what ‘concessions’ can really mean. If they see that you really want to win and will stay true to your principles, you will never stand alone.”