Members of the "Group of Engaged Nurses" celebrating International Women's Day on March 8, 2022 in Maniche, a commune in Les Cayes Arrondissement, in southern Haiti. The gathering was organized by the Confédération des Travailleurs et Travailleuses des Se
Members of the «Group of Engaged Nurses» celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, 2022 in Maniche, a commune in Les Cayes Arrondissement, in southern Haiti. The gathering was organized by the Confédération des Travailleurs et Travailleuses des Secteurs Public et Privé (CTSP). Photo: Stylepam Photography

This year, CUPE continued to work in solidarity with workers and communities in many countries and strengthen long-term partnerships through our Global Justice Fund. The fund is one way our union supports global movements for human rights, labour protection, peace, and justice.

Through the fund and our relationships with workers around the world, we support and engage with trade unions and social movements that are organizing the most oppressed and marginalized among us. These projects give CUPE members opportunities to build relationships with workers around the world. CUPE is proud to support projects where members can connect with, and learn from, activists opposing violence and war, defending land rights, as well as demanding decent jobs, strong public services, living wages and safe workplaces.

These summaries of CUPE’s current Global Justice Fund projects highlight the many ways CUPE members are building international solidarity.

Burma

Supporting women human rights defenders and their organizations

Project sponsor: CUPE 2440

Partner Organization: Tavoyan Women’s Union

This project will support the work of the Tavoyan Women’s Union to meet the needs of women’s human rights defenders in Burma. The current political context has made TWU leaders targets of repression, and their work has been limited.

In the wake of the February 2021 coup, the TWU relocated for safety reasons. The organization also reorganized its work to support young activists and internally displaced people, and document human rights violations. The TWU is engaged in national political dialogue and is focussing on building national and regional political platforms, networking with international organizations, and fundraising for its work.

Canada

Solidarity with migrant workers – End labour trafficking! Regularize!

Project sponsor: CUPE 40

Partner organization: Migrante Canada

This project will support Migrante Canada organizing workshops about the situation of temporary foreign workers in Canada. The workshops will target migrant, racialized, low-income and precarious communities and undocumented/non-status workers, with a focus on ending labour trafficking and regularizing migrant workers by providing them with official immigration status.

Migrante Canada is a Canada-wide alliance of Filipino migrant and immigrant organizations focussing on the rights and welfare of migrant workers, and the conditions that force global migration.

This project will give CUPE members a deeper understanding of who undocumented/non-status migrants are, why they are undocumented, and the challenges and barriers they face. The goal is to strengthen the capacity of CUPE members to speak up and take action as allies, including advocating for policies that support permanent immigration status for all migrant workers.

Central America

Empowering women sweatshop workers: Regional strategies for workplaces free of violence

Project sponsor: Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU)

Partner organization: Central American Women’s Network in Solidarity with Maquila Workers (The Network)

This project will support The Network strengthening the political advocacy capacities of its member organizations. It will also increase participants’ knowledge about the causes of workplace accidents and occupational illness, as well as focusing on prevention and the laws that should protect workers.

The Network is a Central American-wide coalition of seven women’s rights organizations with a focus on maquila (sweatshop) workers’ rights. The Network advocates for national and regional policies that address the root causes of labour rights violations that maquila workers face.

Connecting women’s organizations in four countries gives The Network’s advocacy for maquila workers greater regional impact. Working together, maquila workers can influence the Central American Parliament’s labour and investment policies. They can also make it more difficult for transnational corporations to escape their responsibilities to workers by moving to a neighbouring country.

Colombia

Working for peace and human rights

Project sponsor: CUPE British Columbia

Partner organization: NOMADESC (Association for Research and Social Action)

This project will support NOMADESC’s work with campesino (farmer), Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in southwestern Colombia. NOMADESC is training local human rights defenders and accompanying communities seeking justice for widespread rights violations in the region.

Black, Indigenous and campesino communities are facing a wave of extreme violence. The communities where NOMADESC partners work and organize are experiencing increasing human rights violations. During the COVID lockdown, the Colombian police used curfew enforcement as cover to target activists. Paramilitary forces, knowing that rights defenders could not take their usual precautions, began to hunt activists down in their homes.

The project aims to educate CUPE members about the repression people in the Colombian labour and social movements are facing, and to highlight the struggles Colombian activists and communities are waging in response.

Colombia

Building labour-community alliances to defend public water

Project sponsors: CUPE Nova Scotia, CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador

Partner organization: SINTRACUAVALLE

This project will strengthen SINTRACUAVALLE’s citizen education campaign to mobilize against water privatization and will support the union continuing to organize workers in the water sector.

SINTRACUAVALLE is the union representing workers at Colombia’s only public water provider. ACUAVALLE serves more than 700,000 water users in 36 municipalities in the province of Valle del Cauca. The leaders and members of SINTRACUAVALLE are leading a courageous fight against water privatization, undeterred by threats and violence.

The project encourages members of civil society, water users, unions, and non-governmental and social organizations to develop joint actions with water workers who are members of SINTRACUAVALLE.

Cuba

Strengthening solidarity across borders

Project sponsor: CUPE British Columbia

Partner organization: Provincial Union of Public Administration Workers – Havana, Cuba (SPTAPH), a component of the national SNTAP union

The project will build solidarity and union strength in three ways, including by shipping urgently needed supplies which are not readily available in Cuba because of the U.S.-imposed trade embargo. A second project goal is to facilitate exchanges between CUPE and SNTAP to share strategies for transformative change in the workplace and community. The third part of the project supports workplace health and safety training for SNTAP Havana’s municipal workers who are shop stewards.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly delayed this project. The U.S.- embargo made this challenge much worse, including an additional 240 restrictive measures imposed by the Trump administration immediately before and during the pandemic. The Biden administration has upheld these restrictions.

Guatemala

Organizing for justice in rural communities

Project sponsors: CUPE Prince Edward Island, CUPE 3260

Partner organizations: The Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS) and Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA)

This project will support and build solidarity with the struggle of Indigenous Mayan communities in Guatemala for land rights and human rights, and will connect CUPE members to their movement. The project also supports community leaders in Guatemala developing their knowledge and skills, with the long-term goal of achieving sustainable agrarian (rural) communities that have legal titles to their lands.

The Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) defends the rights of workers on coffee, sugar, and cotton plantations. CCDA also works to recover lands taken from the Mayan communities over centuries and promotes Mayan culture and spirituality. Defending water rights is another priority for the CCDA. About 100 communities in 11 Guatemalan provinces belong to the CCDA.

The project aims to strengthen solidarity between CUPE members and Guatemalan communities around human rights and land rights, and to support ongoing human rights initiatives.

Haiti

Strengthening the education sector in Haiti

Project sponsor: CUPE Quebec

Partner organization: The Confederation of Public and Private Sector Workers (CTSP)

This project will allow the CTSP to continue their organizing efforts aimed to increase the capacity of the CTSP’s education sector unions and build the new federation, FENASE.

The Confederation of Public and Private Sector Workers (CTSP) fights for accessible, quality public services in Haiti. It is committed to training union members and to defending the interests of the country’s workers. The CTSP engages on issues and represents its members at the national level, and also undertakes regional training and awareness campaigns for workers in all sectors.

The Fédération Nationale des Syndicats en Éducation (National Federation of Education Unions/FENASE) is a new addition to the CTSP. It is an important federation of education sector unions in different provincial cities.

Honduras

Women sweatshop workers defending their rights

Project sponsors: Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), CUPE British Columbia

Partner organization: CODEMUH – Honduran Women’s Collective

This project supports CODEMUH’s organizing to improve the working and health and safety conditions for women sweatshop workers in Honduras’ maquila free trade zones. The project supports CODEMUH campaigns to stop violence and harassment in the workplace and for basic labour rights.

CODEMUH is a feminist, community-based organization that fights gender-based violence and addresses violence and health and safety in the manufacturing sector and textile factories. The collective provides workers with organizing support, as well as training, medical and legal support.

The project will raise awareness in Canada about the situation of women in Honduras, especially those working in the free trade zones. It will also create opportunities for CUPE members to support and learn from their struggle.

Nicaragua

Women sweatshop workers defending their rights

Project sponsor: CUPE British Columbia

Partner organization: MEC (María Elena Cuadra Movement of Employed and Unemployed Women)

This project supports MEC’s continuing to operate as an organization and fight gender-based violence in the workplace. MEC strengthens the ability of maquila (sweatshop) workers to defend their rights through education and training, advocacy, and legal support. The workers are based in the municipalities of Managua, Ciudad Sandino and Tipitapa. MEC works with women in Nicaragua’s free trade zones, home workers and small-scale farmers.

MEC will help women in vulnerable conditions access justice and exercise their labour and human rights, and will provide psychosocial care and follow-up to victims and survivors of violence.

The project will also provide counselling and specialized accompaniment to the MEC team to safeguard against burnout. This burnout is linked to increased public demand for assistance and trauma associated with the ongoing socio-political crisis in the country.

Philippines

Building local union activism with education workers

Project sponsors: CUPE Ontario, CUPE 4600

Partner organization: Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)

This project will support ACT’s ongoing work to organize, lobby and advocate for teachers’ and workers’ rights and welfare in the Philippines. The project will increase ACT’s capacity to organize new members, campaign for increased salaries, and address issues of trade union rights including the right to form associations and bargain collectively, and to implement those collective agreements.

ACT will continue campaigning for human rights, especially in Indigenous communities, and will keep demanding and end to government targeting of trade unionists. Social movements, trade unions, media outlets, farmers and Indigenous organizations continue to be the targets of repressive government policies and actions. COVID-19 restrictions led to an escalation of surveillance, harassment, intimidation, threats and even death for many who criticize the government.

Philippines

Campaigning for a minimum wage and to end precarious public sector work

Project sponsors: CUPE Saskatchewan, CUPE 4600

Partner organization: Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE)

This project will support COURAGE’s organizing efforts toward a national minimum wage and for a law that ends precarious work in the public sector. COURAGE is working to build a broad-based workers’ movement that advances this fight through education and information, lobbying, demonstrations, alliance building and international solidarity.

COURAGE unites many of the country’s public sector unions. Like other social movements and unions in the Philippines, COURAGE has been the target of ongoing government violence, harassment, and intimidation.

CUPE stands with workers around the world challenging exploitation, privatization, poverty, austerity, corruption, and war. Collective, coordinated resistance is the only way to achieve justice and dignity.

If your local is interested in supporting the CUPE National Global Justice Fund and our union’s international solidarity work, visit cupe.ca/international-solidarity or contact International Solidarity Officer Kelti Cameron at kcameron@cupe.ca.