The first round of Strategic Directions discussions at the CUPE National Convention focused on CUPE’s plan to strengthen and expand our membership.

Strategic Directions is shaped by the lessons of our recent member survey. Among other things, the survey found that fully one quarter of CUPE members are in precarious employment – they do not have secure work, or secure hours of work, or benefits.

Delegates spoke passionately about the importance of organizing precarious workers, and working to build a more diverse union.

CUPE members who are young, or women, or racialized, or gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered are most likely to be in precarious employment.

Delegates spoke about how meeting the needs and priorities of equity-seeking groups is key to building a stronger, more inclusive union. “Equity is not in competition with anything else. It’s the foundation for everything else,” said Ellie Adekur of CUPE 3902.

Bargaining strong and inclusive contracts and working to ensure all workers have full rights and benefits is key to this strategy.

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions secretary-treasurer Helen Fetterly described decades of advocacy and pressure to bring part-time health care workers into the province-wise pension plan. And it paid off. As of last month, part-time, casual and contract workers as well as students can join the plan immediately.

Delegates called for increased efforts to protect public services, as another way to fight for good, full-time, secure jobs. The need for well-paying jobs was another theme, with delegates speaking to CUPE’s plan to ensure no CUPE member earns less than $19 an hour by the end of 2017.

Strengthening our union starts with talking to our co-workers and neighbours. Delegates described how face-to-face conversations can spark change.

The priorities discussed today are about the future of our workplaces – and the next generation of workers. “I’m a brand new grandfather. I want those rights we’ve fought long and hard for to be there for them,” said Rob Campbell of CUPE 1858.

Debate on the plan for CUPE’s next two years continues tomorrow and Thursday.