Throughout the spring, the National Women’s Task Force recommendations for change moved across the country with presentations at all 10 provincial division conventions as well as many regional conferences. The nearly four dozen recommendations, based on the widest CUPE member consultation in the union’s history, have spurred a growing movement of grassroots support and renewed activism.
The bottom line for many women and men in our union: it’s time to make fundamental changes that will improve women’s representation and participation in the union. Equality is back on the front burner.
From a slow start across the prairies to enthusiastic applause in B.C. and standing ovations at the recent Ontario division convention, the Task Force’s spring report is proving a catalyst for grassroots union renewal.
In Ontario, delegates formed a “sea of purple” - members wearing new ‘women strengthen our union’ t-shirts - in support of the NWTF’s presentation, and women were motivated to take action said National Executive Board (NEB) member Candace Rennick (NWTF/Ontario).
“Sisters organized and lobbied and left the convention with a $10,000 budget line,” she said, noting that “zero dollars” had originally been allocated for provincial task force work. “It wouldn’t have happened without the sisters organizing.”
At the Task Force’s presentation in Nova Scotia, women came to the mics in record numbers to talk about how happy they were to see the union focus on women’s economic lives. Some had worked for more than three decades, only gaining pensions in the last few years. Just before convention, 47 women met in the division’s first ever women’s caucus. Women’s caucuses were held for the first time at six of the 10 provincial division conventions.
In Gander, at the Newfoundland/Labrador convention, a brother with 20 years of union work behind him said that the work of the Task Force had “opened his eyes to the fact that women still face barriers.”
In Quebec, provincial delegates unanimously adopted gender parity for its two Quebec Regional Vice-Presidents that sit on CUPE’s NEB and created an ombudsperson to deal with internal harassment complaints. In British Columbia, women made history by being elected to all four provincial general vice-president positions.