When women, children, and families in Hamilton face violence, hunger, or homelessness and are in dire need of help, they turn to the workers at Good Shepherd. Now those same workers are calling out for help in the face of wages that have pushed workers to utilize food banks while taking on second or third jobs to pay for basics like rent and utilities.

Roughly 150 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 5167 work at Good Shepherd Family Centre, Reaching Home, and Women’s Services. They run residential programs and offer gender-based violence counselling, legal, and housing support to women seeking safety from abuse; they provide supportive housing for people with mental or physical disabilities; and they make sure families in poverty and experiencing homelessness have the food and services they need to survive.

They work with the city’s most vulnerable – but they’ve been made vulnerable by years of stagnating wages and have now voted unanimously to strike.

Good Shepherd Hamilton has faced a staffing crisis in recent years with low worker morale, increasing worker burnout, and high turnover. Despite these challenges, management is trying to strip workers of paid lunches and has refused workers’ proposal for fair overtime compensation.

“There’s absolutely no justification for these workers to be forced to use food banks or work second and third jobs just to live in our city. Hamilton relies on these workers and this employer needs to step up and treat them with respect,” said Jason Lucas, President of CUPE 5167 representing more than 4,000 workers in the city. “These workers spend their days taking care of others. I’m proud of them for standing up for what they need with this vote. Every single CUPE 5167 member is standing right beside them as they fight for what is fair and just.”

The two bargaining teams return to the table today. CUPE 5167 members remain hopeful that a fair deal will be reached.