Unions Continue to Lead the Fight for Women's Equality
Mar 08, 2018
Today is International Women’s Day, and as a woman who’s immensely proud to represent over 40,000 unionized Manitobans, it’s a great opportunity to talk about the vital role that our unions can, and should play, in our lives.
Over the last year, more and more young women have come forward all over the world to share their experiences of facing inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment while at work.
Last month, there were reports of this right here at home, within the Manitoba legislature — and the current government’s announcement that they are taking steps to make it easier for its employees to report and employers to address such incidents is welcome news.
But the reality is that for decades the MGEU has been advocating for such protections and calling for more — most recently, for instance, recommending that mandatory training include all MLAs, not just cabinet ministers and political staff, as the government is suggesting.
Over the years, the MGEU has worked with employers to develop Respectful Workplace policies and procedures and negotiate provisions in collective agreements. It’s about respecting all workers. And when a complaint is filed, it is confidential, between that member and their union.
So today, it’s important to reiterate to all young women that their union is their best line of defense when it comes to harassment in the workplace.
As the mother of two daughters and three granddaughters, I can’t tell you how proud I feel today to lead a union like the MGEU. I believe we all benefit — men and women — when our places of work are fair and equitable and compassionate. It’s what unions are all about.
I want all of our daughters — and all our sons, for that matter — to understand that if they experience harassment while on the job, they need to contact their union.
That’s what we’re here for. To push for more justice, more equity, more compassion.
That’s why as a daughter of a domestic violence survivor, and a survivor myself, it’s also meant so much to me to be part of labour’s push for Bill 8.
The first law of its kind in Canada, it now guarantees paid job leave for victims of domestic violence.
Years ago, my mom lost her job as job a teaching aide because in order to escape an abusive situation, she needed some time to find a safe place to stay with her kids.
So I was able to speak out publicly, and personally, about what this law would’ve meant to my own mother.
And as MGEU President, I got to share that story at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women — and let the world know that because of Bill 8, no one in Manitoba will ever have to make such a choice again.
My husband and I were lucky. We both had understanding, respectful employers who allowed us the time to stop the cycle of violence and pull our family together until his passing in 2009.
But we should not have to rely on “luck,” and now no one will.
In March, I’ll be heading to my fourth session with the UN Commission, and I must say how grateful I am to our National Union and the Canadian Labour Congress for the opportunities they’ve given me to speak up on behalf of women from Manitoba, and across the country, about our issues and our successes.
It’s always such an amazing and humbling experience, hearing sisters from around the world as they share their continuing struggles.
Without fail, I come home and I know we must do everything we can to safeguard and build on those rights we’ve fought so hard for. We must not take them for granted. And we must listen to the voices of those sisters who still have so far to come.
On this International Women’s Day, let’s all of us in the labour movement re-commit ourselves to listening, sharing, mentoring, and fighting for all women, near and far.