National Women’s Committee Report – English

National Executive Board Meeting

June 12 and 13, 2013


The National Women’s Committee (NWC) met in Ottawa May 13 and 14, 2013 and was pleased that most of the sisters were able to attend. The Committee welcomed Sister Debra Kendall as the new member representing COPE and extended its thanks to Sister Kelli Lawrence who was the COPE representative on the NWC for several years. The sisters also extended a warm welcome to Sister Irene Jansen who has recently joined the Equality Branch replacing Sister Darcie Beggs who has retired.

The Committee spent some time discussing a number of issues related to the upcoming Convention, including:

  • Planning for the Equality Forum which will be held on the Monday evening. The general theme will be the celebration of CUPE’s achievements on equality and human rights over the past 50 years and the identification of ways to defend and extend those gains in the future. The NWC discussed how it is important to use the Forum as an opportunity to link the “fairness” campaign with equality initiatives, as an attack on unions is an attack on equality, and human rights struggles are integrally linked to our ability to withstand these attacks. The NWC would also like to see the Forum integrate the idea of the Year of the Young and New Worker with the theme of advancing human rights in the workplace. The sisters also talked about the importance of having the speakers reflect a diversity of perspectives and making sure that the format of the event is truly accessible to members with disabilities.
  • The members discussed how to ensure that the nomination papers for the Grace Hartman award are circulated widely as there were very few applicants last time. It has been included in all Division Convention kits and will be circulated to all National Committees members.
  • The members selected Sister Joanne Foote as the delegate from the NWC to Convention, with Sister Arlene Macklem as the alternate.
  • The members identified a number of areas of interest in terms of possible resolutions which will be drafted and circulated to encourage locals to submit them to Convention.

Sister Elizabeth Dandy, Equality Branch Director, reported on a number of initiatives relating to women’s issues that the Equality Branch has been involved in, including the Disability Rights Awareness campaign, the work on HIV/AIDS, CUPE’s ongoing work on the issue of violence against women, the National Bargaining Conference, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Political Action Conference, and the importance of including a gender perspective as we develop our member-to-member engagement campaign to build the movement for political change.

Sister Lori MacKay gave a report on her work as the National Executive Board (NEB) Liaison to the NWC, which included discussion of the CUPE and CLC fairness campaigns, as ways to engage in conversations with our members to build solidarity in the face of the overwhelming attack on unions. Also, Sister Lori has been very involved in the fight back against the EI cuts, which will have a devastating effect on workers, particularly in the Maritimes/Atlantic region.

Brother Graham Cox from the Research Branch gave a very interesting presentation on how this attack on unions and the cuts to EI are linked. The right wing wants to weaken unions in order to prevent us from being engaged in progressive political initiatives such as defending EI, promoting public health care, child care, etc. Brother Cox outlined how these cuts will have an adverse affect on women and other marginalized workers. The NWC will work with Equality and Research staff to develop a Fact Sheet which will highlight the impact of these cuts on women and which will be used by members in the fight back campaigns.

Sister Margot Young and Brother Don Moran came to talk about the Child Care campaign and the Enough is Enough water campaign respectively. Members of the NWC are actively engaged in promoting these initiatives in their regions and view them as an important way to start the conversations with members that are so critical to the fairness campaign.

The NWC was very pleased that Brother Paul Moist, National President, was able to join us for part of our meeting. The sisters introduced themselves to Brother Paul by sharing their experience of what they considered an important women’s struggle in CUPE, as a way of adding to our collective wisdom of women’s involvement in our union over the past many years. Brother Paul talked about the role played by women in building CUPE and how the representation of women at various levels of the union has improved in recent years, but that there is still a lot of work to do. In answer to a question about the possibility of another women’s conference, he talked about looking at other ways of bringing people together to discuss common interests, such as the meetings held to develop CUPE Policies on the Environment,  on HIV/AIDS, and also the upcoming gathering in August of young workers.

During the members’ reports it was evident that the sisters are very active in a variety of women’s struggles across the country, including active participation in division conventions through resolutions, caucuses, speakers; organizing and promoting participation in events to highlight violence against women, in particular the plight of missing and murdered Aboriginal women; lobbying governments on women’s issues and participation in election activities; supporting the fight back against cuts to EI; organizing March 8 activities; participating in women’s leadership workshops and women’s/human rights conferences.

Sister Irene Jansen reported on the ongoing work to develop a profile of CUPE’s casual workers, and to research the extent and impact of the growing precarious workforce. Sister Irene is also involved in the update of the Bargaining Equality resources and working closely with Union Development to develop educational workshops on this and other human rights issues.

Respectfully submitted,

Maureen Morrison, Staff Person, on behalf of Arlene Macklem and Joëlle Ravary, Co-Chairs and Lori MacKay, National Executive Board Liaison, National Women’s Committee

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