Canada Employment and Immigration Union -
March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, held its first celebration as a Socialist political event on March 8th, 1909, in New York City (NYC). Women marched the streets of NYC demanding labour rights.

Later, in 1912, women took to the streets in the Lawrence Massachusetts Textile Strike, better known as the “Bread and Roses” strike. Standing united against imposed wage cuts on workers, these women successfully settled after two months with their employers, winning pay increases and overtime benefits. These sisters demonstrated over many decades the courage and solidarity which are critical to moving issues forward.

As union members of CEIU, we should take time to reflect on the strides that we have made for our members over the years, and to consider the obstacles still to be overcome in achieving gender equality.

Today, in 2017, a new era of feminists must ask themselves what we are prepared to do to raise the bar for equity. We must continue to stand together, sisters and brothers, as we fight for affordable childcare, and to defend provisions in our workplaces, including flexible hours of work which allow parents to retain some semblance of a work/life balance.

CEIU is largely a union of women, and has a proud history of participating in creating a more equal footing within our union for our sisters.  But there’s still a long way to go. More often than not, women continue to be the principal caregivers in our families, and protecting our members from public service job cuts, while advocating for the public services on which our parents and children depend upon are a primary focus for today’s CEIU.

Social change is often slow, but strong unions continue to play a role in recognizing the work of women and advocating for gender equality. Local, regional and national women’s committee within our union are actively seeking members. Our committees can identify issues, and initiate convention resolutions and bargaining demands that can address issues of inequality and seek to rectify them.

At our recent convention, delegates passed a historic resolution, creating a National Women’s Committee at CEIU. Our Women’s Issues National Vice-Presidents also have a new mandate – to be given the legitimacy of sitting at the national tables with the employer to represent women’s issues.

Until women are fully represented at senior executive levels of the public service, as well as within our own internal union representation, we do not have equal rights or an equal voice.

This International Women’s Day, let us consider how we, sisters and brothers, can make a difference, and be part of the change we want to see.  Let us celebrate acts of courage and determination, which have played an extraordinary role in our union, workplace, and communities.

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