Manitoba health care support workers report facing racism during COVID-19

WINNIPEG – A new survey reveals many health care support workers on the frontlines of the
COVD-19 pandemic are experiencing anti-Asian racism.  It’s one of the findings of a Canadian Union of Public Employees membership survey of 1,877 CUPE health care workers.

One in five members responding to CUPE’s poll who self-identified as being of Asian heritage have personally experienced racism/bigotry in the workplace in the past month.  Comparatively, only one per cent of respondents who did not identify as being of Asian heritage reported experiencing racism at work in the same time period.

“Racism in the workplace and in the community is not acceptable – ever,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE Local 204, representing health care support staff in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) and Shared Health.  “Our Union stands with all front-line health workers who are experiencing racism.  CUPE is calling on all Manitobans to confront racism in the workplace, at home, and in the community,” said Boissonneault.

Over the past several months, anti-Asian racism and xenophobia have spiked across North America in the context of the outbreak of COVID-19.  This spike is a pattern of refueled racism towards the Asian population, much like what transpired during the SARS pandemic.

CUPE Manitoba is amplifying health officials in making it perfectly clear that ethnicity, background, or country of origin have nothing to do with COVID-19, in fact it is often marginalized communities that bear the brunt of pandemics due to systemic or institutionalized discrimination and colonization.

“There are other curves we need to flatten besides COVID-19,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Manitoba is not immune to racism.  But we can fight it together.”

CUPE is urging members facing any form of harassment, discrimination and or racism to contact their employer, and let CUPE know.  “CUPE does not tolerate racism or discrimination, and our Union is dedicated to supporting our members who are targeted by ignorance and hate,” said Araya.

The online survey was conducted between March 30th and April 5th.  CUPE invited members to participate through email and member-only CUPE Facebook pages.

Respondents are CUPE members, and work in the WRHA, Shared Health, Northern Regional Health Authority, and Southern Health-Santé Sud.  The survey also showed health care support workers are not getting enough training, personal protective equipment, or support from the government.

Members are encouraged to learn about how to intervene against racism.

April 8, International Day of Pink: Show Virtual Solidarity

The International Day of Pink is recognized annually on the second Wednesday in April.

Its sole purpose is “…to create a more inclusive and diverse world.”

It began when the youth at Jer’s Vision (now the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity) were inspired by the actions of David Shepherd and Travis Price, students in Nova Scotia.  They witnessed another student being bullied because they were wearing a pink shirt.  Travis and David quickly mobilized other students and pink t-shirts so the following day they could demonstrate their support of the target by wearing pink t-shirts to school.

News of their actions spread quickly and now, worldwide, people stand in solidarity, in pink, against bullying, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, and trans misogyny.

CUPE Manitoba members understand the principles and values of solidarity.

Because of COVID-19 this year we cannot physically stand together in pink, but we can participate in the virtual campaign/rally.

If you are able, put on a pink shirt, take a selfie and share the picture on your social media using #VirtualDayofPink.

We all know that we are strongest when we stand together. We can shape our world. Let’s help ensure there is safe space for everyone in our human family.

Take action against bullying.

Abe Araya Elected as President of CUPE Manitoba

BRANDON – Delegates at the 2019 CUPE Manitoba Convention in Brandon elected Abe Araya as President of the province’s largest union. Abe Araya comes from CUPE Local 110, representing custodians, maintenance, and painters at the Winnipeg School Division.

“Our union is focused on fighting back against cuts to health care, education, social services, and privatization,” said Araya. “Despite Brian Pallister’s attempts to divide working people, we will be uniting workers from across Manitoba to put a stop to Pallister’s austerity agenda.”

Delegates at convention voted in support resolutions, ranging from health and safety in the workplace, anti-oppression training for activists, pushing back against privatization, fighting against health care and education cuts, and supporting the Green New Deal.

“CUPE is an incredibly diverse union,” said Araya. “With the strength of Manitoba’s largest union, we will be on the front line defending public health care and education, public Hydro, and fighting for properly funded childcare and social services for all Manitobans.”

CUPE’s annual convention featured guest speakers, including NDP leader Wab Kinew, NDP Critic for Infrastructure and Municipal Affairs Matt Wiebe, NDP Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre Leah Gazan, Winnipeg School Division Trustee Yijie Chen, and Manitoba Health Coalition Director Breanne Goertzen.

CUPE National President Mark Hancock and CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury spoke to delegates, committing the full strength of CUPE’s 700,000 members to fight against cuts and privatization.

Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck provided updates on labour’s united front against Bill 28 (The Public Services Sustainability Act) and committed to fight against the Pallister government’s unconstitutional wage freeze.

Two hundred people rallied outside Brandon City Hall with CUPE Local 69 on Wednesday evening, voicing concern over the contracting out of work at the Wheat City Golf Course.

Gord Delbridge, President of CUPE Local 500 served as interim CUPE Manitoba President throughout 2019. Delbridge continues to serve as Vice-President of CUPE Manitoba. Barb Gribben of CUPE Local 737 was this year’s recipient of the prestigious Jack Rodie Award, recognizing dedication and activism in the union.

“Our union is stronger, and more united than ever,” said Araya. “Manitobans can count on CUPE to defend good jobs, and fight for our public services.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 700,000 members.  In Manitoba, CUPE represents over 36,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, school divisions, municipal services, social services, childcare centres, public utilities, libraries and family emergency services.

Thousands attend Steinbach Manitoba’s first Pride

CUPE members from across Manitoba came together to march in solidarity in Steinbach Manitoba’s first annual Pride parade and celebration, Saturday July 9th.

While organizers originally expected roughly 200 participants, Manitobans gathered in numbers estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 to march, cheer, and support the Steinbach LGBTTI community.

CUPE is proud to have participated in such an historic event,” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “CUPE members from across the province came out in support of the community in Steinbach, and it was an emotional and powerful day for us all”.

Steinbach Manitoba is often portrayed as part of the “Manitoba Bible Belt”, and is considered by many to be a very conservative community. Many local politicians refused to attend or acknowledge Steinbach Pride in the lead-up to the event, with Conservative Member of Parliament Ted Falk indicating his contempt for the event, and Conservative MLA Kevin Goertzen and Mayor Chris Goertzen not in attendance.

There has also been heated debate within the Hanover School Division over allowing students to organize “Gay Straight Alliances”, anti-bullying initiatives, as well as a policy that prohibits teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms.

Despite these challenges, Steinbach has proven itself to be a strong and welcoming community, with countless residents cheering the parade as it marched by. It was noted that not a single “counter-protest” took place, and the event was a positive, exciting, and empowering experience for everyone.

“Steinbach is at the forefront of this critical fight for human rights,” said Moist. “Hundreds of CUPE members work in Steinbach and area, and we stand with the entire community to ensure safe and inclusive workplaces for everyone”.

CUPE at Steinbach Pride

This Saturday will be Steinbach’s first ever Pride March and celebration, and we are hoping to have a strong CUPE presence there.  We will be marching down the streets of Steinbach in support of our LGBTTQ* members and allies.

The march will begin from E.A. Friesen Park, and we are suggesting that CUPE folks meet and gather right outside of the park, at the corner of Elm St and Elmdale St. at 10:30am, so we can walk together in solidarity.  The march will conclude at City Hall, where there will be speeches and celebration.

CUPE has a strong reputation for fighting for all human rights and engaging in community events like this, where our members work and live.  Please consider marching with us on Saturday, rain or shine.

In addition to the Pride March for Equality Facebook page, the website for this event ishttp://www.steinbachpride.com  and has all the information you need.

Hope to see you Saturday!

In Solidarity,

Kelly MoistCUPE Manitoba President

100 years since women’s right to vote won in Manitoba, but battle for equality still rages

WINNIPEG – One hundred years ago today, women in Manitoba became the first in Canada to win the right to vote and hold office in provincial elections.

“Women like Nellie McClung were trailblazers for all those who came after,” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “In Manitoba we have a strong legacy of activists fighting for social justice, and we’re proud of our strong feminist roots.”

The labour movement and feminist movement have always had close ties throughout history and many shared fights for social justice and women’s rights continue to rage on today.

Women are among the lowest paid workers across the country, and are more likely to not receive the same level of pension or benefits as men, by virtue of the type of work performed by women. Jobs in health care, child care, education, and social services are still among the lowest paid work in Canada, and there is no coincidence that these jobs are predominantly performed by women and newcomers.

Credit must be given to the Manitoba government for consistent pay increases, as well as efforts to enhance wages in the lowest paid sectors including support workers in community living and child care. The province has also consistently increased the minimum wage, but the pay gap still exists and must continue to be remedied.

Manitoba has also been a leader in breaking down barriers for transgender workers, and the Winnipeg School Division is currently drafting policy that would ensure students and staff could be addressed by the pronouns they choose.

“The fight for gender equality continues to this very day; women’s work is still devalued and not respected in the same way as the work of men,” said Moist. “It is our job as the labour movement to fight for women’s rights in the workplace, and we will continue to push for fair contracts that ensure everyone is treated equally, regardless of gender or gender expression.”

Aboriginal women and girls in Manitoba and across Canada continue to face disproportionate levels of racially motivated gender-based violence, and Manitoba has been a centre of grassroots-led activism to fight against racism and misogyny.

It is also important to acknowledge on this date that not all women received the right to vote on January 28, 1916. Aboriginal women and many immigrant women were excluded.

It wasn’t until 1947 that Chinese and Indo-Canadian women (and men) were granted the right to vote, and in 1948 Japanese women (and men) were granted the right to vote.

In 1952 Aboriginal woman and (men) were granted the right to vote, and it wasn’t until 1960 that Aboriginal women (and men) were allowed to run for office without giving up their treaty rights.

CUPE Manitoba represents 25,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, transportation, emergency services and airlines.

CUPE marks the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20

On November 20, workplaces and communities will take the time to observe Transgender Day of Remembrance and commemorate persons who have lost their lives because of anti-trans violence.

Started in 1998 to honour the murder of a young transgender woman in Massachusetts, this day is now marked by ceremonies in cities across Canada and around the world. Let’s all continue to work together to help make our workplaces and communities a safe and inclusive space for those who identify as transgender.

For more information, visit cupe.ca

Workers at Agape House women’s shelter prepared to strike for fair wages, support for workers who face domestic violence

Steinbach, Manitoba – On November 9, 2015, members of CUPE Local 2348 at Agape House women’s shelter in Steinbach, Manitoba voted 100% in favour of strike action in order to place pressure on their employer to secure fair wages and new language in their collective agreement that would ensure policy to support employees who are victims of domestic violence.

On November 16th, the Province of Manitoba announced that paid leave would be extended to victims of domestic violence, recognizing that people in these situations need the time and space to seek help.

While this announcement is excellent news for victims of domestic violence province-wide, enshrining supportive language in workplace contracts should be every employer’s next step.

“In addition to staff at Agape House tabling proposals at the bargaining table over such provisions, it is important to stress that people from all walks of life are subject to domestic violence,” said Kelly Moist President of CUPE Manitoba, “nobody experiencing violence should have to choose between going work or seeking shelter and help.”

Members of CUPE Local 2348 at Agape House held an info picket outside Steinbach City Hall, on Wednesday, November 18th to raise awareness on domestic violence in the workplace as well as fair treatment for women’s shelter staff.

A study conducted by the University of Western Ontario and the Canadian Labour Congress that focused on the impacts of domestic violence in the workplace found that 91.5% of over 8,000 respondents reported that they thought domestic violence impacts the lives of workers.  The survey also found that employers lose close to $80 million dollars every year due to the impact of domestic violence in the workplace.

“Workers at Agape House are on the front line in protecting and supporting victims of domestic violence,” said Moist, “these workers deserve to be supported as well.”

CUPE Manitoba echoes calls for increased funding to women’s shelters province-wide in order to help provide staff with fair wages and supports to enable them to perform their important work. Currently staff at Agape House in Steinbach can make significantly less than those performing similar work in shelters in Winnipeg.

Paid leave for victims of domestic violence meaningful to Manitoba workers: CUPE

Winnipeg – Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger offered a new, progressive vision for the province at Monday’s annual speech from the throne, including a first-of-its-kind pledge to provide paid leave for victims of domestic violence.

“Thousands of workers experience domestic violence every day,” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba, “this government is taking real leadership in ensuring that victims of domestic violence are treated with compassion, and offered the space they need to seek help.”

This pledge is backed by research from the University of Western Ontario, the Canadian Labour Congress, and supported by CUPE which found that the vast majority of workers who experienced domestic violence were negatively impacted at work by those experiences. The research also found that Canadian employers lose close to $80 million every year due to domestic violence in the workplace,

“Domestic violence doesn’t just stay at home, it follows people to work, and negatively affects their performance as well as increases further risk of abuse,” said Moist, “this pledge will help more Manitobans than we can possibly ever know.”

Manitoba government offers responsible, visionary plan: CUPE

WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s NDP government has once again offered the province a progressive vision for the upcoming year in its annual speech from the throne, in what CUPE Manitoba is calling “a responsible and visionary plan.”

“The Manitoba government has offered an incredibly progressive plan that reflects the needs of a great cross-section of Manitobans” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba, “offering paid leave for victims of domestic violence, ensuring support for new refugees, confirming funding for Shoal Lake’s freedom road – this is the whole package.”

This year’s Throne Speech reflects the nation-wide calls for action on numerous key issues, both domestic and international, positioning Manitoba as a clear leader on social justice and progressive economic growth.

“After over a decade of steady growth and pragmatic stewardship over the economy, this government is well poised to tackle some pretty big issues” said Moist, “Manitobans expect a government that is both responsible and visionary, and that’s what today’s Throne Speech offers.”

Highlights of the Throne Speech include extending paid leave to victims of domestic violence, support for Syrian and other refugees, a renewed call for a  national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women, a renewed commitment to building the Shoal Lake 40 freedom road, investments in infrastructure and rapid transit, stable funding for colleges and universities, and a commitment to building 12,000 affordable childcare spaces.

The Throne Speech further commits to protecting Manitoba’s crown corporations against privatization.

“While other provinces are recklessly privatizing their key assets, Manitoba’s NDP government has pledged to protect our important institutions” said Moist, “all we need to do is look to our east or west to see what Liberal and Conservative governments have to offer, and it’s not pretty.”

Additionally the Throne Speech continues the government’s steady funding towards health care, education, infrastructure, and improving long-term care, all of which affect the work that CUPE members perform daily

“As the union that represents workers in communities and workplaces across Manitoba, we are excited to work with this government as it turns its vision into reality,” said Moist, “today’s Throne Speech is a great launching point for a new, progressive plan for our province.”