There’s no middle ground in combatting bigotry
As Pride events got underway in August and we were celebrating with our LGBTQ friends and allies, CUPE BC released a video featuring Vancouver human rights lawyer, community activist and CUPE Local 1004 member Adrienne Smith, informing viewers of the appropriate use of gender pronouns. They explained that using appropriate pronouns is important because it’s the law, it helps fight transphobia, and it shows respect.
This public education work stems from the core values of our union. It’s consistent with the CUPE National Equality Statement read before every CUPE meeting across Canada that states: “Conduct which is racist, sexist, transphobic or homophobic hurts and thereby divides us.” It concludes that we must “be mindful that all persons deserve dignity, equality and respect.”
As soon as the video uploaded to our Facebook page, it received thousands of views and hundreds of likes and shares. Sadly though, the comments section also lit up with hundreds of hateful transphobic posts. As the objectionable comments swarmed the page, we took the video down. We’ve since reposted the video which can also be viewed on www.cupe.bc.ca in the video gallery.
This incident is a harsh reminder not only of why there’s a need for such videos but also of all the work toward achieving equality that remains. I am proud of the steps our union took recently at our 2016 convention when delegates unanimously changed the constitution to eliminate and change gendered pronouns like “he” or “she” out of respect for those who do not conform with that gender binary. Delegates also voted to amend the constitution to add diversity seats for LGBTQ workers and workers with disabilities to the executive board, thus helping to guide our decisions and make our union more inclusive.
While these actions are important, we cannot rest thinking that convention resolutions will stop hate and discrimination. Hateful groups and individuals have been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, as we saw this summer in Virginia and at other white supremacist rallies on both sides of the border. While it was heartening to see so many good citizens turn up in Vancouver on August 19 to demonstrate against racist bigotry, we likely haven’t seen the last of these despicable hate groups. And that’s why we must not let up for one moment in confronting ignorance and intolerance, both in our workplaces and in our communities.
CUPE BC will not stop advocating for equality, equity, tolerance, and respect of all people. This means always striving to be inclusive of everyone. And it means pushing back when acts of inclusion are confronted with violence - whether online, or in the streets.
Paul Faoro is president of CUPE BC, British Columbia’s largest union, representing 87,000 workers delivering important public services in communities across the province.COPE 491