As you read this issue of Public Employee, we’re well into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. While vaccines allow us to see light at the end of the tunnel, we’re still some distance from returning to “normal.”
In the pre-pandemic world, we’d be gearing up to welcome hundreds of delegates to CUPE BC’s annual convention—in person. Needless to say, times have changed. Convention is an occasion I always look forward to: apart from dealing with important issues and helping to chart the future of our union, it’s such a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. But this year we’ll be doing our AGM (May 19-21) in a completely different way. It’s impossible to re-create the experience of an in-person convention online. That said, we’ll do everything we can to provide the best possible virtual experience for delegates.
Meanwhile, we’ve continued supporting our members on a daily basis even though in-person meetings haven’t been possible. Early on, we made investments in technology that allowed us to produce high-quality online and video presentations. Secretary-Treasurer Trevor Davies has taken the lead on this, organizing a series of webinars that have proven quite popular. The webinars have covered topics ranging from how to cope with seemingly constant change in digital media to how labour relations law is evolving during the pandemic. We’re planning additional webinars in the coming months, and we’ll do our best to focus on the issues that matter to CUPE members and their families. We’ve also been working to build a new website that will help us communicate more effectively with our members, the media and the public.
I am so proud of how our members have stepped up during this pandemic. Even during the worst of times, CUPE members continue to build strong communities by adapting to difficult circumstances, keeping vital public services running, and caring for your fellow citizens. No wonder more workers want to join us, and—as the Organizing feature in this issue makes clear—CUPE continues to reach new members despite the challenges of COVID. For this issue’s cover story, we’re excited to hear from Indigenous CUPE members about their experiences in CUPE activism, and their thoughts on how to make our union better. In another feature, make the case for seamless public child care in B.C. — something that’s long overdue for kids, parents, and schools in this province.
A personal note
Earlier this year, I announced that I will not be seeking re-election as your president at our convention in May. This was a very difficult decision. After six years as president, and having served on the executive board for 14 years, I felt it was time to look for new challenges and opportunities. I’ve been a CUPE member since 1983, and it’s been an incredible honour to have earned the trust and support of so many of my fellow members across the province. I don’t yet know what the future holds in store for me, but I will always be a CUPE member at heart.
All of us in the labour movement stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. I’m proud to have served as secretary-treasurer alongside Mark Hancock, now our national president, and I’ve enjoyed every moment working with Trevor Davies and our executive board who have helped make our union stronger than ever. A special thanks to all the Division staff who have served our members so well: Darci Schmid, Lori Watt, Chika Buston, Wendy Monkhouse, Jolanta Osowska, Kristi Bounegru and our Director of Operations Kiran Kooner. And I can’t forget her predecessor, Sharon Prescott, now retired, who provided years of dedicated service to three presidents and countless members of the executive board. I also want to thank all the National staff I’ve worked with over the years. Without their dedication and commitment, we wouldn’t have seen the incredible growth of our membership which has increased by nearly 20,000 in just six years.
I close my final column as your president with heartfelt thanks to everyone I’ve worked with over the years, but most importantly to you: the more than 100,000 members who make up this great union. I can leave with confidence that the next executive board and officers will continue to make CUPE BC even greater.
CUPE BC is the largest union in British Columbia, representing more than 100,000 workers delivering important public services in nearly every community in the province.