As we near another Labour Day, leaders of major unions in B.C. are often asked for their thoughts. It seems to me that the collective voices of hundreds of thousands of working people might warrant at least a little ongoing media attention during the rest of the year, especially when compared to the hundreds of column inches dedicated to the views of anti-union business lobbyists like the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses or the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.
Be that as it may, I’m the President of the British Columbia Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, or CUPE BC, and we’re the largest union in the province. In fact, just a short while before Labour Day, the latest CUPE membership numbers were released, showing a significant increase in our membership—we now represent more than 92,000 British Columbians delivering important public services in almost every community in B.C.
This Labour Day I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on some of the reasons for our significant and rapid growth. The number one factor has been the increased emphasis on organizing from our national union, a priority that CUPE BC strongly supports. We’ve bucked the overall trend of declining union membership both here in B.C. and across the country—CUPE National’s membership is now more than 665,000, and that’s not counting the recent successful organization of 3,000 West Jet flight attendants into CUPE membership.
Another significant reason for our growth has been the increasing realization on the part of workers that in an era of declining wages and growing unaffordability, holding a union card is one of the most effective ways to build a better life for workers and their families.
CUPE members—and CUPE BC—are dedicated to building strong communities, and we’re continuing that important work. Not “just” by delivering the important public services that make our communities such great places to live and work, but by ensuring that CUPE members know what’s at stake in the October local elections and vote in their own interests.
And we’re campaigning hard with our members to support a “Yes” vote in the referendum on proportional representation that immediately follows the local elections.
Labour Day is a great time to wind up another spectacular B.C. summer by enjoying time with friends and family. This weekend, as we enjoy the barbeque or the deck, let’s get ready for the next few months. If we all pull together, we can ensure we elect more progressive local governments and show the rest of the country what progressive electoral change really looks like.
Paul Faoro is president of CUPE BC, British Columbia’s largest union, representing 92,000 workers delivering important public services in communities across the province.COPE 491