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January 3, 2012

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Half a century of keeping B.C. strong

Happy New Year, to all 85,000 CUPE BC members!  I hope you were able to enjoy the holidays with your friends and families and get some much-needed rest after an extremely busy 2011. As we plan our activities for this coming year—including CUPE BC’s 49th annual convention, April 25-28 in Victoria—it’s important to look back on the year past as well.  It was a remarkable year for our province, our country, and our union.

The November local elections, for example, saw a record number of CUPE members run as candidates. Thanks to everyone who took the time to run for office, and also to CUPE members who volunteered on progressive campaigns. Last year, you also heard a lot from me about the Ten Percent Shift, and you’ll hear lots more this year as we continue with the second phase of the campaign. In addition to great support from CUPE members, we’re also getting strong interest from the business community and local governments. Stay tuned for more information on the Shift as the campaign continues. And if you or your local would like a Shift presentation, let us know, either through the website or by contacting me directly at CUPE BC.

The concept of “Local First” is becoming more and more popular, both as an approach to supporting and building strong communities and as a marketing tool for some businesses and corporations that are anything but local. You know the concept is catching on when a giant multinational financial institution like HSBC starts calling itself “your local bank”!  If you’re looking for a local alternative to banking at a multinational, my advice is to look at one of the credit unions in your community.

On November 1, I was very proud to unveil our CUPE BC community events trailer at our union’s national convention in Vancouver. My original plan for the trailer was that it would be 100 per cent British Columbian. That just wasn’t possible, so I tried to have it built 100 per cent Canadian. That also wasn’t possible, but at the end of the day I’m very happy to be able to say that 99 per cent of the materials and components used in the trailer are North American. That was no easy task but it’s been worth the effort, and I want to thank the members of CUPE 1004 who built the trailer. I know that members all over the province will be proud to see it as a symbol of our union at community events now and in the future. To view photos of the trailer, visit the gallery on this site.

Next year—2013—will mark CUPE BC’s 50th anniversary, and I’d love to hear ideas from members on how we should best celebrate this milestone. From humble beginnings, we have grown to be the largest union in B.C. We’re an integral part of almost every community in the province, and our success is due entirely to you, our members. I look forward to seeing many of you at Convention in Victoria in April.

Barry O’Neill is president of CUPE BC.