Commentary
Jan 08, 2019

What a year it was—and what a year lies ahead!

For CUPE BC, 2018 was an amazing year. The first full year of a BC NDP government that’s working to fix the damage done over 16 years of right-wing BC Liberals in power in Victoria; a historic referendum on how we vote; and impressive growth in CUPE that saw our B.C. membership swell to 92,000, making us by far the biggest union in the province.

Looking at the calendar for 2019, we can already see how busy this year is going to be. For starters, there’s a crucial provincial by-election early in the year in Nanaimo, where CUPE BC will be pulling out all the stops to work with members in that constituency to help elect the BC NDP’s Sheila Malcolmson as the new MLA. The by-election is required to replace former MLA Leonard Krog, who was elected Nanaimo mayor in October. If our provincial minority government is to survive for a full four-year term, we must work together to win this by-election.

At some point in early 2019, once Prime Minister Justin Trudeau actually calls a by-election, we’ll also be working hard with members in the federal riding of Burnaby South to elect NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh as the new MP. It’s really important that we do everything in our power to elect Jagmeet so that our Leader can take his seat in Parliament—and, just as importantly, so that residents of Burnaby South have representation in Ottawa after the NDP’s Kennedy Stewart resigned as MP to become the new mayor of Vancouver. This by-election comes before the full federal election on October 21.  We’ll have our hands full here in B.C., ensuring that we elect as many NDP MPs as possible to hold back the tide of right-wing extremism that is rising in other parts of the country.

Prior to the federal election in October, we’ll have CUPE BC’s 56th annual Convention in Victoria (May 1-4). I’m already looking forward to seeing delegates from all over the province as we come together to set our Union’s course for the next year. In June we will play host to CUPE’s Western Municipal Conference in Kelowna, so I know our members in the municipal sector will be looking forward to that.

After nearly three years as your president, I can tell you it never really “slows down” at CUPE BC. If we’re not in the middle of a campaign, there’s always one on the horizon. And of course we are always ready to back up and support all of our locals and members across the province. 

I want to congratulate Barb Nederpel and Betty Valenzuela, newly elected president and financial secretary, respectively, of our sister union, the Hospital Employees’ Union. And huge thanks to outgoing HEU officers Victor Elkins and Donisa Bernardo for their years of service to their union and the labour movement in B.C. and across the country.

And finally, a very special thank you to Sharon Prescott.  Sharon retired at the end of 2018 after 19 years as CUPE BC’s executive assistant to the president, and more recently as director of operations at the B.C. division.  Although she will be enjoying her well-earned retirement, she won’t be going far – Sharon will be working with us to organize and execute CUPE BC’s 2019 Convention in Victoria.

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.

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