Commentary
May 17, 2019

What’s in a number?

CUPE BC’s membership nears six figures

To all members who attended convention in Victoria in early May, thank you for your support in electing me for another term as your president. It’s an honour to have your trust and confidence, and I pledge to do everything in my power to keep our union strong—and grow stronger each year. For a recap of convention, see pages 8-9, and photo galleries on our website and Facebook page.

I’m pleased to report that, as of the beginning of 2019, CUPE BC has more than 97,000 members—confirming our rank as the largest union in the province. There are a number of reasons that status is important to our success as a provincial body, but more important are the ways that our renewed strength can help even our smallest locals achieve great things.

Standing up for local members

CUPE BC’s first priority is supporting our locals, whether it’s during difficult rounds of bargaining, on the picket line, or in lobbying elected leaders. From my own experience, I can tell you this: when employers take on CUPE, they know full well that they are taking on more than one local or employees at one worksite.  They’re taking on the collective strength of nearly 100,000 working people. So our numbers do make a difference. On that score, CUPE’s Organizing Department in B.C. has been doing great work. Along with organizers across the country, they’ve helped CUPE grow to more than 670,000 nationally.

Another factor in our growth here in B.C. has been our collective political action in working to elect progressive local and provincial leaders who understand the link between strong public services and sustainable, livable communities. Progressive governments are important, so we can’t take them for granted or stop paying attention to politics between elections. Building strong and lasting relationships with elected leaders takes time, dedication and persistence—and it’s worth the investment.

Many ways to get involved

Of course, the main reason we work hard to bring unorganized workers into our union is to get them decent wages and benefits that allow them to live and work in their home communities. In a province still recovering from 16 years of right-wing, anti-worker government under the BC Liberals, it’s still the case that the best route to a better life is a union card. I’ve spent my entire working life as a CUPE member, and I can testify to the importance of that union membership: I learned a trade, earned good pay and benefits and, thanks to my many mentors, got active in the union.

The political side of the labour movement might not be for every member, but every member can become more active in their union. Whether it’s attending membership meetings or local community events, becoming a shop steward or serving on the executive, there are many opportunities in our union. I strongly encourage members who haven’t yet been active to learn more about how they can get involved. CUPE BC has some of the most committed and dedicated activists in the labour movement, and we never stop working to engage our members. We welcome your views on how we can do a better job bringing new members into this work.

Since our birth as a union 56 years ago, CUPE has stood up for our members and fought for better working conditions, pay and benefits, as well as retirement security and strong communities for all. As your president, you have my commitment that we will not only continue that legacy but build on it to ensure that CUPE BC remains not only B.C.’s biggest union, but also its strongest.

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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