Pre-dating virtually all organizations in this work, Organized Labour and the Labour Movement established Women’s Committees and elected or appointed women to leadership positions. Today, representing over 700,000 Ontario workers, the Ontario Federation of Labour established its first women’s committee in 1965. For a variety of reasons, it took until 1976 for the committee to be enshrined, but the foundation had been established eleven years before.
“Building on this type of “first in class” activism, the Canadian Labour Movement sees itself privileged, honoured and the envy of the world with women leading the three largest general labour organizations in Canada. Women lead the Canadian Labour Congress, the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. This leadership is diverse as we have UFCW, OSSTF and UNITE HERE 75 as the home unions of these awesome union activists. Leading the organizations and representing millions of Canadian workers we see Bea Bruske, Patty Coates and Andria Babington,” says Labour Council president, Kevin Smith.
This powerhouse of leadership at the apex of the union movement is not the only reason to celebrate International Women’s Day. Unions and labour councils across Canada are able to boast of women in leadership. The Grey Bruce Labour Council has had bragging rights to women in leadership for years. At present ETFO, OSSTF, OECTA and OPSEU are the home unions of the Grey Bruce Labour Council Secretary, Sergeant at Arms and Trustees. No labour council could be more fortunate than the Grey Bruce Labour Council to have Amy Stephen, Anna Morrison, Andrea Graham, Krista McCormick, and Karen Gventer in leadership and in roles of great responsibility.
Just as leadership is a hallmark of women in the union movement, it is across all aspects of sectors of our lives. However, while we celebrate, we must not lose sight of the need for the inspired leadership that women bring to the table. The pandemic combined with the mercenary manner of neo-Liberal and Conservative governing has ensnared vast numbers of women, and of particular concern racialized and 2SLGBTQ+ women, in a cycle of precarious work that forced them to choose between work, caring for family and even putting their lives at risk throughout the pandemic. All too often these women were left in abject poverty. While trying to lead their families safely and compassionately, the pandemic and the greed of right wing governments and their corporate enablers left a trail of punitive punishment. Only the truly inspired leadership of women like Bruske, Coates and Babington and all those that support them will put all of us in a place where work and daily life works for us all.
Labour Council Secretary, Amy Stephen, asks us all to remember “that normal, that time before COVID, was not working for all of us. Despite the tragic outcomes associated with COVID, the reset created by it means that women with the support of all of us will make significant gains and ensure a better normal for all people”.
The Grey Bruce Labour Council is the voice of thousands of workers in the Grey Bruce Region and asks all people to take time every day and specifically on March the 8th to celebrate the accomplishments of all women and rededicate ourselves to inclusiveness, diversity, equity and access for all people.