Union movement continues to work toward positive social change

NANAIMO – Labour Day an opportunity to look forward to increasing benefits to British Columbians.

By Stephanie Smith

This spring, I had the honour of being elected to lead B.C.’s most diverse union.

The more than 67,000 women and men of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union work in all areas of the province, in a wide variety of roles, making a real difference in their communities.

From childcare to child protection, preventative health care to palliative care, social work to corrections, and so much more – what our members share is a dedication to working together for the benefit of all British Columbians.

Union members want to belong to a movement that can make progressive new policies that B.C. needs, such as $10 a day childcare, a reality.

That’s why this Labour Day, I’d like to also look forward and talk about what we still have left to do. Our province and country are faced with growing income inequality – including a gender wage gap of 26 per cent that is embarrassing. Our young people have the distinction of being the first generation that will be worse off economically than the one that came before.

But the labour movement is in a unique position to change all of that. Hundreds of British Columbians lift themselves out of poverty each year by joining unions to achieve collective bargaining rights at their workplace. The wage increases they gain by working together go right back into their local economies, invigorating communities across the province. The increased tax revenues provide funding for the public services on which we all rely.

This is what the labour movement has to offer: strong, united and dynamic communities full of people who care for one another.

When we all band together to demand that vital services be publicly available to everyone – not just those who can afford them – we’ll have a whole new set of victories to celebrate each year at the end of August.

Stephanie Smith is president of the BCGEEU.