It was a celebration of union activism as delegates representing locals from across the province participated at the B.C. Regional Council, held in Whistler November 22-24, 2019.
"For the past few decades, workers have been sold a lie, their ambitions have been held back, and their struggles have been minimized," said Unifor Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle. "We need to stand up and fight back - that's the theme of B.C. Regional Council 2019."
McGarrigle highlighted major campaigns that the union undertook in the past year including the federal election member-to-member campaign, which was highly effective in British Columbia.
“Our member organizers came together, trained, learned how to work together…they volunteered their hearts out in targeted ridings, multiple times each week,” McGarrigle told delegates. “Unifor was there in force and we continued for every day of the campaign, speaking to our members, visiting workplaces, and volunteering.”
The members’ election campaign efforts were also praised by guest speaker Don Davies, the NDP MP for Vancouver Kingsway.
“Unifor was there for me in my campaign when I was targeted for defeat," said Davies. “Unifor’s member-to-member campaign was visible, it was noticed, and it was a demonstrated success."
On day two of Council, Unifor National President Jerry Dias continued the theme of fighting back and union activism.
“We can be anything we want. We can be bold, in your face, principled,” Dias told delegates. “We can push governments, we can push corporations, or we can be silent. As I look across this room I know the chances of us being silent are zero.”
Dias highlighted the union’s support of Indigenous issues as he invited members to join him on the Unifor Walk for Reconciliation on B.C.’s notorious Highway of Tears, the location of many murders and disappearances of Indigenous women.
“When we walk the highway of tears you are all joining me. We’re going to do it right - for our fellow sisters, for our members for our kids because we have to,” said Dias.
Delegates voted to pass resolutions in support of the Reconciliation Walk and to lobby the B.C. provincial government to fully adopt and implement the Calls for Justice included in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Unifor backed up its commitment to Reconciliation with a $250,000 donation to the B.C. Aboriginal Child Care Society (BCACCS) made jointly by the Unifor Social Justice Fund and CN Rail. The funds will be used to expand an innovative speech and language development program for children across Canada.
“We know comes from people speaking up so by investing in language you are allowing our children to have the voice to make changes when they are older," BCACCS Board President Mary Teegee told delegates as she accepted the cheque.
Delegates also passed resolutions and recommendations to end corporate control over west coast fish quotas, to call for climate change disaster assistance for fish harvesters and allied workers, to assist locals to promote “Just Transition” language in industries where CO2 emissions counts continue to rise and to lobby all levels of government to take aggressive action to combat climate change.