History was made at Atlantic Regional Council last weekend with the election of two Black women to its executive committee – the first time that has happened.
“Words without actions are meaningless,” said Morgan Palmer of Local 2002 in Saint John, N.B.
Palmer and Angela Downey of Local 4606 in Halifax are the first Black women ever elected to the council’s executive committee.
“Coming from a local that’s predominantly in health care, which is made up of a lot of people of colour, I want that to be reflected on the executive,” said Downey. “To do that, I had to run.”
Palmer underlined the importance of her election along with Downey.
“It is imperative for Black, Indigenous and brown women to see themselves represented in spaces that were once traditionally white.”
National Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne recognized the need for leadership to reflect all members of the union.
“Unifor is stronger when our structures reflect the diversity of our membership. We know that to win for all workers, it means building solidarity and organizing for change every single day,” Payne said.
“And to win for the entire working class, we must create space for all workers within the struggles and campaigns we must wage – for women, Black, Indigenous, workers of colour, young workers, LGBTQ2S workers, and workers with different abilities.”
Unifor’s Human Rights Director Christine Maclin wants to see more Black, Indigenous and people of colour holding leadership positions.
“It’s important that more Black, Indigenous and people of colour feel empowered, supported and have all their skills recognized in leadership,” she said.
“The world is changing and it truly is for the betterment of unions both here in Canada and globally.”
Though their election is a big win, Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil said this is only one step towards bringing about real, actionable change.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us. Morgan and Angela’s input will be important voices as we strive to make meaningful change. The entire executive team is looking forward to working closely with them as we continue to ensure our union is representative of all our workers,” said MacNeil.
Being the first, and sometimes only voice championing diversity -- in any structure -- can be intimidating, said Downey, adding she’s glad Morgan will be there with her as “two newbies at the same time.”
Both members said they are ready to get started in their new roles and to do the work to further the inclusivity of Unifor.