Prairie members hold first virtual council meeting

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Zoom squares with Prairie Regional Council delegates

The first virtual Prairie Regional Council (PRC) was packed with political organizing and new commitments to expanding social justice work, as more than 180 delegates and staff participated in the online meeting during May 12–14.

Indigenous activist and scholar Niigaan Sinclair helped open the meeting with a territorial acknowledgement and remarks on the ongoing urgency of reconciliation.

“COVID or not, there have been absolutely historic struggles in Prairies in the last few years. Unifor members in every Prairie province have been active and making a difference,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Western Regional Director in his report to delegates. He outlined the incredible work done by Unifor members in the west during the pandemic and the need to escalate provincial campaigns if the trio of conservative anti-worker premiers are going to be resisted in the year to come.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias also spoke on the first day of PRC and delivered remarks about the union's work in key sectors like hospitality and energy to help build back better and protect good jobs.

During the course of the meeting delegates also heard from all three provincial NDP leaders, Rachel Notley, Ryan Meili, and Wab Kinew of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba respectively.

Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne spoke live to delegates on day two of the Council about the ongoing fight for paid sick days for all and better protections for front line COVID Heroes who are still exposed to risk on a daily basis.

Payne's remarks also helped launch Unifor's pan-Canadian anti-scab campaign. PRC delegates received a preview of a new video that documents Unifor members speaking in their own words about how it feels to have a scab take your job while you're on a picket line. Many were the first to sign the online petition to Members of Parliament.

Former Unifor Senior Economist Jim Stanford returned to deliver an evidence-driven presentation about the economic advantages unions provide for individual workers and the broader economy.

Day two's final presentation was from Unifor Human Rights Director Christine Maclin, who introduced Unifor's new Racial Justice Liaisons Marie-France Fleurantin, Margaret Olal, Celindy Ostapyk, Peycke Roan, and Japna Sidhu-Brar.

On the final day of the Council, a unity slate of new and returning standing committee members were elected by participating delegates. PRC Chairperson Guy Desforges was re-elected, as well as vice-chair Mary Boudreau and secretary-treasurer Brent Boitteaux. The full roster can be found on the Council page.

The 2021 PRC closed out on May 14 with the launch of a new video documenting the work of Unifor members volunteering to support those in need on the streets of Winnipeg.

All videos from the 2021 PRC can be found in this playlist on Facebook.