Unifor hosts national training summit to build equity through worker solidarity

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Unifor’s regional equity committees gathered in Toronto from April 16-19 for a National Equity Training Summit to build solidarity and advance the important work of enhancing equity in our union and beyond. 

In 2023, Unifor committed to commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights in Canada by bringing together 75 Equity Representatives, who sit on various equity committees of our union, to undertake regional equity committee training, engage in strategic planning, and to create a blueprint for how we’ll advance human rights and equity at all levels of our work.

“Unions have always been on the forefront of building powerful bonds of solidarity and creating a progressive and inclusive future for all workers in the face of inequity and systemic barriers,” says Unifor National President Lana Payne. “To be a union for everyone means ensuring that all equity deserving members have the space, support, and resources they need to thrive at work and in society.”

Unifor is proud to prioritize events, programs, and structures, such as workplace Racial Justice Advocates, Women’s Advocates, equity committees, conferences, and strong education curriculums to entrench equity work into all levels of the union.

The summit kicked-off with an Indigenous welcome by Gilbert Sunday from the Ojibway nation, organized by Gina Smoke, Unifor’s Indigenous Relations Representative.

“The most important work of our union is borne out of workers coming together, discussing their challenges, finding common cause, and working together to break down barriers to create meaningful, long-term change,” says Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Len Poirier. “Our fight for equity isn’t just about giving workers a seat at the table, it’s about ensuring they have a voice at that table.”

Regional equity committees met and strategized on how to enhance equity for specific groups of workers, including Black, Indigenous, and Workers of Color (BIWOC), women, young workers, LGBT workers, and workers with disAbilities. 

“The first-hand stories of our members, who are on the frontlines of our collective fight for equity, are a constant inspiration and important reminder that much work remains to be done,” says Unifor Quebec Director Daniel Cloutier.

Three women sitting behind a table smiling

The National Equity Training Summit was organized by Niki Lundquist, Unifor Senior Director of Equity and Education and Tricia Brown, Human Rights Representative , and other staff working on the equity portfolio in the union’s Human Rights department. The department supports local union and community initiatives, promotes a culture of respect for human rights, and develop policies for the union that promote human rights.

“Workers are up against some of the biggest and greediest companies, like Amazon, who have atrocious track records for supressing and violating workers’ rights,” says Unifor Western Director Gavin McGarrigle. “Gathering members for face-to-face conversations on this scale is the type of deep organizing we need to achieve real equity.”

Summit participants participated in an exciting campaign techniques sessions to reflect on what tactics and strategies are the most effective at connecting workers and creating change.

Roxanne Dubois, Unifor Executive Assistant to National President Lana Payne, guided participants through a strategic planning session to assist them in creating a roadmap to achieve their ambitious campaign goals. 

“It will take the full might of our union to level the playing field for all workers and to fight back against ruthless employers who disregard workplace and human rights in the pursuit of profit,” says Unifor Atlantic Regional Director Jennifer Murray. “Through member organizing and collective action we’re pushing for robust policy change, like anti-scab legislation, to enhance the rights of all workers with the knowledge that equity-deserving groups are hardest hit by such policy failures.”

Throughout the gathering, a prominent theme of intersectionality emerged as participants shared their personal experiences of struggle and triumph, allowing them to draw connections with one other, and better understand the interconnectedness of the pressing issues impacting workers today. 

For example, childcare is a priority shared by both women’s committees and young workers who both are impacted by inadequate access to high-quality, affordable care. 

“Equity issues don’t belong to just one group—we are all impacted by the systems that perpetuate inequality and all have a responsibility to hold decision makers accountable to addressing increasing job precarity, unaffordability, and hate in Canada,” says Unifor Ontario Regional Director Samia Hashi. “We see inequality rising, with housing, food, and gas price hikes making the gap between rich and poor, the privileged and everyone else, larger than it has been in recent history.”

Looking forward, Unifor will continue its deep commitment to enhance equity in the union and beyond, with a sharp focus on the interconnected nature of issues impacting working people, using principles of union solidarity and collective action as a strong foundation to build a society rooted in enhancing human rights, justice, and equality.

Check out our Facebook album of Unifor’s National Equity Training Summit here.