As social justice organizations, most labour unions don’t place equity issues at the top of their agenda. Too often, unions favour traditional “bread and butter” issues such as wages, pensions, medical and dental insurance coverage, health safety and grievance procedures over the specific issues that concern racialized workers, workers with disabilities, Aboriginal workers, LGBTQ workers, women workers, and young workers.
Despite advances in creating affirmative action seats, policy statements, human rights committees and task forces, union equity measures are often tokenistic and don’t address the roots of the problems of inequity. Union leaders create a few designated seats to avoid conflict and to maintain the appearance of solidarity between all workers. This approach to equity is a problem. In implementing these measures, union leaders do not attempt to transform the culture of the union itself. Union culture – characterized by cronyism, wait-your-turn, and “old boys club” behaviour – is often the very thing that excludes diverse members from participating.
CUPE 3907 is a recognized leader in challenging this approach to equity in the labour movement. Member Ajamu Nangwaya led union members to take over the microphones at CUPE’s first national human rights conference where they demanded a strong commitment from CUPE on equity issues. This action forced CUPE’s national leadership to issue the Vancouver Declaration on human rights. In November 2007, CUPE 3907 won the Equity Leadership Award from CUPE Toronto District Council. Members from our local are often invited to speak at labour panels and conferences. Contact us if you’d like us to participate in your event.
Please visit our vision page for CUPE 3907’s basic principles on advancing equity in the labour movement.