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Every year on March 8, women around the world mark International Women’s Day (IWD) to commemorate women’s historical struggle to overcome patriarchy, racism and oppression as paid and unpaid workers. 

The original IWD call for women’s human rights was very much connected with women’s daily struggles as workers, so it’s fitting that unions around the world take part in IWD events and celebrations.  CUPE Ontario is right there with women’s groups and other organizations making sure justice and equality stays at the heart of our movement. 

Some have tried to claim that our society no longer needs a women’s movement, that we live in a “post feminist” age. 

This is hardly the case.  Too often, we hear personal and media stories about how women are demeaned, dismissed and marginalized by our political and economic systems, and, sadly, by the men who run them. 

It shocks but doesn’t surprise when we hear stories like what happened at a committee of Toronto City Council when a young woman attempted to share her concerns about potential budget cuts – and the lack of women around the decision-making tables. The bullying and sexist behaviour and comments from male councilors made the news

It’s already an uphill battle to encourage more women to go into politics,  or even be politically active as citizens, so treatment like that from civic leaders won’t help.  In fact, Canada ranks 40th out of 189 countries in the number of women elected to national parliament.  Women make up just 24 per cent of elected representaives at all three levels of government – but they make up 52 per cent of Canada’s population. 

This is an inconvenient truth to those who say we live in a “post feminist” era. 

On the economic side, women are still being cheated.  On average, women today earn about 71 per cent what men make in a year.  About two-thirds of women still work in traditionally female occupations, where they are often paid less than men for similar work.  The situation is worse for immigrant women, racialized women and Aboriginal women, who suffer higher rates of unemployment and poverty.  And retiring into poverty for women is a real threat for far too many of us. 

All of these issues are the concern of CUPE members, day in and day out.  In fact, our union is intimately linked to the world of women and women’s work because of the role we play in the broader public sector, where much of the work involves delivering care or taking care of our communities. 

Women’s concerns – around work, health and community – are CUPE Ontario’s concerns.  This makes the threatened public sector cuts a double-whammy for many of our members.  Too often, when public services are slashed, women lose their jobs and have to pick up the extra (unpaid) work when services aren’t available.  But the Ontario government might be looking for more of the same.  We fear the upcoming “Drummond report” will push even more cuts.

This is why CUPE Ontario is proud to support IWD, and encourages all members to take part in activities and events in their own community.  The idea that we are living in a post-feminist era is wrong, as we can see with so many ongoing battles still being fought. 

We fight them together on March 8, and every day.

In solidarity,

Fred Hahn Candace Rennick
President, CUPE Ontario                       Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE Ontario