Members of CUPE Local 4914 who work at Peel’s Children’s Aid Society (CAS) have been on the frontlines in their communities, keeping children and families safe. They are also on the frontlines in the fight to address anti-Black racism in our workplaces.
On behalf of the 280,000 members of CUPE Ontario, we express our full support and we hope that the perseverance, excellence, and strength of CUPE Local 4914 members inspire other locals to take action today.
In support of the Black staff at the Peel CAS, the local recently commissioned a report based on discussions between members and an external social worker. The report speaks to the lived experiences of Black members. It outlines that the workplace’s management doesn’t reflect the racialized membership base; the unequal access to training and limited possibilities for advancement; and the failure to pair Black workers with the disproportionately Black clients of CAS.
“What these members are describing is, unfortunately, something we hear about every day, in workplaces across the province,” said Veriline Howe, Chair of CUPE Ontario’s Racial Justice Committee. “It’s hard to hear what’s happening there, but I also know that it’s only when we expose realities that we’ll see action and will be able to deal with the poison of anti-Black systemic racism.”
Members are calling for an anti-Black racism policy; Ministry-ordered and supervised reviews, like ones completed for York’s CAS and the Peel District School Board; mandatory training for staff and leadership; and pathways for staff to safely tell their stories of anti-Black racism.
“Black members of CUPE Local 4914 are spearheading efforts to address anti-Black racism and white supremacy at Peel CAS—despite real fear of stark repercussions from their employer,” said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, Chair of CUPE Ontario’s Social Services sector. “We all have a collective responsibility to address anti-Black racism at work and in our personal lives, and it starts by us using our collective power to amplify the voices of Black workers, acknowledge their lived experiences as reality, and taking action against anti-Black racism now.”
“This work is so critically important as our communities have an ever-deeper conversation about the fight against systemic discrimination and anti-Black racism. When working conditions improve for Black workers, the communities that rely on their services benefit too – in fact we all benefit,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “This demonstrates the strength and courage of CUPE locals in fighting for our members and against racism. It also serves as a shining example for all our members across the province. CUPE Ontario commits to supporting our locals when they do this work, no matter how challenging it may be. That’s because, as our members across Ontario have decided, this is part of our core work as a union.”