Across the province, thousands of CUPE Ontario members recognize the International Day of Pink. We are wearing pink this April 13 as part of our continuing stand against bullying, discrimination, homophobia and transphobia in our schools and communities.

The Day of Pink began in 2007, when two Nova Scotia high school students saw a male classmate being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. These witnesses didn’t just intervene, they mobilized. They organized students in their school to wear pink shirts two weeks later in a stunning show of solidarity. This “sea of pink” inspired people around the world to come together in the fight against homophobic and transphobic bullying.

CUPE members are no strangers to the important place our schools have in relation to bullying. Province-wide, more than 55,000 CUPE members, as school secretaries, educational assistants, custodial and maintenance workers, early childhood educators, library technicians, speech and language pathologists and in many other roles, play an important part in ensuring safe and harassment-free school environments. And, no matter where our members work, in municipalities, universities, in health care, social services or airlines, we all understand the importance of solidarity against the scourge of bullying.

CUPE Ontario members have a proud tradition of standing up against discrimination. We negotiate clauses into our collective agreements that prohibit discrimination, promote employment equity and create safe, harassment-free workplaces. We also have a strong tradition of political advocacy that has already helped extend many benefits and protections first realized through collective bargaining to all Ontarians. And, by working in coalition with community partners, we continue our work to end discrimination and harassment in our schools and throughout our communities.

As an active supporter of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, our members encouraged their MPPs to vote in favour of Bill 77, Cheri DiNovo’s “Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act.” This important legislation, which passed into law last June, is one more step in removing legal sanction for discrimination against LGBT people.

One of the next steps is to pass a federal transgender rights act. NDP MP Randall Garrison has introduced such legislation several times, and it has twice been passed by the legislature but killed by the Conservative senate. Garrison  has re-introduced the legislation as Bill C-204, and we encourage all CUPE members to call, write or email their MPs in support of the bill.

On April 13, join us in wearing pink — recommit to end all bullying and discrimination — and continuing to build strong unions who advocate for us all.

Fred Hahn, President
Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer