On March 8, thousands of women, allies and community members across the province gather to celebrate International Women’s Day and honour the struggles of women in their fight for equality and justice. Millions of people will also observe this day around the world by participating in events that inspire women and commemorate their achievements.
CUPE Ontario participates in International Women’s Day events every year and we encourage our members to get involved. This year, CUPE sisters travelled together from the Women’s Conference to participate in a rally and march in Toronto. The biennial conference is led by the CUPE Ontario Women’s Committee and is an important venue for member education and campaign development.
International Women’s Day was honoured for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 1911. More than one million women and men attended rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, to vote, to hold public office and to end discrimination. In 1913, International Women’s Day was transferred to March 8 and has since grown to be celebrated in most countries around the world.
Working class women were among the first to unionize and have played a crucial role in both the labour movement and the women’s movement throughout history. Now, women make up more than half of Canada’s unionized workforce.
Generations of union struggles have secured fairer wages, pay equity, maternity leave and harassment-free workplaces that now benefit women and all workers. However, many of these gains are under attack by Conservatives at all levels of government.
With the upcoming federal election, it is a crucial year for all members in our union to band together to demand good paying jobs, pension security and accessible public and not-for-profit childcare. These are all critical issues for women and each and every one of us has an important role to play in electing a government that will make meaningful commitments to improve the lives of women in our workplaces and communities across the province and the country.
Through organizing, bargaining and political advocacy, CUPE Ontario has a proud history of fighting for fairness to empower our union sisters and all women, but we are still a long way from achieving gender equality and much work remains to be done.
In Ontario, women still earn an average of $3.33 an hour less than men. Since the recession, women have filled the majority of new jobs created in the province, but the wage gap remains. This difference has a larger impact on younger women, immigrant women, Aboriginal women and women with disabilities. Overall, women are disproportionately affected, as they are the ones who fill part-time, casual and precarious jobs.
CUPE Ontario is committed to redoubling our efforts in the fight for women’s rights and we encourage all our members to talk about how we can use our voices and our votes in this year’s federal election to stand in solidarity for equality.