Every March 8, people across the globe commemorate women’s achievements and call attention to their struggles by observing International Women’s Day. In Ontario, women and allies participate in events in solidarity with all women in the fight for equality and social justice.
Women have played a crucial role in the Canadian labour movement since its inception, working tirelessly for equality in the workplace, the union, and beyond. The efforts of women trade unionists in securing fairer wages and benefits like parental leave have made Canadian society more inclusive for women and other marginalized groups.
CUPE in particular has a long history of fighting for women’s rights on the job and in our communities. In 1975, feminist activist Grace Hartman became the first woman to lead a major labour union in North America when she was elected president of CUPE National. Our union has also been at the forefront of securing basic rights for women workers in Canada, from the ability to work after marriage to pay equity.
Despite the advances women have made, serious problems still exist. Across Canada, working mothers and families continue to suffer from a lack of accessible childcare. Women remain over-represented in part-time and precarious work. And in Ontario, women workers earn an average of 31.5% less than men—a gap which is even higher for racialized and Aboriginal women, young women, and women with disabilities.
Over the past year, CUPE Ontario has worked to raise awareness of wage discrimination against women through the Gender Pay Gap Bake Shop Campaign. The CUPE Ontario Aboriginal Council sent thousands of postcards to MPs, contributing to the successful demand for an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Our Women’s Committee has continued to campaign for public universal childcare, women’s health resources, and other issues.
CUPE Ontario also took to the streets with thousands of activists and allies for the 2016 International Women’s Day Rally and March in Toronto. This year’s event, the largest in North America, called on women to rise up against violence, hate, racism, Islamophobia, and poverty. We are very proud of CUPE Ontario VP Yolanda McClean for helping to organize the event, and of our CUPE sisters—Krystal King, Gilary Massa, and Maureen O’Reilly–who spoke so powerfully on gender discrimination in our workplaces.
CUPE Ontario is deeply committed to fighting for fairness for our union sisters and all women through bargaining, political advocacy, and mobilization. We are very proud to join with our sisters and allies across the world to celebrate International Women’s Day this and every year.