On March 8, people across the globe celebrate women’s struggles and achievements by observing International Women’s Day. The annual event, first celebrated in commemoration of the 1908 strike by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, has deep roots in the labour movement.
Women have played a crucial role in the Canadian labour movement, fighting for equality and social justice in the workplace and in our communities. CUPE in particular has a rich history of standing up for women’s rights. In 1975, our union became the first major trade union in North American to elect a woman president. Today, women make up 68% of CUPE’s membership. And over the past year, CUPE women across Ontario have taken the lead in organizing resistance to concessions and precarity on the picket lines.
The recent elections in United States have sparked widespread resistance on the part of women around the world. As we stand in solidarity with our sisters and allies to the south, we must remember that women in Canada also face systematic injustice. Across Canada, working families continue to suffer from a lack of affordable, accessible child care. Women remain over-represented in part-time, precarious work. And in Ontario, women workers earn an average of 30% 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 pushed to advance women’s rights in the workplace and beyond. At Queen’s Park, our union has actively supported Bill 177, the Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, which has now been referred to committee. We are organizing with our partners at the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care to advocate for the development of a universal, high quality public child care system. Our members are also working with the Equal Pay Coalition to end the gender wage gap.
CUPE Ontario is deeply committed to women’s rights. This International Women’s Day, we redouble our efforts in the fight for equality and to empower our union sisters and all women through political advocacy, bargaining, and mobilization.