We’re approaching a year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Over the course of this year, we’ve collectively gone through a lot. We’ve come together to keep each other as safe and healthy as possible and began to chart a course for a world beyond this moment, a more equitable one which supports and protects everyone. And we’ve also become witness to just how clearly this crisis has exposed the long-existing inequities in all our communities.

In the full recognition that women – especially racialized and immigrant women – are among those most impacted by this pandemic, CUPE Ontario commemorates International Women’s Day (IWD) today, on March 8. On this day, our 280,000 members join numerous organizations around the world in recognizing the immense contributions of women around the world – and we recommit to weaving in and centering this recognition into all our work.

This is more necessary than ever, given that front-line workers are disproportionately women. Whether they’re the public or private sector workers, these are workers who’ve kept our communities functioning despite unimaginable challenges and often without the personal protective equipment they need. Of the 60 per cent of Ontarians who do not have paid sick days, a majority are women; and many of them are racialized, immigrant women. The vast majority of health care workers are women and many are racialized. One report after another has shown that women, and disproportionately racialized women, have lost their jobs in the last year at higher rates. And women have been more likely to be impacted by the closing of childcare centres.

The stats and the research and the reports are in. The story is clear: women, primarily immigrant women, have been forced to bear the brunt of political decisions that made a pandemic worse than it had to be.

In this moment, it’s time to redouble our ongoing efforts. With the province’s Spring budget on the horizon, we need the Ford government to recognize that front-line workers need the resources to ensure everyone’s health and safety, their community’s and their own. In the midst of Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission, we need to ensure that long-term care homes are safe for residents and workers alike.

Enacting these measures and so many others we need will be a challenge but our movements are strong and they’re growing, the product of the efforts and passion of women, here and around the world. CUPE Ontario’s Women’s Committee, for one, continues to highlight concerns like domestic and sexual assault, working on organizing our members around critical issues, and empowering women to become leaders in our union. This committee joins a growing chorus of organizations which recognize that an equitable recovery from this crisis depends on a “shecovery”.

CUPE members in Ontario are 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.