In recognition of labour day, SEIU-West members Terrilyn St. Amour and Carmela Verwimp, alongside their union President, Barbara Cape, share their labour day messages of solidarity, strength and justice. These powerful messages are also published with the Star Phoenix and Leader Post:
Our Struggle for Fairness: By Carmela Verwimp
At our workplace we did not inherit our union. Many of us felt firsthand the stigma of being connected with the union organizing drive, irrespective of our role in it.
At our group home we went from having no established pay grid, no seniority, and no real confidence that labour laws were being followed to having a collective agreement that we can enforce together.
I was introduced to the union toolbox in 2011 at our SEIU-West convention and since have taken the opportunity to learn new skills and foster a strong support network within our union.
My most remarkable experience is being locked out by our employer for 11 weeks in 2017. In rural Saskatchewan, walking a picket line can be very lonely. We learned a great deal about solidarity in the labour movement and our community. We are living proof that we are stronger together.
I celebrate Labour Day as a proud leader of SEIU-West who recognizes the full value and many benefits of our union membership in our workplace and our community.
So this Labour Day, I will be attending the Saskatoon & District Labour Council (SDLC) picnic in Victoria Park to volunteer my time with many others. Hope to see you there!
It’s About Coming Together for the Common Good: By Terrilyn St. Amour
The labour movement has fought hard to improve the lives of all working people. I witness daily those who benefit from union membership without even knowing it is so. I know this because of my personal experience.
My union involvement began when a co-worker asked me to become a ‘shop’ steward. I was three years in the workplace when I attended a course offered by my union, SEIU-West. I was amazed!
There were many opportunities and pathways to learn and grow. The union toolbox is full of useful advice and skills! The work that flows from having these new tools is valuable whether you want to help your co-workers in your workplace or others in the community.
I soon joined our SEIU-West Young Worker committee, where I learned how to lobby the government. Our work, in step with PATHS and the SFL created the impetus for the first legislative steps in addressing domestic violence issues in Saskatchewan.
My union work will not stop. I am currently a Unit Chair at my workplace and a member of the SEIU-West Executive Board. My energy is driven by a need to help others. So this Labour Day, enjoy your day off and remember how it came to be.
Labour Day Message from SEIU-West: By Barbara Cape, President
For many, the celebration of Labour Day might be simply the last long weekend of summer: a public holiday, enjoyed with little understanding about its origin or relevance. Traditionally, activists within the labour movement view Labour Day as an important opportunity to educate the public about the many workplace protections and benefits earned through the good work of labour unions that are available to all workers; like the 40 hour work week, maternity leave, worker’s compensation benefits, workplace safety standards and so many others.
In my experience as the President of SEIU-West, I have enjoyed many face to face conversations with our members. Some have come to the workplace and inherited their union, while others have fought tirelessly to organize their union in their workplace. These conversation have taught me that our members are the experts. Whether they work in crisis support, health care, education support, community based organizations or addictions recovery, our members have one thing in common – a constant desire to improve the services they provide in order to make their community better for everyone.
At SEIU-West, we share this perspective and we want to build partnerships to improve the many communities where our members work and live. We offer a network of opportunities to our members; pathways for them to learn, participate and engage. We know that enhancing the involvement of our members in our union enriches both workplace and community health. We do this work because we want the public to gain a better understanding of the critical role unions play within our society. We have a shared interest in the protection of quality democracy. We believe in and will champion a fair society.
Politically, there has long been an agenda to weaken the role of unions. Driven by the self-interest of the rich and powerful, this ideology attempts to undermine unions’ work on behalf of our members; to under-value the efforts to address social justice issues and create balance in the power dynamic between workers and their bosses. Unions believe that by educating the public and dispelling the myths surrounding our organizations, we can build stronger and better alliances that benefit not just our members, but all working people.
As a consequence, we take a great deal of pride in the celebration of Labour Day and we share with our many members, an energetic interest in strengthening their participation and motivating their engagement whether it be at Labour Day events or the many other opportunities that will build a better and more equal society in our future.