On the day that the OFL elected its first ever female president, a panel was held at the Power of Many convention to highlight the work women have done across the labour movement.
The panel, moderated by Carolyn Ferns, the Public Policy and Government Relations Coordinator for the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, featured Mina Amrith, Executive Vice-President, SEIU Healthcare; Tiffany Balducci, President, Durham Region Labour Council; and, Felicia Samuel, Executive Officer, ETFO and former candidate for the Ontario NDP.
All three panelists agreed that the most important thing for women in the labour union is to support and be supported by their female peers and colleagues.
“It is because of women, the sisterhood in our labour movement, that gets you to where you need to be to be able to make changes,” said Amrith, who said that part of what led to her involvement in the women’s movement was to ensure no other women had to go through what she herself had gone through.
Balducci echoed this sentiment, saying: “I had amazing mentors in my life that were mostly women.”
The purpose of the labour movement, and the focus of the convention, is the good that the movement can do, not only for workers who belong to a union, but for everyone.
“It’s about our society and the kind of people we want in it moving forward,” said Samuel. “When we have our education workers out there striking, it’s not just about us and our wages, they love to spin that in our media. We are out there fighting for public education.”
The women talked about the threat to public services under the current government, and the work that is ahead over the next three years.
Samuel said she has had students tell her they are suffering from larger class sizes, and pointed out that Ontario is facing attacks not just on education but on all public services, but people cannot give up hope.
“Being jaded and fed up does not serve us. Nothing will change unless we engage,” she said.
Balducci pointed out that while the greater work of unions is meant to benefit society at large, there are additional benefits.
“We organize ultimately to change the world. We want the world to be a better place. But the happy byproduct it’s that we make ourselves better,” she said.