Day 5: End of Business

First Off,

I would like to commend Gerard, Mark and Laura for the hard work they’ve done. CUPE 391 has a reputation at conventions (national and provincial) of being meticulously prepared, attending all caucuses, networking with other locals, and staying on the convention floor to the very end of business each day. I believe we met those high standards that were set by our predecessors.

This has meant early starts and late nights. If we had a bigger delegation, it would be easier to attend social functions and see the sights. As it is, with only four credentials, we are stretched pretty thin (the National Constitution grants credentials based on the size of your local – we are only entitled to four). Our days have ranged from 12-16 hours depending on what has needed to be done.

I am always dismayed by the number of delegates at conventions who seem to take their responsibilities to their membership lightly. Larger locals can send many more members, so duties are shared amongst more people and their days are more reasonable, and they can spend some time in the evenings on personal business.

However, I get upset when people walk out of the convention hall early to socialize…or, as happened today, quorum was lost at noon because so many delegates had gone. I can understand family obligations back home and such, but one group was overheard talking about spending the afternoon shopping in Winnipeg. That is shameful. We are sent here to work…not sight-see.

Mark, Gerard and I had lunch and debriefed about the morning session. On the way, we stopped to snap a photo of the soon-to-open Millenium Library (left). Then, it was back to the hotel for work on e-mails, phone calls to staff affected by the teachers’ job action, and a nap. We are flying back tomorrow morning.

A number of important committees presented their work today, including the Rainbow Committee and the Pink Triangle Committee. Both had their resolutions passed which will now see the creation of a standing Aboriginal Council in CUPE and CUPE National pushing for stronger human rights legislation that will encompass sexual orientation.

In a moving ceremony that brought tears to many delegates’ eyes, Keith Allen was awarded the first CUPE literacy award. He has worked over the years to bring about employer-funded literacy programs for staff, but beyond that worked through literacy programs himself so that he would be able to help his children with their homework and participate in bible readings at his church. Keith stated that he took a week-long CUPE course recently, and for the first time ever he was able to answer more than just “yes” or “no” to the evaluation form questions – he proudly filled in the entire form.

One of the final speakers at a microphone was a courageous woman named Martine Stonehouse, representing the transgendered community, who stood with all twelve members of her Toronto local behind her and spoke of the bigotry that exists in our society. She is taking legal action to secure rights that are presently denied trans-persons. She received a standing ovation.

Thanks to everyone back home for your encouraging comments and e-mails. I’m looking forward to seeing my family for thanksgiving, then I’ll be hitting the picket lines with the teachers in a show of solidarity. Watch for e-mails on upcoming rallies and for news on how the job action is progressing. It’s going to be a busy week.

In solidarity,