The brave and beautiful Vancouver Public Library workers return to public service at all VPL locations Wednesday, October 24th. We have been in the branches sorting materials and filling the shelves since Monday so that the people of Vancouver may have their libraries back.
Words cannot express the gratitude, awe and love we feel for our library patrons who wrote letters, made phone calls and visited the picket lines with food, expressed their concern and offered words of encouragement. Thank you, Vancouver. Thank you, all our friends in solidarity and for social justice.
Taking job action was not an easy decision for Vancouver Public Library workers to make. This is our first strike in our 77 years as a bargaining unit. We went out for a principle: equal pay for work of equal value and in the process, to end gender discrimination.
Well, we didn’t win the fight, but we didn’t lose. We won something much richer and more lasting. We built a foundation for our struggle and will be identified forever with some of the most interesting and creative approaches to establishing participatory adult education activities around the subject of pay equity. Coalition-building has occurred with other female-dominated work forces, workshops are being designed, and a tangible pride and solidarity is shared amongst our members and friends.
CUPE 391 members genuinely love public service. There were tears shed on the picket line and more than a few sleepless nights as we wrestled with the dichotomy of fighting for a principle and denying our selves and the residents of Vancouver access to their public space. In the end we decided we needed to engage again in public service and that there are other venues for the fight for equal pay for work of equal value beyond the bargaining table.
Barry O’Neil, president of CUPE BC writes in today’s Vancouver Sun, “What is at stake is the well-being of the public and of a community, and that is far more important than anyone’s ego or political ambitions.” CUPE 391 went out for a principle and we are going back to work for a principle. We deserve pay equity and we love public service. These two conditions are not mutually exclusive.
Vancouver Public Library workers will not be engaging in discussions regarding recent job action. But if you should ask us about pay equity, we suggest visiting Social Science on Level 3 and Business on Level 4. Some useful subject headings:
. Pay equity
. Equal pay for equal work
. Discrimination in employment – Canada
. Pay equity—law and legislation—Canada
. Pay equity—law and legislation—Canada—provinces
. Job evaluation
. Canada—social conditions
. Sex discrimination in employment
. Labour laws and legislation—British Columbia
At your service, as always, CUPE 391, Vancouver Public Library Workers