Apr 29, 2017

‘Thank you for being political’: Lanzinger

VICTORIA—CUPE BC’s boldly partisan stance in support of the BC NDP is a benefit to working British Columbians and could prove the difference in ending the BC Liberals’ 16-year reign of error on May 9, BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger told delegates in her closing day address to convention delegates.

Lanzinger, bringing greetings on behalf of the Fed’s 500,000 members, began by thanking CUPE for the work its members do across the province.

“CUPE is everywhere,” she said, reciting an exhaustive list of sectors in B.C. “It is amazing, the breadth and depth of all the work you do. You are in all the places that are close to our hearts, the workplaces that build our communities – thank you for that. It is such important work.”

Lanzinger also thanked CUPE for the union’s support for the BC Teachers’ Federation, which she formerly led as president, in its successful Supreme Court challenge of the BC Liberals’ scrapping of their collective agreement in 2001. Holding up a copy of the restored contract, which she received in the mail a few weeks ago, the BC Fed leader described the November 10, 2016 decision as one of the best days of her life.

“I was chief negotiator for the BCTF when we got that agreement, and I was in the Supreme Court when we got it back,” she recalled. “Of course, this is your victory, too—because of the close relationship between CUPE members and teachers, because of your steadfast and unwavering support on teachers’ picket lines. It was another reminder that, in the labour movement, we do not succeed alone—we succeed together.”

Lanzinger said the labour movement must never forget the reasons for that monumental struggle.

It was the Liberal governments of Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark who made the choice to strip collective agreement provisions for both teachers and health care workers and continue the fight against teachers and public education for 15 years,” she said, adding that it’s time to elect a government that will make better choices.

Lanzinger said that an NDP government led by John Horgan will introduce a poverty reduction plan that includes a $15 minimum wage, substantial increases to welfare and disability rates, and a social housing plan. It will also introduce $10-a-day childcare, show a genuine commitment to fair taxation and good public services, and recognize that unions are the key to reducing the income gap in B.C. But it won’t happen without the labour movement’s total commitment to electing the NDP, she said—and that’s where CUPE BC is making a difference.

“One of the things I love about CUPE is that you’re not afraid to talk about politics and who you support,” said Lanzinger. “Elections are all about opportunities—opportunities for us to exercise our democratic rights as citizens—and we need to take advantage of that opportunity. I have no doubt that CUPE members will be right there, at the forefront of the fight to change the government.”

COPE 491