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April 26, 2011

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Let’s all give a Shift!

Already this year, we’ve seen the swearing in of a new premier and a “new” cabinet. While we wish Premier Clark well—and are glad that one of her first moves was to raise the minimum wage, which had been frozen since 2001—we see no real signs of the BC Liberal government moving away from the Campbell record of big tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and big businesses, and fewer services and more fees for the rest of us. By the time most of you read this issue, the NDP will have just chosen its new leader. Whoever wins is going to be in for a fight as the BC Liberals attempt to cling to power despite one of the worst economic records in the country.

The theme of our convention this year, and of the spring issue of Public Employee, is Community Action—It Works! Our feature story looks at just a few of the community-minded initiatives that CUPE locals and CUPE BC have undertaken. I really want to hear more from members about their community work, so I encourage all of you to send us your stories so we can use your example to inspire even more CUPE members to help make their cities and towns better places.

I often say that CUPE members aren’t just employees of the communities they live in, they are the community. We pay our taxes just like everyone else, and we know the value and importance of strong local economies. And we’re in the early stages of a new campaign that I believe has the potential to bring about significant changes in how local economies function in B.C.

In February I had the pleasure of “officially” launching CUPE BC’s Ten Percent Shift campaign to an audience of more than 400 CUPE members in Langford. As Public Employee went to press, I was very pleased to report that in just one month of the Shift campaign, nearly 200 people had already gone to the website ( and pledged to support vibrant and sustainable local economies. The Ten Percent Shift Facebook page (if you’re on Facebook, please search “Ten Percent Shift” and “like” our page) is also growing in popularity, as is our Twitter feed (@TenPercentShift.)

In the short time since the launch, I’ve been asked to speak to locals and other groups about the Shift, and I’m going to accept as many of these invitations as I possibly can. But the best way for this campaign to succeed is if CUPE BC members all across the province get involved in the campaign. There’s no better way to support the communities we live in, and I urge all CUPE members to take the Ten Percent Shift pledge. If we all work together, we can build the communities we all wish for.

Barry O’Neill is president of CUPE BC.