This project explores the current climate and attitudes to women, feminism, leadership and equality in Canadian unions through the insights, voices and experiences of women union leaders, activists and staff in Canadian unions.
In the first stage of our project on Leadership, Feminism and Equality in Unions in Canada, we had conversations with almost 50 union women from across the country. These discussions included women from seven provinces and territories; retired and still active staff, leaders and activists, women of colour, Aboriginal women, lesbians and young women and women from public and private sector unions and central labour bodies. Our findings do not address the situation in Québec.
One participant commented: “I was very struck by the beauty of this conversation and how quickly the connections happened when we started talking about what’s really important to us in a way that there’s lots of listening, lots of respect. It’s kind of like a weaving in and out. And you know this is part of our deep heritage. This is what consciousness-raising was all about, moving from facts to voice and telling the story.”
The discussions were wide-ranging, analytical and deeply-moving. What emerged was a widespread consensus that there is a serious problem within the labour movement in advancing women’s equality work and supporting feminist activists at all levels. And yet union women still share the optimistic belief that organized labour has played and can continue to play a critical role in challenging inequality. There is ongoing commitment to strengthening our movement by ensuring that all members are engaged and all our concerns are heard.
Our findings are grouped under six themes: