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November 20, 2023

We Want to See More Trans Elders - BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU)

BCGEU Secretary-Treasurer Paul Finch Issues Statement on Transgender Day of Remembrance

This past year we've seen a disturbing rise in hate-driven attacks on the transgender community. The BCGEU's solidarity with transgender, gender-diverse workers, and all 2SLGBQTI+ community members is necessary and urgent-it's a lifeline, it's central to our values, and it's important to the wellbeing of our communities.

Every worker and person in B.C. deserves safety, respect and support. That's why, as union activists we fight for more humane workplaces - so that everyone can lead healthy, fulfilling lives on the job and outside of it. Our greatest strength is our collective power, which demands inclusivity. To exclude anyone from the progress that we strive for would fail the whole labour movement. Real unionism uplifts all workers to fight for their rights.

For trans workers, who have a lower life expectancy and are disproportionately the targets of assault, the fight for their rights is intimately tied to the fight for their lives. Our union is committed to helping build a world where trans people have a real chance to be themselves, lead fulfilling lives and grow old. We want to see more trans elders.

Since 1999, the trans community has come together on November 20, across borders and demographics, for Trans Day of Remembrance to memorialize and mourn loved ones who were ripped from their lives by transphobia. Sadly, every year, the list of names on the epitaph grows. Today and every day, BCGEU honours and remembers all victims killed in acts of transphobic violence or those taken as a result of them. Our union celebrates and supports survivors and commits to defending against attacks that disrupt and threaten trans and gender-diverse lives.

Canada's legal landscape is unfortunately becoming more hostile. Saskatchewan's government has now passed a bill that requires parental consent as a condition for kids to re-enforce their preferred names and pronouns at school, forcing some youth to come out to their guardians and relatives before they are ready. The Saskatchewan government's invocation of the Notwithstanding Clause – used to pass the bill – overrides parts of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and goes to disturbing lengths to discourage gender-diverse youth from self-identifying, which has been shown in the research to reduce depression, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

Outside of electoral politics, we've also seen a wave of misguided and inflammatory rallies organized across the country against B.C.'s SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) framework - a toolkit of resources that allow for age-appropriate and scaled conversations that encourage inclusion and understanding. Sometimes lessons as simple as talking about how colours don't have a gender or suggestions of books that might reflect the diversity of students and their families, SOGI does not force children to be anything other than who they are. It teaches acceptance, relieving kids of the pressure they may feel to conform to identities that don't feel right for them.

BCGEU's 2SLGBTQI+ Committee has been doing member outreach and joining forces with ally organizations to counter these protests, to ensure all children and youth feel supported, safe and heard at school and in their communities.

BCGEU also highlights the fact that these discriminatory trends in anti-trans legislation and sentiment will disproportionality hurt low-income, racialized and Indigenous members of the community, as well as seniors and trans people with disabilities. Real justice for the transgender community will only be won if it is intersectional and inclusive; accessible gender-affirming care includes and requires an anti-racist healthcare system and affordable housing for seniors and low-income communities. Trans elders must feel safe and included.

While we mourn and condemn hate on this somber day, we know it's not enough for unions to be against transphobia - we must actively build safe, supportive spaces where transgender workers can thrive. We must strive for a world where the community is not in a constant state of defense, spending more time justifying and vying for their existence than living. We stand in support of a future world where transgender and gender-diverse workers and communities can lay down their swords and instead be free to fully explore their interests, grow their relationships, and feel the full spectrum of emotion, without fear of the constant risk of attack.

 



UWU/MoveUP

November 14, 2023

RBC & BMO shareholders herald racial equity audit commitments - BC General Em...

Chartered banks are fourth and fifth to commit to independent assessment after successful shareholder engagement 

BURNABY, B.C. | Nov. 14, 2023 – In back-to-back announcements, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Bank of Montreal (BMO) announced commitments to conduct independent racial equity audits, making them the fourth and fifth Canadian chartered banks to do so. These announcements come after nearly a year of negotiations led by bank investors including the B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU) and SHARE, and just days after investors re-filed shareholder resolutions at both companies in conjunction with the 2024 annual shareholder meetings.

A racial equity audit is an independent analysis of a company's business practices designed to identify and address potential disparities in a company's policies and practices affecting Indigenous people and communities of colour.

In response to the announcements, BCGEU Treasurer Paul Finch released the following statement:

"Just two years ago, the term 'racial equity audit' was virtually unheard of at Canadian banks. BCGEU and other shareholders have played a vital role in changing that. Both RBC – and now BMO's – commitments today cement racial equity audits as industry best practice. Looking ahead, we hope to see other Canadian companies commit to racial equity audits as they validate a company's commitments and create long term company value".

Sarah Couturier-Tanoh, Associate Director of Corporate Engagement and Advocacy at SHARE which represents the Atkinson Foundation, the Hamilton Community Foundation, the United Church of Canada Pension, and the United Church of Canada Treasury added:

"These new commitments from RBC and BMO are the start of a meaningful process for the banks to address their racial equity risks. We will continue working with Scotiabank to get similar commitments in the near future. This outcome shows the power that long-term shareholders can have through active ownership and constructive engagement."

Tom Powdrill, Director of Stewardship at PIRC which represents the Greater Manchester Pension Fund in the engagement with RBC said:

"Investors in Europe have been increasingly active in support of racial equity audits over the past two years and are now starting to co-file resolutions. We welcome the commitment that RBC has made and look forward to positive outcomes driven by the audit process. We also encourage others to follow the example RBC has set."

In its announcement, RBC committed to a review of both its employment and business practices and will engage a qualified independent auditor quickly with audit work to begin in 2024 and public reporting to be released in 2025. Although BMO has publicly committed to conducting a third-party racial equity audit, the bank's plan and timeline remain unclear.

The proponents stress the need for the audits to address the most significant risks related to racial equity, including Canadian, US, and international businesses, and personal and commercial lending. Further, the full audit results, including the auditor's findings, recommendations and corrective action plan should be publicly available for shareholders to have confidence in the quality and robustness of the audit process.

BCGEU and SHARE first filed racial equity audit shareholder proposals at both companies in 2023. Both earned the support of a plurality of shareholders, with 42% support at RBC and 37% support at BMO. When neither RBC nor BMO initially committed to conducting an audit, investors representing $2 trillion in assets under management wrote to the RBC board in October 2023 requesting RBC conduct a racial equity audit. Similar expectations were conveyed to the Board of Directors at BMO by the BCGEU and SHARE.

For more information contact:

Emma Pullman

Head of Capital Stewardship and ESG, BC General Employees' Union

[email protected]

 

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ABOUT BCGEU

The B.C. General Employees' Union represents over 85,000 workers in almost every community and economic sector in British Columbia. Under BCGEU's capital stewardship strategy, the union has submitted shareholder proposals at some of Canada's largest companies on topics like human rights, racial equity, and executive compensation. The union's strategy has succeeded in achieving strong commitments on ESG issues.

ABOUT SHARE

SHARE is an award-winning non-profit organization dedicated to mobilizing investor leadership for a sustainable, inclusive and productive economy. We do this by supporting our investor networks and amplifying their voices to improve corporate sustainability practices and implement better rules and regulations that govern capital markets. For more information on SHARE, visit www.share.ca


UWU/MoveUP

October 16, 2023

Atira workers rally for pay equity, fair contract - BC General Employees' Uni...


Atira workers rally for pay equity, fair contract 

VANCOUVER, B.C. (Coast Salish Territories) – Newly unionized members of the B.C. General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) working at Atira Women's Resource Society (AWRS) will rally in the Downtown Eastside to demand a fair contract that provides the same rights, protections and compensation as thousands of other community health workers. 

AWRS is one of the four largest supportive housing agencies in B.C. along with the Portland Hotel Society (PHS), Lookout Housing + Health Society, and RainCity Housing and Support Society. All but AWRS are currently covered by the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC) Community Health sector agreement. Minister of Finance, Katrine Conroy, is expected to make a decision on their inclusion this month. 

It’s essential that the women and gender-diverse workers at AWRS are granted the same recognition and compensation as their peers now, and through all future changes that may affect the sector. 

WHAT : Rally to demand pay equity, inclusion in Community Health sector agreement. BCGEU president Stephanie Smith will speak at 1:05 p.m. followed by Atira workers and BCGEU treasurer Paul Finch will make closing remarks. 

WHEN: Monday, October 16, 2023, 1:00 - 1:25 p.m. PST 

WHERE: Wendy Poole Park, 199 Alexander Street, Vancouver, B.C. 

VISUALS: Atira supportive housing workers and allies in the Downtown Eastside rallying across from Atira’s Vancouver headquarters (190 Alexander) with colourful flags and signs. 

CONTACT : Please send requests for interviews to Bronwen Barnett, BCGEU communications officer by emailing [email protected] or calling 604-291-9611.

As the lead union in the sector, more than 4,000 supportive housing workers are unionized with the BCGEU.   

One of the largest unions in British Columbia, the BCGEU has over 85,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province. 

Backgrounder: Supportive Housing is Health Care Rally 



UWU/MoveUP

October 06, 2023

Winter School 2024 Application - BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU)

Winter School 2024 will be taking place in-person at Harrison Hot Springs Resort! We are so excited that our communities will be able to come together, to learn and discuss with peers and colleagues at the upcoming Winter School. As we continue to work with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) on updating you with further details, please complete your registration application form to express your interest in attending. Please note, this form does not mean you are registered to attend Winter School. Upon receipt of your registration/application, it will be forwarded to your Component Education Committee for consideration. 

Once your Component has made their decision on who is approved to attend, you will be contacted by our Department to finalize your attendance.

 Please complete by October 30, 2023: Winter School 2024 Application.



UWU/MoveUP

September 18, 2023

BCGEU Strongly Denounces Hate-Fueled Anti-Trans Attacks - BC General Employee...

Many of you will have heard about rallies planned across the country this week which look to further anti-trans hate speech.
 
The B.C General Employees' Union (BCGEU) vehemently condemns the upcoming wave of hate rallies slated to occur under the misleading banner of #1millionmarch4children on September 20.
 
These rallies represent an alarming assault on the 2SLGBTQI+ community. Our families, children, union members and the very fabric of an inclusive and equitable society are their targets – a unified labour movement is the strongest defense.
 
These events are just one facet of a broader, disturbing trend of attacks targeting transgender individuals and in particular trans youth. We don't want to give these hateful rallies more publicity than they are due, but we cannot stay silent. 
 
With the rallies days away, BCGEU resolutely calls upon political leaders to denounce these hate rallies. Public declarations of support for trans youth will serve as a powerful counterforce against the destructive and unfounded narratives peddled by these rallies and a necessary shield for children and trans community members.
 
Many people are planning to counter-protest these events and our union members are encouraged to demonstrate strength in numbers by attending alongside individuals they know. It's up to all of us to stand shoulder to shoulder in unwavering solidarity and to vehemently oppose acts of hatred and discrimination.
 
The BCGEU stands in solidarity with trans workers and communities to ensure we safeguard the fundamental right to live in an environment where they feel safe, secure, dignified and protected!
 
If you need support, you can find resources available to you at: https://pride.bcgeu.ca/resources
 
In solidarity,
 
Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President



UWU/MoveUP

September 13, 2023

New report demonstrates vacancy control is a common-sense policy urgently nee...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
September 13, 2023

New report demonstrates vacancy control is a common-sense policy urgently needed to address housing crisis 

BURNABY, B.C. (Coast Salish Territories) 
The B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU) today released Evaluating Prospects for Vacancy Control Policy in B.C.'s Housing Affordability Crisis, a comprehensive assessment of vacancy control policy (where rent control is tied to the unit rather than a tenancy agreement). The report finds no evidence that tying rent to the unit has had significant negative impacts on developing new rental housing supply. Instead, a lack of vacancy control represents a loophole in B.C.'s rent control laws that has allowed rents to rise between 10-23 per cent year after year since 2019 in major metro areas. 

The union is calling on the provincial government to amend the Residential Tenancy Act and implement vacancy control as part of the solution to the housing crisis. 

"Rising rents have been a key driver of housing inflation for over a decade, and this has become increasingly untenable for the one in three British Columbia residents who are renters," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "While the provincial government has taken important steps to help limit runaway rent increases during a tenancy, they have stopped short of regulating rents between tenancies. We cannot leave vacancy control off the table any longer." 

The report tackles key myths about vacancy control, and rent control more generally, and outlines case studies of vacancy control policies in B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and P.E.I. from the 1970s onward. It also proposes seven recommendations – including the implementation of vacancy control as an "evidence-based social policy" rather than one that is determined based on purely economic grounds. 

The union is also joined today by organizations from across the province gathering on the B.C. Legislature lawn to rally in support of vacancy control and other policy solutions needed to address the housing crisis. In attendance at the rally are groups representing organized labour, tenants, faith and anti-poverty organizations: 

"Too many working people can't afford to live and raise their families in the communities they work in - and the spiraling cost of rent is a huge factor. Vacancy control not only helps to stop that upward spiral, but it removes one of the strongest incentives for landlords to pressure tenants to move out. For working families, that means lower costs and more stable homes." - Hermender Singh Kailley, Secretary-Treasurer, BC Federation of Labour 

"The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition represents over 80 member organizations across B.C. that advocate for public policy solutions to end poverty, homelessness and inequality. Vacancy control is a crucial tenet of building a durable foundation for affordable housing throughout B.C., and is a part of our Blueprint for Justice policy platform. B.C. needs vacancy control now – tackling the housing crisis requires strong measures, and we need to see government action to make affordable housing a human right again." - Rowan Burdge, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition Provincial Director 

"MVA is a coalition of labour, faith, community and nonprofit groups in the Lower Mainland representing over 100,000 people that come together to work on shared goals that make Metro Vancouver a more just place to live. We believe that housing and homes are basic human rights, and that vacancy control will aid in turning this right into a reality for those of us living in one of the most expensive and beautiful places in the world." - Metro Vancouver Alliance 

"Our current rent control laws reward bad landlords who continuously kick their tenants out just so they can jack up the rent. Every week, the Community Legal Assistance Society receives calls for help from tenants facing eviction based on false or flimsy pretenses by landlords trying to get around the rent control limits. This harsh reality will continue until the government limits the rent increases that landlords can impose, not just during a tenancy, but also when new tenants are brought in." - Danielle Sabelli, Community Legal Assistance Society

"Since 2018 our union has been telling this government that real rent control (vacancy control) is the only way to remove the financial incentive to evict tenants, and for over five years this government has refused to act. Metro Vancouver is the eviction capital of Canada, and tenants are organizing with their neighbours to keep themselves and their homes safe. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that working people can get together and demand a better deal from their landlords, and through this freedom of association, tenants can collectively bargain to demand vacancy control in their buildings. While we continue to demand this government take action, it's important for us to fight for the right of tenants to collectively bargain in the face of increasing crackdown on tenant organizing by the landlord class."- Mazdak Gharibnavaz, Vancouver Tenants Union. 

"The Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre firmly believes that implementing vacancy control is necessary to protect renters in B.C. at a time of unprecedented crisis. Thousands of tenants contact us every year with requests for legal assistance when their landlords threaten to evict them for "landlord use" or no-fault evictions unless they agree to a higher rent increase than allowed by law. We hear so many stories about the insecurity people feel in their housing – all driven by the profit motive that fuels our eviction epidemic. Tenants' security of tenure in their homes and their fundamental human right to housing must take precedent over investor returns on real estate. Vacancy control will remove the incentive to evict people and protect tenants' right to housing as an important part of addressing the affordability crisis." - Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre 

"I represent GVAT (Greater Victoria Acting Together), a coalition of caring Victoria organizations representing faith groups, unions, service providers, environmental and other non-governmental organizations. As part of our ongoing work on affordable housing, we lobby for provincial policies that meet the critical needs of tenants. Too many families and individuals are being evicted to avoid the type of rent control that dies when they move out. We cannot solve homelessness until we can keep our community safely housed. That is why we support real rent control - vacancy control." - Lynn Beak, Greater Victoria Acting Together 

The report was commissioned by the BCGEU as part of its Affordable BC campaign which proposes bold policy solutions to address the housing crisis for working class people. A copy of Evaluating Prospects for Vacancy Control Policy in B.C.'s Housing Affordability Crisis can be found here: https://www.affordablebc.ca/vacancycontrolreport

Since 2017, the BCGEU has worked with experts to research and develop extensive housing policy solutions that can be implemented immediately by the province, and all levels of government to address the housing crisis. Visit www.affordablebc.ca to learn more. 

The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in British Columbia, with over 85,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province. 

For more information contact [email protected].



UWU/MoveUP

August 24, 2023

Emergency relief fund available for BCGEU members - BC General Employees' Uni...

These are unprecedented, difficult times. After weeks of the worst wildfire season yet, officials have declared a state of emergency and put in place evacuation orders for thousands of people in the Kelowna, West Kelowna and Shuswap areas.

We have many members living in the Okanagan area and other impacted regions of B.C. Our thoughts are with you and your families at this time.

As one of B.C.'s largest unions, and as the union representing many of the emergency crews serving our communities, we are here to support our members and affected communities across the province.

That's why we want to make sure all BCGEU members affected by this crisis are aware of the emergency relief fund that can help you out during moments like these.
If you have lost your home as a result of the wildfires, you may be eligible to apply for emergency financial assistance.

If you believe you are eligible for these funds, please contact the Kelowna area office (250) 763-6405 / 1-800-667-1132  or the Kamloops area office (250) 372-8223 / 1-800-667-0054 to speak to a staff representative and receive the application form.

Note: A completed FA-111 application form must be submitted within three months of the fire, flood or other natural disaster to receive payment, which will be made directly by your component. Applicants must be full or life BCGEU members as noted in constitution and bylaws articles 4.1 and 4.4.

Learn more about how to find the full list of wildfires, highway closures and evacuation orders and alerts.

Throughout this crisis, we will be doing our best to support you and your communities. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any issues with your employer during this time.

In solidarity,

Paul Finch, BCGEU Treasurer



UWU/MoveUP

August 14, 2023

Letter to MGEU Workers - BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU)

Dear MGEU liquor workers,

On behalf of the B.C. General Employees' Union, I write to you to share an expression of solidarity as you stand on the line fighting for a new agreement with wages that reflect the rising cost of living.

I know that you, and workers across the country, have seen your wages significantly eroded by inflation and that the government offer of a two per cent increase for each year of the agreement means you would be falling further and further behind. You certainly deserve a raise at least in line with the raise Manitoba's own premier and her MLAs are receiving.

BCGEU members in the liquor and cannabis sector proved just last year that strike action can work, after two weeks of job action forced the employer back to the table and helped get a deal members could ratify.

Overwhelming support and solidarity from across the country helped keep morale high on our picket lines -- we want to send that solidarity back to you and help encourage you to stand strong and fight for a better deal.

Solidarity is always the basis of positive social change. When workers stand together and use their collective power they improve their working conditions and help create a more just and equal world.

When we stand together, we win!

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith,
BCGEU President

 



UWU/MoveUP

July 25, 2023

BCGEU condemns City of Vancouver’s decision to allow Yaletown OPS to close - ...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2023

BCGEU condemns City of Vancouver's decision to allow Yaletown OPS to close 


BURNABY, B.C.
(Coast Salish Territories) – The City of Vancouver's decision last week to allow the lease at Thomus Donaghy Overdose Prevention Site (OPS) in Yaletown to expire in March 2024 will put lives at risk at a time when harm reduction services are needed more than ever. 

"We are in the midst of a drug-poisoning crisis. Shutting down one of the most-used overdose prevention sites in the city with no plans for an alternative is unacceptable to our members who work at this facility and the clients they serve," said Paul Finch, BCGEU treasurer. 

The BCGEU is calling on Mayor Ken Sim and the ABC majority to intervene and renew the lease until an alternative space in the downtown area is secured. 

In addition to overdose prevention visits averaging 100 per day, the Yaletown site also distributes food donations and water during heat waves. The loss of this site or an alternative would represent a significant gap in multiple supports that vulnerable people in the area depend on. 

"We urge the City of Vancouver to extend the lease in order to save lives while an alternative space, one that addresses the needs of the community accessing services as well as residents in the surrounding area, is found," said Finch. 

Hundreds of BCGEU members at Raincity Housing and Support Society and Lookout Housing and Health Society work at overdose prevention sites, including at Thomus Donaghy OPS. 

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Media contact: [email protected].



UWU/MoveUP