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Labour women lead on Millennials panel

Sec-Treas Sussanne Skidmore, President Kim Novak and President Karen Ranalletta spoke about the changing face of union membership.

What leadership challenges keep you up at night? That was one of the questions President Kim Novak fielded as part of an invited panel at the Canadian Industrial Relations Association’s conference, held at the University of British Columbia last week.

The panel, titled Unions, Leadership, Millennials: the Future of the Labour Movement, featured prominent BC labour leaders, including President Novak, Sussanne Skidmore, Secretary-Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour and Karen Ranalletta, president of CUPE 2950.

“What keeps me up and also drives me to want to lead our organization is how to be proactive and progressive in the work we are doing on behalf of our members, rather than reacting to the decisions of the employers,” President Novak said. “I also think about how to shift the motivation for why members engage and participate in our union from solely responding to individual workplace issues to fighting for a common, socially just cause.”

With 40 percent of the union’s membership under the age of 30, President Novak spoke from experience when asked about how UFCW 1518 remains relevant to younger workers. That means getting out of the union office and into their workplaces and communities to connect with people directly,” she explained.

The panel addressed the changing face of union membership and the growing diversity amongst members. “If we want to build solidarity and power in our union, we need to embrace difference, and learn from a wide range of perspectives and experiences.  That’s why UFCW 1518 is working to challenge the status quo when it comes to representation and why we are fighting to make room for voices that have not been heard,” commented President Novak.

The panel also discussed the need for solidarity and communication among unions in BC to strengthen the labour movement for all unionized workers. “When we come together, we learn from each other’s successes and support each other through the challenges we face. That helps to build our collective voice and power to make progressive change.”

We need to ask more questions and do more listening to understand what matters most to our members.
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