Remembering our pioneers
Today, on Health Care Assistant Day, we recognize and celebrate the important but often overlooked work that more than two thousand UFCW 1518 members serving as community health workers perform every day.
We remember the work of pioneers member organizers who helped unionized the home support sector – people like Peggy and Sue – who were home support workers in Powell River in the 1980s. Their 41 person union was falling apart and they had approached several unions that weren’t interested in helping.
Feeling frustrated they spoke to a cashier at Safeway named Joyce, who was a shop steward at her store. Joyce suggested that they contact the UFCW to see if they would help build a union of home support workers across the province. UFCW 1518 agreed to help and here’s what happened next, according to Peggy:
Wow it went fast! Sue was sent out before Christmas that year and I went out the following January. Neither Sue or I had any experience in organizing. We didn’t know what to do! But we met people so ready to join a union for home support workers. A union would mean job security, better wages, contracts with benefits that none of us had even thought about.
Our big adventure took off and Sue and I went all over BC from the coast to the interior and we met so many wonderful people. Sue and I were away from home two to three weeks at time as more and more home support units became part of UFCW.
Then we had the experience of being part of negotiations. Talk about a different kettle of fish! I had no idea what it would be like to be across from management and all their representatives and on our side of the table just us home support workers and UFCW. Thank god the UFCW knew what they were doing!
I knew this was an organization that really cared for its workers, not just dues, but there was a caring that we could feel and see the results of. To this day after being retired for many years I still feel part of my union – the UFCW.
From a humble beginning of 41 community health workers in Powell River in 1987, we now are 2000 strong because of the work of members like Sue, Peggy and countless others.
To our community health members, we want you to know that we appreciate you and celebrate your commitment to making the lives of those in need of care better and brighter.
Happy Health Care Assistant Day!