Fifty members from all sectors across the province gathered in Victoria last May to speak truth to power at UFCW 1518’s first Lobby Day in 16 years.
The event kicked off with a four-hour workshop for executive board members, activists and stewards to train them in the fine art of lobbying. “It’s been a year since the election and we wanted to celebrate the new NDP government and all of the important changes they’ve made for working people and families,” says executive assistant Patrick Johnson. “What better way than to meet with ministers and MLAs and continue to carry forward the message of our members, which is that there’s still work to be done?”
About 20 ministers and MLAs attended a meet-and-greet co-hosted by the Retail Action Network, a network of retail workers and labour activists that fights for workplace justice and improved conditions in the retail sector.
“It was an incredible opportunity for our members to meet and chat informally with politicians who are the decision makers on really important issues, like poverty reduction, Labour Relations Code reform and the need to protect precarious workers,” comments Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak. “And importantly, it helped nurture relationships between the union and the ruling government. That is simply invaluable.”
Novak says that after attending the evening social event, Health Minister Adrian Dix reached out to her to schedule a formal meeting at the Legislature the next day. In all, members and leadership sat down with 13 ministers and MLAs, including Harry Bains, the Minister of Labour.
“Creating opportunities to connect with political leaders is essential if we are to ensure the government knows what working people need,” Novak explains. “Minister Bains understands the complexity of the Sobeys dispute, the difficulties it is causing for our members, and the potential negative impact on our economy. And he is open to hearing from working people. That’s powerful.”
Members also met with the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, the Minister of Housing and the Minister of Education.
Danielle Stohl, a care aide who works at Nanaimo Home Support, says she was honoured to represent UFCW 1518 in her meeting with Leonard Krod, the MLA for Nanaimo. “We have so many problems at work, and also in our community. Leonard is my MLA and I was able to tell him about them face to face, which is amazing.”