Four UFCW 1518 members tossed their hat in the ring during the recent municipal election and came up winners. While they ran different campaigns and represent communities with unique challenges, they all share a similar motivation for running for election: a strong sense of civic duty.
“My motivation for stepping forward was a wish to give back to my community,” explained Jennifer Hoar, a shop steward and cashier at Ucluelet Co-op who won one of four seats on Ucluelet District Council. “I have the energy and a lot of skills that I can lend to this position. I was aware of some issues and felt that the best way to facilitate changes was to get in there and do some work.”
Frank Farrell also saw a lot of work to do in his hometown of Smithers, including the completion of a new elementary school. A 20-year Safeway member and father of three, Farrell was re-elected to a fourth term as term as school trustee in School District 54 Bulkley Valley. He was motivated to seek re-election by a number of unresolved issues that are important to him and his constituents, including funding for special needs students and changes to the funding formula for education.
“The changes in the funding formula for education in the 2019-20 school year will set new priorities based upon present needs. If there is no new increases in funding, then changes in allocations will mean cutbacks in some areas.” As the parent of a special needs child, as well as an experienced school trustee, he knows this could spell trouble.
Hoar’s small oceanside community of about 1717 residents faces different, but equally pressing problems. “We have an ongoing issue around lack of affordable housing, particularly for long term tenants. There has been an increase in the number of Air BnBs in our town and this has taken a large bite out of the pool of available long term housing,” she said. “I am aware of a number of small businesses that cannot find staff because their potential staff cannot find housing.”
In Clinton (population 600), the loss of a small town feel and community values inspired Kim McIlravey to stand for election. “People have to travel out of town for work. There’s nothing here for people except our mill. There were no activities for our seniors and our families,” she said. “I want people to be able to stay here.”
McIlravey, a care aide with Interior Health and former Safeway member, was elected to one of four councilor positions on Clinton Village Council. As a mother of four and a shop steward, she knows the importance of standing up for what you believe in, and pledges to do just that in her new role. “If we don’t have a voice, especially the younger generation, we get stuck, nothing changes. If you don’t fight you’ve got nothing.”
Dan Franzen, a Safeway clerk who was re-elected for a fourth term as city councilor for Port Edward (population 544), said union members need to get involved in civic politics so they can have a say in what happens to their communities. “That’s how we shape the future: we work together as one.” Franzen said there are numerous issues facing his municipality, including creating new recreational trails, putting in a dog park, and building more housing for seniors.
Farrell and Hoar also agree that it’s important for union members to take on roles in municipal government, where workers tend to be underrepresented. “Often decisions of governance in such areas as education are made by individuals who have less knowledge of issues facing working class people. UFCW 1518 members are parents who shoulder a heavy burden raising families,” Farrell commented. “The knowledge and background of UFCW1518 members is invaluable in offering working class representation at any government table.”
Added Hoar: “Civic politics is the level where there is the most effect on your day to day life, so this is the level that it is most important to be engaged in.” She added that the support of her union allowed her to get involved in municipal politics. “Just knowing that there is that support made it easier to take the leap of faith and stretch out my neck into the world of politics.”