March 8, 2018 — Every year on March 8, members of OSSTF/FEESO join with women’s organizations, other unions, and workers around the globe to mark International Women’s Day.
It is a day on which we celebrate the immeasurable social, political, economic and cultural contributions and achievements of women in Canada and around the world, as well as the many significant advances in women’s rights brought about by the tireless work of activists throughout the years.
Many of those advances have come through gains made by unions. Provisions for pregnancy/parental leave, family care leave and pay equity all point to the important role that unions have played in improving the lives of women and their families.
But even as we celebrate these gains, we recognize that an enormous amount of work remains to be done. Wage discrimination persists, women are still disadvantaged by inadequate childcare programs, and in our legislative bodies, as well as in the world of business, women are still significantly underrepresented in leadership roles. As the recent Me Too and Time’s Up movements have dramatically underscored, sexual harassment and sexual assault are common experiences for far too many women, both in their workplaces and in their communities. Equal rights and formal protections may exist in legislation and in collective agreements, but as long as sexist and misogynist attitudes are allowed to persist, there will always be much more work to do in the struggle for true equality.
As education workers, OSSTF/FEESO members have always played a key role in advocating for and advancing the rights of women and girls. The first Federation motion supporting the principle of equal pay for equal work, in fact, was passed at our second annual meeting in 1920. Since the early 1990s we have paid specific attention to the issue of sexual harassment through the production of resources like The Joke’s Over and Still Not Laughing. And through our partnerships with organizations like the White Ribbon Campaign and coalitions advocating for pay equity and better childcare, as well as our involvement in campaigns such as Sisters in Spirit and Women’s Memorial Marches, we continue to advocate in our communities for women’s rights and equality.
Please join me today as we celebrate the achievements of women, and stand in support of the ongoing quest for women’s equality.