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  • International Women's Day 2019
    Updated On: Mar 17, 2019

    What is International Women’s Day?

    From the Government of Canada website

    Each year, March 8 is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women and renew our efforts in achieving gender equality – in Canada and around the world.

    The beginnings of International Women's Day (IWD) trace back to the early twentieth century, emerging from the activities of labour movements in North America and Europe and reflecting a growing movement for women to participate equally in society.

    The first International Women's Day was observed on March 19, 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. That day, more than one million women and men showed their support by participating in public events. In the years that followed, other countries began to observe and celebrate this day. 

    The United Nations recognized 1975 as International Women's Year and began celebrating IWD on March 8, later adopting a resolution designating March 8 as International Women's Day. 

    Today, International Women's Day is celebrated around the world – in many countries, it is a national holiday. It has grown to become a global day of recognition of women's achievements and a call to action to support women's rights and advance gender equality.

    Join this year's IWD celebrations and add your voice to those calling out inequality using the hashtag #MyFeminism.

    18 Historic Milestones and Incredible Women in BC Labour

    The BC Labour Heritage Centre celebrates International Women’s Day with reflecting and recognizing the historic role of women in the BC labour movement and achievements for women workers. Find out more here.

    Men need to be ‘more than a bystander’ in standing up for women’s rights

    Opinion-editorial written by Laird Cronk, president, BC Federation of Labour
    Published in The Vancouver Sun, March 8, 2019

    March 8 is International Women’s Day and while we celebrate women’s achievements on this day, I urge men to join me in thinking about how our actions, individually and collectively, and the traditional power we’ve held in society affect women.

    I’m fortunate to have an exceptional work partner, B.C. Federation of Labour secretary-treasurer Sussanne Skidmore, with whom I’ve had many valuable and insightful conversations about finding ways to achieve a greater gender balance in workplaces and society as a whole.

    I recently attended a “Be More Than A Bystander” training session for men, through the B.C. Centre for Women in the Trades, which changed me deeply. Something transformational happens when a group of men are taken on a journey of seeing the world through women’s eyes.

    When men are compelled to examine how women prepare for everyday life, we begin to understand the inequities that exist for women, not the least of which in the workplace.

    As a progressive man, a husband and co-parent of three young women, I was confident I understood what women face daily. But the training I received helped me recognize more what women have to think about daily in a society entrenched with male privilege.

    I looked at how women think about the clothes or shoes they wear, when their shifts end, what part of town they will go to, how they transport themselves and how to escape if situations arise where they must get out fast.

    My eyes were opened to the responsibility men have to prevent bullying and harassment and end violence against women with practical techniques to be more than a bystander.

    The BCFED and its affiliates have supported the Ending Violence Association of B.C. and the B.C. Lion’s Be More Than a Bystander program for four years. The train-the-trainer program is designed to break the silence surrounding violence against women and girls by teaching Lions’ players how to speak up and communicate that violence and abuse is not acceptable. The Lions’ trainers then teach these skills to Grade 8-12 students in schools.

    Last year, the BCFED partnered with EVA BC and the B.C. Lions to modify this program for the construction sector, giving men from the construction industry the skills to be more than a bystander and teaching those skills to others.

    You may ask, What does this have to do with me? The answer is simple. The B.C. Lions are a cultural icon and what better to way to change culture than by using cultural icons to lead the way? This is the magic behind the Be More Than A Bystander program. It brings men into spaces with community figures they look up to and facilitates tough conversations about the way women are treated and what men can do about it.

    If you are a man, especially if you work in a sector dominated by men, contact the B.C. Centre for Women in the Trades and ask them how to get this training for your workplace.

    The centre is led by tradeswomen and focuses on mentoring and networking, shifting the culture of discrimination, bullying and harassment in the skilled trades industry. They are your ticket to getting your workplace up to code when it comes to women’s rights on the job. A quick email to info@bctradeswomen.org or a visit to their website, www.bccwitt.ca, will get you on your way to a more respectful workplace.

    I did it, and I’m glad I did it. Now I’m dedicated to being more than a bystander. I urge other men to join me.

    Message from IVP Tom Reid on International Women's Day

    from the IBEW Canada website

    Today, March 8 is recognized as International Women’s Day, women around the world will come together in solidarity to celebrate women’s struggle for equality. It is a time to reflect and take stock of women’s accomplishments over the past year and for all of us to renew our commitment to ongoing change.

    The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of  #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. How will you help make a difference?

    At the 1892 National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (NBEW) Convention, the first women became members of the union. Four years later, when only one organizer was on the NBEW payroll, a second, Mrs. Mary Honzik of St. Louis, was hired. This development gave our Brotherhood the distinction of being the first union to have a female organizer on its staff.

    The demographics of the union began to change as women joined the IBEW in larger numbers; and in 1897, Local Union 80—the first all-women’s local union—was chartered in Cleveland, Ohio.

    On May 1, 1919, Winnipeg’s building and metal workers went on strike for higher wages. Two weeks later, the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council appealed for a general strike in support of the metal workers. The response was overwhelming. The first to walk out were the “Hello Girls,” Winnipeg’s telephone operators. By 11 a.m., 30,000 union and non-union workers had walked off the job.

    A strike committee was formed and for six weeks, it virtually ran Winnipeg. Elevators shut down, trams stopped, postal and telephone communications came to a halt, and nothing moved without approval from the strike committee. Sympathy strikes were breaking out across the country.

    In fact, Canadian Women in the IBEW played an integral role in the Winnipeg General Strike, where over 500 telephone operators, better known as the “Hello Girls”, walked off the job at the end of their shift and their shift replacements didn’t show up. Virtually shutting down all telecommunication in the city. These women later became members of IBEW Local 435.

    I am very proud of the strong, unique, and proud IBEW sisters I have met throughout my career in the IBEW and of late in my current role as International Vice President for the First District (Canada). I have witnessed the passion, dedication, and solidarity displayed by our IBEW sisters at a variety of conferences including at our recent 2017 IBEW Canada Women’s Conference. The energy and enthusiasm that radiates from our sisters at gatherings and conferences is second to none and can only continue to make our organization a better and more inclusive one for everyone.

    Coast to Coast, our IBEW Local Unions are beginning to start Local Union Women’s Committee’s so that our sisters can gather and discuss issues important to them and their respective industries, jobsites and provide peer-to-peer support. These committees have been actively involved in their communities and Local Unions in various capacities and I hope to see this trend continue to grow across the country.

    The Canadian Labour Congress launched a campaign one year ago today on International Women’s Day 2018, called #DoneWaiting which calls on the Federal Government to end wage discrimination, end sexual harassment and violence, and to fix the child care crisis. I encourage all our members to add their voice and sign the petition to support the campaign.

    It is my desire that the IBEW in Canada double down our efforts to attract and retain more female members, and that can only happen with the positive support and recognition that we as an organization can provide to our current female members.

    Please take the time today on International Women’s Day, tomorrow and in the coming weeks and months ahead to thank our sisters of the IBEW and support them in their efforts to achieve the 2019 campaign theme of a #BalanceforBetter and their professional and committee goals within your Local Union.

  • Local 258 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

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