It’s Cold in BC

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For the first time, affiliates and friends of the Kamloops and District Labour Council came together as a single force for the Kamloops Coldest Night of the Year, an annual event that took place in 80 communities across the country, raising money for the local homeless and hungry.

A tremendous $3,633 was raised by Team KDLC with the top 3 affiliate donors CUPE 4879 ($1,425), HEU ($883) and BCGEU ($655), far surpassing the donations usually raised by our Soup Kitchen.  PLUS, once the numbers are all in, we will be the number 1 team in Kamloops!

But no matter how much money the labour council and other good Kamloops citizens raise, it isn’t going to be enough to alter the dire situation for our most vulnerable residents.

After a decade of waiting, we had hoped that this would be the year that the BC Liberals would finally incorporate a poverty reduction plan into their budget, especially considering how often they are called out by the NDP and anti-poverty groups for being the only province in the country without one.

One would think that a government knowing that once again they had the worst child poverty in the country, 20% to be exact, that they would be compelled to make immediate changes.

The closest they came was the sheepish announcement by Mike de Jong regarding the minuscule increase in disability benefit of $77 per month after a 9 year freeze. But in one of the cruelest moves I’ve seen the Liberals make, they snatched away theirDSC_0068 bus passes of almost equal value.

Meanwhile, those living on social assistance, who’s rates have also been frozen since 2007, were ignored completely.

A full time worker at minimum wage, which is harder to get than most think, makes $6,000 below the poverty line and BC has the worst income gap in the country. But still, even after the Liberals discovered they made an error calculating a minimum wage increase that will leave BC as the lowest in the country as of April, they still refused to alter it.

Only 280 “affordable housing” units will be built, not sure where, in the first year when the needs are in the thousands across the province.

A scant amount of money was budgeted to increase the number of child care spaces but no change to making any of the spaces remotely affordable.

Heck, de Jong couldn’t even articulate what “affordable” means, demonstrating just how out of touch the Liberals are.

But wait! A few days later, Christie Clark announced they would provide legislative support for, “the most vulnerable members of our society and they depend on all of us to make sure that they’re safe and that they’re looked after.”

Sadly, no, she wasn’tDSC_0055 talking about children. Or the disabled. She was speaking about cats and dogs.

Even though they know that poverty costs BC $8 – 9 BILLION per year in higher public health care and criminal justice costs, and lost productivity, they still choose to do nothing. Well they’re even more cruel than that. In fact they would rather hoard a surplus and create a fantasy slush fund than to help lift people out of poverty.

 

 

TPP and Me

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Article Submitted by           Doug McArthur               Political action committee  I.B.E.W. Lu993

With the election over and the new Liberal majority taking the big seat, the buzz has been around the TPP deal.  It has been touted as a trade deal, it will stream line the movement of goods and services among its signatories and allow business to be conducted faster and more efficiently, for corporations.

The question comes down to how will it affect the working class?  As an apprentice electrician, with a post-secondary education, I feel like I sit right in the middle of the working class/middle class spectrum, so I’ll quickly explain what the TPP means to me.

As far as I can see the TPP will start a race to the bottom.  First, the TPP will give virtually all power to the corporations.  Once signed into law the TPP will allow corporations to sue governments for anything that affects their bottom line. This will include environmental protections and possibly even labour laws. If they want a pipeline, they get a pipeline; if they want an oil exporting port in protected waters, they get it.

This fact alone makes me wonder why on earth any government would sign such an agreement knowing they will have their hands tied trying to protect their land, citizens and even sovereignty.

The second part, which hits home hardest for me, is the fact that the TPP will blow open the temporary foreign worker program. At the time of writing this I am currently, like many of the tradesmen in this country, sitting on employment insurance. As a union worker I also know that many of my brothers and sisters are also sitting on employment insurance.

The temporary foreign worker program was originally brought in to fill the gaps for the jobs we cannot fill, not for cheaper labour for corporations while we sit at home starving. Under the TPP these new jobs will be offered directly to the cheaper foreign labour before we even see a posting.  It will start a race to the bottom driving down wages, working conditions and quality of life.  Essentially for the working class we can pretty safely assume that the wages and safety standards will fall to the lowest signing authority.

There is hope still though. Write to your MP, flood the media and offices of our elected leaders speaking out against this deal.  At the end of the day the same man who is attempting to sign away our countries rights is only doing a temp job as long as we allow him to do it.

A “Must Read” Essay on Labour’s Role in Democracy and Prosperity

 

“This essay first appeared in the James Lorimer & Company book Canada After Harper. It would be useful for students and union members as it explains in plain language how unions play a crucial role in industrial democracy, sharing prosperity, and promoting social justice in Canada. It also explains the nature of the attack on the labour movement and considers what it needs to do to survive. It has been updated to reflect recent changes in the political landscape.”

Unions: Their Role in Democracy and Prosperity

See more at: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Team KDLC 2016

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Coldest Night of the Year Website

An estimated 150,000 Canadians experience homelessness outside, and hundreds of thousands more face the constant challenge of living right on the edge – adults, youth, families, the elderly – we’re walking for them all on February 20th.

People struggling with:
Living at or below the poverty line
Addictions or substance abuse
Community and social support
Race or gender discrimination
Access to adequate housing
Access to adequate food
Access to employment
Mental health issues

The New Life Community Kamloops, known for their commitment to serving people in need, is once again hosting the WALK in our community. So that’s who we’re walking for. People in our community. Neighbours down your street. Kids you see every day. A family member you love. Maybe even you.

Members of the KDLC are walking as team “KDLC 2016” raising money to help the homeless, the hungry and the hurting. Then, on February 20th, we will walk as a team with our coveted Coldest Night Toques and union flags to show that labour in Kamloops cares about our community and everyone in it.

How to get involved:

You or your local can donate directly to Team KDLC 2016 HERE

OR

You can sign up as a KDLC team member and gather donations from your local and/or friends HERE

Be sure to sign up under “KDLC 2016″ by clicking on the “Join a Team” link.

 

Promotional information about our team:

Team KDLC

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Record Food Bank Donation by KDLC

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Bernadette Siracky, Executive Director of the Kamloops Food Bank, grateful for the KDLC donation

On December 14th, the Kamloops and District Labour Council has doubled it’s delivery of canned salmon to area food banks from previous years thanks to an even bigger commitment by the affiliates. In total, 144 cases of salmon will be delivered to food banks in Kamloops, Merritt, Chase, Barrier and Clearwater.

Once again the KDLC has participated in the Protein for People program, a BC non-profit society initiated in 2006 and led by labour organizations. By sourcing quality protein from unionized food producers and purchasing in volume, the society is able to maximize purchasing power to feed tens of thousands of people.

Due to the high cost of protein based foods, food banks spend most of their financial donations on protein and regularly experience shortages of this key nutrient.

“With so many children living in poverty in our province, one in five to be exact, we wanted to help ensure their immediate needs for developmental nourishment is addressed,” says KDLC President Barb Nederpel.

Similarly, Kamloops MLAs Todd Stone and Terry Lake attended the Basics For Babies event coordinated by the Kamloops Food Bank and local radio station, B100. According to the Kamloops Food Bank website, this event was to raise money to “ensure the most innocent and vulnerable clients at Kamloops Food Bank will have formula, diapers, jarred foods and cereal year round.”

And the food bank was proudly presented a community gaming grant in the form of a large cheque for $130,000 by the MLA duo.

These are vital sources of income for the food bank and it is apparent that the MLAs feel altruist pride in their participation.”

“But we desperately need our government to take action to address the root causes of poverty, not just apply woefully inadequate bandaids.” says Nederpel. “For the last 13 years, BC has continued to have one of the highest poverty rates in the country. And still, it is the only province without a poverty reduction plan.”

In 2014, nearly 100,000 British Columbians accessed food banks, the highest number in BC history. Many of them are from families where at least one parent is working a full time. And BC has the biggest income gap in the country when over the last 10 years, the household income of the top 1% has grown 36%, while median income has stagnated for the rest of the population.

“People are falling further behind when their income does not keep up with the cost of living. Anti-poverty legislation has been introduced four years in a row intended to reverse this trend, but the BC Liberals refuse to debate it,” says Nederpel.

“Instead of photo ops, let’s see some legislative action by our MLAs to eliminate the pressure on food banks and improve the lives of British Columbians.”

KDLC executive member and organizer for the Protein for People donation, Mogens Jorgensen, thanks the affiliates for their added support this year.  “We put the challenge to union locals at a KDLC meeting to double the donation and the response was overwhelming. It’s heartwarming to be part of an organization so committed to a strong community.”

 

Don from Chase Hamper Society and Mogens Jorgenson, KDLC executive member at large.

Barriere

Anton Houben, Barriere Food Bank

Merritt

Mogens Jorgensen with Judy Jones and Lorraine Brown in Merritt

Ending Violence Against Women

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KDLC President, Barb Nederpel, at 8th Annual Shoe Memorial

December 6th marked the anniversary of the 1989 mass murder of 28 people by a single male gunman, at École Polytechnique de Montréal, 14 of which were targeted simply because they were women.

This tragic event is remembered each year as the National Day of Action on Violence Against Women and honours all women who have been murdered, have disappeared, or face violence and harassment.

I was very honoured to be asked to speak at this year’s event, representing the Kamloops and District Labour Council. I used this opportunity to speak publicly for the first time about my own personal history of facing domestic violence and the subsequent journey to overcome and end the cycle of abuse.

I did this, not because I wanted to experience the fear of vulnerability to judgement and shame, nor did I want to stir up old ghosts who would rather stay shrouded in denial.

But I wanted to share my personal story of how investing in women facing domestic violence can change and benefit society.

After 10 years of living through domestic abuse, I had made the final commitment to leave when I seen how deeply it was impacting my infant daughter.

It wasn’t easy to leave by any means.  At this point I was completely isolated from friends and family both emotionally and geographically. I lived in a small town with no secrets and no where to hide. My career had imploded and I was deathly afraid to take the steps to put myself back into the workforce. I had no way to afford a move let alone have a job to support my daughter and myself whenever I got to wherever I was going.

It was only through social safety nets that existed at that time that I was able to leave my situation.

I carefully stashed away money in the pocket of a winter coat in the back of a closet, until I had enough to make it just one month.

I accessed social assistance, entered into an intensive job integration program for women just like me, found a community subsidized child care space, and subsidized housing. Eventually I was able to upgrade with adult basic education and then went back to school to become a nurse.

I didn’t get a hand out. I got a hand up. And I wouldn’t be thriving personally and independently, contributing back into the economy, and be the activist within my community if I didn’t have those opportunities.

And now, it is my turn to give back and be an advocate for a just, safe and equal society. I am proud to be part of the labour movement which has allowed me the opportunity to do exactly that.

For the past two years, the Canadian Labour Congress has been spearheading an initiative to address the impact of domestic violence in the workplace.

The CLC, in collaboration with the University of Western Ontario, surveyed over 8,000 workers across Canada. This was the first effort of its kind in Canadian history.

What they found:

  • One in three workers said they had experienced domestic violence
  • Over 80 percent of these victims reported that their performance was negatively impacted, and more than half said the abuse occurred at or near their workplace
  • 38% indicated it impacted their ability to get to work
  • Often abusers will try and prevent victims from getting to work, causing them to be late or to have to miss work.  Abusers also may excessively contact or even stalk victims while they are at work.  This leads to absenteeism and poor work performance which can leave victims vulnerable to discipline.
  • Including being fired. In total, 8.5% of victims indicated they had lost their job because of domestic violence.

Abusers also feel the impacts of their behaviour at the workplace.

  • They may use work time or equipment to send abusive messages or otherwise plan and carry out violent acts.
  • They may be preoccupied or distracted, affecting their work performance and leaving them vulnerable to discipline or job loss – which then puts their victim at greater risk as unemployment is a risk factor for serious injury or death.

Co-workers can also experience the negative effects of domestic violence through increased workloads, stress, calls or visits from their co-worker’s abuser, and other potential safety risks.

The overall effect of domestic violence costs employers $77.9 million annually and the Canadian economy $7.4 billion a year.

If we invested just a small fraction of that into protecting and supporting women, we could be well on the way to ending violence completely.

We need to invest in making work safer for women by providing protection, intervention and support services.

We need workplace violence legislation requiring employers to develop policies and programs preventing workplace violence and harassment.

We need swift action on the government’s commitments to hold a national public inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of indigenous women and girls, and to implement a national strategy on violence against women.

And we need an anti-poverty strategy in BC, once and for all. This includes raising social assistance rates, increasing minimum wage, and provide for quality, affordable childcare and housing so that women have the opportunity to escape and endeavour to stand on their own two feet.  What I was able to access when I needed it most, no longer exists or it is even further limited, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for women now.

We must continue to remember all of the women who have faced violence, but we must also take significant actions at all levels of government and in our communities until women’s safety and equality are woven into the very fabric of our society. It is a very worthwhile investment.

A great deal of gratitude to Lynn Chasse for organizing the event every year and to everyone who shared their heartbreaking stories.

For CFJCTV coverage
For CLC survey results and references

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By-Law Amendments

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The by-law review has been completed, changes were announced at the last KDLC regular meeting, and the notice of motion was passed.  The amendments consists of updated contradictory language and are clearly indicated by the strike throughs. We will be making a single motion on the amendments at our next meeting, December 1st, and once passed, it will be submitted to the CLC for approval.

Amended KDLC By-Laws

7th Annual Soup Kitchen

DSC_0479The Kamloops and District Labour Council (KDLC) hosted it’s seventh annual soup kitchen at 785 Tranquille Road, on October 24th, from 11am to 1:30 pm. The volunteers served hot meals and distributed care packages including warm jackets, gloves and toiletries to those in need.

“We recognize that this small gesture makes little impact on the bigger issue of poverty, but we want to provide some level of immediate relief to those in need as we head into the winter season,” says event organizer, Lois Rugg.

Despite being one of the wealthiest provinces in Canada, BC has one of the highest rates of poverty, and yet, BC still remains the only Province or Territory in Canada without a poverty reduction plan.

Poverty may be a huge issue to tackle, but it is entirely possible with collaboration between the federal and provincial governments. Only they have the power to eliminate poverty but it comes down to a matter of priorities,” says Rugg.

As the official opposition, the BC NDP has introduced a private members’ bill with a comprehensive plan on three separate occasions, and the BC Liberals have failed to pass the legislation. However, as of September 1st, the Liberals did bow to pressure from the Opposition and anti-poverty advocates and stopped the claw back of child support payments on those on income or disability assistance.

“It’s a welcome, albeit small, step in the right direction,” states Rugg.

Further suggestions by anti-poverty groups include building more affordable housing, providing access to affordable, quality child care, affordable education and training, increasing income assistance rates, and of course, increasing minimum wage.

“By 2017 we will rank dead last for minimum wage in the country despite having amongst the highest cost of living. In cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, governments are implementing a $15 minimum wage and we are seeing these bold tactics boosting business and stimulating local economies,” says KDLC President, Barb Nederpel. “At the rate of increase proposed by the BC Liberals, we won’t see $15 per hour until 2034.”

“We need to do better, and we can. It is just a matter of political will.”

All remaining clothing, blankets, and food from the event were donated to the JUMP and PIT Stop programs run by local faith organizations.  KDLC extends their gratitude to Starbucks in North Hills Mall for the donation of coffee.

Labour Day 2015

Labour Day Picnic Poster 2015

As with every year, the labour movement endeavours to remind people where the statutory holiday, Labour Day, originates from.

In 1872, the Toronto Printer’s Union led a massive working class demonstration through the streets of Toronto, picking up workers of all stripes in solidarity along the route. This defiant action was significant because at the time, unions were illegal, and some activists were jailed and many others fired. But these workers courageously stood together to fight back against low wages, and long hours in deplorable working conditions and gained a strong voice of the working class in the eyes of the government.

This became an annual celebration and in 1894, Labour Day was declared a national holiday to celebrate this solidarity of working struggles and victories. Over the next 100 plus years, the movement continued to fight for benefits that we all enjoy today, such as weekends, 8 hour work days, health and safety rules, maternity leave, and much more.

But over time, the general public, and indeed even most union members, see Labour Day weekend as marking the end of summer with a camping trip, a vacation, or shopping for great retail sales, rather than pausing for a moment to appreciate the benefits gained.

This year, through their travels and shopping, many people will notice is how hard it is to get ahead these days. The cost of living has spiked exponentially more than their wages. Health and safety rules have been eroded. Public services that we depend on are being systematically deconstructed and contracted out to the private sector. Our seniors have to work longer and still end up retiring below the poverty line. People, mostly women, are denied work because quality child care is not available nor affordable. Young people are struggling to find any employment and those who do have to balance two or more precarious jobs just to reach the poverty line. For the first time in history, we are leaving a generation with a lower standard of living than their parents.

Once again wages, long work days, and deplorable working conditions are seeping back into society while big corporations and right wing provincial and federal governments impose austerity measures for the sake of the economy.

Measures that deconstructed and weakened public services that our most vulnerable population depend on, has put our environment at great risk, and devalued our international peacekeeping status, has allowed for the continued violence against and murdering of indigenous women, abandoned our veterans, and sadly, so much more.

And this elusive strong economy has not been created through trickle down economics as we slip into yet another recession. Corporate tax cuts and secret trade deals have not produced the full time, good paying jobs that were promised and we know that when wages remain stagnant, that profits are being shifted into corporate pockets. Reality check: millionaires with off shore accounts don’t spend money in our local businesses and their sheltered income downloads tax burdens on the rest of us to pay for public services.

We can’t afford the status quo.

The fact is, a strong economy is created by a strong middle class of healthy, educated, fairly paid workforce in sustainable and stable jobs. But the economy must also be seen through the lens of the type of society we want to create with good public services and social safety nets.  These have been the ongoing challenges that the labour movement continues to take on.  So the answer to the inevitable question, “are unions still relevant?” is a resounding, “as much as ever.”

But we have an opportunity coming for solidarity between all workers, unionized or not, that could dramatically alter the course of our country. A massive collective action as we march through the streets of our communities, encouraging others to join us, and demonstrate our right to vote on October 19th.

Think about fairness in this election. Think about the importance of putting Canadians into good, stable jobs, retirement security, strengthening public health care with a national Pharmacare program, and implementing national child care program. Think about being proud of the society you live in, where no one is left behind. Think about big corporations paying their fair share. Think about the future that is possible.

And think about the benefits already gained this Labour Day that you want to protect and join us in our celebration of working people at McDonald Park, from 11 – 2.

Fair wages are good for everyone

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BC Federation of Labour President, Irene Lanzinger speaking at Emterra rally about fair wages

By Barb Nederpel, KDLC President

Recycling makes the world a better place. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions, reduces pressure on landfills, and contributes to sustainability of non renewable resources. And the shift towards green jobs is vital to our planet as well as a sustainable and strong economy.

I am proud that the City of Kamloops has made great strides towards becoming a greener city. In particular, I appreciate the blue bin system where I don’t have to think about separating anything, beyond ensuring it is recyclable.

The contents of the blue bins are collected by city workers and brought to Emterra Group in Valleyview, where a loader operator dumps the contents into a massive machine which mechanically separates the majority of the materials into glass, paper, and metals.

The separated materials are mechanically compressed into bales, under the watchful eye of an operator, which are loaded by a forklift operator into trucks for transport to be sold on the market.

What material is left over is gone through by hand by labourers.

As you can imagine, this is very dirty work, in difficult conditions with mystery dust hanging in the air, where the food waste attracts copious rats, and with the extreme heat in the summer and the biting cold in the winter.

Unfortunately, not everyone ensures that what goes in the blue bin, is indeed recyclable.

These machine operators and manual labourers far too often come across anything from dirty diapers, to hypodermic needles, to propane tanks, which go through these machines, and their hands, creating a potentially dangerous and toxic environment.

This is dirty work. It is dangerous work. This is work that the majority of us would not want to do at any wage. But these workers do and are paid poverty wages far below industry standards.

The company does not want to share its financial statements, but a simple online search quickly shows that Emterra has enjoyed a revenue growth of 35% in the last 3 years, amounting to somewhere between $100 to 250 million.

The wage increase for these workers in that time? Pennies. This disparity has widened and yet, ironically, it is the company is crying poverty at the bargaining table.

And as much as recycling makes the world and the economy a better place, so do fair wages. These workers spend their money in our businesses, and the added tax base contributes to the public services that we all enjoy. A fair wage for them helps each and every one of us.

But when revenues grow faster than the wages, the profits are funnelled to the central corporation and the dividends to faceless stock holders. It is unlikely that any of this benefits the people of Kamloops.

The majority of people that I have come across completely support the principled fight of these workers, particularly knowing that even though they already live in poverty, are willing to make a stand while getting a fraction of their wages on strike pay. These are courageous and determined people!

The labour movement stands in strong support of their sacrifice through donations and picket support. Just last week we held a solidarity rally and BBQ where the President of the BC Federation of Labour, Irene Lanzinger, joined USW 1-417 along with KTTA (BCTF), TRUFA, BCGEU, USW 9705, IUOE, BC FORUM, HEU, and CUPW.  We were also pleased to have the Kamloops Thompson Cariboo NDP candidate, Bill Sundhu speak in support.

But the Kamloops and District Labour Council is asking the good people of Kamloops to also support these workers. Contact the city councillors at citycouncil@kamloops.ca, ask them to enforce their contract with EmterrDSC_0404a and demand that they get back to the bargaining table in good faith.

And take some time to talk to the USW 1-417 workers on the strike line and see the strength of their resolve just for a fair contract. Donations of picket supplies are always welcome.

In the meantime, I will continue to stockpile my recyclables because the blue bin system is an important element of our lives and after all, I am still paying for it.