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

KDLC logo

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.

2015 Student Bursaries

The Kamloops and District Labour Council (KDLC) is offering three (3) $1,000 (one thousand dollar) bursaries (two in an academic field and one in a technical field of study) to students who are members or relatives of members of unions that are affiliated to, and in good standing with, the KDLC.

Who is eligible?

Members or relatives of members, of unions affiliated to and in good standing with, the KDLC.   (Definition of a relative: a spouse of same or opposite sex, parent, child, including step-child or foster child, brother, sister, grandchild, niece or nephew.)

Applicants must be registered in a full-time or part-time post secondary program at a PUBLIC education institution (for technical field of study – must be sponsored from a recognized trade union) in 2015/2016.

All of the following information MUST be included in your submission to the KDLC Bursary Committee.

  • KDLC Bursary Application 2015
  • Transcript of your grades
  • Confirmation of your enrollment in a PUBLIC education institution (for technical field of study – must be sponsored from a recognized trade union) in 2015/2016. If you are waiting for enrollment confirmation, please send a letter stating you are waiting for the confirmation and if you are chosen for a bursary, the confirmation will have to be shown before you will receive the bursary.
  • A double-spaced typed essay of 750-2000 words on the following topic. This essay shall be the basis for awarding the bursary.

What effect does fluctuating oil prices have on Canadian employment?

Please submit all of the above information to the address below before May 15, 2015. The Committee will ONLY accept Bursary applications by mail to:

Bursary Committee
Kamloops and District Labour Council
PO Box 369 STN MAIN
Kamloops, BC
V2C 5K9

 

Day of Mourning Honours Workers Killed or Injured on the Job

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Jim Waldie emceed the 2015 Day of Mourning event

On Tuesday, April 28, the Kamloops and District Labour Council will be joining other labour organizations across Canada in conducting a Day of Mourning ceremony, honouring the workers who have been killed, injured, or have suffered illness as a result of work related incidents.

Each year, over 1,000 Canadian employees are killed on the job or die from varying cancers and ailments caused by daily exposure to toxic substances at their workplaces. In addition, thousands of workers are injured on the job, while thousands more are permanently disabled in order to earn a living.

In BC, 173 work related death claims were accepted in 2014, up from 128 deaths reported in 2013.

Day of Mourning 2015

“In reality, the numbers are likely much higher because the stats only include those who received workers’ compensation benefits,” says KDLC first vice president, Brad Gerow. “Many illnesses and occupational disease were either not reported or not recognized, such as those afflicting temporary foreign workers.”

In the 11 years since the passage of the “Westray Act,” which amended Canada’s criminal code to make employers liable for the failure to protect the lives of their employees, and after thousands of deaths and workplace injuries, only 2 provinces have used this law to lay charges.

“Used properly, these laws could lead to better health and safety. When employers are held accountable, health and safety becomes a higher priority, leading to better processes and more training,” says Gerow. “Every workplace injury, illness, and death is preventable and far too often, these employers are merely given a fine and nothing is changed to prevent future incidents.”

Rather than improving health and safety standards, KDLC President, Barb Nederpel argues, “Our current federal government continues to refuse to move forward with the registry of buildings containing asbestos, even though asbestos continues to be the single largest cause of work related deaths. They’ve also eliminated protections from substances which damage the reproduction system from the Canada’s Labour Code and changed the definition of “danger” to make it harder for workers to exercise their right to refuse dangerous work.”

“They are taking worker’s safety in the wrong direction,” she states. “That has to change. We have to do better. Lives depend on it.”

In honour of those who have been killed or injured at work, the KDLC invites all workplaces to observe a moment of silence at 11:00 am and an open ceremony with guest speakers and refreshments starts at 6:00 pm at St. Andrew’s on the Square.

“As workers, we rededicate ourselves to the goal of making Canadian workplaces safe and healthy places to earn a living.”

Michael Lovett lost his leg in a mill accident

Michael Lovett lost his leg in a mill accident

It is time to make it happen

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International Women’s Day 2015

For the last several years on International Women’s Day (IWD), the Kamloops and District Labour Council has organized a soup kitchen and gave away back packs of simple necessities, such as blankets, toothbrushes, and packable food items to those who need it the most.

It has increasingly been a well attended and organized event, but the women’s committee felt this year that they wanted to honour the intent of IWD while creating the most impact possible.

The KDLC instead became a sponsor of the Kamloops Women’s Resource Group Society for the local VDAY events, and all proceeds go towards raising awareness and money for local organizations that work to stop violence against women and girls.

“This is a special opportunity for the KDLC to partner with us in a global movement; to be part of a collective voice, a voice that refuses to be ignored, a voice that says NO to violence against women and girls and to celebrate and honour the women and girls in your life,” says Darcy Gorill, coordinator at the Society.

The KWRGS produced Eve Ensler’s award winning play, “The Vagina Monologues” on March 5th and 6th. “I think this was the best version of the play that I have seen yet,” says Barbara Nederpel, President of the KDLC. “It was a roller coaster of laughter and tears as these incredible local women read monologues about sex, love, domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, birth, and female empowerment.”

Two more productions have been added this year, “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer,” and “Emotional Creature.”  Tickets are still available at the Kamloops Live Box Office and these new productions promise to be just as entertaining.

“We are proud to partner with community groups such as the KWRGS,” says Nederpel. “If not for these grassroots organizations, there would be very little support for women’s equality and protection.”

“Our federal government has cancelled the National Child Care Program, cut funding for women’s advocacy by 43%, and refused to call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women because they state that further inquiry will not help. And yet, they still refuse to take action.”

“This is the year that we can take a substantial step towards real change by voting in a government that respects the impact of women’s issues on society and the economy and will take the actions necessary to move towards that. This is why I fully support the Up For Debate initiative.”

Up For Debate is an alliance of community and labour organizations united in raising awareness and calls on political party leaders to commit to a debate on issues identified by women. More information can be found on the website, upfordebate.ca.

“It is time that women’s equality becomes an election issue. It is time to make it happen.”

The KDLC commits to holding their annual soup kitchen but has decided that it would have a greater impact if held before the winter season.

“We are calling on our affiliates and our community to gather blankets, jackets, the usual sundries, over the next few months,” says Nederpel.

A Balanced Budget That Will Cost Us

The provincial budget is a representation of the government’s priorities and policies that will guide spending for the following year. And this year, the BC Liberals have steadfastly hung on to ignoring the middle class and the working poor.

On one positive note, eliminating the dollar for dollar claw back of child support payments for parents receiving income or disability assistance will have a definite and positive impact on single parent families, and will only cost $9 million a year.

“But much more needs to be done,” says KDLC President, Barb Nederpel. “We are the only province without a poverty reduction plan despite having a dismal record over the last decade for having amongst the worst child poverty rates.”

Nederpel believes that bolder moves such as raising the minimum wage, increasing social and disability assistance amounts, investing in social housing, child care program, and adequately funded education would have true and lasting impact on society and ultimately the economy.

“The BC Liberals boast about having the lowest income tax in the country, and yet MSP rates will rise another 4%, ferry, hydro, ICBC rates continue to rise dramatically, tuition has doubled.”

“These hidden taxes and fees keep increasing but services are being cut or have deteriorated. This budget fails to keep up with inflation for public services like health care and education. We are the 8th in the country for per capita spending on health care, and we still don’t have the doctor for every person that the BC Liberals promised, and we still have long wait lists and overcrowding.”

Meanwhile the income tax for earners over $150,000 was eliminated and represents a loss $227 million in revenue.

“This is what really shows the priorities of the BC Liberal government,” claims Nederpel.

NDP leader, John Horgan says, “At a time when parents and young people are worried about opportunities to gain skills and training, the Clark government is cutting $14 million from higher education.”

Nederpel concluded that “This budget was penny wise and pound foolish.  They even demonstrate that the Job Plan isn’t working, but they don’t want to take the steps to change it.”

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