CAW Women's Conference
August 21, 2007
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Port Elgin, Ontario
August 21, 2007
The delegates attending the Canadian Auto Workers union Women's Conference in Port Elgin learned the importance of global solidarity and strong female voices. Emilia Valente and Maria Ferreira, union leaders in CNM/CUT shared their experiences in organizing and promoting women in the metal workers union in Brazil. Valente said despite the cultural and physical violence facing women in Brazil they have been able to bring women into the union.
CNM/CUT Brazil Metalworkers Executive Member
"By working with our communities we are overcoming the cultural barriers that make women feel they don't need to belong to a union because their husbands already belong. We are also making changes within the community by forming alliances with other community groups."
Maria Ferreira, CNM/CUT Women's Director outlined many of the advances they have made in Brazil to pressure the government to change the laws to protect women.
CNM/CUT Women's Director
"Through education and increasing women's knowledge we have been able to gain power. This has made it difficult for the Boss to take advantage of us and it has also made men in our union treat us differently. The proof is the increased number of women in leadership positions."
Carol Phillips, assistant to CAW National President Buzz Hargrove introduced the Brazilian women. Afterwards she said Valente and Ferreira were inspiring.
Assistant to CAW National President
"To hear from women who are going through a struggle like the one in Brazil is to reinforce just how common gender issues are and the obstacles facing women are around the world. And as you saw from their presentation their story is incredibly inspirational. A story of women coming together, of forming networks, of struggling against a male dominated union in order to achieve leadership positions and it is a story with a victory at the end."
The impact was evident in the delegates' response. A member of the CAW delegation that went to Brazil earlier this year; Maria Pinto, President of CAW Local 112.
Pres. CAW Local 673
"It gives me hope. It gives me faith that yes that if they can accomplish what they have done in Brazil, such as with the new law that prevents domestic violence or it punishes perpetrators of domestic violence in Brazil, why can't we do it here as well?"
CAW Women's Program Director Julie White said the fact that in Brazil there are no closed union shops, makes the achievement of these women even more astounding.
Dir. Women's Programming
"In Brazil they mobilize everyday. And so it is worker talking to worker everyday to keep them plugged into the union. But the other thing that really does, it builds the culture that I think is quite different. So when people are members of the union in Brazil, they are members of the community. They play an important within the community and really get involved in politics at a different level sometimes than our members do."
CAW "Fighting Back Makes a Difference."