CAW Women Organizing For Change

Port Elgin, Ontario


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CAW Women Organizing For Change
CAW Women Organizing For Change
dated September 3, 2003

       Port Elgin, Ontario
August 24, 2003

       "CAW Women Organizing for Change. When Women Support Women, Women Win" was the theme of the 2003 CAW Women's Conference in Port Elgin. The 200 delegates from CAW locals across the country representing the various sectors of the union brought fresh ideas and enthusiasm according to CAW Women's Director Julie White.

Julie White
CAW Women's Director

       "The delegates that are here, more than half of them are first time delegates. So it's a great opportunity for new women in the union to meet women who are activists and experienced activists and just share their experiences in the workplace and in the local unions so that we can all go back and build the union but also help take on the fights provincially, federally, municipally in all of the up coming elections that are going on."

       With an election in Ontario, and several other provinces along with a pending federal election, the conference focused on how women can move their agenda forward in the political arena.

Julie White
CAW Women's Director

       "The conference is really based around electoral politics and really engaging women in the political process. The first day we talked to them about issues, issues that effect women disproportionately, issues such as violence against women, cuts to social assistance, affordable housing, minimal wage, education, and health care and all those issues. And then the second day is really a day we spend on strategizing and mobilizing women"

       Numerous feminist activists and politicians addressed the delegates during the four day conference including key note speaker Libby Davies, NDP MP for Vancouver East who said it is time to dramatically increase the number of women elected in Canada.

Libby Davies
NDP MP, Vancouver East

       "We need to think big. Our Goal is 30 per cent, that critical mass. I believe that sisterhood is very powerful. We can act in a thousand ways to break down these patriarchal barriers and what it really comes down to is this, liberating and electing women means that we liberate politics too."

       With 70,000 women members the CAW has reached that critical mass and it is making a difference according to Peggy Nash, Assistant to CAW National President Buzz Hargrove.

Peggy Nash
Assistant to CAW National President

       "We are starting to take big steps forward in terms of creating spaces for women. More leadership training for women. More out reach to women for new organizing efforts, more training classes, and more incorporation of issues that women care about in our bargaining agenda."

       Ken Lewenza, President of the CAW Council fielded a broad range of questions from the delegates in a bear pit session. He said the four CAW women who have been elected to the CAW National Executive Board at the recent constitutional convention is proof that women are taking their rightful place in the decision making process within the CAW.

Ken Lewenza
President, CAW Council

       "I raise those examples to ensure that the sisters in our union understand that if you work hard, if you are committed, eventually you get recognized. Does it happen over night? No. Are there barriers that you sometimes have to knock through to be recognized based on your contribution? Yes there are, but if you stay determined, quite frankly, I believe the opportunities are enormous in our union in terms of playing a role."

       The message did not fall on deaf ears. The sisters took full advantage of the conference to air their issues and to hammer out strategies. Peggy Nash summed it up this way.

Peggy Nash
Assistant to CAW National President

       "When you get 200 women together at a conference here is Port Elgin, there is a tremendous amount of energy. Women want to change the world but we are starting with our union."

CAW "Fighting Back Makes a Difference."


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