End Violence: USW National Women’s Committee Initiative

Inspired by the White Ribbon campaign, the Women’s Committee of USW Local 1-405, an amalgamated local in Iinterior B.C., has been making presentations on how men can have a role in ending violence against women.

Veronica Tanner, co-chair of the committee along with Cheryl Buday, brought Local 1-405’s experiences of the last two years to the National Women’s Committee, sparking the idea for this fall’s USW anti-violence initiative, Let’s End Violence Against Women and Girls.

The Local 1-405 Women’s Committee had been looking for ways to involve members of their mostly male Wood Council local in an anti-violence discussion.

Tanner noted that in her community of Cranbrook, B.C., and the even-smaller communities where the members live and work, people can feel isolated and without resources when it comes to incidents of violence against women.

“As long as we’re needing shelters, there’s an issue in our society,” said Tanner.

Relief that Someone is Finally Talking about This

Betty Carrasco knows that domestic violence has an impact on employees in the workplace. We have research with the numbers to show it, thanks to last year’s project by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Carrasco asked the CLC’s Vicky Smallman to deliver a presentation on the topic to the TWU, USW Local 1944 Annual Delegated Meeting last May. Already familiar with the research findings and the CLC presentation, Carrasco knew that Smallman’s talk would be powerful. But she was unprepared for the reaction of her members.

“As Vicky was presenting, more and more people left the room,” Carrasco recalled. She followed the members into the hallway and found them in a circle, sharing their personal experiences with domestic violence and harassment.

“They weren’t mad or upset; they were relieved that someone was finally talking about this,” said Carrasco.

“We saw a whole change in the demeanour of our convention after that presentation. We don’t get as much of the human or social side when our union is focused on bargaining and grievances.”

As with Tanner, Carrasco knew that the National Women’s Committee’s decision to prioritize its work on the sensitive topic of anti-violence would be well received by union members.

The CLC’s research documents how domestic violence affects employees’ work, attendance and performance, as well as physical and psychological effects. Both Tanner and Carrasco noted that it’s personal – for women, who may have experienced violence themselves, and for men, some of whom have seen their mothers in and out of shelters or witnessed domestic violence while growing up.

Raise Awareness: Request Anti-Violence Presentation

This fall and winter, committee members and USW activists will be making anti-violence presentations to local, area council and other meetings using materials developed for the National Women’s Committee by the USW Education and Equality department.

The USW’s Let’s End Violence Against Women and Girls kit includes a PowerPoint presentation, a brochure and white ribbons for men to wear to raise awareness and show support.

We’ll engage members to send the message that violent attitudes and words, as well as acts, are harmful to women and girls. We’ll encourage local unions to take steps at the bargaining table and in the community, including organizing or attending events on Oct. 4 (the National Day to Commemorate Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) and Dec. 6 (the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women).

To request materials or an anti-violence presentation for your USW local or area council, connect with your district or National Women of Steel committee.

This article appears in the October 2016 issue of the National Director's Update. 

www.usw.ca/anti-violence

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