Speak Out Against Violence

Jeff Bromley had a tough time watching two videos included in the National Women’s Committee’s anti-violence presentation.

“It’s hard stuff to watch,” said Jeff, Financial Secretary for Local 1-405, based in Cranbrook, B.C. Along with First Vice-President Doug Wood, Jeff stepped into the local’s boardroom while Women’s Committee co-chair Veronica Tanner was rehearsing her delivery of an anti-violence presentation, a new initiative of the USW’s National Women’s Committee.

While Local 1-405 covers a variety of workplaces, many of its members are men working in sawmills. Veronica’s practice-run of the material led to Jeff and Doug taking the presentation to units across the local – to help break the silence and support the Women’s Committee.

“We want to get more men talking about ending violence against women,” said Jeff.

White Ribbon began as a campaign for men to speak out against violence against women. Local 1-405’s Women’s Committee introduced a version of the White Ribbon campaign to the local a few years ago. It fit with the mandate of both White Ribbon and the Women’s Committee that Doug and Jeff would find opportunities to deliver the presentation to unit members.

Women of Steel Launch Anti-Violence Initiative

The USW National Women’s Committee decided to do more within our union to educate and involve our members in ending violence. The committee developed an anti-violence kit so members could deliver presentations to local and area council meetings and even in workplaces with co-operative employers.

The kit includes a PowerPoint presentation with two videos, posters, a guide for bargaining language to support victims of domestic violence, brochures and white ribbon pins that can be handed out to wear as a symbol of one’s commitment to end violence against women and girls. 

Why Aren’t We Talking About This?

One in three women in Canada over the age of 16 experiences sexual assault. Aboriginal women are more at risk. At least 1,073 Aboriginal women were murdered between 1980 and 2014. One out of every five female homicide victims is Aboriginal, while only one out of every 20 Canadians is Aboriginal.

A recent cross-Canada survey found that one in three workers has experienced domestic violence and this violence follows them to work.

Statistics are sobering, but it's the stories behind them that motivate action for change. The USW presentations have prompted discussion and action on gender-based violence, bringing a taboo topic out into the open.

Sudbury Signs On

Terri Rinta put a rush on the materials so the anti-violence presentation could be delivered at the USW’s North-Eastern Area Council meeting in Sudbury at the end of September.

Terri serves on the executive of USW Local 2020 and chairs the local’s Women’s Committee. She asked District 6 Human Rights Committee member Carolyn Szilva to deliver the anti-violence presentation.

The session prompted a member to share her story of helping a friend who was fleeing an abusive relationship. Her friend’s husband then came after the member. At work.

The member’s employer was unprepared and didn’t know how to respond, so the member contacted police and created a safety plan for herself in case she was threatened again. The member continues to support her friend.

The Area Council supported the initiative with a unanimous vote and locals signed on to bring the anti-violence initiative to Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and across Northern Ontario.

“It helps spark that conversation,” said Terri.

Communication Leads to Action

Back in Cranbrook, B.C., the Women’s Committee’s work is paying off. Members of the committee brought forward collective agreement language around leave provisions for domestic violence situations during bargaining with a hotel in Kimberley.

“There’s more communication,” said Jeff. “Whether it’s around the poster, the video or our collective agreements.”

Talking about violence against women breaks the silence, paving the way for union action – supporting local women’s resource centres, bargaining anti-violence provisions into our agreements and empowering members to act to end violence.

Speak Out Against Violence

One of the most important things you can do to help end gender-based violence is to speak out against it.

Request or Give a Presentation

Connect with your national or district women’s committee member to request kit materials and support for an anti-violence presentation at your workplace or local meeting.

More information and videos: www.usw.ca/anti-violence 

This article appears in the November 2016 edition of USW@Work magazine.  

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