Health Care Worker Spotlight: Misty Lafond Finds Voice in Union as an Organizer

HCWC-MistyL2Although Misty Lafond has only worked in health care for five years, she has taken advantage of that time as a Steelworker to become an activist, on top of being a licensed practical nurse (LPN). As unit chair for Youville Home, a long-term care facility part of Covenant Health located in St. Albert, Alberta, and as a budding organizer, she is taking her passion for helping others outside of health care to fight for workers’ rights.

Lafond first became involved with the union four years ago, in 2015, when the previous unit chair asked her to attend her first shop steward training.

“From then on, I’ve been active in trying to help employees have better workplaces free from abuse,” Lafond said.

Her experience with external activism began when she had the opportunity to work on a campaign to organize workers at a Walmart in December 2018. As a result of the multibillion-dollar corporation’s anti-union tactics, the effort was unsuccessful as the workers were scared to lose their jobs. But the moment was far from a wash for Lafond, who walked away with more knowledge than she could have hoped for.

“It made me realize that the majority of employees in their workplaces don’t know their rights,” Lafond said. “I learned how to engage with what workers really want and that it doesn't matter what industry you are in—everyone wants decent wages and benefits, and to be treated fairly.”

Lafond took her new skill set and ran with it, eventually helping to organize two assisted living facilities into her local union. For her, organizing this industry is something that comes naturally.

“I understand firsthand the challenges workers face in health care—short-staffing, injuries, and abuse from within the workplace and from families because the employer has made promises that cannot be met when people are working short,” Lafond said.

Workplace violence, unfortunately, is an all-too-common reality now for health care workers thanks to staff rollbacks by employers who like to say the hazard is merely part of the job.

“Health care teams working on the floor then can’t properly deal with aggressive patients as we can no longer restrain them chemically or physically,” she said. “This leads to aggressive residents who verbally and physically abuse staff on a daily basis.”

Despite the challenges, being a member of Local 1-207 has offered Lafond the chance to grow and have a voice when it comes to righting these wrongs.

“I am grateful that the Steelworkers recognize activists and provide education so that they, too, have opportunities within the union,” she said.

When she isn’t organizing or working, Lafond enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.

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Left to right: Misty Lafond, LPN, Unit Chair, Youville Home with Ruby Sab-it, HCA, Unit Chair, Chartwell St. Alberta; Maria Stantos, LPN, Unit Chair, Chartwell Sherwood Park; Shirley Clark, LPN, Bargaining Committee, Chartwell Sherwood Park.

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