Members canvassing members: how we achieved change

During the recent federal election as a healthcare union we issued a call to action to all members who wanted to get involved.

Our goal was two-fold:

  1. Engagement: members having conversations with members about why politics is important to them and how it can bring positive change to their everyday lives.
  2. Commitment: in every conversation encouraging members of SEIU Healthcare to volunteer for change and commit to vote.

SEIU Healthcare members canvassing

Lorna Abraham, right, talks about the election organizing work she did with her union

Amazingly, we saw the highest voter turnout in over 20 years. And we achieved significant change with a complete reorganizing of the make-up of the Canadian House of Commons including a new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. (We won’t forget his visit with one of our personal support workers and his recognition of the value of the homecare system.)

Many new member activists showed the power that the personal touch can have on the outcome of elections. That, and many hours of traditional on-the-ground and phone canvassing of fellow union members and voters.

Lorna Abraham, who normally works at a seniors’ home in Stouffville, went door-to-door with a team of fellow women union members, because “we wanted to make changes in our daily lives.”

Rather than focus on the public at large, or all voters, the SEIU Healthcare activists focused on people just like them: fellow healthcare workers who understand shift work, who know emotionally and physically demanding work environments, and feel the same challenges due to the rising costs of living.

Asked about the reality of election work itself, Lorna says:

“It was refreshing to knock on doors. Members were happy to see us. I wanted to talk to peers of mine.”

Lorna’s team was in York Centre and as a result of reaching out personally to fellow members, she helped increase voter turnout by a figure matched by the number of SEIU Healthcare members who live in that riding. On election night Mr. Harper’s candidate lost and Michael Levitt was elected as the new Member of Parliament.

Healthcare workers like Lorna will work with our new government to be accountable on issues that are pressing to millions of Canadians – pensions and public healthcare.


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