Many of the 400 healthcare workers and official convention delegates have never been to such a union gathering, where members vote on officers and members of the Executive Board and discuss political direction.
Some people are seeing friends and other familiar faces; lots came alone and are meeting their fellow union members for the first time.
Pam Arnold, a healthcare assistant, has been working at a private retirement home in Brampton for 28 years. It seems like she has her union rep to thank for inviting her to apply to attend SEIU Healthcare’s convention.
“My union rep said ‘come and see what it’s all about’ and I said ‘why not?’ It’s something new and different. I’ve never been outside my realm like this.”
Pam mentioned the opportunity to listen to the Ontario Premier speak to convention delegates as an example of one of the advantages to getting more involved with the union.
Reena Panchoo describes her entry into the union in a wry, humorous way, saying “my ex-manager [now a union rep for SEIU Healthcare] bullied me to come in as a steward.”
A homecare personal support worker (PSW) in Brampton for the last 13 years, Reena points out that it’s really hard to get everyone at work together for union meetings and events.
Still, she says:
“I love it. It’s really good helping other co-workers. You’re aware of what’s going on in the company, you’re more aware of the issues that we have not only as one person but all together. It’s a very fulfilling role.”
Here’s hoping people like Pam and Reena will return to their workplaces and inspire others who are curious about unions to get involved to fight for a better life for working people in Ontario – in individual workplaces and beyond.