我是何伟仪（Vivienne Wei Yee Ho）加拿大公共雇员工会分会2348（CUPE 2348）主席，还是前任曼尼托巴省CUPE人权委员会主席。同时我也在Harvest Manitoba工作。Harvest Manitoba是一个粮食银行网络，可以帮助粮食匮乏的曼尼托巴人获取粮食。
工会文化，工会结构和工会组织的方式本质上是殖民主义的。对于华人社区以及许多黑人、土著人和有色人种 (BIPOC) 社区来说，这可能是一个障碍。另外，我认为华人社区并不认为自己在劳工运动中有被代表，特别是在国家级别的工会领导层中。在大多数省份中，在劳工运动的内部和外部都缺乏工会与华人社区的联系。
Vivienne Ho: I am not going to sugarcoat union drive
Tell us a bit about yourself, who are you and what is your day job?
I am Vivienne Wei Yee Ho, I am the President of CUPE 2348 and the previous CUPE Manitoba Human Rights Chair. I am an Intake worker at Harvest Manitoba. Harvest Manitoba is a food bank network that helps Manitoban who are food insecure access food.
How did you find yourself in this field?
I just fell into it. A group of my friends and I saw inequality in our workplace. People who were doing the same job were put on very different pay scales. We spent most of our nights for a year working the union drive; calling people, charting, assigning tasks, and a lot of time talking to our colleagues. We were trying to get as many people as we could to sign the union membership cards. Many people were afraid that they might lose their jobs if they were seen talking about joining a union. There were some that were mad at us for wanting a union. When we finally had enough cards to be certified. We were informed that the conservative government in our province had abolished card checks and we were forced into mandatory voting. This causes a further delay. It took us over a year to become certified and another year to get our first collective agreement.
I am not going to sugarcoat this to anyone who wants to bring in a union to their workplace. Union drive is hard work, you need to be prepared for long hours and wait time. To have a successful union drive, you would need a dedicated core team who is persistent and have your back. There will be time during the union drive that you would ask yourself if this worth it, why is this taking so long, why are some people at work are mad at me for wanting a union. Trust me it is worth it, in the end, a union is the only guarantee for a fairer and more equitable workplace.
Was there an incident in your life that sparked a desire for you to pursue justice for yourself and for others? (e.g. strike, discrimination at work, unfair treatment, etc)
Learning about the situation in Grassy Narrow in Labour studies class a few years ago. I did not know that there are people in Canada that did not have access to clean drinking water. Canada, a country that is seen by the world as a champion of Human Rights. I am shocked and saddened by the way indigenous people are treated in Canada; the colonization and the inequality they continue to face. This is wrong and we as a society in Canada need to do something about it. I have written resolutions that I have brought forward to the convention floor about systemic inequality of Indigenous people, I have sat on social justice working groups, equity-seeking committees, and allied with like-minded organizations that promote fairness for all.
How do you see unions helping in the fight for workplace justice or social justice?
By strengthening our collective agreement; making sure that our members’ rights are protected and that they have representation when they need it. It is also important for unions to remember that they have an obligation to protect the rights of the most vulnerable workers; the precarious worker, immigrant workers and workers that are not unionized. If we help lift them up everyone else would be automatically lifted up along with them.
Most importantly, unions need to look beyond the collective bargaining agreement and broaden its approach in organizing for equality and social justice. Many of the Human rights codes and protections that everyone enjoys today were born out of the women, LGBT, and human rights caucus. Many human rights legislations began as an article in a collective bargaining agreement.
What other relevant things should the Chinese-Canadian community know about Canadian unions?
Union is a force that challenges inequality not only in the workplace but everywhere else. Countries that have higher union density have lower economic inequality and social dysfunction. A higher Unions present, reduce income inequality, wealth distribution, most importantly decreasing the racial and gender wage gap. These countries have a lower crime rate, higher life expectancy, higher literacy, and higher level of personal trust, better overall mental and physical health in their population.
Though not as pronounced in Canada as it is in the States, inequality has been on the raise for the last 30 years. Continued legislative erosion of labour rights weakens power of unions. We are also seeing an upward trend in attack on workers’ rights by the current conservative government. This government have continued to introduce legislation and bills that undermine unions and workers’ democracy. The latest in Manitoba is Bill 16. One of the worst aspects of this bill is that it will eliminate the Made-in-Manitoba binding arbitration rules that settle strikes and lockouts after they last more than two months. If it passes, workers can be on strike or lockout indefinitely.
Unions and social justice movements need a diverse voice which includes the Chinese community. Our community needs to get out, get political and be heard. This is the only way that we can be part of the change that we want.Many people in the Chinese community is doing it already, but we need more, much more people.
In your opinion, what has prevented Chinese-Canadians to participate in the labour/union movement?
Union culture, union structure and the way union organize is colonial in nature. This can be a turnoff for the Chinese community as well as many BIPOC communities. Also, I don’t think the Chinese community sees themselves being represented in the labour movement, especially among union leadership on the National level. There is also a lack of union engagement and outreach to the Chinese community within and outside the labour movement in most provinces.
What would you recommend for people who are interested in participating in union actions, where to start?
Get involved in your local union. Make sure that you put your name on the union local mailing list, this way you will get all the information on what going on with your union local, social justice events, rallies, and protests. The best place to start is by attending your general membership meetings. That is how I got my start in the union.