Monday marked the opening day of Teamsters Canada’s 12th convention and Teamster members from across the country representing every local union and conferences were in attendance. It was a historic event as delegates voted unanimously to create a position for women on the Teamsters Canada Executive Board.
General President Jim Hoffa, General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall and Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies were in attendance on this first day.
“The slogan of our convention, ‘Our members, our strength’ is very important. It’s our members who make the union. And we will need their strength in the times ahead as we face business leaders who are promoting an anti-worker agenda,” said Francois Laporte, the President of Teamsters Canada, as he opened the convention.
General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall congratulated delegates on creating a position for women on the Teamsters Canada Executive Board. “We need to include everyone, all of our members, and I want to thank you for leading by example by creating of an executive board member to represent female members of Teamsters Canada,” he said.
During his speech, Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President, spoke about how he admires Canadians since Justin Trudeau’s government repealed the Conservatives’ anti-union laws and restored card check. “We organized 35,000 people last year, but can you imagine what that number would have been if we had had card check? We are fighting to get there, but the war on workers continues in the U.S., but we are a strong union and we will fight.”
Also speaking on the convention’s first day was Don Davies, NP MP for Vancouver Kingsway. He made sure that all the delegates and guests knew that as a representative of working families, and that he is in Parliament to support them. “I carry my Teamster membership card in my wallet since it reminds me of the principles that carried me from working at a Teamster local union to now being a Member of Parliament. I believe in the inherent dignity of work of all kinds. Promoting the policies of the labour movement is in our DNA as part of the labour party.”
Delegates Pass By-Law Changes, Create Women’s Rep on National Executive
The over 148 delegates voted unanimously to pass a variety of by-law changes on the first day of the convention. Among them was a change to add, “gender identity or gender expression” to the by-law section on non-discrimination.
The delegates next considered a by-law change directed at creating a National At-Large Officer that would represent female members, specifically. The change passed unanimously and was met by great enthusiasm from members of the Teamster Women’s caucuses.
“I’m excited!” said Gaye Autoshchuk, a member of Local Union 155 in Vancouver. “I think having a female member of the board will encourage more women to join the union.” The Vancouver Teamsters Women’s Caucus is one of three caucuses. The other two are in Quebec and Ontario.
“We are very happy about the by-law change adding the female member of the executive board,” said Lenna Phenix, a member of Local Union 879. “I think it will help Canadian Teamsters in ways they can’t imagine yet. On average, Teamsters Canada membership has about 20 percent women.” Phenix said that she thought the by-law change will help not only in organizing more women to be Teamster members, but it would also encourage women to become more involved in their local unions.