Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of those special times of year when people go a little crazy on the decorations, costumes and parties. Second only to Christmas or maybe third to Valentine’s Day, Halloween gets a lot of attention from the young and the young at heart.

As a child, I looked forward to creating the best costu

me and proudly carried my Unicef box to collect coins for needy children around the world. But it is as an adult, I’ve had the most creative license. One year I was a baked potato, complete with a tinfoil covering, coloured felt to represent bacon bits and chives, a yellow sponge as butter and a cleverly constructed hat made from a recycled sour cream container. Another, I wore a “Hello, my name is” sticker with the word ‘Done” written on it and stuck a fork in my chest (not really – I had a piece of Styrofoam shoved down my top to absorb the blow) – I was “Stick me with a fork, I’m Done” – get it?

These days, given the opportunity, I’ll dress up with the craziest of them, however most of the time I stay home to dole out candy to the neighbours’ kids. One year was particularly busy and although I had prepared to receive 200 kids, found myself scrounging at the bottom of the candy bowl for treats to give away. So desperate was I that I raided the kitchen cupboard for granola bars and then when they disappeared, contemplated using my stash of ketchup, vinegar and soya sauce packets from previous take- out meals. Fortunately, the onslaught came to an end before my supply of edible treats did and crisis was averted.

However you choose to celebrate, do so wisely and safely and remember to set your clocks back an hour after the trick or treating is done as we enter Day Light Savings Time on November 1.

Happy Halloween from the Communications Team!

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Sports fandom, a cure for many ails?

We talk a lot on this blog about what a given activity does for your health, physical and/or mental, from more obvious things like walking, to more subtle actions like cooking good food.

What about sports? Not playing them, which we know is good physical exercise. Watching them. Following them.

Two weeks ago a lot of Canadians were feeling the pressure; not just because of the looming federal election, but thanks to the Blue Jays, who for the first time since 1993 (also the last year they won the World Series) had entered baseball playoffs, and, for a while there, were doing very well.

Blue jay

Die-hard fans celebrated and many other proud Canadians jumped on the fan bandwagon. Social media exploded. It seemed as they everyone was talking about the Jays. On the Dundas streetcar in downtown Toronto on election night, passengers alternated between talking about vote day and updating everyone on the latest home run Donaldson had hit.

The happiness that the Jays’ playoffs success brought to cities and town across Canada was contagious. They eventually lost, leaving a historic season nonetheless. And the question remains: was this pressure, this happiness, this rallying around a common cause good for our health?

In his 2001 book Sports Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators, psychologist Daniel Wann says that because of our human need to belong, being a sports fan could improve our health on several different levels. Perhaps it makes us feel simultaneously more secure and more hopeful. It is nice when “our” teams do well, but following sports allows teaches us that failure is a necessary part of life. We must learn to process feelings of disappointment with grace, to pick up and move on while trying to look at the bright side.

And keeping up with professional sports this winter? We’re great at that. We can always follow the Canadian teams who qualified for the Major League Soccer playoffs, or keep an eye on the Raptors who start their NBA season tonight, or the ongoing hockey season.

Even though baseball has ended, with the NHL and NBA (We The North!) seasons underway, there could be more heartbreaking moments for fans ahead – or maybe more surprisingly heartwarming times!

Once in a while it would also do us some good to leave the screens off and play around outside, or cheer on some local teams while they play.

And the Jays will be back next year.

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.

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.

Are we supporting those who support us?

Are we supporting those who support us?

If I told you that the current federal government passed a law allowing it to strip people who weren’t born in Canada of their Canadian citizenship without a judge or trial, what would you say?

That I’m crazy?

What if I said that this law also applies to Canadian-born citizens who hold another passport, or are simply eligible for citizenship elsewhere?

Let’s take this insanity one step further. Let’s say that the ruling government that passed this law, has people in their own party who could be negatively affected by it.

Don’t believe me? This insane situation exists in our country today. When the current government approved Bill C-24, they automatically undermined the rights of millions of their own citizens.

They say it’s because they want to fight terrorism, and only convicted terrorists could have their citizenship revoked. But look a little beyond that scary word that is used to instil fear and induce complacency on this issue. What if the definition changes? What if someone is wrongly convicted?

Canadians who were born here and have no other citizenship are to be treated differently under this law. It creates a hierarchy of Canadian citizenships, and it’s not okay.

I’m not surprised, given the track record of the current government. What surprises me is that there are people in the Conservative Party who are either children of immigrants, or immigrants themselves: the very people this law is targeting. I’m disturbed and also confused.

Why do we as a society support people who don’t have our back?

I remember in 6th grade my English teacher did an “experiment” with my class. She grouped people together and gave each table a scenario: on the paper we were told that some of our friends had now become the enemy. Overnight we had to cut off ties with these friends. We were told that if we didn’t do this we would be jailed, threatened, and that our property would most likely be seized.

So what were we going to do? Many tables chose to go down the route of doing what they were told. “Why inflict burden on ourselves,” they thought? Just one table said no. They said they would defy the threats, were prepared to be jailed, and didn’t care what the public thought of them; that there was no way they could do this to their friends.

My English teacher told our class that sometimes it’s important to stand up out of principle, and not allow injustice to continue. However, what this exercise revealed was that it’s a whole lot easier to take the path of least resistance.

To bring this full circle, the easiest thing here would be to do nothing and say nothing about laws like Bill C-24. After all, what reasonable person wants to support terrorism? It takes more effort to look beyond the rhetoric and realize that this is about standing up for equality, and making sure all our Canadian citizenships are worth the same.

There are plenty of moments in our lives where we are faced with an opportunity to do better – to be better.

Election time is one of those opportunities. Not only do we need to ask ourselves “are we better off than we were 10 years ago,” but we need to also look around, take stock of our communities, of our neighbours, and ask ourselves whether the political party we support truly has our back – all of our backs.

Are you better off?

 #SEIUvotes

We’ve had the same Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, for 10 years now. Do you feel like you personally have been better off since then?

Let’s evaluate his government’s performance from the personal angle.

1)      Your work. Are you working harder, more hours, for the same or less money or are you making more, relative to the cost of living?

2)     Your house. Do you have adequate and affordable housing? Has this changed over the last ten years?

3)     Your home. Are you a caregiver, of a child, parent, or other family member, and if so, do you have the help you need to take care of yourself at the same time?

4)     Your health. Has the healthcare system improved?

5)     Your education. Are you able to manage student loans?

6)     Your leisure time. Do you have enough of it?

7)     Your taxes. Personal taxes go up and down (usually up). Are they going to good use, to maintain and grow public services?

8)     Your retirement. Have the last 10 years helped you prepare?

Our federal government has a direct impact on all the above issues, from the social programs it offers, to the laws it makes on housing and education, to how much tax we pay, to the funds the provinces get for healthcare, to how we survive economic troubles.

Sometimes we get used to the status quo. But we have to realize that although life can get harder and harder, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can demand better. First, we vote on October 19, and then, we hold our leaders accountable.

If the past 10 years have improved your life and you feel you should vote for Stephen Harper, that’s your right. But if your personal life has become more expensive and harder to manage because of lack of action on the part of the federal government, you are probably looking to vote for change on Monday, October 19.

If you want to know which candidate is best positioned to bring change to your riding, please email us at politics@seiuhealthcare.ca.

Above all else, exercise your democratic right—vote! Polls show it could be the closest election in decades and your vote could make the difference.

Good food: the secret to old age?

It’s a week to honour those who work in healthcare food services and unsurprisingly, we’re hearing story after story about the importance of food, its place in the healing process, and its potential to bring us together.

Healthcare foodservice workers' week

We have also been hearing a lot about longevity and wonder how much of a role good food plays in keeping us alive and well.

Food service workers aren’t always in the kitchen. Shevon Panchew, who works at a retirement home in Forest Hill, Toronto, told us:

“The best part of my job is talking with the residents. I enjoy getting to know them and hearing their stories. I like to hear about what they did for a living, where they have travelled, and the things they have experienced through their lives. There’s one resident who is 103 years old. If someone can be alive that long and still active with a lot of knowledge, that is certainly a good thing!”

Olive Hopkinson has been serving up and delivering food to nursing home residents for nearly 30 years.

“Eating healthy is important,” Olive says. “It will keep you strong and add years onto your life.”

Robert Jackson has been working in a nursing home cafeteria for 21 years. He too highlights interacting with the residents as one of the best parts of the job.

“I enjoy talking with the residents I am serving food to,” Robert said. “One of the residents told me he was friends with Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I met a few other residents whose children have achieved some great careers in hockey and football. I always enjoy hearing their stories.”

Dietary workers are on the alert for allergies and other food-related dangers to residents. Like all roles in the long-term care sector, it’s a demanding job.

But it’s not without its human moments, those moments where residents get to share their stories…while hopefully enjoying a delicious meal.

Let a Smile be Your Umbrella

Let a Smile by Your Umbrella

I want a title change. I would like to be the Chief Happiness Officer. Sounds far-fetched, but every workplace should have one, and in fact, the title does exist; just ask Alexander Kjerulf. Alex is the founder of Woohoo inc and one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work and has consulted for some of the world’s biggest brands. Be sure to check out his Chief Happiness Officer Blog.

When it comes to grumpy attitudes at work, you have two options: change others’ behaviour or change your own. Usually, the latter is easier, and is more the Canadian way.

Why should being happy at work be an option? It’s called work after all…

Studies show that happy employees are more productive, more innovative, more motivated, more energetic, and more optimistic. They are also less sick, stay with the company longer, and make the customers more loyal. For those reasons (and many others) happy companies make more money. But personally, I just don’t want to be miserable for more than a third of my day, nor do I want to be around others that do!

Studies also show that faking it until you make it; i.e. consciously removing the negativity from your frame of reference (this will take some work!), eliminating negative self-talk, and laughter yoga (really), can help break a pattern of negativity and offer some real health benefits.

We could all benefit personally from trying out these techniques, and the organizations we work for will benefit as well.