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.

Shocking leaflet at my door: the limits of political canvassing

Image of mailboxSpecial post by Christine Purdy

Flyers stuffed in your mailbox. Knocks on your door. Canvassers making sure you get out to vote. With the federal election looming in fall 2015 it’s getting to be that time.

Organizations besides politicians and their supporters get involved in elections too. For example, SEIU Healthcare members work to get out the vote during election time, asking voters to keep public healthcare services top of mind.

In our democratic system everyone has a voice. From time to time those voices can cross the line of decency in the name of partisan gain. Already in this election year that line has been crossed.

I live in a family-oriented suburb of the GTA. My husband went to get the mail the other day while I watched our 2-year-old daughter. When he returned, he came to me and said, “This is the most disturbing thing I have ever seen in my life,” handing me what looked like a political flyer.

The flyer was disturbing because it contained graphic images and messaging about abortion, making claims about the position of a federal political leader on this issue. The Toronto Star reported that the Campaign Life Coalition was behind this.

I was furious. No, I was outraged. What campaign manager would think that sending out this kind of literature to my home is acceptable? I am always open to a discussion on politics, including the issue of abortion. However, politics and pro-life vs. pro-choice opinions aside, please do not litter my mailbox with shocking and inappropriate material.

What if my toddler – who is starting to figure out her world – had looked at the pile of mail and saw that picture? What happens when these cards blow out of mailboxes onto the street and children pick them up? There is no control of who the viewing audience will be. Is this organization so desperate to find supporters for its campaign that it is willing to risk the health and mental wellness of innocent children?

Especially in this soon-to-be election period, the public expects organizations and political parties to express their views in many shapes and forms. But to all political types out there: please do not send these types of graphic, disturbing and offensive images to my household or any other! Use your human decency to judge whether you are crossing boundaries for political gain.

No tax on tampons! The campaign to remove GST on menstruation products

No tax on tamponsA group of Canadian feminists is raising money to shoot a video about the campaign to remove the GST on feminine hygiene products.

Did you know that we pay GST for period products like tampons and pads but not incontinence products, or non-essential items like cocktail cherries?

Getting the government to support a private member’s bill (aka a proposed law that is introduced by an individual Member of Parliament, in this case who does not belong to the governing party) is admittedly difficult, but promisingly, an online petition has garnered a lot of attention with over 60,000 signatures.

This campaign is clearly strongly resonating with Canadians.

Another way to make a strong impact in support of this campaign is to visit www.canadianmenstruators.ca and print and sign a hard copy of the petition that will be tabled in the House of Commons.

Petitions can be mailed in, no postage required, to MP Irene Mathyssen’s office no later than April 27, 2015.