By Valerie Lannon
September 5 saw 25,000 British Columbia Government Employees Union striking in 153 communities, at more than 700 work sites.
The union’s last strike was more than 20 years ago, so this was a big step forward. As with other public sector unions, the BCGEU has seen real wages decrease. After three rotating strikes earlier in the year, the union decided to stage this one-day action. The day also saw strikes by the Professional Employees Association and the Canadian Office & Professional Employees Union, whose members work alongside GEU members.
In Victoria, BCGEU strikers were joined by members of the newly formed Victoria Labour Council’s Solidarity Action group. There were banners from the BC Teachers Federation, CUPW, Health Employees Union, and BC Ferries workers. The solidarity group visited half a dozen picket sites. Strikers were thrilled, with one BCGEU member saying “we’ll do the same for you.”
The Solidarity Action group is holding an action planning workshop on September 22. This kind of rank-and-file initiative is exactly what is needed to mobilize those who are tired of the slow or inadequate responses of many union leaders to the massive attacks by employers.