Solidarity Between Generations

Elder Union Women Share Their Wisdom

by Janet Nicol

“I hear people say, ‘I hope I die before my pension runs out,’” Suzanne Clancy declares. “It shouldn’t be that resources only last so many years. I’ve been retired since 2006. Not once has my pension been adjusted with the rate of inflation. It puts retirees on the fringe and it can be devastating.”

Clancy, President of the Ontario Federation of Union Retirees (OFUR), is 77 years old with a lifetime of union activism behind her. She is wise, experienced — and generous with her knowledge.

“OFUR has amazing women,” says Janice Gairey, praising Clancy for her leadership and commitment. “They get it, and the organization has been transformed into a collective.” A labour activist and union organizer for over four decades as well as a mother of six and grandmother of 18, Gairey is an amazing woman herself. After retiring as human rights director of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) in 2015, she joined the council of OFUR and is also secretary of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC).

So begins my interview with two Ontario-based union activists on issues affecting Canada’s seniors in the latest issue of “Our Times” magazine (Summer, 2019).

Also in the same issue, under Labour Notes, I write “Singing Our Stories,” a report about a Mother’s Day concert held earlier this year in Vancouver to celebrate women’s contribution to the Winnipeg General Strike a century ago.  “Women on the Line:  100 Years of Fighting” offered a well-polished evening of songs, skits and stand-up comedy at the Russian Hall in Strathcona.  Holding centre stage for much of the show was the Left Coast Labour Chorus, conducted by Peggy Hua and comprised of 32 members singing pitch-perfect spirited songs in delightful harmonies.

Still on the theme of labour rights, check out Herizons magazine (Summer, 2019).  My article entitled “Time to Trade in Sexism for Fairness on the Job”  looks at the ways the government, unions and tradeswomen are trying to deal with systemic barriers to the ongoing employment of women in trades.  “Women love the work,” according to BC electrician Lisa Langevin, “but they are not staying.  We need to change the culture.  We need to network and mentor.”

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