Archive for the ‘News Articles’ Category

Words, actions and accountability

September 17, 2021

By Janet Nicol

Tarana Burkę, creator and Executive Director of the American Me Too movement, set the stage for a timely discussion on human rights at a Canadian Labour Congress pre-conference event this June.   Burke was interviewed by Dr. Hadiya Roderique, a diversity and inclusion advocate.   A panel discussion comprised of Canadian activists followed.

For the full report, check out the Upfront section of Our Times magazine, Summer/Fall 2021, on magazine stands soon.

Burke’s recently published book, tells the personal and political story of the Me Too movement.

MAGIC AND LETHAL

April 16, 2021

A Whimsical Sculpture Warns of Asbestos Dangers

BY JANET NICOL  

A seven-metre-high metal sculpture installed outdoors at the Vancouver Convention Centre will be sure to catch the eye of locals and tourists alike with its playful, wind-blown mobile of cups, spokes and wheels. But when viewers of the British Columbia Labour Heritage Centre (BCLHC) art project take a closer look, they will be in for a surprise.

“Wind Wheel Mobile” by Vancouver artist Doug Taylor has a very serious message: the art piece, scheduled to be unveiled this spring, is a memorial to workers who have died from asbestos-related illnesses. Once considered the “magic mineral,” asbestos is still the number one killer of BC workers, with 47 deaths in 2018 alone. Across North America, the mineral’s deadly fibres are responsible for 40 per cent of workplace deaths.

“We decided against a memorial that was traditional and sombre,” says Joey Hartman, Chair of the BCLHC and past president of the Vancouver & District Labour.  “Doug’s work is whimsical, light and kinetic. It will get people to pause and say ‘what is this?’” 

The full story is available on line at Our Times magazine – 

https://ourtimes.ca/article/magic-and-lethal

WIND WHEEL MOBILE (DETAIL): COURTESY DOUG TAYLOR

Covid Chronicles

March 9, 2021

By Janet Nicol

A living history project by workers and the BC Labour Heritage Centre.

Canadians on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic are facing risks that workers faced a century ago when the Spanish flu swept the globe — but this time working people are telling their stories and people are listening, including volunteers at the BC Labour Heritage Centre, in Vancouver.

“It sets you to thinking about your own history,” says Marie Decaire, a member of the centre’s board who recently retired from her job at the Community Savings Credit Union. “My mother was born in the Kootenays around the time of the flu outbreak. She never mentioned the Spanish flu when I was growing up. And I never asked.”

Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, the 1918 flu pandemic infected 500 million people, about a third of the world’s population at the time. Last year, Decaire researched Vancouver newspapers published in 1918 and she noticed how workers’ lives were rarely mentioned. She didn’t want the same thing to happen to workers and their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so she proposed an oral history project called “COVID Chronicles: Labour’s Story.”

“Workers’ voices need to be heard,” she says. “When I proposed the idea of collecting COVID stories, everyone loved it.”

So what are BC workers saying? Check out the latest issue of Our Times magazine to find out.

Our Times magazine, Winter 2021.

Working with Courage and Care

February 17, 2021

by Janet Nicol

“I love being a first responder and saving lives,” says mental health worker Brionne Kennedy in a telephone interview with Our Times. Trained in First Aid and a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 1004, she is employed with PHS Community Services Society, a charitable, non-profit in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. 

For the past three years she has worked at the Maple Hotel, which houses 70 residents. She works 12-hour shifts, three days a week, alongside one other co-worker. A single mother, Kennedy has been on personal leave since August 2020, and looks forward to returning to work soon.

For the full interview, go to the Our Times magazine website – https://ourtimes.ca/article/working-with-courage-and-care

More of my stories about front line workers braving the pandemic – and the valuable work of the BC Labour Heritage Centre preserving this living history – coming soon in Our Times magazine, Winter 2021.

Brionne Kennedy (right) assists a Maple Hotel resident having trouble climbing the stairs after the elevator broke down, by offering to move his belongings to a vacant room on a lower floor. PHOTOGRAPH: JOSHUA BERSON

Behind the Magic

November 19, 2019

by Janet Nicol

Working conditions have created a powder keg inside dozens of Vancouver’s animation studios.

In this cover story for Our Times magazine, I interview artists employed on contracts in Vancouver and Toronto animation studios, as well as the organizers working toward building a union as a means to better their conditions.

The full article is available in the Fall 2019 issue of Our Times magazine, available this month at Chapters/Indigo and some independent book stores as well as on-line subscription.  The article is also posted on line at the “Our Times” magazine website.

Solidarity Between Generations

June 26, 2019

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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A Glimpse into Social Justice 12 Classrooms Reveals Dynamic Lessons

September 18, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to completely alter the planet’s climate, to betray the future of my generation. What’s radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach. —Anjali Appandurai

Stacey McEachern introduces a climate justice unit to her students using this and other powerful quotes from environmentalists.   The unit is part of a Social Justice 12 course that McEachern teaches at Eric Hamber Secondary School, one of eleven Vancouver  secondary schools running the course this school year.

Social Justice 12 is a popular elective that has been offered across the province since 2008.

While there is no prescribed text or final exam, this course prepares students for future studies by giving them opportunities to analyze, discuss and participate in a wide variety of social issues.

A glimpse into some of Vancouver’s classrooms shows teachers and students are engaged in many dynamic lessons.

-Article excerpt, Social Justice newsletter, (BC Teachers’ Federation) Summer/Fall 2018, available on line at the BCTF website.

Watercolour, 2018, by Janet Nicol – A red rose became a symbol for social democrats in western Europe in the decades following the Second World War.

Vancouver Health Collective Celebrates 45 Year

August 28, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Vancouver in the 1970s was chock full of feminist collectives, from bookstores to singing groups, with their members pledging to live up to the ideal of equality in the decision-making process.

Fast forward to 2018. The Vancouver Women’s Health Collecive, located in the city’s Downtown Eastside, is among the few collectives to live on. It’s gone through many transformations but remains an important voice on women’s health. The organization is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.

Read more in Herizons magazine, Summer, 2018.

Labour notes

May 15, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Check out Labour Notes in the latest issue of “Our Times” on the retirement musings of the Vancouver Trade and Labour Council’s President Joey Hartman along with the latest information about the unique and important Simon Fraser University labour studies courses.

Indigenous lives matter

April 16, 2018

by Janet Nicol

This February, a visibly all-white jury acquitted Gerald Stanley of second degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie, a 22 year old man from Red Pheasant First Nation reserve in Saskatchewan and even dismissed the charge of manslaughter, accepting his defence that the gun fired accidentally. Thousands of Canadians – indigenous and non-indigenous – took to the streets in cities across the country, with slogans including ‘I am Colten’ and ‘No justice, no peace’.

I deliver a short report on this case and its aftermath in the current issue of New Internationalist magazine.