Barb Byers, former SGEU president and current Executive VP of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), kicked off the second day of convention with an inspiring presentation on the Together Fairness Works campaign - a massive member engagement initiative that encourages union members to have conversations with others about the importance of advocating for workplace rights such as, vacation time, fair wages, equal pay, decent pensions, safe workplaces, parental leave.
"The labour movement isn't just about decent jobs, it's about a better life for everyone," said Byers.
"It's about engaging people and getting them to think about their union and what their workplaces would look like without them. We have a responsibility to every one of our members that they feel a sense of ownership and pride to their union," she added.
Click here to watch the CLC's popular "Fairness Works" video featuring the ever-so-catchy "Sunny" song that was used in their national advertising campaign
Also, visit fairnessworks.ca to learn how you can engage others to be aware of and support these important labour rights.
From her early years as a social worker to heading first SGEU and then the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) before being elected as CLC VP, Byers' life has been spent fighting for the underdog.
In her 17 years as a social worker, Byers addressed issues of poverty, youth unemployment, aboriginal concerns, equality for all and labour rights. Those strong beliefs turned her towards political activism within her union – and to face strong challenges from the anti-labour Conservative government of Grant Devine in Saskatchewan.
Barb led SGEU through four turbulent years, opposing privatization, the weakening of labour laws for both unionized and non-unionized workers, reductions in social services and attacks on the public sector.
Barb’s inspired leadership led to her being elected President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour in 1988 for the first of 14 years – and the opportunity to help overwhelmingly defeat the scandal-ridden Devine government in 1991 and watch as 12 current or former members of the Conservative caucus were charged with fraud.
Moving from the SFL to the Canadian Labour Congress in 2002, Barb is responsible for labour education; medicare and health care; workplace training and technology; employment insurance; apprenticeships; and issues of concern to women workers, workers with disabilities and gay, bi-sexual, lesbian and transgender workers.
She also represents Canada as one of 14 worker delegates on the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization, the United Nations agency that brings together governments, employers and workers in common action to promote decent work throughout the world.
Barb’s strong community roots led her to become founder of the SFL Summer Camp for Youth in Saskatchewan and co-founder of the Prairie School for Union Women.