Yesterday, union members from the B.C. Federation of Labour voted to elect Irene Lanzinger as their new president. Lanzinger edged out other front-runner Amber Hockin by 57 votes to become the first woman to lead the Federation.
The B.C Federation of Labour represents more than 500,000 union members from more than 1,100 unions working in every sector of the B.C. economy.
With 2,207 union delegates present, this was the largest convention in B.C. Federation of Labour history.
Lanzinger received the endorsement of 15 year incumbent Jim Sinclair. Coming from the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union, Sinclair was known for his activist approach to social unionism, and saw himself as an advocate for both unionized and non-unionized workers. Lanzinger vowed to continue in this tradition, as stated in her campaign platform:
"The labour movement in B.C. is an essential voice for workers, a voice that that not only advances issues important to union members, but also recognizes that good jobs, safe work and better services for citizens are critical priorities for every worker, union or not."
Coming from the B.C. Federation of Teachers (BCTF), Lanzinger ran alongside Sinclair in the previous election and has been the Federation's Secretary-Treasurer since 2010.
Lanzinger has said that while the Federation is most politically aligned with the NDP, some distance between the Federation and the party is critical if the labour movement hopes to push a more progressive political agenda.
Other front-runner Amber Hockin, coming out of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), was supported by CUPE and many other unions who had mobilized against Sinclair in the previous election. She is the current Pacific Region Director of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), and had received endorsements from several public sector unions.
With Secretary-Treasurer running mate Aaron Ekman, Hockin vowed to make the Federation a more powerful player in B.C.'s political landscape and strengthen labour's relationship with the provincial NDP.
At the convention, the Federation also launched its "Fight for $15" campaign, calling on the provincial government to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Ella Bedard is rabble's labour intern. She has written about labour issues for Dominion.ca and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People. She now lives in Toronto where she enjoys chasing the labour beat, biking and birding.
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