On Wednesday, October 29, 2014, I was honoured to be able to bring greetings to the 59th SFL Convention in Regina on behalf of the RDLC. The response to my address was overwhelming so below is the script to the speech for those who missed it.
Ken Kubian, President, RDLC
Good morning sisters and brothers. On behalf of treasurer, Carol Mullaney, 1st Vice-President, Darcy Jensen, Secretary, Susan Butson, and our large and diverse Executive who represent over 28,000 unionized workers, I am pleased and proud to bring greetings to this convention. Welcome to our community.
I was born and raised in Regina and have lived here most of my life. Over 100 years ago, my grandparents and great-grandparents left the harsh and crowded conditions of Eastern Europe crossing land and sea to come to Canada. Some of them even crossed the ocean in cattle boats. They made their way across the country to settle in what is now Saskatchewan. They worked small farms and raised large families. My mother’s family farmed next to a reservation and when possible, shared the work and harvest with these new friends. Many others came with them from the old country, leaving friends, family, and oppressive poverty and together they built communities.
The large families resulted in the migration of my parents’ generation into Regina and other larger communities to find jobs. They worked and started families of their own and they built the communities that they settled in. For over 30 years my father worked in construction and helped build the network of power lines that brought electricity to the province. My mother retired from the Regina Health District after 46 years of serving the community.
The Regina & District Labour Council has been part of the community since 1906. Over the years, the Council has had to fight some tremendous battles alongside working sisters and brothers. Like the other 7 councils across the province and over 100 others across the country, the RDLC has come out to support job actions, helped educate workers, fought for equality for all, and worked both with and against politicians to create the best atmosphere for workers in this city and across the province.
But this is not the only work the councils do. As with the generations past, labour councils are community builders, working with many people and groups to create a better life for us all. Over the years, the RDLC has raised thousands of dollars through our participation in the Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. We have also collected for the Regina Food Bank as well as winter clothing for those in need. The executives of the RDLC are involved with a number of community groups and organizations from political constituencies to sitting on local boards.
The heart of our work in the community is our partnership with the United Way Regina. The agreement between the Canadian Labour Congress and the United Way Centraide Canada has encouraged all levels of labour to get involved with not only fundraising but focusing on the root causes of social programs. The RDLC has worked with the United Way Regina for many years, there is a formal agreement in place to help guide the partnership. The Council also appoints 2 representatives of labour to sit on the board of the United Way.
A year ago, the Council re-established our Labour Advisory Committee which includes 3 United Way board members, as well as their Labour Staff Representative and 2 members of the RDLC Board. This has enabled us to not only continue the work we do together but expand on it. For over a decade, we have worked together to put on the Unions of Regina Christmas Dinner. With the help of over 125 volunteers, funding from Regina’s unions, and the generosity of the Delta Hotel, we are able to serve a Christmas celebration to over 1400 people in need.
For as long as I can remember, the Council has participated in the United Way Day of Caring. This gives us the opportunity to do a volunteer project for a United Way agency that they haven’t the time or resources to do.
An issue that the United Way identified is that school children lose their ability to learn while they are off during the summer vacation. This past summer, we were able to participate in the new Summer Success program which works to slow down this process. While the program was quickly developed, it was well received, especially by the students and is well worth continuing and expanding in the future.
Not everything is a great success. An attempt at developing a community garden to provide produce for United Way agencies seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, the plots we got turned out to be better suited to growing rice than potatoes. It did work out well enough to try again next year but we will need to find plots that aren’t in swamp land.
One of our greatest successes came with our School Supply program developed in conjunction with the United Way Regina. For the last 3 years, we have been able to supply all the students of the Cornwall Alternative School all the items that they need to get through the school year. This past year we were able to send 2 Cornwall students to the SFL Kid’s Camp. We were also able to address the students a few weeks ago, explaining the advantages of unions for workers. We continue to develop and expand the partnership.
Tomorrow night, the Regina & District Labour Council is hosting our biannual fundraiser for the United Way Regina. I invite you all to come out to the Cathedral Village Community Centre because “It’s Time to Hoedown.” Tickets are $20.00 and are available from any of our Executive who will stand and give you a wave or visit the United Way table set up here at the convention.
These are just some of the ways that we at the Regina & District Labour Council work to build our community. We elect politicians that should be working to grow our communities but they have the misguided notion that prosperity comes with handouts to corporations that will create endless McJobs with little thought for the people who have to pay the bills with minimum wage incomes. The prosperity in this province, the real prosperity is not in the resources or the employers that are bribed to come to the province, it is in its people, its workers. People like my parents and their parents; our aboriginal sisters and brothers; the immigrants that come to our province; the workers like you who build the communities that we live in, work in, and grow in. That’s the real prosperity of our city and our province.
I sincerely hope you enjoy your time here in Regina this week and I wish you all a satisfying and enjoyable Convention.