I am an elementary school teacher. I have always taught, then also worked as a union activist, in predominantly female workplace settings. As a union leader, I am also fully aware that I am representing a strong majority of women, who make up close to 80% of the membership of the CSQ. Working in education, higher education, early childhood education, health, culture and community settings, women are the core of our union organization’s DNA.

Unifying, proactive and inclusive, this year’s theme for the International Day of Women’s Rights, The Future Is Feminist, speaks to me. The future at issue is also mine.

Do I want to be part of a feminist future? Absolutely!

Because it is entirely consistent with the values that the union movement champions and that I support. Advocating for a more just, more equitable, more progressive, more supportive, greener society also means planning on taking part in building a feminist future.

And of course, these values and this vision of the world that we live by and that we defend are not restricted to our workplaces and union organizations.  We give them consideration in all the areas of our lives: at home, at work and at school, as parents, workers and citizens, as well as in our interpersonal relations. They are simply a part of us.

Women more impacted

How can we ignore the extent to which the past two years have unfairly impacted women? We know that the pandemic and the consequences of the public health crisis brought about job losses and as a result, loss of income, more sharply felt by women. As well, overexposure to the risk of contamination, overwork, growing difficulties with work-family balance, particularly in a context of telework. To say nothing of domestic violence and a dramatic rise in femicide. In short, women have been severely impacted by the crisis.

Do I want to be part of a feminist future? Absolutely!

In Québec, three-quarters of government employees are women and about one third of women hold jobs in the public services. The pandemic has also highlighted the cracks in our networks and revealed the extent to which they have been weakened.

Feminist societal choices

I really hope that the future of Québec is feminist. I want to be part of a society that makes the societal and economic choice to invest in those areas of employment that are predominantly female (education, health, early childhood).

At the time of writing, the government has announced further easing of restrictions, indicating that the public health crisis is drawing to a close. Soon, economic recovery will once again take its place in the daily vocabulary, like a mantra, as Québec prepares to table its budget. However, the recovery must not happen solely through the investment of public funds in traditionally male economic sectors, not this time!

A vicious circle: overwork creates more overwork

The workforce shortage obviously will be an essential issue over the coming months. In our schools, our centres, our hospitals, our colleges, our universities and our childcare centres, everywhere, staff shortages affect our workplaces. The government is counting on initiatives to attract and recruit employees in our networks, but sooner, rather than later, it will have to examine what it should do to retain the employees currently working in these settings. It’s time to “take care of the people who take care of people,” so to speak.

As union organizations, the members are sending us a clear message: we have to tackle overwork, hardship and working conditions. It is our responsibility to make their voices heard.

Ending violence comes down to collective action

In the specific context of violence against women, we also have a role to play to ensure that our workplaces are the allies of victims.

Bill 59, which amends the Act respecting occupational health and safety, provides new levers by imposing on employers the obligation to include domestic violence in their prevention plans. The workplace is often the only safe place providing these women with a degree of freedom. Heightening awareness, being attentive, welcoming, taking action and giving support: there are practices to be widely deployed and implemented. Society as a whole must be involved in eliminating problems of violence.

That is why I am calling on us all to come together and make the future the sum of our collective struggles, solidarity and equity. A feminist future.