B.C.’s organized labour movement will be front and centre in the East Kootenay this weekend, as the B.C. Federation of Labour holds its annual regional conference in Kimberley.
The Kimberley Conference & Athlete Training Centre will host the event Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7, with a special event tonight, Thursday evening, June 5. Some 70 delegates from 15 different unions will be attending, as well as federation staff from the Lower Mainland, invited dignitaries and guest speakers.
Irene Lanzinger, Secretary-Treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour, says that in recent years, instead of having a convention in the Lower Mainland every year, the federation now holds a convention every other year. “And in the years that we don’t have a convention we have regional conferences around the province.
“This is our first one in the Kootenays, and we probably won’t be back for a number of years.”
Lanzinger said the regional conference is a chance to get union members from the local area together to talk about their issues and struggles, and the challenges facing people in the union movement today.
The conference begins Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Conference Centre with a green jobs forum, to which the public is invited.
“We’ll talk about how the labour movement and the environmental movement work together to provide good jobs for people but also deal with the issue of climate change and increasing greenhouse gases,” Lanzinger said. “We’re inviting people from the community — everybody’s welcome.”
Opening ceremonies are scheduled for Friday, June 6, at 9 a.m. Speakers will include Kathryn Teneese, Chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, the Mayor of Kimberley Ron McRae, and Jim Sinclair President of the B.C. Federation of Labour.
Then the delegates will get down to the business at hand.
“I think we have some fundamental issues that stand the test of time in the union movement,” Lanzinger said. “How we fight for better wages, for better working conditions, for people who work in unions but also for everyone.
“Of course we’d like to organize more people into unions, so more people enjoy the benefits of good wages, health benefits, pensions and all of those things. But we also think that’s good for community. Because when people have decent wages, their children aren’t living in poverty, they’re spending that money in the community and they’re making the community stronger.
Lanzinger said the delegates will also be discussing broader issues that people are facing today — “how our economy is changing, how we deal with environmental issues, how we fight for better minimum wage for everybody.
“What are our issues as a society, and what can we as union members do to make our communities better places and look after each other, which is our fundamental principle in the union movement.”
The teachers of School District 6 will be conducting their one-day rotating strike this week on Friday. Lanzinger said the delegates will be joining the teachers on the picket line on Friday to show support.