PSAC BC and the United Way - a message from the REVP

I was recently honoured to be asked give the keynote speech at the United Way of the Lower Mainland Labour Campaign kick-off and would like to share with PSAC members some of what I spoke about.

I’ve been a supporter of the United Way’s Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign almost since I began working at the Department of Agriculture 34 years ago – as a donor, as a workplace coordinator, and as a Union Counselor. Now as Regional Executive Vice President of the PSAC in BC, I’m honoured to sit on the Labour Committee of the UWLM Board.

I think it’s important to be involved with the work the United Way does. Both for all the people the United Way helps in our communities, of course, but also for the PSAC.

In many ways unions, PSAC included, and the United Way share similar visions: we improve lives, build stronger communities, create positive social change, and speak out for those who at times find it difficult to speak for themselves. Our partnership is based on shared values.

One thing that I’ve noticed, though, is that the public sometimes thinks that our workplace giving campaigns are employer driven. I think they get this impression from the accolades the employer always receives. For the most part it’s PSAC, PIPSC, and other union members that do the work in federal government agencies and departments.

Our employers provide time us to work on the campaign, but we organize the events, we fill out the paperwork, and we make the majority of the donations. Then, every year government departments announce how much money they’ve donated to the United Way.

But it’s all thanks to those of us that have worked very hard in our worksites.

Representatives of the United Way, PIPSC, and I sat down with the Pacific Federal Council several times this spring to discuss recognition in the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign. We all agreed that the Union’s involvement has contributed greatly to the success of the campaign over the years, and that PSAC and PIPSC contributions should be recognized more fully and visibly.

This is a good thing. By being recognized for the work that we do we show the public that unions are a force for good in the broader community. PSAC members in Victoria are leading the way on this front.

I’d also like to share my thoughts about the United Way’s Union Counselor program with you, as my experience with it was a very positive one.

From what I’ve heard from some people - that the United Way is training our members to be counselors - I think the program may be misunderstood. The training required to be a counselor takes years. We’re not counselors.

Members in the Union Counselor program are given the tools and the confidence needed to assist them in pointing co-workers in the direction of counseling services when they needed them. As you can imagine, when someone is having a problem it’s a lot easier for them to talk to a person they know. Someone that can help them get the help, whatever it may be, they might need.

I would encourage everyone to take advantage of this training and to give our members a place to turn to in a time of need. I found it very rewarding.

This is also a way of showing our members that we’re more than just “the union” – the mysterious organization that they pay dues to. We’re showing members that we are a force for positive change in the broader community.

I would like to conclude by offering a reminder.

A reminder of how important it is to recognize that even the smallest of gestures to someone in need can go a long way in providing hope.

Our strength lies in our unity.

In Solidarity, Bob