People of colour face unique challenges in the workplace, and Carol Grant wants them to know that she joins the Manitoba Federation of Labour in having their backs.
Last weekend, the Brandon-based Prairie Mountain Health operating room aide was elected as Manitoba Federation of Labour Workers of Colour vice-president.
"My goal is to allow people of colour to know that they have rights and freedoms to be in the workplace, to be comfortable there and to know that they have backing; that they’re not alone," she said.
A first-generation Canadian of Jamaican ancestry, Grant said that she hasn’t always felt this support, which she said fuelled her drive to accept the position upon her nomination.
"Daily, people will say things to me that I didn’t think would be asked of me in 2018," she said, adding that a lot of these interactions occur in the workplace, including among her colleagues.
Whether it’s someone informing her that they do not work on "Jamaican time," or professing that they "love the chocolate people," she said that these comments are not acceptable.
Grant’s background in unions began in 2012, when she was involved in a Prairie Mountain Health representation vote.
She said that her willingness to speak up spurred her to move up the union ladder, securing the Manitoba Federation of Labour Brandon and District vice-president position a few years ago.
Vacating this role to take on the Workers of Colour file last weekend, Brandon Labour Council president Kirk Carr shifted into her vacated spot.
Meanwhile, Rivers resident Wayne Chacun was voted into the MFL’s Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union vice-president position.
With three local area members in the MFL provincial executive, Carr said the Brandon area is well-represented within the province’s chief union advocacy organization.
There’s much to advocate both for and against, Carr said, citing the province’s recently introduced Bill 28 as one of the most recent examples of something that merits a fight.
Called the "Public Services Sustainability Bill," Bill 28 would mandate a two-year wage freeze for new public contracts followed by 0.75 and one per cent maximum increases during the subsequent two years.
Limiting the power of collective bargaining units, Carr said he believes the bill to be unconstitutional, and is one they intend to fight to the bitter end.
On the race front, Grant said that it’s too early to say whether any legislated changes will be necessary to improve things for workers of colour, but that she’d be keen to advocate for whatever changes membership deems necessary.
The Workers of Colour caucus leadership position was vacant prior to Grant taking it over, and she said that it now needs to be rebuilt "from the ground up."
She said the coming weeks will be made up of networking and reaching out to membership in order to let members of colour know that they have a voice and will be heard.
There are plenty of misconceptions about workers of colour that Grant said she’s surprised still need to be snuffed out in this day and age.
"They’re not trying to change you," she said. "They want to be part of their community, they want to be part of the workplace, but because they look different it’s that much harder for them."
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB