Honouring a new generation of activists

by Betty Valenzuela, HEU Financial Secretary
News Blog

When we know we’ve achieved something that makes a difference to HEU members’ lives, then it was a fulfilling day, and it’s all worth it.

One of my 2019 highlights was the HEU women’s conference. I witnessed women coming out of their shell, networking, inspiring and learning from one another.

As a person of colour, I was looking around the room at the diversity of the women, and I thought, “What a beautiful bouquet of flowers. We come from all over, but we are all here together as really empowered women.”

I see a new generation of activists who are involved and engaged. I’m honoured they recognize my leadership role and see me as a mentor. I never expected to become an elected leader when I first became active in the labour movement.

Strong teams are the key to success

When I saw my picture posted all over the walls of the women’s conference – as a leader our members said inspired them – it was very humbling. I never imagined that I inspired members. I guess as you do your work, you don’t know the impact you’re having on people or how you are inspiring people.

I feel like I’m just doing my job. You have to believe in yourself. And you have to have passion. You have to believe in your team. It takes a village.

Barb Nederpel, Jennifer Whiteside and I are a team. We have different roles, but we end up in the same place, which is a goal of serving and helping our members.

Often, we work really long days and we are tired, but we ask ourselves, “What did we accomplish today?” and when we know we’ve achieved something that makes a difference to HEU members’ lives, then it was a fulfilling day, and it’s all worth it.

Strength comes from activist roots

During HEU’s 75th anniversary celebrations, I attended many local events. When I visited my home base – Vancouver General Hospital – where I started as a union activist, I told members that I hope I left my spirit in that local HEU office along with my enthusiasm, time and commitment.

VGH is where I’m grounded. My roots started there. VGH opened my world. It’s where I learned a lot about grassroots, rank-and-file activism. A big portion of my activism took place at VGH, our union’s founding local.

Women have finally come of age. We don’t sit back anymore. We speak out and demand change. And we can be proud of that.

From the Guardian