HEU members are still finding new ways to support each other and build solidarity, even when we’re far apart.

by Betty Valenzuela, HEU Financial Secretary

It’s no secret I’m a very social person and I speak from my heart.
That’s why this COVID-19 pandemic is exceptionally challenging for me. We have lost our one-on-one, person-to-person contact. Sure, we’re now using online technology – like WebEx, Zoom and other programs – to communicate, hold meetings and keep in touch, but it’s not the same.

There’s a lack of human feeling. And I need that connection with people.

I remember as a full-time shop steward at Vancouver General Hospital, if I was talking to a member who was feeling depressed or who had a grievance that we knew would not get resolved in our favour – just offering an empathetic touch of the hand or a reassuring tap on the shoulder or a warm hug would make a huge difference to the member. I miss that.

Members finding new ways to connect
But I know HEU members are still finding new ways to support each other and build solidarity, even when we’re far apart. Some of these new tools may even help us become stronger as a union.

Online meetings present more options for members who are unable to attend in person due to family commitments and work schedules.

Many people, like me, have had to quickly learn new computer systems and technology to be able to work remotely. And I can assure you, the work of the union has not stopped.

We’ve had to adapt in many ways – postponing our biennial convention, moving some of our education programs online, and hosting virtual meetings.

The work of the union will continue online
At this time, the Provincial Executive is allowing local membership meetings to take place in virtual ways. I encourage locals to still submit their expenditures, which need membership approval at a meeting with quorum, and record all motions in the minutes.

Continue to submit Quarterly Reports to the Provincial Office. Trustees are asked to follow the recommendations of the provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry when reviewing the local books and signing the Quarterly Report forms.

And check our website for upcoming online table officers training for new local executives.

The compassion, kindness and commitment shown by our members during the pandemic is immeasurable. We are HEU, and that is our character.

I am always proud of, and inspired by, our members. Now more than ever.

Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of the Guardian