Statement on International Women's Day

As today marks International Women’s Day, we want to recognize the important contribution that women have made to our union and the labour movement as well as recognizing the deep connection that this day has with workers around the world. International Women’s Day has its roots in labour organizing, when over 100 years ago, 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote and equality in the workplace. Just like those before them, women transit workers have been on the frontlines everyday helping to keep our country and our cities moving. 

Now especially, we need to recognize that this pandemic has disproportionately affected women workers on the frontlines and across all sectors. At the onset of the pandemic, women lost more than two thirds the jobs that men did, according to Statistics Canada. Nearly half of this decrease was among those working in part-time, often low-paying jobs in the service and care industries which is heavily made up of young, racialized women. 

With the reduction of childcare spaces and concern over the safety of these spaces, women have also been having to take on a greater burden when it comes to caregiving. A survey done in June by Oxfam, reported that 71 % of Canadian women, in particular Black and Indigenous women, feel more anxious, depressed, isolated, overworked, or ill because of increased unpaid care work caused by COVID-19.

Any COVID recovery effort must put a strong emphasis on bringing those women who have lost their jobs back into the workforce as well as implementing universal, accessible and affordable childcare. 

Good public transit is a feminist issue. This is why the recovery effort must also extend to public transit, where women traditionally make up the majority of transit riders. According to the Canadian 2016 census, 57% of commuters by public transit are women. This is consistent with research globally, which establishes that gender is a bigger determinant of modal choice (ie. which form of personal mobility one chooses) than age or income. Additionally, data has shown during the pandemic that although ridership has dropped significantly, those who are still taking public transit are predominantly women, people of colour and frontline workers.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, public transit across the country has been facing billions in shortfall due to loss in fare revenue. Along with other allies, ATU Canada has been advocating tirelessly for permanent operational funding to ensure the survival of our public transit system and so that we can have a recovery that uplifts all members of our society. Women matter in the recovery, and we will advocate for their wellbeing indefinitely.

John Di Nino, President

ATU Canada