Workers with DisAbilites building our Union

Workers with DisAbilites building our Union

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I’m the UNIFOR Local
103 Vice President. Chairperson for CEVA Logistics
Local 222. I am a proud member
of UNIFOR Local 2107. Local 62, Bombardier unit. I work as the President
for Local 6004. Financial Secretary.
I work for UNIFOR Local 3000. Air Canada,
part of Local 2002 with UNIFOR. We’ve never had
the voice before. The power that this union
has provided for our group. Right now we’re doing
the 1 in 15 campaign, whereas 1 in 15 people being
hired by such and such a company would have a disability. I have a number of disabilities, but the main one that I have
is Type 1 Diabetes. I have a visual impairment. My disability was the result
of a car accident. I suffer from
an anxiety disorder. I have multiple sclerosis, which is a degenerative disease
that affects the nervous system. It’s important
for people to understand that disabilities
look different for everybody. One in seven Canadians
have a documented disability, so it’s very much an issue
we have to be aware of. All individuals have
a wide range of abilities, that wide range of abilities
can very much be suited to different roles
in the work environment. I think the word disabilities
needs to change, because it’s not about
disabilities, it’s about abilities. So we need to focus on
what people can do and what they can do well. They make assumptions,
just because my legs don’t work, my head doesn’t work either. My legs don’t work.
My head works great. Disabilities are
the final taboo. People will present themselves
in all kinds of ways before admitting that
they have a disability. I have an invisible disability. I experienced
a lot of judgements because people thought
I was faking, that I wasn’t ill. Unfortunately, there was a lot
of stigma around mental illness. I blamed myself.
I was shamed. I was embarrassed.
I hid most of the time. When your illness
or disability isn’t physical people don’t recognize it
as a real illness. As a reality, but it was
my reality and it was hell. It’s tough. It’s tough, because employers
look at us and they say, “Okay, it’s gonna cost us
a fortune to accommodate this person or it’s going to be very
difficult.” Maybe not, the average cost
for an adaptation is $500. The difficulties people
with disabilities can encounter often relate to the workstation,
the ergonomics of work On my computer
I have this magnifier on the top of the screen,
which, you know, if I want to see a certain thing
that’s on my screen I can just basically
put my mouse over it, it magnifies it
at the top of the screen, and that’s a huge
life saver for me. If there was a fire, I would receive a text message
from security, so that I could get out of the
building like everyone else. The culture of a workplace
changes immediately when people start to understand and realize
that disabilities are there, visible or invisible. Not that they treat you
differently, nobody wants a free pass, it’s just a culture change where everybody
then becomes accepting. And the number one thing
is to be accepted. The brothers and sisters
here at Boeing took the time
to learn sign language. and that helped
with communication. There was never a
‘Kev can’t do that.’ It was always
‘inclusion vs seclusion’. This person’s doing the same job
as everybody else. I’m quite fortunate
I have a great job. There’s a large majority
of the disabled that don’t. How many people are disabled
and are unemployed? How many people
can we get into a job? Some people make the assumptions
that workers with disability are not efficient at work and that they don’t want
to be a team player. This assumption is wrong. I wanted to contribute
in my workplace and I wanted to be
valuable to them, and I wanted to make
a difference, be productive. I don’t focus on:
“Oh, I’m deaf. There’s a hearing group
of individuals, they’ll get the job
ahead of me.” No, I just need to make sure I have the accommodations
set in place, which gives me
the same opportunities to get the same jobs. I’ve been working here
for 30 years, so if I was able to do it,
so can you. I have the skill set just like
the individuals who are hearing, they can do it,
and so can we. Often, our managers
don’t know what the law says, so we have to help them
understand. and make sure we have rules
in the collective agreement that require employers
to have procedures that must be followed. I woke up
from getting a colonoscopy, and the doctor
before I was even awake said, “Sorry Mr. Poulin,
but you have Stage 4 cancer”, and that was on a Friday,
started chemo on the Tuesday. So, I’m rushing
to get back to work and I get informed
when I come in the door that they’ve got
no work for me and it was a non-work
related injury. I could not work that day,
they sent me home. I just finished going through
16 weeks of hell with chemo, radiation, surgery, and then now all of a sudden
they’re telling me I don’t have a job?
Like what am I supposed to do? First of all, I called Human
Rights and Human Rights said, “No, they have
to accommodate for you.” So that’s when
I called the hall. I was back here the next day. I fought during negotiations to get our language
changed in our contract to make sure that it stated
that it was work related and non-work related
illnesses or injuries. In my workplace,
we successfully obtained letters of understanding
for people with disabilities. Either to completely modify
their working conditions or sometimes
their work schedules in order to adapt
to their disabilities. Providing for accommodations
is a win/win for everybody. Because if that employee feels more satisfied
they perform better. So ultimately everybody wins. I have a disability,
but I have lots of abilities and that should be the focus. We are a large part
of the union itself and we are helping
all of the groups come together. Doesn’t matter
which group you come from, we are all a part of
the same movement. INCLUSION MATTERS.

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