Irene Lanzinger, new B.C. Fed president, targets $15/h minimum wage

Former head of the B.C. Teachers’
Federation replaces Jim Sinclair as B.C.’s top union leader

Raising British Columbia’s minimum wage to $15 per hour is one of
the top goals for the newly-elected president of the B.C.
Federation of Labour, Irene Lanzinger.

Lanzinger has become the first female to lead the half-a-million
strong labour organization, beating out Amber Hockin by just 57
ballots during voting at the 56th annual convention in Vancouver on
Thursday.

She replaces Jim Sinclair who announced in October that he would
not seek re-election after serving 15 years as the president.

“We are seeing a growing gap between rich and poor and a lot of
poverty in British Columbia,” said Lanzinger in an interview.

“We lead the country in poverty and that is terrible and so the
minimum wage will counteract that to some degree if we raise it to
$15.”

B.C.’s current minimum wage is $10.25 per hour, although the
minimum wage for liquor servers is $9 per hour.

Earlier this month, the province’s Finance and Government Services
Committee made 58 recommendations, and among them was a review of
the minimum wage.

Lanzinger said her other goals will focus on
health-and-safety issues, bargaining, organizing, and trying to
figure out how to respond to what she said was a government attack
on the public

service.

New leadership style

While noting her leadership style differs from Sinclair’s, she said
she shares his passion for working people and their rights.

“I’m determined to fill those shoes even though my feet are
somewhat smaller, actually,” she quipped.

Lanzinger is a former president of the province’s powerful teachers
union and served as the B.C. Federation of Labour’s
secretary-treasurer coming into the convention.

Premier Christy Clark took to Twitter to congratulate Lanzinger on
her victory, saying she is looking “forward to working together for
B.C.’s workers.”

“Glad we could work together to create and protect B.C. jobs,” she
tweeted of Sinclair and his service.

Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said he
nominated Lanzinger to become president and was “ecstatic” with her
victory.

“Irene is without doubt the best person to lead the labour movement
in these difficult times facing the B.C. Liberals,” said Iker in a
news release.

After the voting was over, the union announced Lanzinger received
1,137 votes to Hockin’s 1,080 votes, and Aaron Ekman was elected
the new secretary-treasurer.

Ekman recently served as the northern regional coordinator for the
B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and is the former
president of the North Central Labour Council.

Despite the close vote for the leadership, Lanzinger said she was
confident the federation will remain strong and united after the
convention.

She was matter of fact about being the first woman to serve as
president.

“I think it says it’s about time for a woman, right, you know
partly that’s coincidence,” she said. “There wasn’t a man out there
who put his name forward, but partly it’s that women are taking
their rightful place as leaders in the labour movement.”

Source:The Canadian Press