St. Boniface Hospital
I am woman, and if I live I fight, and if I fight I contribute to the liberation of all women, and victory is born even in the darkest hours. Captured birds sing about freedom, and wild birds fly, and I will continue to fly. It is better to starve fighting than to starve working.
For some activists, it is a calling. For others, it is bred in their bones. For Loreto Gutierrez, her union activism and social activism spring from both.
“I have been involved in the labour movement since childhood. My parents fled from Chile in 1979 and I was born here in 1980. My family opposed the dictatorship and its oppression. You must have some convictions. It’s in my blood.”
Loreto, a member of UFCW Canada Local 1869, has worked as a unit clerk at Winnipeg’s St. Boniface since 2005. She is also a member of Local 1869’s audit committee, and a long-time participant in a support network for Latin America community development projects.
When she first came to St. Boniface, the hospital environment and union solidarity were not really new to Loreto because, “my father was a unionized health care aide. When I was a teenager he would take me to union meetings. And back in the 1980’s our family would always participate in the Peace March and May Day marches held each year in Winnipeg.”
“So solidarity and working for the good of others was part of growing up,” and it continues to be for the Bachelor of Psychology graduate who has decided that instead of returning to university to do her Ph. D., she’d rather stay at St. Boniface, continue to involve herself with local union activities, as well as work in her spare time to use her fluency in English and Spanish as a Support Worker for migrant farm workers in Manitoba.
That started in the summer of 2008, shortly after Loreto was selected by her local union to participate in the UFCW Canada National Youth Internship Program (YIP). The YIP program is organized annually by the national office to train and empower young UFCW Canada activists from across the country.
“It was a fantastic experience being able to look at labour history, learn about organizing, and talk about the impact of globalization on workers in Canada, and around the world.”
Canada’s exploitation of migrant and temporary workers is a glaring example. Loreto learned that first-hand beginning in 2008 as a Support Worker with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) support centre in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba (one of nine AWA centres across the country operated in association with UFCW Canada to help support and organize agriculture workers). Her commitment to those workers continues.
“My family came here to flee oppression, but that’s what these migrant workers face in Canada. But little by little we can change that. These workers deserve a brighter future and we have to be there to help them organize.”
“Women in our union can make a difference. I see that in our own local. I’m inspired and honoured to have a strong woman president like Aline Audette,” says Sister Gutierrez.
“I’m also inspired by my mother who sacrificed everything for her kids, including a professional career. I can only hope to be a fraction of the woman that she is, but I will settle to at least having the honour of sharing the same DNA as her — well at least 50% of it!