Strong Woman Labour Leader Wins Nellie Award

January 28, 2016

The MFL congrtulates Sister Hart-Kulbaba:

On this 100 year anniversary of some women winning the right to vote and hold political office in Manitoba, Susan Hart-Kulbaba, the MFL’s first woman President and long time labour leader and social activist, was awarded the prestigeous ‘Nellie Award’ by the the Nellie McClung Foundation today, in recognition of her outstanding service in fighting for social justice, gender equality and better lives for all working people. The MFL extends our heartfelt congratulations to Susan on this tremendous honour.

Some more about Sister Hart-Kulbab:

Susan Hart-Kulbaba has devoted her personal and professional lives to the eradication of gender-based discrimination, workers’ rights and social justice for all.

Following graduation from University, Sister Hart-Kulbaba became a member of the Retail Clerks Union (now named United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832) and quickly earned a staff position with the union because of her contributions during the 1978 Safeway strike.

As a delegate to the 1983 MFL Convention, Sister Hart-Kulbaba helped lead the campaign to successfully convince delegates to have the MFL actively participate in the Pro-Choice movement in support of women’s reproductive health care rights.

In 1985, Sister Hart-Kulbaba became the first Federation Coordinator (a job now called Executive Director) of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. At the time, the MFL was the largest central labour body in Manitoba, representing unions with a combined membership of more than 85,000 working women and men. She was a driving force in the campaign to dedicate three of the MFL’s executive council seats to women vice-presidents, to ensure that women’s perspective would be included in all Federation policy discussions and decision making.

In 1989, Sister Hart-Kulbaba became the first woman ever elected to the Presidency of the MFL. During her six year tenure, Sister Hart-Kulbaba was a relentless campaigner on a myriad of issues to improve the lives of women in the workplace and in their own unions. These campaigns were focused on:
• Affirmative action
• Sexual harassment
• Violence against women
• Quality and affordable child care
• Education and training
• Pay equity
• Women’s reproductive health rights
• The removal of barriers that women face in training, education, opportunity, promotion and compensation.
• Making union structures women friendly.

Her initiatives also included creating space within unions and on the MFL Executive council for Aboriginal workers, new-Canadian workers and other under-represented groups. Under her leadership, the MFL Executive Council was expanded to accommodate Vice-President seats for Aboriginal workers and Workers of Colour. An important aspect of this was ensuring that the Federation’s Human Rights Campaigns included a workplace anti-racism component that was easily applied to fight racism within our unions and our communities.

Sister Hart-Kulbaba was cognizant of the need for organized labour to reach beyond its ranks to form mutually beneficial relationships with community groups in order to realize its social justice goals. She led the MFL into coalitions with community based social justice groups such as:
• Choices
• The Action Canada Network which was formed to fight against cuts in health care, education and vital public services
• The Medicare Alert Coalition
• The Coalition to Save Our Services
• The Manitoba Childcare Coalition
• The Coalition for Fairness
• The Manitoba Council of Health Care Unions
• The Gay and Lesbian Resource Centre
• The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
• Osborne House
• United Way.

Susan Hart-Kulbaba has had an important impact on the women and men who make up the organized labour movement in Manitoba. Her initiatives have reached beyond the workplace and have helped to make Manitoba a better place to be.