PSAC activists highlight union experience in run for federal Parliament

Jason McMichael and Betty Bannon

Two long-time PSAC activists are running as candidates in the next federal election. Following in the footsteps of former PSAC president Nycole Turmel, Betty Bannon and Jason McMichael will be knocking on doors on behalf of the NDP. They both say that their experience as union leaders prepared them for the realities of capital P politics.

Bannon, special guest at Convention, is running in the Hastings-Lennox and Addington riding near Belleville, Ontario. She first became a union activist in 1972 and served as the national president of the Union of Taxation Employees for 12 years.

But her retirement from politics didn’t last long. Bannon says it was the Harper government’s “shameful” mistreatment of veterans that motivated her to put her name forward as a federal election candidate.

“A campaign is a campaign – you need to talk to people about issues. It’s no different than in the union,” said Bannon. She plans to take a similar approach to her current campaign as she did as a union leader – attending community events and talking to people.

Jason McMichael, a delegate at Convention, is also an advocate for the power of one-to-one conversations. A former vice president with the Customs and Immigration Union, McMichael is running for election in Sarnia, Ontario.

He says his involvement in both PSAC and the broader labour movement has helped solidify his commitment to social justice. In an interview, McMichael spoke passionately about the need to fight for affordable child care and for an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

“Hearing Hassan Yussuff say that this is the first generation of Canadians that will leave things worse off for our children than we found them is a huge motivating factor for me,” said McMichael.

Both Bannon and McMichael say union members have a unique opportunity to impact the federal political picture.

“PSAC members get to vote for their employer. They are one of the only groups of people who can do that,” said Bannon, urging union activists to look beyond the labour movement.

Acknowledging that some members are hesitant to actually go out and knock on doors, McMichael underlined the influence that PSAC members can have at the kitchen table:

“PSAC activists can have an impact just by talking to their friends and family, just by talking to their peer group and letting them know how this government has affected them. That if they are willing to vote and get out there and make a change it’s not just going to affect federal public servants, but all Canadians.”

April 30, 2015