Operation Solidarity was a broad-based coalition of unions, anti-poverty activists, peace groups, environmental groups, faith organizations, and women’s organizations who came together in 1983 to protest 26 bills introduced in the BC Legislature alongside the budget. The bills sought to dissolve the Human Rights Code, dismantle tenant rights, curtail employment standards, slash social services, and roll back the labour rights and workplace standards of public sector workers.
Civil society came together to organize escalating actions of protest, culminating in one of the largest protests in BC’s history. Former HSA President David Lowe remembers going to Victoria to participate in an Operation Solidarity rally.
“We rallied around the government buildings there and that was probably the first time I had a picket sign and wore a solidarity badge. There was a real good sense of camaraderie. And that’s when I got the feeling, well, we’ve come a long way. Here we are, not just stepping out to argue or to try to get a wage increase. These are social issues. These are going to impact not only our livelihood but bargaining in the future.”
He said the Solidarity movement was a major milestone for HSA. He believes the experience encouraged the union to form deeper alliances with the labour movement.
“That was our first opportunity as a union to start participating with other unions. And that signaled to me the need for alliances.”
Three years later, members voted to join the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).