“Never underestimate the power of a woman. As the world is on fire we will burn, but we will rise and we will accomplish and achieve.” – Megan Whitfield
Megan Whitfield embodied all of these characteristics and so much more, and the void her passing has left at CUPW, and within the labour movement, will never be fully filled.
Megan began her career at Canada Post in 1998 as a postal clerk at the South Central Letter Processing Plant in Toronto. It didn’t take her very long to become involved with the union – first as a shop steward, then as a health and safety representative, and finally as chief shop steward. In 2014, she became the first Black woman elected President of the Toronto local, the largest local in Canada. It is never easy to lead a large local, but Megan did it with tenacity, professionalism, and integrity. She was a dynamic and fearless leader at the forefront of struggles for pay equity, health and safety, full-time staffing, and respect at the workplace.
In addition to fighting for the rights of postal workers, Megan understood the need for a strong, united, and active labour movement that would fight for all working people. She represented CUPW on the Executive Committee, and also served as Equity Vice-President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. She worked with our allies, including ACORN, in their struggle to end poverty, and supported our joint campaign to create a postal bank that would promote social and financial inclusion.
She was a tenacious and tireless champion in the struggle against racism, sexism, and intolerance. She was a strong advocate for greater diversity in the leadership of the labour movement. She was a long-time member and Board member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists’ Canadian Chapter and was part of the Coalition’s Regional Women’s Committee and its International Constitution Committee. She also previously sat on CUPW’s National Human Rights Committee.
She was admired by so many for her commitment and fearless advocacy of worker’s rights and social justice. Her work must not go unfinished.
We must continue the great work that Megan was part of, and keep pushing for fair and equitable treatment of all people.
Our thoughts go out to her loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.
May 25, 2020
The labour movement is devastated by the loss of Sister Megan Whitfield, who passed away suddenly on May 24. The OFL mourns with all who knew her.
Sister Whitfield was the first Black President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ (CUPW) Toronto Local, the largest local of CUPW. She played a key role at the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), where she was a core member of the Executive Board, Executive Committee and the Workers of Colour Committee. At the OFL Convention, she co-chaired the Convention Resolutions Committee.
“I am heartbroken, along with Megan’s labour family and all who knew her. Her work touched us all. Her dynamic leadership, wise counsel, dedicated activism, and solidarity with workers worldwide in the fight against oppression will not be forgotten,” said OFL President Patty Coates. “In our grief, the labour movement will continue the battle for equality and workers’ rights.”
She was also a long-time member and board member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists’ Canadian Chapter.
“Megan’s strong leadership on the Workers of Colour Committee and in the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists was instrumental in the work to end racial discrimination in Ontario and beyond,” said Ontario Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Ahmad Gaied. “She was an inspiring leader who demanded and won change for all Workers of Colour throughout her career. I am honoured to have worked alongside her and to have had her as a friend. Today we mourn, and tomorrow we continue her work.”
“This is a loss that will be deeply felt in the labour movement and beyond. Megan was a leader who did not shy away from the challenges of building solidarity across difference. The workers’ struggle was her struggle, and Whitfield’s leadership was instrumental in strengthening our movement,” said OFL Executive Vice-President Janice Folk-Dawson. “May she rest in power, and may we carry her spirit forward.”
SOURCE: Ontario Federation of Labour
Megan Whitfield was born in Jamaica and immigrated to Canada in 1975 at the age of 5. Megan went on to graduate from Earl Betty Public school and Eastern High school of Commerce. In 1989 she attended Humber College where in 1991 she graduated with a diploma in Law and Security Administration. After graduating from college Megan was the first women every hired in the security department at the Regal constellation hotel. While there she organized and helped to unionise her department. After working in her field for several years Megan became a mother and decided to go back to school, where she study Microcomputer application at George Brown college. After graduation she went on to work various jobs. Megan worked at Motorola Canada until her department was eliminated.
In 1998 Megan got re hired as a temporary employee at Canada Post. After several years Sister Whitfield was promoted to part time an became a shop steward, a health and safety representative and chief shop steward for the South Central Letter Processing Plant. In addition Megan is an executive member of both the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionist Ontario Chapter. In 2014 Megan Whitfield was elected by an overwhelming majority to the position of President of the Canadian Union of Postal Worker (CUPW) Toronto Local making her the first black president of the largest CUPW local in Canada.
SOURCE: Mark Brown