Canadian Labour Congress, Chinese Workers Network
Winnie Ng is a union organizer, anti-racism activist and a feminist. She came to Canada in 1968 and her experiences of sexism and racism while a student, a worker, a mother and a daughter have shaped her journey into becoming the person she is today. In order to put herself through university, Winnie worked part-time in the summers. Her first summer job was a chambermaid at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal where she cleaned 17 rooms per day at $1.25 an hour. Her experiences of receiving sexual propositions and sexual and racial harassment, and her silence around it as a young woman worker, prompted her to speak out and mobilize later in life. In Winnie’s words: “I didn’t do anything and just walked away. After four months, I was able to return to the comfort of learning. It’s my sense of guilt about having had the option to leave, and leaving all the other immigrant women workers and women of colour behind, and the rage over my silence, that have prompted me to keep speaking out and mobilizing.”
Winnie later became an organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union. She witnessed her own mother being told by her boss that she was too old and slow (at the age of 60) and that she was wasting a sewing machine. Another experience which shaped her involved her own daughter, who was born in Toronto, being told to go back where she came from. These experiences of sexual harassment and racism and worker injustice has propelled her to organize workers to fight for dignity in their workplace, fight to elect progressives in the political arena, and against racism and sexism in all sectors of society.
Winnie Ng later became the Ontario Director of the Canadian Labour Congress where her leadership impacted many immigrant workers and racialized peoples in Ontario workplaces. She has also inspired a new generation of Asian Canadian activists into the labour movement, including Nrinder Nann, Anna Liu, Chris Ramsaroop, and Patricia Chong.
In 2000, after months of negotiations for a first contract at Sing Tao Daily newspaper, the workers went out on strike. Winnie brought activists from different unions to join the picket line every day to cheer up morale. Despite there being many other workers there to support the picket line, Winnie was arrested by the police for blocking high-level vehicles onto Sing Tao property. In spite of her arrest, she wrote a handwritten letter to the picketers to encourage them to continue their courage and solidarity. This letter was published on a leaflet that promoted the strike action and openly discussed racial discrimination within the police. The workers at Sing Tao are grateful to Winnie for her show of solidarity and support to them. This paved the way for the successful organizing of World Journal and Ming Pao Daily newspapers a decade later. The courage of the Ming Pao inside organizers who conducted the union drive as an open committee was truly inspirational. The courage and solidarity of these workers were a result of the organizing efforts that came before them.
For over three decades, Winnie Ng has championed the rights of workers through her involvement with various labour organizations and networks. Prior to her appointment in 2011 as the Canadian Auto Workers-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy (UNIFOR National Chair in Social Justice and Democracy) at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University), Ng was the acting Executive Director of the Labour Education Centre. She was the labour co-chair of Good Jobs for All Coalition, an executive member of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance and a board member of Labour Community Services. Winnie received numerous distinctions including the Urban Alliance on Race Relations’ Leadership Award, the United Farm Workers’ Cesar Chavez Black Eagle Award and the YWCA Women of Distinction Award.
Today, even in retirement, Winnie continues to organize and mobilize others to act whether in their workplace or in politics. She wants everyone to reclaim, re-imagine and remake a solidarity that can truly be forever and for all.