Profile: Enrique Reyes is a former Chilean refugee who has resided in Canada for almost 30 years. Reyes speaks with a conviction to uplift and defend the Chilean poor, and improve their living conditions. The 1973 U.S.-backed military coup disrupted the progressive climate in Chile, the social and economic growth of Chile under Allende, and his program to nationalize major industries. Reyes, a provincial government housing official, was one of the 30,000 people thrown in jail and solitary confinement after the coup, while thousands more were killed or simply ‘disappeared’. His consciousness was also impacted by other major world events happening at the same time. He sought refugee status in Canada as soon as he was released.
An IBM-trained computer engineer and analyst in Chile, Reyes could not find consistent employment in Canada at the level of his professional training and experience in spite of his credentials’ revalidation. He explained the typical experiences of new immigrants (of colour) in navigating the employment market, and all the barriers that lock them in to low-income positions only. Reyes certified as a welder and boilermaker, eventually found permanent employment as a public school custodian.
A strong advocate for CUPE Local 474, Enrique Reyes promotes workplace Health and Safety, and is a Social Convenor who is very proud of the diversity, unity and consciousness in his local. He advocates for more economic power for working people through people’s ownership of financial institutions.
Keywords: CUPE, Local 474; Health & Safety; Refugees, Chile; Union Responsibility; Workplace Diversity;
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