Profile: Virgil Paz, CUPE Local 474 activist and Edmonton Public School custodian, grew up in the 1970s student protest movement in the Philippines. In response to the imposed militarization, students’ street protests gained support from workers, the labour movement, professionals, the clergy, and the political opposition. He described the different mobilization strategies they used to challenge multinational control. The mass movement – the Parliament of the Street – opposed the further pauperization of the poor, privatized healthcare, rapidly increasing cost of living, constant tuition hikes, and the lack of funding for public education. Paz played an active role in organizing his academic colleagues and in leading the People’s Power Movement against Marcos’ austerity measures, and privatization of healthcare and public education. He acquired organizing skills and experience that served him well in his role in CUPE Local 474.
On his arrival in Canada, Paz did not get his credentials validated. With a family to support, he sought employment in Edmonton Public Schools.
As a long-standing active member of CUPE Local 474, Virgil Paz has played a leading role in CUPE’s campaign against privatization. He advocated against the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) as an active part of the privatization strategy. “As long as you are CUPE you are against PPP. It’s automatic”, Paz said. He warned against multinationals’ ownership of resources of a country, and cited the labour-intensive animation industry in the Philippines which is foreign-owned. This thriving industry paid very little for experienced and technical labour. Paz generously shared his knowledge of the major events that impacted his life.
Keywords: CUPE Local 474; Philippines; Privatization; Protest Movements; Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP)
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