Working in ECEC

Gay Pagan

Gay Pagan: Union Organizer for Child Care Workers, Manitoba Government and General Employees Union

How does someone in child care management end up as a union organizer?

Simple, says Gay Pagan. “I was managing a unionized centre in Winnipeg and saw the benefits the staff had. I thought it was ideal for the staff. When I later learned about MGEU’s approach to organizing I thought, ‘this is something I can definitely support.’”

What convinced her was the union’s goal—still unrealized—of bringing the government to the bargaining table. “Individual centre boards don’t hold the purse strings, but the government does.”

Pagan started working with children at the YMCA when she was 13. While still in high school, she substituted at a child care centre for developmentally delayed children, and things took off from there. After graduating as an early childhood educator (ECE-3), she started working at the University of Winnipeg’s child care centre. She became a supervisor and then a director at other centres before making the move to the union in 2002. Along the way she had also became involved in child care advocacy.

Her job is varied: she could be travelling across the province to meet with potential union members one day, spend the next in the office, and the third at a centre dealing with a human resource problem.

She has organized workers in close to 70 child care centres (the union has 83), including 95% of the directors, who see unionization as a way to gain some stability in a sector that is otherwise at the mercy of changing boards and governments.

Pagan says the best part of her job is working with other ECEs to “bring child care to the forefront, and make sure those who work in the sector are properly compensated and recognized.” Her one frustration: “There’s only one of me in the province and it’s a big job.”