Unit Officer, CUPE 79
Executive Board member, Toronto and York Region Labour Council
Lily Chang proudly tells people she was ‘Made in Taiwan’ as she was born there after her parents escaped from China during a civil war in the late 40s. Lily’s father came to Canada by way of Saskatoon and the family followed shortly thereafter, before moving to Toronto. The values of hard work and fairness were imparted on her at a young age, as Lily excelled at school and in sports while completing her secondary studies in Scarborough. She then went on to complete her studies in psychology at the University of Toronto.
It was her understanding of fairness that led Lily to file a grievance when she was denied a position while working at Seneca College. Lily quickly became aware that she had the skills to advocate for others and became steward for her OPSEU local.
Lily began working as a social services caseworker for the former municipality of Metropolitan Toronto in 1989, where she saw firsthand the impacts of inequality on the families she supported. She also became a steward for her union, CUPE Local 79, where Lily acted as a bridge builder and mobilized across the social services division to tackle a staggering wage gap between caseworkers at the Metro and provincial levels, and later for wage harmonization and pay equity within the amalgamated City of Toronto.
This work earned her much respect within the union and Lily, always having a knack for numbers, was elected Treasurer of CUPE 79 in 2005. The local was facing financial challenges, and Lily put her problem-solving skills to work. With her cautious but strategic approach to finances, she was quick to turn the situation around, bringing the local back to financial stability. In her thirteen years as Treasurer, Lily oversaw a revitalized strike fund, implemented strong financial practices, and led an IT overhaul that involved a new website and member portal system. While managing staff, as well as service and maintenance contracts, she also led the acquisition of the local’s own building in downtown Toronto, further ensuring the financial prosperity of the organization.
Throughout her union activism, Lily has remained a constant support and inspiration to her two children, one who now works in electrical engineering and the other who works as a researcher in the labour movement. Even as a single mother, Lily found time to play an active role in shaping the education systems of her children, serving as board chair for both their daycare and elementary school. During this time, Lily led the charge to secure improved benefits for the daycare workers and led a playground revitalization project.
Lily is on the Executive Board of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, where she chairs the Municipal Committee, and is the Executive liaison to the Women’s Committee. In this role, Lily has enjoyed working across all unions to organize for municipal and school board elections.
Lily continues as an elected officer of CUPE Local 79, where she focuses on member advocacy and grievance resolution, and is currently involved with an intense round of bargaining with the employer.
Lily recently ended a seven-year term as Labour Representative on the Board of Trustees for the United Way of Greater Toronto, where the board oversaw significant organization changes such as merger and transition to a Community Impact Agency.