From April 18th – 22nd, 2016, I attended the SFL/CLC Spring School at Elk Ridge, SK. This was the first SFL/CLC Spring School that I attended and I can’t think of a more beautiful location to have it than at Waskesiu, Saskatchewan! The course that I was enrolled in was the Labour Community Advocate course. I’ll be honest in that this course wasn’t my first choice when I had signed up for the school, but looking back on it, I’m very glad I enrolled in it. The instructors, Andrea and Kurt, were very knowledgeable, approachable, and friendly. They were able to keep the class engaged by incorporating humor, group activities, and role-playing throughout the course. One of the most important concepts that you take away from this class is that the member is the one driving the bus. To me, that means that as a labour community advocate, you are there to provide the support, resources, and tools that the member may need, but in the end, the member is the one that has to take the first step. We also discuss topics such as harassment, mental health, stress, equity, privilege, understanding violence, and community services. I learned that there are many community organizations & resources available to our members, some of which I wasn’t even aware of. This course provided me with the knowhow to be able to go back to my work and personal life confident in my ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned and to seek out the resources that I need. I would recommend this course to any individual that is interested in becoming more involved in their union, but perhaps isn’t comfortable in a steward role. It is also a great course for individuals already involved as stewards that want to improve their communication and advocacy skills.
I attended the SFL Spring School as a COPE 397 delegate this past April, where I enrolled in the Human Rights are Worker's Rights workshop. The class went through various aspects of human rights, and how the relate to not only Trade Unionism, but society as a whole.
We discussed the link between oppression and class struggles, and how Neo-Liberalism has become a strong presence, where privilege is very often invisible to those who have it. Most oppression is very subversive, which allows it to fester and continue to create barriers for those who it affects.
We went into racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and people with disabilities, and what people in these groups are up against. There was a brief history lesson on how we have made gains, but we still have a long way to go. Women still make less than men for doing the same job. Minorities are still not given opportunities that others are given. People with disabilities often have a difficult time finding employment, or even getting access to basic services that most other people enjoy and take for granted.
Many of our members fall into these categories, and unions need to work on making gains and improvements. It's our role to challenge stereotypes, and to tear down the barriers that people often face in the workplace. When the union stands against oppressive actions, it encourages others to do the same. This can be done by filing grievances, calling out management when they conduct themselves in a manner that is oppressive, and by educating the members. We can also put language in our CBA's that helps to level the playing field.
A major component of this workshop was discussion about First Nations, the Indian Act, and Turtle Island. While we liked to pat ourselves on the back on the last Saskatchewan Provincial Election where women celebrated the 100th anniversary of their right to vote, it only applied to white women. First Nations that lived on reserves were not allowed to vote up until just a few decades ago.
We did a powerful exercise on Turtle Island, where we did a brief history of First Nations in Canada upon the arrival of the settlers. While the relationship started out well, their rights began to erode, and actions by the British Government (and later Canadian Government) lead to systems and proclaimations first of trying to exterminate their population, then forced assimilation through the Indian Act. The population was starved into accepting constant concessions, and they watched both their land and culture evaporate. We are witnessing how bad this was through the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, where personal testimony of atrocities carried out on young children came to light. This shows the need for greater education of not only our members but of our society as a whole, who often only get spoon fed pieces of information and form an often hateful opinion based on that.
I think that COPE 397 should put together a Turtle Island Presentation, so a larger and more accurate picture of Canada's history can be presented to not only our members, but to our comminties that we work and live in. I would be willing to put this together, and it could be done outdoors in a park late spring or this summer.
Prairie Council Member – SGI Regina Branches
I attended the CLC/SFL Spring School this year. My class was "Getting Started Becoming a Union Activist". This class was a good base for any member seeking to get more involved. The class deals with the benefits of unions in the workplace and the history of labour unions. It also provides an overview with regards to the structure of Canada's labour movement. There is also skill development in the class, as we discussed rules of order, resolution writing and meeting chairing. There was also development in public speaking skills. We also planned out mock campaigns and actions. I really enjoyed this class.
Prairie Council Member – SGI Saskatoon