Paul Daigneault was selected as one of two Prairies activists to represent the region at the CLC Political Action Conference. He kept a journal of his experiences to document activities, thoughts and feelings over the three days. This report summarizes the experience.
The main theme that echoed throughout the conference was that unions need to do a more effective job of getting the word out about the importance of unions in our economy and in the socio-economic fabric of our country. The speaker at the evening reception, Thomas Walkom of the Toronto Star, stated that attacks on unions have a long history and that the challenge for the unions is “figure out how to remain relevant”.
On day two, the morning speakers provided examples of how they were able to defeat bills and/or legislation by organizing their campaigns focused directly on the proposed legislation and the potential impacts. They also shared that, by defeating the legislation, they engaged their membership as they felt a sense of power, rather than giving up to the idea that corporations and governments hold all the power and are in charge.
The evening speaker was Tom Mulcair Leader of the Official Opposition. He summarized the challenges that unions face with the current government and rallied conference attendees to be active within their communities to ensure that elected leaders are held accountable for their decisions.
At the conference, the delegates were encouraged to use social media to share their experiences. I used Twitter and Facebook. I provided real time updates of the events and shared pictures with all of my contacts. Others using social media shared my posts and tweets and I did the same. It was an excellent way to stay updated about other workshops in other locations and to also keep members who were not at the conference updated.
I thought the event was an excellent learning experience for me to attend and I am very appreciative for this. However, I also realized how large and intimidating the labour movement can be. Within the Regional Aboriginal Peoples’ Circle (RAPC) I belong to, we make a conscious effort to be inclusive and open to all by asking an elder to help guide our business and by bringing youth to our meetings to observe and take notes so that we are serving as mentors for them. We have consciously made an effort to get rid of the “board room style” of meetings and use a circle which is more inviting.
All in all, the conference left me with a sense of hope that the labour movement has realized it needs to change with the times and have already begun this process. The workshops and speakers conveyed that message, but, like with all large organizations, change is difficult and it takes time and effort.
The conference reassured me that the unions can and will become relevant again for union members and for all Canadians.