Sharing Organizing Strategies, Building Power

photo courtesy of SEIU Healthcare (@SEIUHealthcareCan)
photo courtesy of SEIU Healthcare (@SEIUHealthcareCan)

by Dave Shaw
PSAC Atlantic Region organizer

Tuesday, Sept. 16 saw an unusual, unique, and long awaited meeting of the minds occur.

Prompted by outreach and discussions by PSAC and SEIU, an idea was formed in late spring 2014 that perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider a conference of organizers from across the country to discuss best practices, challenges and dynamics facing organizers from coast to coast to coast. It was decided to omit politicians involved in organizing and have the conference solely by organizers for organizers who actually do the work on the ground.

Unions in attendance were PSAC, SEIU, Unifor, CUPE, Steelworkers, CUPW, HEU (BC Hospital Employees Union), OPSEU and UFCW.

It was a positive day with workshops on topics pertinent and relevant to what organizers face on a daily basis.

getting organized: organizers meet in SEIU’s Richmond Hill offices

The agenda was very generic as this was the first conference. Topics on the agenda were such as polling results for union density, attitudes barriers, etc. There was a presentation by Vector Poll Data’s Mark Zwelling.

We also had a presentation from Roxanne Dubois of Unifor regarding community chapters and it generated a lot of discussion and interest from all unions.

One of the sisters present further buoyed the participants by pointing out that more than half of those in attendance were women; an encouraging development of how union organizing programs have evolved.

Despite initial paranoia of such a gathering, there were no moments of conflict between heretofore competing unions. There was no animosity displayed regarding past inter-union organizing conflicts about jurisdictional disputes, competing for similar workers/workplaces intervenor status conflicts in prior applications for certification etc.

The exchange of ideas and range of experiences was forward thinking and the overall consensus of those in attendance was further dialogue needs to occur in the short term via follow-up conference calls, exchange of organizers’ contact info, and a definite need to do a follow-up national conference of a more issue-specific nature.

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