Confronting income inequality takes spotlight at NUPGE's 14th Leadership School

NUPGE leadership activists discuss strategy and develop skills to confront the biggest challenge facing workers today: growing income equality. 

Keene (30 Aug. 2012) - The exceptional skill and ability of labour activists was front and centre during the National Union of Public and General Employees' (NUPGE) 14th Annual Leadership Development School. The school held yearly at Elmhirst's Resort, on the north shore of Rice Lake, just outside Peterborough hosted activists from August 25 to August 31.

Enthusiastic and dedicated participants actively engaged in the inspiring and though-provoking lectures from leading experts in a range of fields. The school's goal is to help union leaders develop keener analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as discover ways to deepen public understanding of the value and importance of unions. 


group photo of National Union Leadership School Participants
Participants in NUPGE's 14th annual Leadership Development School:
1st row: Jason Soklofsky (HSAA/NUPGE), Lynette McAvoy (HSAA/NUPGE), Kathie Bzdel (HSAA/NUPGE), Eddie Almeida (OPSEU/NUPGE), James Clancy (NUPGE).
2nd row: Karla Lanyon (MGEU/NUPGE), Lisa Trolland (BCGEU/NUPGE), Mike Grimaldi (OPSEU/NUPGE), Derek Fudge (NUPGE).
3rd row: Adrienne Leblanc (NSGEU/NUPGE), Muna De Ciman (SGEU/NUPGE), Mike Luff (NUPGE), Lisa Watters (NBUPPE/NUPGE).
4th row: Tony Rabaiotti (UNISON), Dave Lundy (OPSEU/NUPGE), Nancy Pridham (OPSEU/NUPGE), Paul Foley (NAPE/NUPGE), Mark Morey (UNSW), Penny Copeland (MGEU/NUPGE).
5th row: Jamie Tocker (OPSEU/NUPGE), Manuel Melendez (AFSCME), Dave Eckert (SGEU/NUPGE), Jerry Toews (HSAA/NUPGE), Sue Brown (OPSEU/NUPGE).

Twenty-two senior elected members and staff gathered from across the country, representing every NUPGE Component. The school has a history of including international participants as well. This year three participants and presenters from international unions –  AFSCME (U.S.), UNISON (U.K.) and UNIONS (New South Wales, Australia) - were welcomed to the school.

Lectures by Elaine Bernard, executive director of the Trade Union Program at Harvard University, provided the core focus of the school. During a series of six seminars participants discussed the two central themes: leadership and organizational change, and strategic choices for union leaders.

Confronting today's biggest challenge: growing inequality

Other presenters complemented Bernard's instruction throughout the week focusing on important areas of public policy. This year's sessions focused heavily on NUPGE's ongoing campaign to confront the biggest challenge facing workers today, growing income equality.

Presenters included:

  • Armine Yalnizyan, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives;
  • Alex Neve, leading human rights expert and Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada;
  • Jaimie Biggar, Executive Director, Leadnow
  • Elaine Mejia, Senior Program Associate, Demos, a U.S.-based institute that promotes the value of public services; and
  • Alex Himelfarb, former Clerk of the Privy Council and Cabinet and Public Services Foundation of Canada board member.

 Armine Yalnizyan Elaine Bernard Alex Himelfarb

NUPGE National President James Clancy led an important discussion on the specific challenges facing labour as workes continue to push back against regressive labour laws, austerity measures and conservative government attacks. Participants were asked to consider how unions can help refocus the public discourse to the critical role labour plays in strengthening democracy, promoting greater equality as well as the social and economic well-being of all citizens.

Exposing the corporate agenda post recession was tackled in a session by Larry Brown, NUPGE National Secretary-Treasurer. As government's use the 2008 economic collapse as an excuse to roll back workers rights and wages, Brown discussed how they refuse to address the issue of income inequality which helped create our ongoing unstable economy.

Graduate total climbs

Clancy noted that over the past 14 years there have been over 321 graduates of the Leadership Development School.

"We are truly impressed by the intelligence and commitment of our participants. Our union truly benefits from the active engagement of these bright and committed trade unionists who play a leadership role in the National Union and our Components.”

Bernard said one of the benefits of the school is that it provides an opportunity for union leaders to step out of busy daily routines and analyze a range of important issues.

"Leadership in a time of crisis needs to be bold, imaginative and not just transactional but transformational," said Bernard. "The National Union's Leadership School provides an excellent space for real discussion about building powerful, sustainable coalitions of allies which is essential for our success."


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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