“We designed the program for this year's school to give our leadership activists the skills and tools to engage Canadians in conversations about income inequality and the strong role unions play in addressing this major challenge." — NUPGE National Secretary-Treasurer Larry Brown.
Keene (28 Aug. 2014) – Participants attending the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) 16th annual Leadership Development School spent an intensive week charting a path to ensure the issue of growing income inequality is front and centre on the public agenda as we head into the next federal election campaign.
School participants tackled the challenging week-long program by engaging in debate around the key issues that have been driving greater income inequality in Canada and around the world: lack of tax fairness, no modern industrial strategy and attacks on labour rights. The school was held August 23 – 29 at the Elmhirst's Resort on the north shore of Rice Lake, near Keene, Ontario. This year, 28 senior elected officers and staff from NUPGE and its Component unions attended. Included in the group were four participants and presenters from unions in the U.S., Norway and Australia.
Income inequality biggest challenge facing Canada
“We know income inequality is the biggest challenge facing Canada and we also know that strong unions are key to positively addressing this challenge,” said NUPGE National Secretary-Treasurer Larry Brown, who presented on the role of unions in advancing democracy, economic equality and social justice. “That's why we designed the program for this year's school to give our leadership activists the skills and tools to engage Canadians in conversations about income inequality and the strong role unions play in addressing this major challenge."
Several sessions concentrated on how union activists can assure that the challenge of income inequality gets the attention it deserves in public policy debate:
What's driving income inequality in Canada and how we look at more solutions-oriented ways of talking about income inequality (Trish Hennessey from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives);
How we create effective campaign narratives to engage Canadians in conversations about the dangers of income inequality (Amara Possion from Leadnow.ca);
How to fundamentally reshape the way we communicate about the positive role of government and public services in creating equality and social justice (Patrick Bresette from U.S.-based Public Works);
The role of tax fairness in ensuring Canadians have access to a range of quality public services which create equality and social justice for all citizens (Dennis Howlett with Canadians for Tax Fairness).
Union leadership needs to be bold, imaginative and transformational
One of the highlights of the school was a series of sessions on leadership, organizational change and strategic choice for unions led by Dr. Elaine Bernard, executive director of the Harvard University Trade Union Program. Bernard has been a central part of the school since its inception and has taught at the school for the past 15 years.
“Union leadership in a time of so much inequality needs to be bold, imaginative and transformational,” said Bernard. “NUPGE's Leadership Development School provides an excellent space for a real discussion about building powerful, sustainable coalitions and allies which is essential for winning the battle for social justice.”
Other presentations at the School included:
Challenges and opportunities facing labour movements in the U.S. (Dan Homan, President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Iowa Council 61), Norway (Mette Nord, President of the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees) and Australia (Mary Yaager, Campaigns Officer with Unions New South Wales)
Organize, Bargain, Strike: What Does Freedom of Association Mean? (Craig Bavis, Partner at Victory Square Law Office in Vancouver, BC)
Looking Inside The Corporate World: An Introduction to Corporate Strategic Research (Tom Juravich, Professor of Labour Studies and Sociology, University of Massachusets, Amherst)
Canadian Politics: Is it about Citizens or Consumers? (Susan Delacourt, Senior Writer with the Toronto Star)
Threatening Our Democracy: The Harper Government’s Attack on Advocacy and Dissent (Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada)
Good Governance and Accountability in Unions (Larry Brown, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer)
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