Teaching Troublemakers at Heart to be Troublemakers in Action
Labor Notes 2016 was the largest in their 37-year history with nearly 2000 registered delegates including 150 from 22 countries. Some workshops and plenaries provided interpretation in 5 languages (French, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese) to accommodate the international speakers.
Held in Chicago, it allowed many of the delegates to join the one day Teachers Strike in that city as an act of solidarity and join with an estimated 20,000 teachers, parents and allies to shut the downtown core and let the government know that they will not stand idly by and allow the decimation of public education in Illinois.
There were over 100 workshops to choose from so it was impossible for anyone to attend everything, and each workshop was less than 2 hours, so it did not allow in depth interaction. They did allow the delegate to become familiar with issues, learn what tactics and strategies worked in specific campaigns and how to gain new connections with other activists as well as share their own experiences and perspectives.
The overriding message was “Aim High”. Too often union leaders get beaten down because of chronic struggle, constant attacks by management and society, and fear to push the boundaries because they assume their members may not back them. The enthusiasm from activists at this conference, who push their own unions to be more democratic, more visionary and demand better, was a good reminder that if leaders take the time to inspire members, better gains are possible.
Listening to the terrible conditions and oppression American workers face made Canadian delegates want to ensure the differences between the 2 countries are maintained. American companies have not evolved much beyond the Master and Slave relationship, and the prevalence of US business in Canada means we have to be extremely vigilant or else find ourselves in a similar predicament.
The plight of American and Mexican workers who work for Driscoll (sold in all our stores) was quite emotional. They toil 10-12 hours per day for a total of $6.00 in the US and $4.00 in Mexico per day – amid poisons that affect both their health – and they reminded us – are poisoning consumers. They ask us to show our solidarity by BOYCOTTING DRISCOLL BERRIES.
A workshop on the World Social Forum was held to promote the upcoming World Social Forum that is taking place August 9-14 in Montreal. Sister Nathalie Guay from the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) and other Quebec trade unionists passed along information encouraging unions to be part of the people’s alternative to the elitist World Economic Forum. It is anticipated that thousands of social activists, trade union members and environmentalists will gather to discuss strategies to make a better world. This would be an important opportunity for Canadian trade unionists to be part of a global gathering as these rarely take place in Canada.
Labor Notes is a progressive organization with the motto “Putting movement back into the Labor Movement” and their conferences are very inspiring, especially for new activists who want to see their unions be more democratic or more inclusive or more militant. You can support Labor Notes by subscribing to their regular publications, purchasing their Troublemaker clothing, making a donation or attending their events. You can get more information at www.labornotes.org.