LABOUR VIEWS: You can be part of the solution: get involved

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by Josee-Anne Thibault

One of the priorities identified by the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) this year was the importance of member engagement. Why is member engagement so important to an organization like the UNW? The easy answer is that the strength of our union lies on solidarity. We have all heard the famous line “United We Stand” and right now, as we continue to negotiate with a difficult employer, our union needs to remain united.

The other answer to that question is also quite simple. Our union is a member driven organization, which means, if you would like to see improvements in some areas, you can be part of the solution.

By getting involved, you can let your voice be heard, and bring forward the ideas you would like to see implemented.

As time evolves, our union also needs to evolve. Our members have the opportunity to bring some of their skills and personality to help us all grow in the right direction.

Bringing forward different perspectives is also extremely important to ensure our union continues to progress. Everyone has their own vision based on their life experiences and situation. The labour movement encourages all members to be engaged and works hard to identify and remove barriers members may face.

Shaping the future of the UNW is important and we must empower, engage and listen to our young workers. As defined by the Public Service Alliance of Canada Constitution, young workers are 35 years and younger.

Some are under the impression that it can be challenging to engage young workers and I would disagree. I see a lot of young activist in the labour movement that have incredible knowledge and bring new ideas.

They are an important part of our union, and we must continue to empower and support these members.

I believe there are three important steps to member engagement. The first step is education. Through conversation, I often realize, some of our members are uncertain of the roles and responsibilities of the union and how we can assist them in the workplace.

The labour movement has a long history in Canada dating back to 1872 and some of the improvements that have been made over the last 146 years through collective bargaining are significant. If anyone is unfamiliar with the history and hard work behind the union, which continually works hard every day to protect the rights that have been won and the new rights which have yet to be gained for every worker, I encourage you to ask questions and check out our website.

Education is also a valuable tool which will empower our members in their involvement within the labour movement. UNW and PSAC offer a variety of educational tools online or in person. If you are thinking of getting involved with your union, education is the right place to start. Once the member has gained some knowledge through education, the next step is to encourage and support.

As activists we need to support our friends, brothers and sisters when facing challenges and encourage them to pursue their passion.

The third step to engagement is passion. Find your niche – that one thing within the labour movement that you feel passionate about. I strongly believe that the best way to figure out what someone will enjoy within our union is to get involved and try something new.

One may realize they feel passionate about something they did not expect. Do not let the unknown scare you from coming forward.

The UNW provides the education, tools and support that members require in order to succeed within the labour movement. And for those who are already involved and engaged, inspire the new members in the movement. I do believe passion can be contagious.