Canadian GVP Dave Ritchie addresses the first ever Canadian Political Action Committee Symposium at the William Winpisinger Education Centre.
On any given day, when you put 90 Canadians in a room, the discussions will cover a variety of topics. First and foremost, the weather, second, how their favorite hockey team will fair this coming season, third, if they live in a major city, how bad the local traffic is and the price of gas that goes along with that gridlock. Not likely in the top 10 topics will you hear about how the federal government is constantly changing the lives of working Canadians – and not for the better – even though there is a federal election coming in 2015.
But following the Labour Day weekend, 90 Canadian IAM members journeyed to the William Winpisinger Education Centre to talk about one thing – political action. IAM Canada staff along with Political Action Committee members from District and Local Lodges met to create a national agenda for political action as well individual action plans for District and Local Lodges working toward an election in 2015.
“It’s very difficult to get Canadian members interested in political action up to this point,” explains Gord Falconer, Grand Lodge Representative in charge of Political Action. “Most IAM members have been working toward collective bargaining, they look at their own workplaces and they don’t see anything connected with their workplaces to deal with politics.”
Falconer says as a union we specialized a lot of time on servicing the membership, they don’t think about outside of the collective agreement that the government can change the powers within the workplaces. “So when we try to engage members in political action, they don’t see it as their issue, they see it as someone else’s or the community’s. They have to be educated on the fact that the government, both provincially or federally, can change their agreements with a stroke of a pen and that can affect them, their families and their communities.”
“We are in the fight of our lives,” says Canadian GVP Dave Ritchie. “Working families are under attack both provincially and federally by all sorts of governments and laws and we have to change that whole mind set of our membership that nothing can be done. We can make a difference because we have to!”
“It’s important for our members to understand the impact that we have as a union and the influence the union has to drive the political arena,” says Falconer. The people attending the symposium are highly motivated to change the way things are done. Split into four regional areas, they created four individual work plans that allows for the districts and local lodges to identify where their challenges are for the membership to put political action on the agenda. They also identified the barriers to that goal and how they will engage the members in the political arena working toward a plan of action.
“We’re taking this one step at a time trying to engage the membership,” said Falconer. “This can’t be done by one or two people; this has to be done by changing the mindset of the union. It’s taken us a long time to get this far and it will take a little longer to get beyond this, but it will come.”
Maritimes Grand Lodge Representative Rick Arsenault was one of 90 IAM Canada staff, District and Lodge PAC members to attend the first Canadian PAC Symposium following the Labour Day weekend.
GLR Gord Falconer is the spearhead behind the Canadian PAC Symposium and in charge of Political Action Committees. “Engaging the membership and changing their mindset regarding political action is vital if we are to defeat the Harper government in the next election.”
The 90 delegates were split into four regional groups to create an action plan for their districts and local lodges working toward a federal election in 2015.