More than 630 representatives from CUPE locals across Canada gathered in Halifax on April 3 – 6, 2017 for a national conference on Building Strong Locals. Clayton Beish and Joanie Crandall represented CUPE 3287.
Building on the results of a recent national leadership survey that identified the particular strengths, challenges and needs of CUPE locals across the country, the heart of the conference consisted of five half-day workshops focused on building strong, inclusive, accessible and representative Union Locals.
One workshop focused on basic structural concerns – how to organize an effective executive team with diversified responsibilities, how to state policies and communicate them clearly in one’s bylaws, and how to manage record-keeping and organize financial reports.
Another workshop focused on more effectively engaging the members of one’s local through increased personal contacts, regular communication, and building common bonds. Importance was placed on reaching out to new members, providing orientation to union benefits, and encouraging new members to become involved in the union’s activities.
The workshop on building strong leaders within the local expanded upon these themes. People become engaged in union activities for a variety of personal reasons. It is important to understand what motivates them and what will sustain that motivation. Building relationships, encouraging volunteerism, fostering a team spirit, and supporting one another’s contributions are all important to building a strong local.
Yet another workshop focused on building relationships with community allies. Often the best way to tackle a big issue facing a local is to form a coalition and work in solidarity with others in pursuit of a common goal. Conversely, a local should always be looking beyond itself to contribute to the broader community through coalition and solidarity work whenever possible.
The fifth workshop focused on building strength at the bargaining table. Austerity and privatization are leading to an increase in precarious employment. It reinforced the importance of membership building and creating alliances outside of the local, using resources such as social advocacy software and e-petitions. CUPE National is currently developing additional executive training modules to help build strong local responses to employers in this context.
Conference materials are now available at https://cupe.ca/building-strong-locals-conference-materials.
Clayton Beish and Joanie Crandall