Derek Yap and I were selected to participate in PSAC’s Union Development Program (UDP) 2015. We are part of the North/West class of 24 participants, joined by an amazing team of 4 facilitators including our own Barb Fayant who works in the Whitehorse PSAC Regional Office.
The first step of our six step, 9 month program was a facilitated phone call where we were introduced to the program and each other. We were given various reading and research assignments and were asked to survey our members in the hope of getting to know our locals better. What an eye opening experience that was! As President of Local Y010, the exercise of Getting to Know Your Local was great. It really drove home how much more work the local and the Union needs to do to educate and engage our members.
Step 2 took us to Winnipeg, MB for our cohort’s first face to face meeting. Over 4 days, we met with our facilitators and other participants, all staying in the same hotel. Thanks to our Facebook profile photos, introductions were quick and easy! Some of the participants already knew one another from other meetings, conventions and through our union involvement to date but I have to say the bonds formed quickly after our first day in class. I know these bonds are going to last a life-time; I know that from previous UDP participants and I can now say I know this from my own first-hand experience! The weekend flew by; long days of leadership development, networking and classroom work led (naturally) to socializing and working on those life-long bonds in the evenings. The weekend flew by; long days of leadership development, networking and classroom work led (naturally) to socializing and working on those life-long bonds in the evenings.
While in Winnipeg, the class decided to visit the newly constructed National Museum of Human Rights. We asked the facilitators to reconsider the agenda to include a trip to the Museum. Unions advocate for ALL human rights; it would have been a disappointment not to see the museum. The program facilitators arranged a 2 hour tour of this amazing and inspirational museum – if you’re ever in the ‘Peg – be sure to go! We joined a march to the VIA Rail station in downtown where we got to listen to Sister Robyn Benson, National President of PSAC speak to us from the back of a pick-up truck on the side of the street. We were 70 people strong walking the street in front of the building, waving flags and carrying signs, showing solidarity with other Unions.
It was an experience I am honoured to be part of.
Step 3 had us doing online research, online course content and watching a short documentary called “A Force more Powerful: South Africa Edition”. The story covers the struggles of South Africa’s 40 years under the apartheid system and how young activists helped bring about change through strategic, non-violent action. (https://vimeo.com/64419607)
We also started thinking about our Action Project to be completed along our UDP Journey. We covered strategic planning, campaign tactics and using the leadership skills we have learned throughout this course.
Step 4 brought us to Ottawa for a conference with 56 other activists in the PSAC UDP courses from Coast to Coast to Coast. Derek and I joined the English East and the Francophone classes. While we were in Ottawa, we learned of 2 very important rallies taking place on Parliament Hill. Once again we changed our agenda to make the course our own, and those who chose to participate in the rallies were able to do so.
A UDP Action Project is worked on by all participants at the National level. Just before the rally was set to begin, we met to discuss what our project might look like. The room was full of ideas and suggestions on what form the action project for UDP 2015 should take and some great ideas were tossed around. While some members attended the rally protesting Bill C-51 with 100s of other people on Parliament Hill, others debated the action project.
For those of us who marched, the Rally was a powerful experience; invigorating and refreshing. When we returned, the National Project had been decided upon: Bringing Social Justice Home. I am VERY excited to be part of this. On our last day in Ottawa we chose to use the “Art of Protest” to educate and engage. We broke into smaller groups and used many forms of art to get our messages out. We explored flash mobs, story-telling, improvisational street theatre, life-sized puppets, poster making, and song writing. We all got to be creative and think outside the box, laugh and see the benefits of learning and engaging others with emotion.
The UDP is a different program this year than it in the past. We are the pilot group and it is a great experience to be a part of a new process and new traditions. My fellow participants are helping to shape the new UDP – and it is great!
If you believe you have it in you to be part of the new Union Movement in Canada I urge you to apply for the PSAC’s Union Development Program 2016 when the call goes out in September 2015… it is an ongoing series of life changing opportunities and experiences. Grab the chance!