Be part of PSAC’s Union Development Program!

UDP West-North 2015 UDP Group-1This is a guest post from YEU Director & Local Y010 President Tammi Sikorski.

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!

Visit the PSAC site (follow this link), learn more and apply TODAY! Get the support of your Local’s Executive and the YEU leadership and help shape the union of tomorrow!

Tammi Sikorski

Sick Leave: Ours to Protect!

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What do Your Union Dues Buy?

Amanda-Mudry-Union-BecauseWe won’t give a big loud sales pitch, but YEU has something really good over here and we want to be sure you know about it.

Unions are funny fish; it’s hard to quantify what you’re going to get when you buy in and become a member.

What you can be sure of is that you’ll get a Collective Agreement; a contract that defines the relationship between you and your employer. If it’s a first contract, you’ll see changes to the structure of your workplace, you’ll hear new words like Shop Steward, Executive, Local, and you will see a new deduction on your pay stub that says Union Dues.

So what do you get for that dues money? What does union membership buy you?

Expertise, you’re going to get that in spades. You’ll get a whole team of people whose job it is to improve your work life. Our expert negotiators work with your team to craft a contract and then… then the work begins. Your contract will spell out how conflict is managed, how opportunities are shared and how responsibility is shouldered.  As a member, you’re part of all that. If you have conflict in your workplace, we’re the place to turn.  We have professionals here to help. Our people have years of education and experience at helping solve problems. They can act as a resource, problem solver and advocate for you. Sometimes you just need a little guidance. Some day you might need a lot of help. Either way, we’re ready.

You’ll find opportunity, that’s for sure. There is access to training, to personal development, community and activism that you might not find elsewhere.  The union offers a place for all kinds of membership too; you can be a flag flying, banner waving trade unionist or you can be a quiet member, content with the security of a fairly negotiated contract. Along the spectrum of engagement, there’s a place for you.

Solidarity; we offer that… it’s a pretty old fashioned word, but there’s nothing more powerful than a group of people with similar goals working together for a common purpose. It’s amazing, really, what can be accomplished.

So that’s the pitch.  We sell solidarity, unity, common goals, opportunity and community.

Unions are made of workers like you. Together, we are the Labour Movement… whether we’re talking Yukon Labour or the Canadian Labour Movement. It’s people like you and your colleagues working with people like us to solve problems and strengthen communities.

Convention Delegate? But I don’t even…

delegates convention 2011There has been a lot of talk about convention delegate selection lately.  Do you wonder what that means? Who can be a delegate? We asked Loralee Kesler, YEU’s Vice President and a long term union activist about the convention delegate experience.

“The first time I was nominated I was really nervous; as a first time delegate I worried I wouldn’t understand the process & wouldn’t represent my co-workers well. After convention, I felt really proud of the work that we did.  I’ve now attended 5  YEU Conventions, 2 PSAC North, 4 PSAC National conventions and 2 at CLC National.

If you’re member in good standing you can be elected  at  a meeting of your local.  You will receive a delegate information package about a month before convention to help you prepare for the sessions.  Although it’s a confidential document you can ask your local or the YEU office for clarification.  You will easily learn the rest as we go along.

There are many times that new delegates have stood on the convention floor and, with fresh eyes have made very solid suggestions for the betterment of all. I’m sometimes asked if you have to be an “activist”?  What is an activist?  Our activists come in all shapes and sizes – if you feel a kinship to what the union stands for, then you’re an activist.

Before convention we a hold training session to help new delegates understand parliamentary procedure and rules of order.  My first couple of conventions I was confused about some of the “convention speak” – once you understand it, things get easier. YEU has accepted a clear language resolution which makes a big difference!

I love conventions; we decide the direction the executive committee will take in the next term, and they are accountable to the membership at the next convention.  If someone out there is curious but unsure and their local hasn’t had delegate selection yet – I encourage them to call me with their questions.

Delegates give direction to the component for the next term; it really is a grassroots, democratic organization. This is your union, your leadership needs your direction for the term.  It’s important for locals to fill their quota so there is a fair representation of your local at the convention.  Consider this, in a local of 2000 members, do you really want only 10 delegates there representing your interests when you could have 40 delegates speaking out?”

That’s a pretty good point. If you haven’t already considered the possibilities of union involvement, maybe it’s time!