A new leadership program educating young workers in movement building and organizing just wrapped up its first session.
Developed by the Canadian Labour Congress, Taking Charge of Change is a project spearheaded by the CLC's Young Workers Department and Educational Department, delivered via online webinar, to advance social justice and activist leadership training.
The project's aim was to build leadership and organizing skills amongst a diverse cohort of Canadian youth.
It is important the CLC continues to reach out to young workers in order to overcome the isolation of modern work structures, help would-be organizers build inroads for unions in unorganized sectors, and empower locals to engage other progressive movements.
The fragmented and precarious nature of the new economy has long been an obstacle to labour organizing. Workforces are segmented and jobs increasingly insecure.
One by-product of this system has been a sharp decline in workers' solidarity, as competition for scarce positions has come to trump co-operation for an equitable society.
From the first session, Taking Charge of Change dissected the inherent insecurity of the Canadian job market, dominated by precarious retail and service sector positions that fail to provide workers a living wage.
Importantly, the program bridges the challenges faced by the labour movement with a collectivist understanding of inequality, where all forms of oppression intersect and reinforce institutional dominance and social control.
In one session we discussed the position of millennials in the labour market as they confront the myths and realities of being part of "generation screwed" -- unemployment, underemployment, precarious employment, and the illusion of job security.
Twice each week, guest speakers and participants from across the country shared their experiences with discrimination and marginalization. Many spoke of the need for labour organizations to engage environmental, Aboriginal, and LGBTQ groups and build broader, more inclusive movements that speak out on diverse issues.
Pablo Godoy from United Food and Commercial Workers spoke on the advanced state of exploitation of migrant labour in Canada through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.
We discussed the precarious nature of the program, the history that brought it to be and the push/pull factors that keep it in place.
The challenges of migrants, and the abysmal (and essentially unregulated) living conditions of workers once in Canada, really moved me.
All the topics we addressed are important to workers in Canada, but as a movement I believe we should strive to improve the lives of those most at risk of exploitation.
Workers empowerment is vital for all workers, but it's especially so for marginalized peoples and invisible communities. The safer someone feels, the more secure they are, the more they are able to advocate for their rights, and the safer, more secure and better protected everyone becomes.
I believe these are the core beliefs of the Canadian Labour Congress, and values of Taking Charge of Change.
TCC is a valuable leadership program for millennials interested in labour organizing, workers' history, or social movement building.
The program is building a nationally inclusive umbrella of solidarity for young workers that, I dare say, you don't want to miss! Watch out: TCC 2.0 is set to kick off in early 2015!
Celyn Dufay is a Master of Industrial Relations Candidate at Queens University. He was previously a campaigner and donor service officer for the Rideau Institute and blogger for Ceasefire.ca since June 2013. Celyn is a proud Next-Up and TCC Alumni.
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