Changing times, changing labour: IAMAW District 78

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On this week’s Talking Radical Radio, lead organizer Scott Jackson of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) District 78, talks about how his union, historically based in large manufacturing workplaces, has responded to changing times by refocusing its organizing energies on smaller and non-traditional workplaces.

The labour movement in Canada may not have experienced the same precipitous drop in union density as has happened south of the border in recent decades, but the signs are not positive. Attacks at the political level and employer resistance at the workplace level are more frequent and intense now in this country than they have been in decades. Part-time, precarious, low-wage work in hard-to-organize settings is on the rise. The manufacturing sector, home to the largest and most powerful private sector unions, has been in clear decline overall and has also become more difficult to organize. As a consequence of all of this, many voices within the labour movement and from broader social movements have been calling for years for a rethinking, a reorientation, a renewal in the labour movement. There is, as yet, no consensus on what that should look like. But District 78 of the IAMAW has, for the last five years or so, been doing its best to embody one kind of response. Formerly focused primarily on large manufacturing workplaces, the Machinists have made a deliberate choice to respond to changed circumstances by putting their energy into organizing smaller workplaces in non-traditional sectors. And they have been having success. Jackson is the lead organizer for the district, and he speaks with me about changes in the economic and political environment and in the labour movement, and how his union has been working to respond to them.

To learn more about IAMAW District 78, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada through in-depth interviews that concentrate not on current events or the crisis of the moment, but on giving people involved in a broad range of social change work a chance to take a longer view as they talk about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. To learn more about the show in general, click here.

You can also learn more about ways to listen or go to the show's page on To learn more about suggesting grassroots groups and organizations for future shows, click here. For details on the show's theme music, click here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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