Unifor’s first-ever Organizing Forum attracted some 300 delegates and staff from across the country to Montreal, discussing strategies for organizing more workplaces and introducing Unifor’s new All In campaign.
The two-day forum, held immediately before Unifor’s Canadian Council, began with a panel on some of Unifor’s organizing success stories.
Unifor’s new All In organizing campaign was unveiled at the forum, with tips on bringing non-unionized workers in Unifor workplaces into the union, and for engaging workers in other workplaces in our communities.
A tool kit handed out at the forum contains tips on getting an organizing drive going, a mapping exercise for documenting which workers are already in the union, a sample survey, and more. The tool kit, survey and other resources are available at uniform.org or from the National office.
Such work is vital to building a stronger country and a stronger democracy, keynote speaker Elaine Bernard, a lifelong union activist, told the Forum.
“Unions provide a counterbalance to the concentration of corporate wealth and power,” Bernard said. “Collective bargaining is a right, not a privilege.”
Author and activist Jane McAlevey, who signed copies of her new book Raising Expectations (And Raising Hell) at the Forum, said unions are needed to build worker power and fight back.
"There's been a one-sided class war & we've been losing," she said.
McAlevey told about going into unionized Nevada hospitals, where most staff didn’t realize there was a union. Over two rounds of bargaining, she boosted the participation rate past 80 per cent by treating the already organized facilities as non-union shops and rebuilding the union through face-to-face mobilization.
“This is the sort of work we need to be doing. If more unions were doing this kind of work, we wouldn’t be losing.”
The key to such efforts is getting to know the communities in which the workers live, the sports clubs and churches they and their families belong to, and building relationships based on that. It is also key to get the support of the workplace’s natural leaders, which she called the “organic leaders.”