Friday, July 28, 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

No it really isn't global warming...

My friend, Clive, lives over the pond in England, Salisbury, Wiltshire to be exact. This isn't very far from Stonehenge or Ashbury (the other round stone site) or the Giant on the Hill. We've been exchanging emails for a number of years now, and he has come to visit twice, although I haven't made it over there since....well its been a long long time since I visited any relatives, and I now have an open invite from Clive.

Over the years we've passed back and forth lots of info, Blair's shame and disgrace in trusting Bush, MP3s of British music, birthday greetings, have mailed Christmas cards, CDs from Britain, Canadian music (thanks to John), etc.

Lately we've been talking about the weather. We had a little heat wave here in Victoria for a few days. England had the same, only it isn't over. The heat is still going on over there. Clive has reported that it hit 37C one day although it felt more like 45C as he rode home on his bike.

Then he reported that a street in Plymouth melted. Just melted away right down to the grit.

Nope....not global least not according to Bush....

Blaming the Victim

So far, Israeli shelling in Lebanon has killed eight Canadian citizens, including one UN peacekeeper.
And what does our Prime Minister have to say? Not much, other than he's sure it was an accident and that everyone's really really sorry.
Hurling ordnance into cities is never an accident.
Talk about blaming the victims....

User Fees

I've been reading many letters in the local paper over the past few weeks calling for licensing and registration of bicycles and riders, the idea being that this will increase safety by decreasing traffic law violations by riders, and will help pay for bike-lanes and other bike-oriented improvements.
As a bike commuter, I say these are excellent ideas. There are some bad riders out there that make the rest of us look bad. We've all seen the example of how licensing and registering cars and drivers have reduced speeding, red-light running, non-use of turn signals and other vehicle violations to absolute zero. Our roads our much safer now, thanks to those fees.
While we’re at it, it’s time we stopped subsidizing roads and highways with our tax dollars and increase fees vehicle drivers pay. Gas taxes, licensing and registration don’t begin cover the cost of maintaining old roads, never mind building new ones. And that's also ignoring the costs of externalities such as policing, associated health care costs and environmental damage and repair.
Continuing the user-pay scenario, let’s start licensing pedestrians, too. Clearly there’s room for safety improvements in this sector of the travelling public, as many of them don’t seem to understand the simple phrase “Don’t Walk.” And somebody’s got to pay for all those sidewalks.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Since Thursday, July 20....

On July 20th Paula, Allison, John and I went for a bike ride right after work. This left getting home later, having a bite to eat and sitting down to email a friend in Calgary, a friend in England, a friend in Nanaimo and reading a few newsletters, the blog, etc. Only.....I couldn't connect to email or the internet. The main computer upstairs was receiving both internet and email; the computer at the very top of the house used by the ever revolving student live-in was not working as well. No one was home to fix the matter.

Friday I sent emails from work during my breaks and lunch hour, got caught up on my email reading and deleted various junk mail. Friday I got email no internet. Oh well, it was the weekend and for the most part I usually take a break from the computer.

However, I did want to view the blog on Sunday and receive the photos of our kayaking in the Inner Harbour. Still nothing would work.

The people currently living upstairs are my landlord's girlfriend and her two adult children. Neither woman is computer saavy although the 17 year old daughter spends hours on MSN and shops online. She freaked out when I suggested rebooting the system, and her mother agreed. The suggestion was to wait until her son could figure it out. Plus, well I was on wireless anyway and they weren't. I did point out that the thick blue cable coming out of the black box sitting on the floor, the thick blue cable that went throught the floor to the basement was plugged into my computer. They said they didn't know what to do. I suggested phoning the internet company and getting technical help. This was now Monday night.

I went downstairs and read. By today, Tuesday morning I figured that I've gotten another book almost finished and am well on my way to making a dent, be it small, in the pile of books I have to read. Which got me thinking that maybe not having use of the computer for a few days wasn't as bad as I felt it was. I was still able to access my email online at work. Did I really need to check it again when I got home??

I think this post has answered that question....the minute I got home I checked to see if the mail was working...I've spent the last few hours....ok, I confess, from 5:00 to 9:20 I've been on the computer, although I have spoken to my mother, phoned Edmonton to talk to my younger sister and wish her eldest happy birthday on turning 8. My plan tonight was to go for a bike ride and read....not going to happen...although if I shut down now I can get in some reading before sleep...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Finished improving and no more inflicting.

This is the third and final assignment I did for the course, attempting to summarize the current state of labour education in Canada and internationally – and future trends as well.
It took weeks to write anything but ‘Get some labour educators who’ve done physical labour for a living. The worker who digs ditches knows something about shovels. The strawboss may know as much or more. The person who supervises the strawboss has even odds of knowing less. Anyone at that level of organization or more had better pick up a shovel for a couple of weeks every year or the workers with the shovels are hooped.”

I finally wrote this assignment, got an A- and counted myself lucky.
Labour education publications are the only thing I’ve come across nearly as abstracted from “real life experience” as are Educational Psychology publications. (Sorry Robert – but I did quote you in this assignment.

The current state of labour education in Canada is not a static thing, easy to see from within or from the outside. International trends can be described in terms as detailed as daily weather reports, but as vague about the future as any discussion on global climate change. “General statements will necessarily neglect particular national circumstances,” says John Stirling in his article on Trade Union Education in Europe.[i] There are so many people in our Canadian workforce, and billions of workers internationally – an observer can discuss labour education from one aspect and find s/he is describing the work experiences of hundreds of thousands of people even if her/his discussion skims past or contradicts the experiences of hundreds of thousands of others. In this discussion, I will focus on what I have seen of our national and international trends, and my opinions about their future prospects.
I believe any discussion of the current state of labour education in Canada and internationally must include personal experiences and anecdotal perspectives. As Gunilla Harnsten and Lars Holmstrand point out in their article on Research Circles in Sweden, “a central ingredient in what Friere calls a pedagogy of the oppressed consists in training people to continuously reassess, to analyze discoveries… and to perceive themselves in a dialectical relationship to their social reality.” The personal experiences I discuss here are part of my dialectic, in which I “take a more critical stance towards the world and thereby change it.”[ii] There are plenty of statistics to back up anyone’s program, whatever the goals of that program may be. Statistics alone don’t get laws changed. It’s the stories that one shares among trusted associates that change how one feels about what has happened and is happening, and what one resolves to do in future.
As for future prospects for labour education, there are trends representing any alternative that can be imagined, up to and including young women being pulled out of public education to be groomed for a lifetime of home service as junior wife – in Canada, in Bountiful, BC. Educators discuss the trends that they want to work towards, or against. Journalists discuss the trends that they can document for their forums. Linda Cooper writes in her essay on Union Education in the New South African Democracy that “labour educators will … need to find ways to challenge capitalist notions of skills and productivity and re-assert the possibility that worker’s skills and knowledge can be put to collective, social use rather than simply serving the interests of profitability and international competitiveness.”[iii] In that company, I will not apologize for discussing the trends that are of most interest to myself.
“We cannot speak of a single Canadian labour movement any more than we can hypothesize about a homogenous Canadian working class,”[iv] says Craig Heron in The Canadian Labour Movement. The needs for labour education among Canadian workers are recognizably different when unions of workers in disparate disciplines are compared, and also when non-unionized workers are compared with union members. It can be difficult to compare a civil servant with a tenured academic; it is harder to compare an industrial professional with the low man on a corporate totem pole. As Harnsten and Holmstrand point out, “it is difficult for an authentic dialogue to develop between people with different knowledge and experiences.”[v]
And yet, union members in Canada are crossing those gaps, sometimes by meetings between unions for the purpose of influencing legislation or partisan politics, and sometimes on an individual level. On the website for the Canadian Media Guild, Kenn Sunley tells about the lockout of Canadian Media Guild members by the CBC in 2005, and how five janitors refused to cross a picket line in Saskatchewan.[vi] The janitors were union members too, and their union came out to support the Canadian Media Guild. Even a small local in a service industry saw its union brotherhood with media professionals. Five janitors made a deep impression on the radio workers at that building, a warmer impression even than that give by their own picket line. Rhetoric can teach union members a slogan, but it does not change a person’s work environment in the way that a sense of union brotherhood does. Individual moments like that one are what stands out, not only for the Canadian Media Guild’s records, but for individual members like me, particularly since I am a journalist who has also worked as a labourer and in the service industries.
Working with young people in a call center for the last year and a half has been an education for me. I’ve learned again that there are many young people, high school graduates and even university or community college students, who believe they do not need to consider joining a union. Some think they should actively avoid becoming a union member. It’s not because ten people at our call centre got fired last year for trying to organize a union local. It’s not just that they believe they don’t need an advocate to help them discuss grievances, or protection from arbitrary measures. (For one thing, they don’t believe they will ever have more than petty grievances or modest arbitrary measures to complain about; people get fired or a bonus is with-held, but nobody fears getting beat up or raped. For another, they believe that complaining about petty things will neither improve the situation nor keep them employed. In their belief that a union will not defend their small grievances, my Canadian work associates are like the Chinese workers interviewed by Rita Kwok Hoi Yee for her article on A Chinese Perspective on Worker’s Rights in Labour Education [vii] – but also unlike them because Canadian workers believe that labour laws will usually be enforced.) My co-workers are avoiding becoming union members at least in part because they think that all a union is for is to go on strike to get a contract for higher wages.
There is an opportunity here, one I would call a mandate, to educate all workers that unions exist for more than going on strike. Tom Nesbit points out in his article Education for Labour’s Professionals: Britain, Canada and the USA that “often education has to take second place to a union’s other functions such as organizing, servicing members or negotiating contracts”[viii] – but a moderate amount of general worker education might improve many unions’ success at organizing new members, servicing them and negotiating contracts for them. Some workers who take honest pride in doing a good job turn up their noses at the suggestion that they might act collectively. Over the years, I’ve had many co-workers in various disciplines in six provinces across the country, people who don’t want to associate themselves with the stigma of withholding their labour just to get more money. I have come to the conclusion that their rejection of self-serving greed is widespread, wider than the circle of my immediate acquaintance. This conclusion is supported by the fact that during thirty years of working I’ve been employed in a wide variety of fields, as a security guard, teacher, short order cook, research assistant, telecommunications worker, textbook writer and editor, salesclerk, and farm labourer. Maybe if I’d been working as a lawyer or car salesperson I’d be more cynical about greed, but the people I’ve met expect to earn an honest wage for honest work. They expect sensible working conditions. They’re simply unaware that unions do anything other than going on strike for higher wages. They’re unaware of union efforts to get workers’ rights recognized in legislation that affects all workers.
Others of my co-workers just don’t want to get organized into any more activities, meetings, organizations or groups: they simply want to go to work, earn a paycheck, and spend what remains of their time as they choose. While many of these people are over-extended parents or full-time students, others simply don’t know how little of their time would be committed to union meetings. And none of them have any expectations of learning anything at all through a union, even though the Canadian Labour Congress believes that “education should infuse all aspects of the local union.”[ix]
My belief about trends in Canadian or international labour education, now and for the future? It’s time for labour education to move beyond existing and potential union members, to workers in general and the public at large. There is a new emphasis by trade unions in Britain, says Keith Forrester in his article on Unions and Workplace Learning; “instead of targeting only their lay-representatives within the workplace, the members (and importantly, potential members) are the new targeted constituencies.”[x] It’s time to be visible, not as slogan chanters or scary political movements. It’s time for union organizers to gain the “language and cultural skills to effectively work [sic] with … immigrant workers and their potential allies.”[xi] My friend Marge Klein struggled to learn a few words and greetings in Cantonese twenty-five years ago when she was an organizer for the United Steelworkers in Vancouver, BC – now such language efforts are routine in Canada, and real translation is put to regular use. It’s time for unions to be recognized by Canadian workers as part of what has become the ordinary work world – part of what has made labour laws, minimum wages, EI and worker’s compensation to be ordinary and normal. Too many workers have no idea what unions are for, except strikes!
But there is the odd mention of unions, integrated into popular media. I found a digression on unions and labour education in a book of interviews with Noam Chomsky[xii], which quoted a popular singer. “That’s what unions were about – workers’ educations, which often came out of the unions. These were ways for people to get together to encourage one another, to learn from one another, to find out about the world. Over quite a range, in fact: literature, history, science, mathematics. Some of the great books on science and mathematics for the public were written by left-oriented specialists, and such topics found their way into workers’ education,” wrote singer T-bone Slim in his memoirs. “There are things you can do in groups you can’t do by yourself. In fact, that’s true of the most advanced sciences. Very little is done individually. It’s usually done in groups by collective action and interchange and critique and challenge, with students typically playing an active and often critical role. The same is true here.”
He goes on in Juice is Stronger Than Friction: Selected Writings of T-Bone Slim, to add: “Part of the genius of the system of domination and control is to separate people from one another so that doesn’t happen. We can’t ‘consult our neighbors’ as one of my favorite Wobbly singers once put it back in the 1930s. As long as we can’t consult our neighbors, we’ll believe that there are good times. It’s important to make sure that people don’t consult their neighbors.”[xiii]
My co-workers who resist the idea of joining a union are not consulting their neighbours. They believe these are good times, because some aspects of our work environment are indeed good. But they are not aware of how many aspects could be improved by collective action. It is the responsibility of labour education to make such knowledge more generally known, and to remove the stigma that for some people still brands all collectivism as a godless, mind-numbing version of Communism.
Union learning programs, as well as individual labour educators, need to renew continually their awareness of the experience of workers. In D’arcy Martin’s book Thinking Union, his personal epiphanies are largely a result of his shared experiences with the union members he is teaching.[xiv] Jeffery Taylor, in Union Learning, quotes from the United Steelworkers of America’s Guidelines for Training; “Training must be an integral part of every job… In most cases our own members make the best teachers. Instructors should be trained from within the union.”[xv] As labour educators begin and continue to have differing work experiences from the workers they are teaching, the delivery of their materials becomes increasingly less effective. This is a trend which begins in public elementary schools, as observed by Joan Richardson in her article on Teaching Teachers About Learning, and which she believes is most easily improved by continual assessment of the learning experiences of both the teachers and students.[xvi] As our technology and goals change, our learning environments and experiences are necessarily changing as well as our working experiences.
“In 1985 only 15 percent of Canadian workers used computers, but by 1994 that proportion had risen to nearly one-half. This new technology has enabled employers to reduce the number of workers required, to monitor employees more closely, and wherever possible, to eliminate manual skills, “ points out Craig Heron. “This complex, new technology demanded a skilled workforce, but of much smaller size. It also widened the gap between highly trained specialists and those who were restricted to simple, often repetitive input, and who had more limited access to the better jobs.”[xvii]
That trend has continued in the early years of the twenty-first century. And the increasing tendency over the last ten years has been for specialists to work hard to maintain their employment and seek promotions, or instead they will join the ranks of those with limited access to the better jobs.
Canadian workers now must find elementary training in as many fields and skills as are available to them, in order to be able to take any employment opportunity when (not if) their current employment ends. “Employability, rather than secure employment, has been the vision,” according to Chris Holland and Geraldine Castleton, who have detailed a similar trend in Britain, in their article on Basic Skills and Union Activity in the UK and Australia.[xviii] It is not enough to be good at what you do, when that work is not there to be done. It is not enough to be willing to go where work exists – and Canadians are a very mobile society. Workers are finding that they must be simultaneously good at what now needs to be done, and able to go where that work is being done. The only alternative is a job which remains static, with little chance for pay raise or internal promotion – and the position may be downsized or the employer non-existent within five years. There is an opportunity here for labour education which supports adaptable learning skills in workers.
The employment prospects for unskilled labourers do not bear thinking about. My son is an unskilled labourer, at present. An unskilled labourer is by definition an expert at finding new positions, or s/he is an imminent part of the statistics on unemployed and homeless persons.
Even skilled labourers who have only one field of expertise are perilously similar to unskilled labourers, when the industry that employs them eliminates their jobs. It is brutally demoralizing for a worker who has earned a living wage for years to be laid off. When the only employment opportunities locally may be paper routes and clerking at a corner store, the formerly skilled labourer becomes acutely aware of why the turnover rate can be so high in marginal, entry-level jobs. There is a real need here for labour education in how to find new work, and also in how to develop new opportunities. These need will not diminish in the near future.
“Where did they go, the people who left?” asks Thomas Geoghegan in his book Which Side Are You On? He tells of meeting a friend, a Chicago city official who worked in the Mayor’s office of Employment and Training. “Deborah runs a job-training program at Republic Steel, to place steelworkers in new jobs… She does not know either. She admits there are no jobs and wonders what the hell she is doing… ‘The one nice part is graduation… We have a dinner, give out awards. People get dressed up in caps and gowns.’ I said, ‘Deb, do any of these people have jobs?’ She looked away. ‘No.’”[xix]
Geoghegan is not the only one to notice trends like this, and they are not limited to large American cities. Job-training programs can be found in cities across Canada, but statistics counting people who find lasting employment because of these programs – well, those are harder to find. Many of these job-training programs are run by private businesses, which get a fee from the provincial or federal government for each person who takes the courses, if the person is already on Employment Insurance (EI). For some EI recipients, a job-training program is just another hoop to jump through in order to demonstrate that one is honestly seeking employment, and therefore continues to qualify for EI. The content of many job-training programs often consists of resume preparation, skills and interests assessment, and self-employment business plan development; these are all worthy things, but they are training in how to look for a job among available opportunities. These programs are not training in how to do a job, or how to make opportunities. That is a mandate which is being missed by the union educators as much as by the private business job-training programs.
When I was on welfare with three-year-old twins in 1988, the social worker informed me about job-training programs in basic job-hunting skills, and encouraged me to sign up for literacy training, resume preparation and job search programs. I immediately offered to teach any such program as an accredited teacher, and to generate educational materials as needed, but to no avail. My social worker looked for further education possibilities for me, and confirmed that full subsidies were available to get me into a two-year program to become a welder. (It’s worth mentioning that I am five feet tall and not powerfully built.) But I was not allowed – by provincial law – to take Education courses at the University to improve my teacher training, even if I saved the tuition fee from my welfare cheque or if my relatives paid my tuition. Welfare “fraud” is that easy, and work-related training can be hard to come by honestly.
Training and education are worthy in themselves and never a waste of time or effort for the learner, the teacher and the community or even an employer. But training and education are not useful when presented in a situation where there is no forum for their use. General training and education are no substitute for training in a real job. Training and education do not replace opportunities, economics, climate changes or industrial imperatives, and they are worth little without health, strength, luck and entrepreneurial talent. Union learning can help me, but it can’t make union educators effective in the field if some unions don’t know what to do with them.[xx] And nothing could ever make me tall and strong enough to be a welder, or thaw the frost eighteen inches down in my market garden after four years’ drought. In labour education, “the test of success,” according to France Laurendeau and D’arcy Martin’s article on Equipping the Next Wave of Union Leaders, “is not passing some external exam, but rather equipping people to think, work, and live better.”[xxi]
My choices are not empowered when they are disabled by my employer’s choices. My current employers at a call centre use incompatible computer programs which cause delays yet insist that average call handle time to troubleshoot cell phone problems for customers roaming internationally should be under 500 seconds; the training period in how to use this department’s programs has been cut back from two weeks to one. I applied to become a trainer, and was turned down four times. My employers don’t want an accredited teacher, with experience in adult education, as a trainer. When my focus group was asked why schedule adherence was so poor and the turnover rate among employees was so high, we described problems with the computer punch-in time clock program used by each worker eight times each shift, and infrequent bus service with poor connections. The response was a lottery to award a brand-new car to each of three lucky winners. Employees get extra tickets in the draw if their schedule adherence is 90%. The employees walking past that motivational prize to the bus stop are not coveting the prize, but they are learning something important: Work reliably, and three of you will be very lucky! As Bruce Spencer and Naomi Frankel said in their essay on Unions and Learning in a Global Economy: “Workplace learning, as defined by employers, is essentially about learning to become a more efficient and compliant ‘human resource’.”[xxii] I can choose to be a reliable and conscientious worker, and hope to be one of the three out of nine hundred who gets rewarded arbitrarily.
Guess I’m lucky this is only my secondary job, not my primary work. I’m a science fiction writer. You don’t want to ask me what the future of labour education could be like. My guesses about the future have been described in reviews as “haunted.”[xxiii]
How about this for an anecdote about what labour education is like internationally, say, right now in South Africa? I just wrote a nonfiction book on AIDS and HIV[xxiv], and learned that South African business interests and government officials are finally taking an interest in implementing some of the AID/HIV preventative education that has been so effective in Uganda at reducing the rate of new HIV infections. They’re taking an interest now, not because one in nine of South Africa’s 45 million citizens is infected with HIV or diagnosed with AIDS, nor because United Nations figures show that 20 percent of their people aged 15 to 49 are infected by this disease. They’re going to take action because the turnover rate among employees suffering from HIV or AIDS is so high that it’s beginning to affect the profit rate in gold and diamond mining. South African workers are being educated in how to avoid HIV infection, because a less than 2.5 percent drop in the profit rate due to worker turnover, according to the South African Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS (Sabcoha), is something that business and government will not allow to continue.[xxv]
I’m a science fiction writer, nominated for national awards, and member of SF Canada, the national professional association (that is currently debating which of our union affiliations will soon be formalized). I would never have made up that statistic in one of my stories. I don’t have that kind of imagination.
It boggles the mind to think that in any region of the world so much preventable human suffering was not motivating for business and government officials, but a drop of less than 2.5% of profits was sufficiently motivating to put a worker education health program into high gear. But then, my mind and imagination were educated in Canada.
Here in Canada in 1999, Chapters bookstore chain didn’t pay for most of the books they sold, for eighteen months. Chapters kept ordering books from distributors and publishers, selling books, and didn’t pay for them. This led directly to the collapse of General, the largest book distributor in the country. Some estimates suggest that a third of all Canadian smaller book publishers went out of business as a direct result of Chapters delaying their payments. There is no way to calculate how many presses released fewer titles that year and the next, or let employees go. You cannot put a dollar value on an author’s experience of not selling a book that was accepted for publication; I estimate that over two hundred planned books were not published that year. The publisher I was working with cancelled plans to employ me as editor for a new imprint that would release two Young Adult titles a year. Two publishers who had interviewed me cancelled their expansion plans also, as did several others. I went into a Chapters store more than five years later to buy a gift certificate to send in the mail for my niece’s birthday, spat and walked out.
It’s hard to find any mention of Chapters at all in the labour education I’ve had since that fateful time, but I do note that Canadian book publishing associations and writers associations are reminding their members to allow authors to do signings at Chapters but to hold book launches, readings and literary events at independent bookstores instead. As one member of SF Canada said: “I’ll let Chapters sell my books. But I will be damned if I buy anything from them.”[xxvi] I guess that’s the difference between the book industry and gold mining.
My gold wedding and engagement rings are twenty-five years old. It’s a safe bet that this tiny 0.05 ct solitaire is a “blood diamond,” that currently fashionable term for a gem mined by oppressed workers with no union protection. But since then, the Canadian diamond industry has been developed. I bought tiny 0.03 ct diamond earrings a year ago, only after confirmation from the independent Canadian jeweller that every diamond they sell comes from a Canadian mine. Canadian labour laws protect Canadian workers whether or not they belong to a union of miners. I won’t buy anything else, and my friends and family feel the same. We are part of a trend in grassroots education about labour discussed by Naomi Klein in her book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.
When Naomi Klein discusses comparison shopping for brand-name goods and holding the companies responsible for working conditions in their factories, it’s sometimes to insist those companies maintain the standard of behaviour that they set for themselves in their ad campaigns. “Feminism, ecology, inner-city empowerment – were not just random pieces of effective ad copy… [C]ompanies [that] publicly presented social accountability as the foundation of their corporate philosophy from the first” have learned to talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. [xxvii]
It’s not just an ad campaign; corporate philosophy affects what we eat and drink, what we wash with or drive, what we wear and own. Consumers can be taught through advertising to think of corporate products as socially accountable. But corporations should remember that education, according to Michael Newman, is not merely as “an exercise in instruction, management and control” but also “a creative, imaginative endeavour in which problems are posed and examined.”[xxviii] If people are taught that social accountability is part of a corporate vocabulary, it shouldn’t be surprising when some people want their corporate products to be accountable.
Most Canadians don’t grow food, or make soap or clothes or any of their possessions. I was pleased when my grown children learned to make clothes. But the only image my husband and I insisted our goth/punk rocker son remove from his decorated black clothing was a Nike swoosh. When we explained how sweatshops employ kids in bad working conditions, for substandard pay, he removed that image. It was a small learning experience, but our son makes garments and accessories to sell to many other young people. “Knowledge… is the result of a constructive process,” says Fernando Lopes in his article on Programa Integrar in Brazil. “It does not spring from a mere accumulation of information. The learners bring their real experiences to the learning process.”[xxix] Sweatshop is a word in a newspaper. Making and decorating clothing is something my children do with their hands, and solidarity is something they have learned to do, not merely a word to say.
Craig Kielburger began speaking out about child labour when he was only twelve years old.[xxx] Starting with his own Canadian school and community, Kielburger has gone on to become an active voice in the effort to create a more just, equitable and sustainable world for young people. One of his beliefs is that no one is too young to make a difference in the world. Even if all a child learns from a school or library program is that employment alternatives exist, that is something s/he will take into the future.
Kielburger has proved that even one person’s efforts can have lasting results in a neighbourhood, a village, a region or a nation. It is not necessary to become the figurehead for an international movement in order to make lasting changes in the working lives of many people. It certainly helps when an international movement has a charismatic spokesperson, but individuals or very small groups can work quietly in their own communities or for the benefit of communities in other parts of the world. For example, small investment groups in Canada support many small business development projects, whether in Canada or developing countries. That personal effort to improve the working lives of people in small projects is another trend in labour education which links Canadians with each other and with people around the world.
And that is the trend which gives me the most hope for the future: the hope that my conversations in the workplace and my small projects are part of a labour education trend that has been productive in Canada since long before workers shared their knowledge on picket lines in the early twentieth century. It doesn’t matter that what we need in Canada is the charisma of another Martin Luther King, Jr, or that what we need internationally is the movement of another Gandhi. In the absence of grand spokespersons we must simply do the individual efforts which may change a life or a workplace, and work to effect a cumulative change rather than an instant revolution upon our communities, industries and nations. As science fiction writer Ursula K. LeGuin wrote: “You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution.”[xxxi]

[i] Stirling, John. “Trade Union Education in Europe: Emerging From the Gloom.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p. 28.
[ii] Harnsten, Bunilla and Lars Holmstrand. “Research Circles in Sweden: Strengthening the Double Democratic Function of Trade Unions.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 85.
[iii] Cooper, Linda. “Union Education in the New South African Democracy.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 48.
[iv] Heron, Craig. The Canadian Labour Movement: A Brief History. James Lorimer & Co, 1996. p xix.
[v] Harnsten, Bunilla and Lars Holmstrand. “Research Circles in Sweden: Strengthening the Double Democratic Function of Trade Unions.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 81.
[vi] Sunley, Kenn. “A Tale of Five Heroes” Canadian Media Guild website, accessed February 15, 2006.
[vii] Kwok Hoi Yee, Rita. “A Chinese Perspective on Worker’s Rights in Labour Education.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 65.
[viii] Nesbit, Tom. “Education for Labour’s Professionals: Britain, Canada and the USA. Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p.56.
[ix] Taylor, Jeffery. “Union E-Learning in Canada.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 153.
[x] Forrester, Keith. “Unions and Workplace Learning: The British Experience.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 143.
[xi] Wong, Kent. “Labour Education for Immigrant Workers in the USA.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 73
[xii] David Barsalam and Noam Chomsky, Propaganda and the Public Mind: Conversations with Noam Chomsky, ch. 6 “Liberating the Mind from Orthodoxies” Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2001, p. 146.
[xiii] T-Bone Slim, Juice is Stronger than Friction: Selected Writings of T-Bone Slim, ed. Franklin Rosemont .Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 1992.
[xiv] Martin, D’arcy. Thinking Union: Activism and Education in Canada’s Labour Movement. Toronto, Canada: Between the Lines, 1995.
[xv] Taylor, Jeffery. Union Learning: Canadian Labour Education in the Twentieth Century. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2001, p 223.
[xvi] Richardson, Joan. “Teaching Teachers About Learning.” The Education Digest, Vol 70, No 3 November 2004 p 49.
[xvii] Heron, Craig. The Canadian Labour Movement: A Brief History. James Lorimer & Co, 1996. p. 120.
[xviii] Holland, Chris and Geraldine Castleton. “Basic Skills and Union Activity in the UK and Australia.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 95.
[xix] Geoghegan, Thomas. Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back. New York: The New Press, 2004, p.88-89.
[xx] Widenor, Marcus and Lynn Feekin. “Organizer Training in Two Hemispheres: The Experience in the USA and Australia.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 108.
[xxi] Laurendeau, France and D’arcy Martin. “Equipping the Next Wave of Union Leaders: Quebec’s College FTQ-Fonds.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 116.
[xxii] Spencer, Bruce and Naomi Frankel. “Unions and Learning in a Global Economy.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 169.
[xxiii] Runte, Robert. Professor in Education, Lethbridge University; author and reviewer, quoting his own and other writers’ reviews in conversation at NonCon science fiction convention, Edmonton AB, 2002.
[xxiv] Johanson, Paula. Coping Strategies for AIDS/HIV. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group Inc, 2007.
[xxv] Mutikani, Lucia. “HIV takes toll on profits at S. African mines – report” Reuters, 30 Nov 2005 13:07:55 GMT.
[xxvi] Duncan, Dave. Author of 36 fantasy novels, in conversation with Paula Johanson at Con-Version XIX science fiction convention, Calgary, AB, August 2004.
[xxvii] Klein, Naomi. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. Random House, 2000. p 361.
[xxviii] Newman, Michael. “Part of the system or Part of Civil Society: Unions in Australia.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 164.
[xxix] Lopes, Fernando Augusto Moreira. “Programa Integrar in Brazil: Union Intervention in Employment, Development and Education.” Unions and Learning in a Global Economy. Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing, 2002, p 126.
[xxx] Camosun College Speaker Series 2006, Insight Global Perspectives on Community Issues, display ad in Victoria Times-Colonist June 8 2006, p D2.
[xxxi] LeGuin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed. New York: Harper & Row, 1974, p 242.

still improving myself and inflicting it on others

Thisis my second assignment for the course.
It’s a comparative book review of The Third Contract: Theory and Practice in Trade Union Training by Michael Newman and Thinking Union by D’arcy Martin.

It’s easier to find perspective by having more than one viewpoint: two eyes to look at the world, two books discussing labour education. D’arcy Martin wrote about how his own experiences as a union educator and activist helped him understand the regional and national union movement in his book, Thinking Union: Activism and Education in Canada’s Labour Movement. Michael Newman wrote in his book The Third Contract: Theory and Practice in Trade Union Training about the methods and theories of union education, illustrating the concepts with his own experiences and other examples from educators. It is easy to draw from each book a sense of how much these men value union learning and the process of adult education.
From one book, the reader gains a solid impression of one man’s union experiences as an educator in Canada; from the other, the reader begins to see Australian union training with some historical and international context and various individual reactions.
The first chapter of Thinking Union is an introduction outlining a few of the changes Martin observed in labour education between 1978 and 1994. Martin opens the book with his daughters’ viewpoints on what they saw as his work when they were little, and his experience being arrested on a picket line. His older daughter had been asking since she was three if every office or meeting was “the union.” He took the six-year-old to a demonstration on Capitol Hill where a hundred thousand people gathered peacefully. “Papi, this must be the union.”[i] His younger daughter described her father’s work for her primary schoolteacher: “He teaches workers how to talk back.”[ii] After his arrest, Martin was first acquitted of obstructing police and then convicted when the Crown appealed. The transition in his mind and views – and how he represented himself – helped Martin understand that solidarity can change and inform his own life, not only those he educates.
These very personal moments tell us not only what Martin was doing and trying to do as a union educator, but how he was perceived.
Each chapter in Thinking Union outlines time in D’arcy Martin’s life as a labour educator, starting from March 1978 when he was hired by the Steelworkers union, a ten-month study leave he took in 1984-85, his work with the CWC, a leave in 1988-89, his work with the CEF and a voluntary leave from the CEF in 1992-93 to complete his Ed.D thesis: Street Smart: Learning in the Union Culture. The thesis is described by Martin as “a more theoretical and lengthy version of this book.”[iii]
Martin doesn’t spend an excess of words per chapter on theories, detailing instead his experiences. Chapter two describes his initiation into his work with the Steelworkers. In 1979 the union began a “back to the locals” campaign for union education, focusing on five areas: increased and updated courses for stewards, teaching by local union course leaders, increasing financial support for education, making locations and scheduling more accessible, and coordinating courses among the national, regional and local levels. Martin found the “back to the locals” campaign not only served the Steelworkers well, but by integrating his experiences during this campaign into his education work, it had a lasting personal positive effect on his union work and his thesis.
Chapter three describes elements of union culture through ten dynamics, or cross-currents. “Each of these pairs represents…a creative tension,” says Martin, who thinks they “help us identify personal experiences and supports and barriers in the movement.”[iv] He lists these dichotomies as: diverse/cohesive, oppressive/affirmative, passionate/bureaucratized, informal/accountable, subordinate/adversarial, oral/literal, voluntary/professional, rebellious/disciplined, collective/contentious, and servicing/mobilizing. For each he has an example of a worker’s experience. Studying each of these dynamics reveals how much he learned about how dialogue and cooperation are a unionist’s greatest tools.
In chapter four, Martin details his experiences teaching courses on facing management and on gender politics. He learned how integrating creative elements into presentations can challenge domination and encourage co-operation. As the collapse of the US steel industry shrank the union’s membership figures, layoffs among union staff became necessary for the first time, causing even more tensions. By the summer of 1983, Martin was ready for the unpaid year’s study leave he had negotiated on being hired. During this time he and his wife separated and agreed to divorce.
In his fifth chapter, called “Civil War Times”, Martin describes his frustration and anger over tensions in the Steelworkers union. As head of education, he was directed in 1985 to participate in a campaign to unseat an Ontario district director, Bob Pattison, who advocated more Canadian autonomy from the American union executive. “My ability to put my job on the line was strengthened by my professional training, which meant I could get a job elsewhere, either in the union movement or outside,” Martin acknowledged on p.75. “Certainly the fact that I had other employment options, and better paying ones at that, strengthened my resolve at this critical time … and no doubt reinforced the uneasiness of the Steelworkers leadership about ‘academics.’” After eight years of work with the Steelworkers, Martin was fired, but in 1986 he took the best of several job offers, and became education representative for the Communications and Electrical Workers of Canada (CWC).
Chapter six shows Martin’s re-discovery of the basics through facilitating grassroots courses in health and safety, and grievance handling, and through a grueling 1988 strike against Bell Canada. “When artists and unionists meet properly, the result is greater than the sum of the parts,” Martin believes. “…New learning experiences.”[v] After the strike, the union resources were strained, so Martin took a study leave to write the first draft of this book.
When he came back to work, it was not to grassroots campaigns but to working on matters of public policy. In chapter seven, he describes working with Fred Pomeroy on a report for the Ontario Premier’s Council on Technology. Martin identifies five levels of social bargaining: the workplace, the sector, the local community, the province and Canada-wide. He found that a union’s work on public policy “can feed back … guiding and inspiring action at the grassroots level.”[vi]
In November 1992, the CWC merged with the Canadian Paperworkers Union and the Energy and Chemical Workers Union to form the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP). Chapter eight details Martin’s experiences on the CEP’s National Education Committee, working through his programs to meet the needs of educators, program participants and the program sponsors – the union leaders.
In chapter nine, Martin returns to the informal/accountable dichotomy, using anecdotes to describe the CEP’s ongoing education program efforts “to develop cohesion out of diversity.”[vii] Making peace with the people who had fired him from the Steelworkers was an important but gradual transition for Martin, helping him organize five themes – identity, historical awareness, process politics, a developed imagination and a critical spirit – into his plans for his future as a labor educator.
Each chapter in Thinking Union is prefaced with a stanza of a poem or song lyric, or a brief excerpt of prose less formal than the main text. Martin has integrated into each chapter pieces of creative or personal writing from people whose art has affected him. His endnotes and bibliography reference many formal books and articles on unions and labour education, but it is the poems about feelings and interactions that stand out as the book is read.
For a book which is more about the practice of labour education than one man’s experience, it’s better to turn to Michael Newman’s book. The Third Contract: Theory and Practice in Trade Union Training comes from a different perspective. Newman doesn’t pretend to be a dispassionate observer – he clearly participated with enthusiasm in the learning experiences he describes. The difference here is that in this text Newman describes the learning experience and the method, not his own experience and what he learned of methods (as Martin did). As Newman writes in the introduction, this book is his “attempt to examine the differences between trade union training and other forms of adult education and training, and to interpret some question of the theorists from the worlds of adult education, community adult education, and human resource development in a way that makes their thinking and practice relevant to unionists.” [viii]
The Third Contract is made up of seven parts, each including one to nine of a total of thirty-three chapters. Some chapters are only three or four pages long. Each chapter is readable as a small learning unit, and as a reader progresses through the book there are references to terms and history detailed in earlier chapters.
“Part 1: Union Training” has six chapters, called “In the Training Room”, “The Trainers”, “Participants”, “Union Culture”, “Language and Methods”, and “Management Training, Adult Education and Union Training.” Rather than give a bald definition of training, Newman describes “how a union trainer might conduct a number of sessions dealing with negotiation.”[ix] The goal of the trainer is to get the participants at the end to ask a question Newman considers “crucial to the evaluation of any union activity: Did we make a gain for our members?”[x] The interactions of trainer and participants in these and other chapters show varying amounts of enthusiasm and participation. And in chapter 6, Newman outlines his simplified models which compare management training (authority comes from management to trainer to employees) to adult education (almost egalitarian, interactive learning between educators and students) and to union training (interactions between the union and trainer, trainer and participants, and participants and their union). It is this last interaction that most deeply impresses Newman, and defines for him the crucial difference about union training.
The single chapter in “Part 2: Traditions in Adult Education and Training” covers “History, Models, Theory and Politics.” It’s a brief summary that gives readers some idea of why certain ideological methods were and are being used, and very useful because history classes often only cover wars and the names of kings.
“Part 3: The Liberal Tradition” has three chapters, on “Adult Education in the Nineteenth Century”, “Adult Education in the Twentieth Century” and “Union Training and the Liberal Tradition.” These chapters detail not only a variety of approaches and goals, but reveal how short the history of modern union learning really is. We are still making a useful vocabulary for its study.
“Part 4: In the Mechanistic Mode” has six chapters, called “Continuity, Sequence and Integration”, “Credos, Categories and a Planning Framework”, “Adult Experience and Educational Need”, “Skills, Jobs, Competencies and Performance Objectives”, “Aims and Objectives” and “A Hierarchy of Learning.” Newman not only outlines behaviourist methods of training but points out that training workers in skills can have unforeseen results for union officials and autocratic managers. “Training people in the skills of problem-solving related to their immediate duties is fine, but turning them into problem-solvers is another thing altogether... After all, people who integrate analytical skills into their whole way of behaving and who see the world in terms of problems to solve have an ideology that may threaten those who try to restrict and control them.”[xi]
In “Part 5: From Psychotherapy”, there are eight chapters: “Working with Groups”, “Experience and Reflection”, “Dangers and Difficulties”, “Change”, “The Bosses Came”, “Transformative Learning”, “Transformation or Conversion”, and “Personal Transformation and Social Change.” These chapters are about the process of engaging “in a debate not only about the rights or wrongs of … new approaches to industrial relations but about our emotions, about the ideas and values and assumptions upon which we built our lives.”[xii] The tools and vocabulary to deal with psychological pathologies are also tools for health, of great use in education and unionism as well. Newman tries “to see union members as having needs, not because of any real or supposed deficiencies, but because the world around them is changing.”[xiii]
“Part 6: Community Development and Social Action” has nine chapters: “Violence, Social Action and Learning”, “Committed and Inspired Practitioners”, “An Aboriginal Course”, “Education and Oppression”, “Naming Industrial Worlds”, “Theory and Practice”, “Finding Voice”, “Feminism and Trade Union Training” and “Enrolled Nurses’ Conference” in which Newman describes the first Australian conference for nurses’ aides – an event that gave a tremendous feeling of solidarity for participants, “secure… in the company of people with common experiences.”[xiv] That feeling of solidarity informs each of these chapters, where Newman discusses places (such as Highlander, Antigonish, Tranby) and people (including Freire, Horton, Coady and Thompson). At the end of this part, any reader who hasn’t set up a grass-roots program of some kind would feel ashamed of being a slacker when there are so many opportunities and challenges.
At the end, “Part 7: Purpose” has the single chapter “The Third Contract” in which Newman points out that while most Australian union training reflects a Labourist viewpoint (politically centrist, pragmatic and working towards a gradual change in “the conditions of workers, and therefore society”[xv]), union trainers who draw on the community development tradition of adult education are working with more Radical viewpoints which work towards revolutionary changes. Newman still identifies himself as a union trainer though he trains only part-time and works in Adult Education at the University of Technology. “…Such is the experience of training within the union context,” says Newman, “that I doubt I shall ever lose that sense of identification, nor would ever want to.” [xvi]
Experience is always personal, and can emphasize the individual in ways that illustrate how a sense of community can be fostered or undermined. Education is a connection that not only improves the individual but links people into a community. Newman’s approach to union training covers a lot of years and ideologies to define the changing modern experience in Australia. Martin’s take on the topic tells us where he’s been in Canada during some of the same years of change. Together, these books provoke lingering thought – and that’s always a success in the book world.

[i] Martin, D’arcy. Thinking Union: Activism and Education in Canada’s Labour Movement. Between the Lines, 1995. p5.
[ii]Ibid. p.1.
[iii]Ibid. Acknowledgements, p ix.
[iv]Ibid. p 30.
[v]Ibid, p 94.
[vi]Ibid, p 108.
[vii]Ibid, p 126.
[viii]Newman, Martin. The Third Contract: Theory and Practice in Trade Union Training. Center for Popular Education, Sydney, 1993. p vii.
[ix] Ibid, p 3.
[x] Ibid, p 7.
[xi] Ibid, p 88.
[xii] Ibid, p 168.
[xiii] Ibid, p 158.
[xiv] Ibid, p 263.
[xv] Ibid, p 267.
[xvi] Ibid, p viii.

Improve self thru education... inflict results on others

FYI – my first assignment for the course I just finished on the history of Labour Education in Canada and the world.
It's posted here because John Herbert requested my assignments be posted.

Modern Canadian labour education emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century. Throughout this hundred years, the purposes and practises of labour education changed. To discuss Canadian labour education during the twentieth century, it’s necessary first to define labour education and its origins, before outlining the main themes in its Canadian history.
Labour education is defined by Bruce Spencer in Unions and Learning in a Global Economy as “education with the central purpose of supporting the union organizationally,”[i] with the training of union representatives as its main characteristic. He recognizes that this vision of labour education relies heavily upon earlier forms of worker education.

Informal education takes place casually, mostly in small conversations. Formal education takes place in courses offered for credit by universities and colleges. Non-formal education as defined by Jeffrey Taylor (in his book Union Learning: Canadian Labour Education in the Twentieth Century[ii]) includes non-credit courses from colleges and universities as well as programmes presented by unions and other organizations.

Labour education is one of the responsibilities of unions and workers’ associations. It begins with worker education in basic skills related to the work at hand, but is distinct from vocational training. Closely related is adult education in basic life skills, including basic literacy and primary education. Adult education in the humanities as well is seen by most labour educators as necessary to encourage the development of workers as capable citizens; for some educators it is considered necessary in order to replace the fourth area of labour education. That area is instruction in the history and issues of the union movement and training in skills needed as a union member, activist or organizer. It is this union history and training which comes to mind first for many people, and certainly for Spencer, when defining labour education.

The contracts under which labour educators are hired are described by Michael Newman in The Third Contract: Theory and Practice in Trade Union Trading as not only the formal work contract but also “the relationships and sets of obligations, both formal and informal, that will exist between all the parties – everyone – involved in a program of adult learning.”[iii] Trainers could be hired by management, for example, and the hierarchical responsibility for the content, objectives and instructional delivery would be imposed from management via the trainer to the employees. By contrast, an adult educator providing non-credit adult education interacts with the learner on a two-way basis, presenting material the learner needs in methods that are successful for this experience. But a union trainer enters a complex interaction with both the union and the participants of a learning program. The union employs the trainer, but this two-way relationship involves feedback, reporting and discussion of union policy as well as training matters. The trainer works with the participants on a two-way basis much like an adult educator works with learners. The “third contract” as described by Newman enables or requires the union member participants to report directly to the union, giving evaluations which bypass the trainer. This discourages the adoption of a hierarchical structure wherein the trainer or the union might “assume a position of authority or control… treating participants as manipulable employees.”[iv] It also gradually equips participants with the skills to be active in union affairs, so that any personal improvement will improve the union as well.

Modern labour education in Canada is traced by Taylor[v] back to England and the efforts of reformers during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. A case could be made for some informal labour education being done in England by 17th century activists such as the Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Ravers and in the 1810s by Luddites. These worker-centred movements were rigorously suppressed by the authorities.[vi]

With the emergence of reformers among the propertied class, labour education began to be promoted to capitalists and legislators as a tool to keep capitalist owners firmly in control of industry while avoiding a worker revolution. The goal was to manufacture consent through education; for some reformers this would be a real consent by informed and capable worker-citizens, while for others it would be a de facto consent by workers who would know only what they were told. Noam Chomsky, in Media Control: the Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, cites Walter Lippmann in his definition of manufacturing consent: “that is, bring about agreement on the part of the public for things that they didn’t want[,]by the new techniques of propaganda.”[vii]

Since unions first began organizing in Canada in the early nineteenth century, informal labour education began through individual craft-based trade unions. An idea imported from Great Britain during the 1830s was that of mechanics’ institutes, used to deliver scientific and technical background. Over three hundred of these institutes, “founded and administered by employers and professionals… to ensure that workers accepted… the power relationships of the new industrial order”[viii], were operating across Canada by 1895. But the institutes faded in importance, and many became local libraries instead as that century ended. Two ideas were imported from the United States in the later 1800s. The Knights of Labor allowed workers of any skill, gender or ethnicity to join, “protecting and enhancing the nobility of human labour in the face of… growing inequality and poverty.”[ix] Their newspapers were distributed among some four hundred assemblies west of the Maritimes, but the Knights of Labour failed to thrive past the 1900s. A new union voice came from the American Federation of Labour, emphasizing collective bargaining for trade-based unions. And for general labourers in the early years of the twentieth century, the Industrial Workers of the World (known as Wobblies) strove for a general strike and a new egalitarian democracy.

In Canada, labour education has been a tool of Communists and Wobblies, reformists, and Catholics armed with an 1891 encyclical from Pope Leo XIII (“which held that workers in industrial societies had certain rights and that capital had certain responsibilities towards labour.”)[x] It has always been conducted for the worker’s benefit, even when it also meets the goals of management or the collective bargaining unit. But the intent of the educator has varied among three goals: working towards the workers’ revolution deposing the capitalists, working to avoid the revolution and keep the capitalists firmly in power, or working to make the revolution unnecessary because of integrated societal changes in labour, capitalist methods and the economy. These disparate worldviews produce some results in harmony when all agree on the honour and dignity of the labourer, the worth of the work being done, and the value of shared skills which improve society as well as individuals. It has not escaped notice on all sides that the worker may be taught rhetoric and buzzwords as well as methods and tools.

That is because labour education is primarily a verbal experience, whether it uses minimal or modern technology. It took place in conversations between workers standing in picket lines after the First World War, and from the 1930s to 1970s it led to developments in radio programming and audio-visual technology for bringing learning experiences to larger groups and to small study groups in isolated locations. But from early in the century, some formal labour education was conducted at a university standard, often by university instructors working on their own time with unions, or graduates teaching independently.

In 1901, Frontier College began teaching literacy and citizenship from a social gospel perspective. Their labourer-teachers were normally university students living and working in logging camps and on railway crews, teaching labourers and immigrants. Another religious perspective was shown by the Catholic church in Quebec, which sponsored an annual labour festival, and study circles which led to the founding of L’Ecole Social Populaire. This was followed in 1918 by the Cercle Leo XIII, an education centre with some non-formal programmes. Outside of these efforts, most labour education was done from a secular perspective.

Canadian labour education in trade unions grew between 1918 and 1946 with the Workers’ Educational Association as a central coordinator of a national movement. The WEA began in Toronto in 1918 as “a voluntary association governed by trade unionists, university professors and members of the public[,]modelled on the parent British body formed in 1903.”[xi] From a few evening classes in university-level instruction, labour education expanded to encompass a range of activities from weekend institutes to summer schools, and eventually the use of visual media. The tutorial method was the main focus, as well as study circles and radio broadcasts with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation during the 1930s, when a women’s auxiliary and free classes for the unemployed were organized. Though the United Auto Workers and communist-led unions were the most active unions within the WEA, a genuine effort was made to provide non-sectarian service for the whole labour movement.

Though secular universities did few classes in labour education at this time, and those mostly with the WEA, the extension department of St Francis Xavier University (in Antigonish, Nova Scotia) began instead during the 1920s and 1930 to develop their own programmes of labour education, organizing collectives which did not challenge capitalist society. It was a direct response to the effectiveness of the education being done by Communists in small study groups.
The fear of Communism causing a complete social and economic upheaval may seem ludicrous from a twenty-first century perspective, where the Communist Party of Canada took only a few hundred votes in the latest federal election. But in 1918 Canada, Soviet Russia was viewed from a very different perspective than it is in the new millennium after the collapse of the Soviet regime. China’s revolution looked like the beginning of a landslide change in Asia. Also, church attendance was more common in Canada between the wars than it has become after the year 2000, and Communism was perceived as being violently anti-Christian; even Mennonite and Hutterite collectives were looked on with suspicion by other Protestant churches and particularly by Catholics.[xii]

During this period, university educators and trade unions with social democratic leadership began to develop a social democrat aspect of labour education that would emerge after 1946 as a major focus. As well, after World War II Canadian unions and their efforts in labour education were strongly influenced by American unions, focusing on collective bargaining and industrial relations training. This concentration during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s is seen by Taylor as coming “at the expense of general education for the broader membership.”[xiii]

In Winnipeg, the WEA worked with the University of Manitoba until 1950, operating a series of low-tuition evening courses for union members, with university academic instructors. After that date the local WEA re-formed as the Manitoba Labor Institute. The Canadian Congress of Labour also used the campus as a venue for its weekend institutes.

St. Francis Xavier University continued its “ideological commitment to countering the influence of communism among the Nova Scotia working class.”[xiv]
Some (but not all) of the content of Communist labour education was compatible with the Canadian social democratic movement. The social democrats began in 1946 to put greater emphasis into developing a working political party, first the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and then the New Democratic Party. The result was the creation of labour laws at the provincial and federal levels, laws which reflect many goals of social democrats and even of Communist activists from the early part of the century. With union support, the NDP has won provincial elections and been a successful third party in federal elections. But with time the NDP has become independent of the union movement. At the end of November 2005, the NDP changed its party organization so that unions may no longer sign up block memberships, but only individuals may join the party.[xv]

While a social democratic party was evolving, the federal government took a more active interest in labour education. During the Second World War, The National Film Board was developed as not only a propaganda arm for the war effort but as a place where educational materials could be created and distributed. The science of films was developing, and the NFB promoted use of the filmstrip, a visual aid that was more affordable than films and could be matched with lectures and audio recordings. With the federal Department of Labour, from 1950 to 1956 the NFB produced Labour in Canada, a series of films covering aspects of collective bargaining. These and other films were used as standard teaching materials until the 1970s.
During the 1950s and 1960s internal union education programs were developed in the absence of much interest from post-secondary institutions. When the Canada Labour Congress formed in 1956 with the merger of the Canadian Congress of Labour and the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada, some of the CLC’s labour educators began to integrate facilitating skills, such as role-playing games and discussion groups, from adult education classes and the psychotherapy movement, to supplement formal lectures and imposed curricula. Peer education has a long history in union training, but its informality is most effective when integrated with texts fostering understanding of broad social issues.[xvi]

During the 1970s there were considerable efforts made to promote the equality of the races and sexes in union education. As the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) began to represent a worker population that included more and more women workers, promoting the equality of women became more natural. When particular efforts were made in some unions to integrate matters of interest to female workers into general training for all shop stewards, rather than keeping such material separate in courses devoted to women’s interests, male workers sometimes protested that change was coming too quickly.[xvii] But for female workers equality is still coming too slow, and even after the century ended, average wages for women are less than three-quarters of average wages paid for men. However, provisions against racism and sexual harassment have become workplace and human rights standards across Canada.
In the 1970s Canadian universities and community colleges began to approach labour education as being compatible with their own emerging goals of life-long learning integrated with a worker’s primary occupation. Unfortunately, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and other large union groups had been disappointed by earlier, unsuccessful efforts to develop labour education programmes in co-operation with universities, and had developed their own training centres. The United Auto Workers negotiated paid educational leave for their workers in their contracts, but the CLC sought government funding. The Labour College of Canada received federal grant money, as did the Labour Education and Studies Centre (with its Ottawa base and four regional centres). When the grants were withdrawn after twenty years, the Labour College of Canada scrambled to raise its own funds, but also realized its part-time educators enjoyed more solidarity with students than their union bosses.[xviii] In general, large union groups regarded formal post-secondary courses as competing with their own learning centres. At that time, the only university able to implement a successful program in labour education in co-operation with provincial and regional union groups was St. Francis Xavier University.
Beginning in the 1970s in Alberta, Athabasca University developed efficient and effective programmes in distance education, and by the 1990s had become a certificate and degree-granting institution. The teaching staff used “a wide range of labour-related courses…to provide post-secondary educational opportunities to trade unionists”[xix] across Canada and in other countries, with the co-operation of labour organizations and other programmes.

In the mid-1980s, the Canadian Union of Public Employees began using an online conferencing system called Solinet. Marc Belanger put a text-based conferencing and e-mail system onto a computer at CUPE’s Ottawa headquarters and linked it to the datapac system which gave dial-up modem access from across the country, using local area codes. By 1992, CUPE was presenting online credit and non-credit courses in labour education in co-operation with Athabasca University. This communications network was intended for use by the whole labour community, and in 1995 via the World Wide Web, this network became accessible to anyone with internet access, allowing not only text access but graphics, images, video and sound.
CUPE had become not only the first union but possibly the first national group to develop organized use of their own computer communications system.[xx] Their example was quickly followed by other labour and professional organizations, including such small groups as SF Canada, the national association of professional authors of science fiction and fantasy, many of which took advantage of members’ access to mainframes and servers at universities.[xxi] These smaller networks survived, though CUPE took down Solinet in 1999 when Belanger moved on to a new position with the International Labour Organization.

The role of Canadian universities in labour education continued to change during the 1990s. Capilano College in British Columbia developed a strong programme and eventually won the co-operation of the Canadian Labour Congress. Simon Fraser University announced their development of a bachelor’s degree in labour studies. The University of Manitoba put pressure on the Manitoba Federation of Labour to attract more paying participants for the continuing education programme. And when the federal government withdrew its funding in 1997, St Francis Xavier University ended its Atlantic Region Labour Education Centre and put its effort instead into popular education projects in the developing world through the Coady International Institute.[xxii]

Athabasca University cooperated with programmes in the University of Manitoba and Laurentian University, in hopes of fostering a network across the country of labour studies programmes in collaboration. In South Ontario, colleges and universities developed certificate and degree programmes. As university and college labour studies programmes began to make formal recognition of learning acquired in the workplace and other training, discussions of Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) were conducted with representatives from unions, employers and government. At the end of the 1990s, the New Approaches to Lifelong Learning research network “concluded that PLAR should recognize the skills and knowledge that workers had acquired”[xxiii] without undermining collective bargaining provisions.
The time seemed ripe for a coalition of labour educators, but though university-based labour educators formed the Canadian Labour Education and Research Association in 1994, by 1999 this national association had not been very productive. Many members were active instead in the federal government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which funded research networks in training and education. Any effective coalition of labour educators in future will have to integrate labour-based trainers as well, to promote recognition of lifelong learning in work environments as well as academic training.[xxiv]

Canadian labour education during the twentieth century achieved many worthy goals for both union and non-union workers. Many opportunities were identified for improving both the content and the delivery of labour education. The perception of unions by the general public gradually improved through the century, so for some Canadians, unions are now seen as a positive element in work environments. Labour education has also fostered the general expectation among all Canadian workers (whether union members or not) that good work conditions are now to be expected as a natural condition of employment. During the latter part of the century labour education has been vital part of the effort to recognize the equality of women and women’s work, and the positive elements of multiculturalism in a nation largely populated by immigrants from many countries. With cooperation among labour educators in the future, labour education will be able to succeed consistently.

[i] Spencer, Bruce. Unions and Learning in a Global Economy Thompson, 2002. preface p. 11.
[ii] Taylor, Jeffrey M. Union Learning: Canadian Labour Education in the Twentieth Century. Thomson Educational Publishing, 2001,p. 4.
[iii] Newman, Michael. The Third Contract: Theory and Practice in Trade Union Training, Centre for Popular Education, Sydney NSW. 11th printing, 2002. p. 25.
[iv] Ibid, p. 39.
[v] Taylor, Jeffrey M. Union Learning: Canadian Labour Education in the Twentieth Century. Thomson Educational Publishing, 2001,p. 4.
[vi] Author uncredited, “Levellers” Accessed December, 2005.
[vii] Chomsky, Noam. Media Control: the Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, 2nd edition, Seven Stories Press, ch.5 p.20.
[viii] Taylor, Jeffrey M. Union Learning: Canadian Labour Education in the Twentieth Century. Thomson Educational Publishing, 2001, pp 9-10.
[ix] Ibid, p.11.
[x] Ibid, p 13.
[xi] Ibid, p. 23.
[xii] Johanson, Paula. Unpublished notes from interviews with Mennonite families in Alberta and Manitoba, 1985-2004.
[xiii] Taylor, Jeffrey M. Union Learning: Canadian Labour Education in the Twentieth Century. Thomson Educational Publishing, 2001, p 248.
[xiv] Ibid, p84.
[xv] The World At Six news report, CBC Radio One, November 30, 2005.
[xvi] Taylor, Jeffrey M. Union Learning: Canadian Labour Education in the Twentieth Century. Thomson Educational Publishing, 2001, p.233
[xvii] Ibid, p. 163.
[xviii] Ibid, p.243
[xix] Ibid, p.225.
[xx] Ibid, p. 226.
[xxi] Trudel, Jean-Louis and Johanson, Paula. Conversations on the SF Canada listserver with the list manager, 1994-2005.
[xxii] Taylor, Jeffrey M. Union Learning: Canadian Labour Education in the Twentieth Century. Thomson Educational Publishing, 2001, p231.
[xxiii] Ibid, p. 228.
[xxiv] Ibid, pp.249-50.