Are you interested to know how labor issues are handled in other countries? Are there ways of dealing with union and labor problems that other industrialized countries are employing, that the United States is not? Plans are being made now for a delegation from the IU Northwest labor studies department to participate in a one- week union school in Ontario, Canada. IU Northwest students made history when they joined with 200 rank-and-file labor activists and leaders at the one-week union school in February, 2003. The Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Labour Congress (equivalent to our AFL-CIO) welcomed the delegation, praising the historic participation of U.S. workers at their annual winter school. Groups from IU Northwest went in 2004 and 2005, and the preparations for February’s trip are well underway.
During the last session, IU Northwest students, led by Professor Ruth Needleman
of the Division of Labor Studies, spent a week at a labor conference center
in Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada studying labor issues and union skills. Some
participants, clutching birth certificates and journals, had never traveled
outside the U.S. before. The labor studies program encourages a wide range
of learning, and organized this cross-border encounter to broaden the learning
scope of it’s students.
Students are warned to prepare for blustery, subzero weather, deep snow, and
good food. Participant’s use words like “fantastic” “unbelievable” and “intense” to
describe the week-long session. According to three students, the experience
was more democratic and egalitarian than any they had ever had before. Participants
note that everyone respects each other, whether teacher, local president or
new activist. Some have also discovered that basic union skills are the same
on both sides of the border.
IU Northwest students spread out taking various classes, including stewards training, communications and media, strategies for resistance, and instructor training. They keep journals while in Canada, and build cross-border networks and relationships that extend far beyond a classroom.
Openings are available for the upcoming session at a low cost to the student.
For more information, or if you are interested in some of labor studies’ exciting
programs, and Canada in particular, contact the IU Northwest Labor Studies
office at 219 980-6835.