A Collective Community Voice
The history of the struggle of working people emphasizes the point that in unity there is strength. Through collective action, workers formed unions so they could have a voice in deciding wages, working conditions and addressing the many problems and issues that arise in the workplace.
But just as workers use collective strength in the workplace to achieve their goals, so should they use collective action to improve the quality of life in the communities in which they live. Labour councils are the vehicle to provide the collective strength and a strong voice for workers and their families in the community. Understanding the important role played by councils, the Executive Council of the Canadian Labour Congress affirmed its support tor labour councils by adopting the following statement, unanimously, in March 1993.
CLC Executive Council Statement on Labour Councils
CLC district labour councils play an integral role in promoting and carrying out the programs and policies of the CLC The day-to-day operation of labour councils, along with the additional actions requested by the CLC or federations of labour, in most cases is undertaken by volunteer trade union activists.
The Executive Council of the Canadian Labour Congress recognizes the efforts labour councils undertake, and we wish to express our gratitude. We also recognize the challenges councils face.
In order to rid ourselves of the right-wing corporate agenda in this country, tremendous effort must be made at all levels, particularly at the grass roots. Therefore, the Executive Council of the CLC calls on all locals, lodges and branches of CLC affiliates to take steps to affiliate and participate in the labour councils within their area.
Labour council meetings and activities are opportunities to share information on issues affecting unions and their membership in the community. Through identifying issues, local awareness is built Furthermore, support can be generated through collective action.
Conflict and/ or Strike Support
Labour councils can provide support for local unions who are in conflict with employers. When locals participate on a regular basis at labour councils, all other locals participating are aware of the issues well before any conflict, strike or lockout takes place. This ensures community and union support can come quickly in an effort to resolve problems.
Labour councils are participating more and more in networks and local coalitions. This provides the opportunity for local unions to keep informed on current issues affecting community groups. In addition, it gives locals who may be looking for support the avenue to reach directly into numerous organizations and tell their story. When more people understand me issue, more support for an issue is usually generated.
Every labour council has at least one opportunity during the year to host a weekend Trade Union School. As a participant in the labour council, each local union has the chance to be part of the discussion process regarding courses which will be offered. The vast array of courses offered through the CLC education programs provide local unions opportunities for trade union education among their activists and members.
Each labour council has a number of committees which allow local union delegates to use their skills to great advantage by becoming active members of these bodies.
Examples of committees a council may have include: Women's Education, Human Rights, Union Labour & Labour Day, Community Outreach, Membership and Strike Support.
Municipal Political Action
Many labour councils over the years have been very effective in shaping the political landscape in their communities. Municipal politics can have a great impact on local unions, their members and the public at large. As a voice for progressive change, social justice, equality and workers' rights, the council can play a significant role in supporting labour candidates or progressive candidates who share Labour's views on the above issues and others. Your local union can be part of all discussions on Labour's municipal political actions
As a participating local in the labour council, local delegates have the opportunity to take on leadership roles, whether it be as an executive member or committee person. Labour council experiences can bring new skills to people aspiring to leadership positions in their locals.
Labour councils can be of great importance to the communities in which we all live. However, labour councils can only make a difference when local unions care enough to be part of building labour's voice in the community.