CUPE’s education program has changed dramatically since the early days of our union.
It has changed to reflect the changing face of our union and to reach out and involve our diverse membership. We have designed workshops to address specific issues like homophobia and racism, and started to integrate equality issues, race, class and gender analysis into the content
of all our workshops. As well, more members and staff from equality seeking groups are involved as facilitators. We are currently running a national literacy project, “Making Literacy a Union Issue”, aimed at building literacy awareness and expertise at all levels of the union. And some CUPE locals have negotiated excellent workplace training programs funded by the employer but operated jointly by the union and the employer.
Our workshops have also changed to reflect the education community’s growing understanding of adult education and popular education techniques. Now, workshops are a place where members share their wealth of expertise and experience. Participants develop a collective analysis, rather than coming to listen to a lecture by an “expert”. “Facilitators” (instead of “instructors”) facilitate learning in a “learner-centred” approach that invites participants to take responsibility for decisions, actions and consequences. And the techniques used in our workshops take into account all the ways our members learn and the different educational backgrounds they bring to the room.
An emerging and growing area of work is joint workplace education with employers. In these sessions, we deliver union workshops on the employer’s time with the employer covering costs. Topics include harassment awareness, stress, and professional development. In 2000, the union reached tens of thousands of members across the country through sessions like these. The harassment workshops, run jointly with CUPE’s Equality Branch, have usually been organized in response to harassment problems in the workplace. Through these sessions, CUPE has developed an excellent reputation for our
program to combat harassment in the workplace.