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Ed Thomas, a grade school dropout who overcame his own literacy issues to write labour books, has been awarded the second annual CUPE literacy award. An active member of CUPE 5167 and literacy advocate, Thomas credits his enrolment in Hamilton’s Literacy in the Workplace Program with changing the course of his life.

“Collective agreements are the most difficult documents to read—all the more reason to offer literacy programs to empower CUPE activists,” he said. Thomas’ latest book, Dead But Not Forgotten, is dedicated to workers who have been killed or injured on the job.

Ed’s first experience with learning was a challenge as he struggled with spelling and vocabulary. He failed grade one, grade three, grade five and grade seven, and dropped out of school by age 15.

After enrolling in the Literacy in the Workplace Program, Thomas started to write resolutions and articles for his union’s newsletter. He discovered old union photos and began to write a leaflet about his local’s history, which soon evolved into his first book.

Ed was instrumental in getting collective bargaining language to grant paid leave in his local for literacy training.

“There is a perception among many that literacy is not a problem, but unfortunately that is not true. Literacy empowers our activist members and gives them the confidence to participate in union affairs,” said Thomas in accepting his award from CUPE President Paul Moist.

In addition to his work as a literacy activist, Ed was congratulated by CUPE Secretary Treasurer Claude Généreux for his high profile work in promoting the Day of Mourning as an international event.