Colleen Reynolds | CUPE Communications
As part of the privatization fightback in Nova Scotia, CUPE members reached out to elected officials across the province in November 2016. With research and messages on privatization and contracting services back in house, twelve member activists met face-to-face with 65 city councillors and Members of the Legislative Assembly.
The campaign had three goals: to train members to lobby and establish the foundation of a new network of member activists, to leverage the network going into the 2017 provincial election and beyond, and to establish long-term relationships with local leaders so that we can work together.
The members received one day of lobby training facilitated by staff from communications, research and union education. The group practiced their new skills and began preparations for their own lobbying activities. “Without positive conversation and relationships with our elected officials, we will for the most part be not much more than a bystander on important decisions in our communities. I am excited to start fresh with these folks,” said Greg Williams, member activist.
Initially some members were nervous, but determined to do their best. As member activist Mary Jessome said, “My first solo meeting was with Larry Dauphinee and Paul MacNeil of Inverness County. I can breathe now. I was nervous at first, but now I’m having a blast!” Member lobby coordinator Pauline Chicarella assisted with booking appointments and profiling elected officials.
Throughout the campaign, members and staff shared ideas via a private Facebook page about their successes and lessons learned. At the end of the month, members submitted a diary of their experience with observations. The meetings revealed many contracts that are under review and opportunities for CUPE members to help bring those services back in house.
Many councillors asked to meet with our members on a regular basis in the future, and appreciated the effort to “work together” to find solutions. The team received invitations to present the Back In House report at council sessions in Baddeck, Inverness, Digby, Shelburne, Queens County, Colchester County, Victoria County, and Sydney.
On December 6, we learned that a motion was unanimously passed “that Halifax Regional Council request a staff report that analyzes the cost and benefits of clearing sidewalks to bare concrete, comparing the options of contracting out these services and providing the service in house.” While making the motion, Councilor Shawn Cleary cited the Back In House report. “The Centre for Civic Governance in British Columbia did a report recently looking at 15 municipal units across the country, including Port Hawkesbury and Moncton that brought various services in house.”
Toward the end of the campaign, CUPE NS President, Nan McFadgen sent this message to the team: “I have to tell you all how very proud I am of the work you have done. This is how change happens, one conversation at a time with our voices at the right table. CUPE Nova Scotia is moving in a new direction. You have paved the way for this path in the future!”
Many of the activists echoed sentiments expressed by their teammate Denise Hutchings Lewis: “I learned a lot by doing this lobby and I am thankful for the chance to not only enlighten the elected members we met with, but myself also. I am happy to have been a part of it!”