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A union is a fluid organization that must constantly adapt to reflect the society it serves and meet its needs. Most important, for the union movement to remain relevant, “you need to step forward and get involved,” said Lucie Levasseur, president of CUPE-Quebec, to a packed room at the Summer School of the Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) last weekend.

Each generation has gotten involved in the union movement in order to change society based on its particular priorities and values,” Levasseur noted. “First, people wanted to put an end to child labour and reduce the work week to 60 hours and, eventually, to 40 hours. Then came the concept of vacation. Until then people worked 52 weeks a year.”

People fought to establish a minimum wage. Then, they moved on to the notion of occupational health and safety. On a broader scale, they founded the social democratic and labour parties, and then these parties forced the creation of all modern social programs like Medicare, Employment Insurance and Old Age Pension.”

CUPE-Quebec is a proud partner of INM’s Summer School, the ninth edition of which is offered under the theme “It’s Time for Action”.

It is in this spirit that CUPE-Quebec’s president asked the room, “How do you want to change society, and how are you going to change the union movement to achieve this? The answer is up to you; the unions of tomorrow will be yours, but remember, as I said at the start, you need to step forward and get involved!”

Levasseur was speaking at a “lunch and learn” event featuring NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. He recounted the official opposition’s struggles against the Harper government in Ottawa and stressed the importance that people use their right to vote to uphold their values at both the federal and provincial levels.

In keeping with these views, Levasseur also spoke of the importance of voting among today’s youth. Students clearly demonstrated the power of grassroots action during the recent Maple Spring. “Now, it’s time to make your voices heard in the political arena to reverse the trend of decreasing voter participation rates among young people.”

More than 500 people from across Quebec attended the event.