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Society is changing in ways that present new challenges and threats to our jobs, our living conditions and our communities.

Increasing corporate power is having an impact on our workplaces. Our members are dealing with work reorganization schemes and ongoing pressure from privatization and cutbacks. The corporations who are pushing for privatization, deregulation and public sector cuts are working together globally, through trade agreements like NAFTA, GATS, and the FTAA. We, too, need to work with unions globally to stand up for our members’ rights.

Our members are bombarded by media messages that are pro-business, anti-union, and anti-public sector. Workers’ stories, and a worker’s perspective on stories, don’t get reported.

Public sector restructuring is changing the way our locals look and how they have to operate. Now we have mega-locals, locals spread across thousands of kilometers, and composite locals representing members with different employers.

And we have internal challenges to face.

Our membership, too, is changing and becoming more diverse. We need to do more to ensure that all workers – particularly equity seeking groups – are not left out of our union. Workers of colour and First Nations workers, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered workers, disabled workers, older workers and young workers need to have full access to our education programs. And participants in all programs need to come away with an understanding of how issues impact differently on different groups within the membership.

Another challenge is that not all CUPE locals are accessing our education program. Not all are investing in union education for both experienced and new activists.

How can we make sure every local in CUPE has access to our education program? How can we assist locals to identify and address the specific skills they need to defend their members’ rights? How can we encourage more locals to invest in the education of newer members and activists and use education to build the skills of the leaders of tomorrow? How can we use union education to build solidarity within CUPE and within the larger labour movement? These are the questions we need to answer to make sure our locals all benefit from CUPE’s education program.