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Those interested in promoting Interntional Solidarity within their divison, council or local can learn from the success of the International Solidarity Committee in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Here is what committee members Debra Nichol, Bill Hynd, Pete Halliday and Jeanne Clarke did to turn things around.

Turning Things Around - International Solidarity in Newfoundland

It was only a year ago that CUPE’s International Solidarity group In Newfoundland feared the end was near. Interest within CUPE was almost non-existent. Desperate measure were needed.

Determined to see something happen long-standing IS member Pete Halliday approached provincial president Wayne Lucas for ideas around recruitment and a plan of action. Together they decided to recruit people who could help build International Solidarity. Wayne then approached CUPE member Bill Hynd. As an employee of an international development agency Oxfam Canada, Bill was well suited to assist the IS committee.

To get the Committee up and running Pete Halliday arranged for Graham Deline to visit Newfoundland and meet with the Provincial Executive and the new Committee members. In a friendly informal setting the new IS committee was able to discuss with Graham and Pete CUPE’s plans and goals for international solidarity. Here we learned that IS is about working with unions in other countries around issues of mutal concern, and that IS is not charity

This led to a more formal meeting of the four active IS members. Over one winter weekend they discussed the issues facing IS and the goals they would like to set for themselves. The challenge they faced was winning support for IS from their CUPE brothers and sisters. For too many CUPE members international solidarity was seen primarily as talking about issues overseas and then asking for money. The new IS realised that they would have to dispel the image.

The new committee decided it was time to get active and show that many global issues have direct relevance to local circumstances. To this end, the committee sent a editorial piece to the editor (St. John’s Telegram, Mar 4/01) entitled “Free trade versus the public good.” The Committee also agreed to co-sponsor and actively support Oxfam’s “Trade, Democracy and Human Rights” public forum (Mar 31/01).

In order to promote IS work within CUPE, Pete Halliday lobbied and won two hours of convention time to present the Committee report and to educate the delegates as to the important issues that the Committee is dealing with. To assist with this presentation the committee persuaded Anna Dashtgard of the Common Front on the WTO to speak. Anna’s powerful presentation on the FTAA Quebec Summit meetings and protest, where she highlighted that more and more working people are standing up against corporated globalization, proved to be a convention high point. Graham Deline also attended the convention as was able to explain clearly the importance of International Solidarity work for CUPE.

By the close of the 2001 CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador Convention, the local IS committee were not only congratulated for the work done over the year but were given full endorsement and support for the work ahead. As a sign of support approximately 30 delegates added their names to a new International Solidarity action email list. In a meeting after their presentation at the convention the attending IS members then started discussing plans for the upcoming months.

Lessons learned:



  • The way we are looking at IS work is much more saleable than the more charity oriented view of the work that we were pushing before.



  • The way we are looking at IS work is much more saleable than the more charity oriented view of the work that we were pushing before.



  • The way we are looking at IS work is much more saleable than the more charity oriented view of the work that we were pushing before.



  • IS committees need a practical plan of activities.



  • IS Committes need a chairperson who knows how to get things done (i.e. not someone doing stuff with the division for the first time or who doesn’t know anyone on the executive).



  • They also need someone who is plugged into the international development community in their area and who knows about development issues.



  • It really helps when you can use something that is in the news to build interest and support (like the FTAA meeting and demos)