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The first discussion of CUPE’s Strategic Directions document confirmed that the priority of addressing the economic crisis, whose impact on many was described as ‘heartbreaking,’ is right on the money. A workers’ agenda includes improving pensions, reforming Employment Insurance, and recognizing the economic and social value of child care.

The need for green jobs in a sustainable economy generated much discussion. Delegates talked about the importance of working with our environmental allies to ensure that green jobs are also good jobs and that the public sector takes a lead in creating these jobs.

Members from post-secondary education locals rose in support of the commitment to lobby for an increase in federal government transfers for post-secondary education. With universities being major employers and contributors to local economies and concerns about the sell-off of valuable assets and land to raise needed funds, this area is a priority.

On the benefits of working with business and government to address the economic crisis, many were sceptical, particularly given relentless message that public services, unions and workers are the problem. Delegates expressed the desire for CUPE to help counter the myths and anti-worker messages.

Political action, in all of its forms, is an important part of tackling the economic crisis. Support activists to get involved in elections at every level, both as campaign workers and as candidates. Shine a light on the dismal voter turnout and focus on getting our members registered to vote and out to the polls. Get on to community boards and participate in decision-making. Let politicians know about our issues and hold them accountable once they are elected.

Delegates want a greater focus on the work of CUPE district councils and encouraged CUPE members to get involved in the local and regional councils of provincial and national labour federations. Successful political action also means finding better ways to reach out to multicultural communities and to ensure that CUPE supports aboriginal members and others from traditional marginalized groups to engage in political action.

The sentiments of many who spoke passionately about the need to focus on member activism and participation were summed up by Nick Bonokoski of CUPE 3761’s call to “build within and fight to win.”

Discussion on Strategic Priority 2: Defending free collective bargaining and resisting concessions will take place on Wednesday morning.