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Making waves

Getting noticed. Making a positive impact. Thats what communicating is all about. When you publish a leaflet, talk to members, phone reporters, coax administrators, pressure politicians, get involved in elections, you are making waves. You are taking action. In the union movement this is generally called political action.

Many CUPE members have used political action to stop contracting out, budge a stubborn employer, reverse a budget cut, deter the use of volunteers and fight employer demands to cut hours creating more part-time work at the expense of full-time jobs.

CUPE members deliver services to the public. Key policies affecting our work lives are often set by politicians at different levels of government.

The real decision-makers are elected officials not the personnel manager or the labour relations officer. In fact, electing labour-friendly people to office makes dealing with our immediate managers that much easier.

Going public gives CUPE members an important voice in the democratic process. By working hard with the public, we can pressure elected officials to make sound decisions that benefit both workers and services.

Guidelines for political action

  1. Set up a political action committee to focus on educating politicians about your public service.

  2. Examine your locals goals and how those goals can be achieved through political action. For example, if you work for a community child care centre and want a fair wage, clearly increased funding for your day care is a political goal.

  3. Ask yourself what your members are prepared to do to achieve your goal.

  4. Plan your campaign step by step.

  5. Remember your message. Does your plan of action reinforce it?

  6. Study management and what makes them react positively.

  7. Consider a joint action with other unions or forming a public coalition. In some instances, your employer may even be a coalition partner because some services are so under-funded even management realizes the need to lobby for increases.

  8. Help shape public views on your issue (leafleting, letters, news conferences, phone calls, UseNet news groups and on-line chats, events, calls to listener feedback lines).

  9. Lobby politicians. Remember, politicians are there to be spoken to. They have a responsibility to meet with you or speak with you. They are not doing you a favour. You elected them, you pay their salary and they have an obligation to listen. Lobbying is simply a fancy term for speaking with your elected representatives and leaving behind some written information for them to consider. Dont forget that you will know more about your workplace than they will so dont let them intimidate you.

  10. Find out who is on your board or municipal council and ask the following:

    • What do they stand for and what was their election platform?

    • What do they think about cutbacks, privatization and contracting out? If its during an election, get them to answer a questionnaire on these issues so you will have something to hold them to if they start to enact anti-worker policies.

    • What are their formal political affiliations (are they a Liberal, Alliance, New Democrat, Tory or Bloc)?

    • What motivates them to respond, e.g., public pressure or their powerful friends?

  11. What can we do between elections?

    • Be a watchdog. Get to know politicians. Get them to know us. Go to their meetings so you know whats going on. Monitor their web sites.

    • Find friends. Make sure they give us information.

    • Develop regular news bulletins or releases which track the issues so you can give them to members.

    • Work on campaigns to elect progressive candidates.