Core Program (Four Week Program)


(One offering per year - click here to find the dates for the next 4-week core program.)

Our local unions need strong leaders and well-equipped activists. Many of today's CAW top leadership and staff credit the 4-week core program with providing them with the skills, analytical tools and confidence they rely on everyday as social justice and union leaders.

Offered over several months, the program focuses on a number of key themes: the union, the workplace, the economy, politics and human rights. Using case studies, guest speakers, small group discussions, debates, project work, film and video, media studies and art and culture participants learn about past and current (as well as international) struggles for democracy and social justice.

Participants in the 4-week core program tackle tough issues and build real skills:

  • Communication and research (listening, debating, public speaking, working with the media, using the internet);
  • Critical thinking, analysis building, strategic organizing;
  • Union-building (making the most of meetings and committees, participating in conventions);
  • Activism & community-building (getting involved in an 'activist project' during the program).

Past participants describe their experience as "fun, engaging, tough, exciting, and empowering". The four week core program is the most comprehensive trade union education course offered in Canada, and has a world-wide reputation among trade unionists. Take advantage of it.

A description of each week follows:

Week 1

In Week 1 of PEL, participants are introduced to themes which include the workplace, the union, social identity, politics and economics.  Week 1 examines issues such as:  what we have in common as workers; the origins of our union and the lessons of the struggles to build it; Quebec; basic economic relationships; and understanding democracy.

Week 2

Week 2 of PEL deepens areas explored in Week 1 and focuses on how to consciously use critical thinking to analyze a range of issues:  race; gender; sexual orientation; youth; the union's relationship to party and extra-parliamentary politics; democracy and leadership in the union; aspects of the economic system and government economic policies; and the making of the modern workplace.  Participants also practice public speaking.

Week 3

In the third week of PEL, the pace and structure of the program changes.  Topic sessions are longer, there are a number of guest speakers, and participants prepare to do projects when they return to their local unions.  As well, there are sessions on protest art and preparation of resolutions for a PEL convention in Week 4.  Globalization, social identity-based caucuses and networks in the union, attacks on the union movement, strategies for dealing with management, and issues around labour-friendly governments are some of the topics covered in Week 3.

Week 4

The focus of Week 4, the last week of the program, is a PEL convention, patterned as closely as possible on a real convention.  Participants submit resolutions and serve on a resolutions committee.  During this final week there are also report-backs on the various projects that participants have completed in the extended time between Weeks 3 and 4.