Statement of Principles: Education
Education and Change
The trade union movement was born out of the determination to improve the position of workers in our society. Trade union education is, therefore, different from other kinds of education. It is not about developing the skills that will improve productivity or about acquiring skills that will lead to better career opportunities. Rather, it is about defending working people and developing the understanding, commitment, and confidence to change.
Today, many formerly unorganized workers are joining our union, and the new generation of workers in our existing workplaces has no automatic historical ties to the principles of unionism. At the same time, the attacks on unionism are both increasing and more sophisticated. These changes in the workforce and in corporate strategy are intensifying the educational needs of our leadership and membership.
How Workers Learn
Working people learn from their everyday experiences, from their struggles for dignity and equality, and from their democratic participation in the life of the union at all levels: from local committees to Intra-Corporation Councils, to special conferences to the meetings of the union's parliament, the CAW Council. The role of the education department is to reinforce this informal education and to build on it.
Our Education Centre
Our education centre in Port Elgin is the spiritual centre of the union. It has all the best elements of an adult educational facility. It was built to encourage working people to gather in smaller groups to discuss their problems and debate the major issues of the times. It recognizes the need for top quality childcare for families. It is a cultural centre full of artwork celebrating the lives of ordinary people, past struggles, solidarity with others and internationalism. It fits into, and is enriched by, the natural environment. It is a place where current strengths will be consolidated, new ideas generated, future activists formed, and where collective pride and confidence can emerge and flourish.
The Education Department
The role of the Education Department is to:
- Provide basic education to new members about the structure and role of our union;
- Ensure that the leadership of the union is adequately trained so it can represent the membership in the workplace, in collective bargaining and in the administration of the union;
- Create the programs and material to help activists get a handle on what is happening in the world, put it into the context of our history and philosophy and move ahead towards social unionism;
- Develop the educators who can move out into the field to carry out these programs.
Participation in these programs requires the active support, at the local level, of education committees working with the local leadership. The function of these committees is to:
- Stimulate locally initiated discussions;
- Inform the membership of the educational programs that are available within the union (and in the community);
- Assess the educational needs of the local;
- Work with the national education department to implement the programs.
The Educational Programs of the Union Include:
- New Member Orientation
- New Unit (or New Local) Program
- Family Education Program
- Local Union Classes
- Area Classes
- Special Conferences
- Paid Education Leave