A Beautiful Thing
/ Author: Wayne Prins
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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A Beautiful Thing

Over 200 delegates, guests, dignitaries, and staff were on hand at the CLAC National Convention, held in Kitchener, Ontario, October 26 to 27, 2017. What they experienced was a union and a labour movement with a lot of forward energy

The following is an edited excerpt from the state-of-the-union address by Wayne Prins, executive director, at the CLAC National Convention.

IF THIS IS A STATE-of-the-union address, I would say the state of the union is unbelievably strong. But it begs the question, what is next?

CLAC has moved beyond the point where the challenges that come at us are a matter of survival like they used to be. We have an incredible level of stability and deep resources.

But what comes with that is an obligation to do more. To move beyond ourselves, beyond our organization—perhaps even beyond our country—to make an impact elsewhere.

We have a vision as a union and as a labour movement, and the force behind that vision has great potential to impact lives beyond what we’re currently doing. The services that we provide for our members are fundamental, but we are also in the business of creating culture now.

Culture is the collective way that a group of people behave and the decisions they make. We have a responsibility to go out and shape our culture beyond the workplaces we represent, beyond our own organization.

We’re a values-based organization that embodies the redemptive spirit of labour relations. We’re about rebuilding something that we’ve identified as broken.

But what’s true in labour relations is also true in many other areas of society that we can influence. It’s that redemptive effort to rebuild something into what I would say is the created intent for things. The created intent of good community, of fairness, of building communities that are strong, in a spirit of grace.

That’s what we’re in the business of doing. But what does it actually mean?

For individual members, it means instilling them with a sense of dignity. It means going to our members beyond the day-to-day service that we provide as a union and reminding them that there is dignity in each and every one of them as an individual, created person—equal in every regard to everyone else around them.

Locally, in the workplaces we represent, it means building workplace communities where fairness is honoured, where we’re looking out for each other, where there’s a collective interest in working together to help those people who are vulnerable, who need a little bit of extra help.

Nationally, it means embracing who we are. It means having a real courageous and secure grasp of our own identity in this country, an identity that we use as a platform to advance policy. We have found our voice but there’s much more that we can do to broadly and unapologetically deliver our message.

And what does our redemptive effort mean internationally? We are members of the World Organization of Workers, an organization that shares our values and work. In every corner of the world, WOW is promoting the interests of workers, and they are doing excellent work.

We belong there. We are a beacon of inspiration because they look to CLAC as a thriving values-based union in Canada. And if we can be there as an inspiration, and as a source of encouragement for unions around the world who are pushing for the same success in their corner of the world, then that’s a beautiful thing.

That spirit of grace that animates our actions is shared in our partnerships with other organizations who walk in parallel with us. We have many more opportunities to expand our focus. Currently, there is no community in the country for progressive unions that view the fundamental relationship between labour and employers the same way CLAC does.

We are going to create that community. That is the next step in expanding our culture and creating forward energy across Canada.

I love the energy that exists within CLAC—with our staff, the delegates here, and our stewards and members. If you look at CLAC, there is not a union in the country that comes close to having such a broad team of energetic and enthusiastic individuals full of vision and passion as we do.

We ought to be very proud of who we are. We ought to be very proud of where we came from, but also of where we’re going. Because there’s so much that we have going for us today and in the years to come.


Special thanks to outgoing board members Louise DeBoer-Jakos, Garth McDowell, and Jack Vanderschaaf for their years of faithful service to the organization, and a warm welcome to newly elected board members Henk de Zoete, Neil Houtman, and Chris Janzen.

Your New National Board

Henk de Zoete

Irma Friesen

Bram Hoff

Neil Houtman

Christian Janzen

John Kamphof

Alice Nicholson

Bert Van Niejenhuis

Adrian VanDelft

Co Vanderlaan

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