Tomorrow, CLAC delegates will arrive in Kitchener, Ontario, to participate in the union’s 2017 National Convention. Two hundred people will converge to conduct the affairs of the union, and perhaps have a little fun together!
Delegates are representative of each of the 25 active union locals that make up CLAC. They come from across the country and represent members working in a variety of sectors, including construction, healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, education, security, emergency services, and more.
The gathering provides a time for us to celebrate the achievements of the union in its 65th year, and a chance to encourage each other as we do the work of representing members from our various corners of the country. But the convention serves three primary purposes, all of which are crucial to the success of our union.
The first is to ensure that CLAC staff, national board members, and local board officers are managing the organization and its resources well. Delegates will review audited financial statements to ensure that finances are being used lawfully, and with proper controls. They will elect a national board—the body that is entrusted to serve in the delegates’ place as overseers of CLAC’s executive director and its staff. Affiliated locals will also give a report on their activities, attesting to how they are serving the members and representing their interests.
The second function of the convention is to ensure that the mission and purpose of the organization is in tact, that it remains central to the daily work of the union, and that the principles that guide us are still relevant in the modern workplace. The national board president will report on the activities of the national board and its work in guiding and directing CLAC in the intervening time since the last convention. Executive Director Wayne Prins will offer a state of the union address reporting on, among other things, the successes of the activities, programs, and services that CLAC offers its members.
At some conventions, the delegates will receive motions to amend the constitution of the union. Sometimes, changes are made to ensure CLAC is operationally effective. Other constitutional reviews include a look at supplements A and B—the portions of our constitution that articulate the beliefs and values that give structure and shape to the principles that guide our union’s work.
The third function of the convention is to give voice to matters that are of concern to CLAC’s 60,000 members. Locals, staff, and elected leaders influence their workplace every day—how work is done, and how justice is achieved. But once every so often, we gather together as a national organization so that we can lift our attention from our immediate workplaces to matters beyond the bargaining unit.
At convention, we seek to amplify the voice of our members so that we can prompt change to the systems, to the politics and regulatory frameworks that affect our industries and our sectors. We do that by calling for, debating, and passing resolutions.
Often, we’ll resolve to call on government to direct resources and energy toward systemic problems that have gone unresolved. In 2014, for example, CLAC called on the Ontario government to address flaws with the system of criminal records checks, problems that resulted in the inconsistent and unjust treatment of healthcare workers. In an industry where background checks are mandatory, hundreds and perhaps thousands of workers were deprived of continued employment because some police departments recorded and reported simple complaints and unproven allegations.
On other occasions, conventions have called on enhanced safety legislation for road crews, or certification and credentialing of highly-skilled and dangerous work. We have also committed the resources of the organization to represent and support firefighters whose union caused them to lose their job as punishment for also serving as volunteer firefighters.
So in case an official from your union local is absent this week, or you’re wondering what your staff representative has been up to, the answer is protecting the union, setting its direction, and giving voice to the interests and concerns of 60,000 CLAC members.
When you have a chance to speak to your local delegate or staff representative, ask them about convention. You might be proud to know what your union is doing to make work a better experience.