By Alan Wong

February 2020

In January, the Manitoba Federation of Labour held their mid-term conference on The Future of Work: The Next Century of Solidarity. In attendance representing ACTRA was Kevin Longfield, Ali Tataryn and myself. A summary of the presentations we were able to attend:

The Future of Work and Workers by Armine Yalnizyan

Armine Yalnizyan, a writer, activist, senior economist and Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers from Toronto, gave a presentation about what the future might look like for workers. She highlighted positives and negatives, citing the changing demographic and technology as major factors for the type of work we will see grow and shrink.  To read her presentation slides, which give you all the main points, click here.

Building Diversity and Inclusion Within Our Unions – Panel:

Marie Clarke Walker (Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Labour Congress), Gina McKay (Labour Director, United Way Winnipeg)

The panelists explained why diversity and inclusion are important in our workplaces. They also gave advice on how to improve equity in the workplace and spoke about how being an ally for equity and inclusivity is important. Gina McKay focused on gender diversity and outlined the proper use of pronouns, while laying out the state of gender identity rights in Canada. Gina finished by providing resources in her PowerPoint presentation, which can be viewed here.

Public Services as Tools to Build Equality – Panel:

Paul Moist (President Emeritus, Canadian Union for Public Employees), Lynne Fernandez (Errol Black Chair, CCPA Manitoba), Armine Yalnizyan (Senior Economist and Atkinson Foundation Fellow on the Future of Workers)

These presenters each had a theme to their talks. Paul spoke primarily of the past, reminding us of why the unions came to be and what worker conditions were like before. He brought the message that we must embrace public services and alliances with activists and the fight for worker, human, climate, and democratic rights. A couple of interesting points:

  • 1971 was the last year that the birth rate exceeded replacement
  • The social wage (cost per person of our essential public services) was $17,000 in 2017

His PowerPoint slides can be found here.

Ms. Fernandez focused on the present, outlining the challenges we are facing, not only as a society, but as unionized workers. She broke down the increasing inequality and the post-financial crisis economy. She had some very interesting comparisons to Europe and her slides can be seen here.

Finally, Armin spoke about the future, denouncing the idea of basic minimum income, calling it a “distraction” from the strategies that could realistically reduce pressures. Some of her points:

  • In the 20th century the dynamic was to maximize profits and growth
  • In the 21st century we should maximize human potential and public resources
  • Basic income means different things to different people
    • What does it solve?
    • Poverty?
    • Red tape?
    • Precarious work?
  • How much does a basic income cost? ($32b)
  • Basic income is an old idea revisited, but why now?
    • Not enough paid work
    • “modernize” social assistance
    • Unfinished business from 20th century
  • Basic income versus basic services
    • Could put the $32b towards Pharmacare, free tuition, student loan forgiveness.

One very strong point was the idea that we aren’t necessarily better off with more money, but when we NEED LESS money. Her slides, along with sources and links can be found here.

SPEAKER: Wab Kinew

The leader of the provincial NDP gave a rousing speech about why we need to stay the course, continue to keep the current administration accountable and gave reassurances that the party was united once more, that the old in-fighting was resolved and that they were ready to challenge Premier Pallister going forward.

Automation and the Jobs of Tomorrow by Paul Vogt (Past President of Red River College, Past Clerk of Executive Council and Senior Advisor to Gary Doer)

An interesting presentation about the future of automation. Did not necessarily relate to our industry, so did not take notes. No slides.

Climate Action & Just Transition: Panel:

Gil McGowan (President, Alberta Federation of Labour), Molly McCracken (Director, CCPA – Manitoba), Mark Hudson (Past President, University of Manitoba Faculty Association/CCPA Research Associate)

The first speaker, Gil, who happens to be the President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, representing labour unions in that beleaguered oil and gas province, revealed to us what their position was regarding their situation. Opposed to Kenney’s stance on the preservation of an energy industry in decline, he recited his organization’s plea to PM Trudeau that there needs to be assistance in the transition.

Molly McCracken reinforced this standpoint by presenting the broader issues facing Canadians and possible solutions to our climate challenges. Her presentation can be viewed here.

We then, participated in a group exercise, brainstorming different answers to questions related to the future of our members, climate action and what we can do. Those notes can be found here.

Messaging and Engagement in the Digital Realm by Heather Fraser, The NOW Group

Heather gave a very interesting and engaging presentation on communication in the modern age. How can we spread our messaging effectively in the time of excessive media?

Some points below:

  • We need to change our habits
  • Message matters; we have to ring five bells
    • Believable
    • Relevant
    • Contrast ideal vs. present
    • Unique
    • Values
  • Amplify what folks believe
  • Talk about people, not process
  • Digital tools should lead people to action
  • Build a community, not an audience
  • Big difference between social noise and social action
  • Ingredients:
    • Urgency
    • Meaning
    • Impact
  • Theory of change: bring people into the story
  • Social media tools
    • Twitter: don’t abandon it to right wing. Appeals to chattering class
    • FB skews female and middle aged
    • Instagram = visuals and younger audience
    • YouTube = video, younger
    • Personal display = paid
  • Photos and images should be relevant to the audience, not “us”
  • Use language that is meaningful to your audience
  • Ask how audiences will experience campaigns
  • Geo-target ads.

To view her slides, click here.

Finally, the closing remarks were made by Kevin Rebeck, the President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour.

All in all, it was a very informative and interesting conference. I would highly recommend anyone who is interested in politics attend this conference in the future.

Thanks to Kevin Longfield for his contribution to these notes.