There is clearly a shift taking place in the way that we organize our economy. With every shift in the economic conditions that define our society there is a parallel opportunity to redefine the relationships that shape that society.
The Canadian Union of Skilled Workers was formed in 1999 by a group of workers that came together to build a union that would redefine the way that work would be organized in the workplace while at the same time redefining the relationship between workers and the broader community.
We believed that the workplace of the 21st century would have the potential to contribute to building a civil and social environment where there is mutual respect amongst workers and employers and a sincere desire to work together for the betterment of all.
To accomplish this we would need to promote a new kind of economy. A progressive economy that respects the environment that we live in and the people who we live with.
We would also need to work with strong partners to build capacity in that economy and we would need to develop a workforce with the skills to make the transition a success.
Today we can say that we are well on our way to realizing those goals. We are part of building capacity in a sustainable economy where people matter. Through partnerships, such as SmartNet Alliance and Alliance Learning, we are able to encourage like-minded people to come together to build that society.
What does this mean for us?
Back in 1999 CUSW adopted the phrase Knowledge Worker to represent the concept of a worker who understands the world around them. A worker who can adapt to the changes that are taking place in their workplace. In this new economy not only will it be up to workers to know what is taking place around them but it will also be up to them to provide their creativity and input into shaping how work is carried out.
CUSW is well on our way to bringing these ideas to life. We have developed a Leadership Academy to support both the Knowledge Worker and our employer partners. Through face-to-face and on-line learning, members are able to access the information that they need, to participate in the day-to-day affairs of CUSW and the workplace. Though Take the LEAD, members learn how CUSW operates and the role that democratic participation has in making it a success. The union is the members.
On the employer front we are already seeing a new style of employer emerging with a more inclusive approach to the operation of the workforce. The layers of management that once defined the industrial workplace are being replaced by a collaboration of skills and talents that break down traditional job descriptions and defined roles. Employers and workers are partners in success.
Utilizing the legal framework of a union allows Architects, Engineers, technicians and the appropriate trade support workers to come together with a voice in the structure that these workplaces will take on. Through democratic participation in the workplace we are able to redefine these roles and set new standards for the way that work is done. At CUSW we already have workplaces where this is taking place in response to the changing work environment. All employees are members of the union and all members have voice.
The 21st Century Union is not restricted to members employed through a union management agreement. Membership is open to anyone who shares the vision of coming together to build a social society based on the principles of inclusion and respect. Small Business owners such as Janet Stewart and Kris Stevens who have joined CUSW are a great addition to the voice within the union. Although they have no collective bargaining relationship with the union they are full participating members who bring a community voice to the development of the union as we move forward.
These are exciting times. Being involved at the start of a New ERA is the thing that stories are made of. You are part of that story.