Assistant News Editor
Led by professor Sam Vrankulj, the students of Labour Studies 2A03 (Unions) were given a rare opportunity to participate in a Policy Resolution Convention simulation on Nov. 1.
The event normally occurs whenever a union changes a resolution and allows all members to vote on the changes made in a union-wide gathering.
According to Vrankulj the exercise was part of the department’s “innovative approach for teaching students about unions.”
Each class member is placed in either a Union Local role, representing a specific type or worker within the union, or a Union Committee, responsible for organizing one aspect of all Union Locals.
Each group was responsible for presenting a policy resolution to be approved or rejected by the rest of the class, as well as a support and opposition for a pre-assigned resolution of another group. The union created within this classroom environment is called the Canadian Union of Diversified Workers (CUDW).
According to Vrankulj, “The primary goals of the course are to provide students with some insight into the collective action dilemmas faced by unions, the tensions involved in achieving consensus around policy and bargaining issues amongst diverse groups of workers and the reasons why unions see collective action and involvement in politics as crucial for advancing the interests of working people.”
This is the sixth year that the convention simulation has run. As per tradition, Vrankulj invited influential members of local union life to guest-host this event.
Guests included Matt Root, president of CAW Local 555, which represents McMaster support staff, Tom Atterton, secretary of the Hamilton and District Labour Council, and Mary Long, president of the Hamilton and District Labour Council. Long is proudly the first female elected to the position of president.
While the experience was designed to provide students with experience of the inner workings of a union, playful twists were also placed on the event.
Humourous false names were given to the executive board: Ida Know as Union Trustee, Bill Fold as National Secretary Treasurer, Les Ambishus as Vice President, Ivona Powers as President, Ike Ountem as Convention Teller, and finally, Hugh Morless as Sergeant at Arms.
These positions were held by the two class teaching assistants, Professor Vrankulj, and the three guest hosts.
Also, donuts and carbonated beverages were provided for the entire class by Vrankulj. This was explained to be part of the Union culture, and a staple at all Union meetings and gatherings.
In her introductory speech to the convention simulation, Long explained to the class that the goal of this conference and class’s experiencial setup is to define union priorities, balance membership needs and preserve “the rights that our parents and grandparents struggled to win.”
Vrankulj added, “The participation of union leaders in the simulation increases learning by enhancing realism, and building student familiarity and understanding of the local labour movement while simultaneously cultivating crucial links between the broader labour movement and the Labour Studies Programme.”