Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hard lessons and hope at Harvard

The six weeks I spent Harvard this winter really opened my eyes. I was there to learn more about unions - history, labour law, and how collective action has advanced human rights - and how to be a better leader.

I certainly learned unions are in trouble. Membership is down and there is less and less public understanding about the good things unions do. In the US, people seem to believe that unions are responsible for the ongoing financial crisis. It's ludicrous and we have to fight that perception. Yes, it's worse in the States, but as we all know, every trend - good and bad - finds its way north. Our own government has frozen public service wages two years running, after all.

The headline is that we have to start fighting back. Here are some of the ideas we discussed at Harvard ... and CMG is in a good position to do make them real:

- work more closely with other unions
- get unorganized workers to join the union ... build our forces
- make sure our country's diversity is reflected in our ranks.

I picked up a library of books at Harvard on the struggles and successes of unions in North America. It'll take me three years to get through them all. I plan to do a review from time to time in this space.

The bottom line is, what kind of world do you want to live in?

New Prez in this space

I thought I should introduce myself ... the new President in this space. My name is Carmel Smyth and I was elected national president of the Canadian Media Guild last December. I was a long-time reporter in various cities across the country and am now a television producer at CBC in Toronto. For the next three years, my day job will be leading the union through these interesting times.

I'm a little late getting started on this blog because I spent the first six weeks of the year at Harvard's trade union program. It was an eye-opener, depressing and inspiring at the same time. More on that in later posts.

I'd love to hear from you ... your thoughts, ideas and questions about this turbulent industry, about how the union is working for you, and any topics you might have. Feel free to leave a comment, anonymous or not.