Effective Advocacy: the IAM 2023 Political Action Symposium

80 Canadians gathered at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center (W3 Center) from all parts of Canada to learn and practice how to advocate on behalf on their members and the sectors they work in.

The three-day session opened with Winpisinger Centre Director Mary McHugh welcoming participants and W3 Centre Education Representative Matt Pyne going over some of the protocols. Pyne was also the resource person for the Canadian group for the week.

IAM Canada General Vice-President David Chartrand opened the Political Action Symposium and welcomed the participants by stressing the need for IAM members to advocate for their issues to all levels of government. “I urge you all to go back to your locals and districts and put into practice what you will learn here this week,” he said.

Chief-of-Staff Gord Falconer and Political Action Coordinator Derek Ferguson went over the details of the activities that attendees would be engaging in and gave important advice on preparation for the practice sessions they would be having with Alexandre Boulerice, MP for Rosemont-La petite Patrie and James Pratt, Political Assistant to the President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Both Boulerice, a veteran Member of Parliament and Pratt, a seasoned activist in the world of politics and labour, elaborated on the importance of visiting elected officials and sharing their stories. “I can’t tell you how important it is to talk to MPs to let them know what your issues are and to go with others from your group. They need to see that the labour movement and the IAM have strong voices and bring passion to their advocacy,” said Boulerice. “If you know your issues, you can make very convincing arguments to those who represent you. If you give them the information, they can’t tell you they aren’t aware”, concluded Pratt.

Ivana Saula, Canadian Research Director shared information distilled from surveys done by IAM Canada which could be used by participants while visiting elected representatives, while Frank Saptel gave a presentation on communications and the critical need to create a network for information-sharing and regular communications.

All participants broke into groups by sector and prepared for their meetings with their “representatives”, played by Boulerice and Pratt. Although some were nervous, all met with the two representatives and made their cases regarding their sectors after planning their approaches to the meetings.

The feedback from members who were attending for the first time was effusive and everyone, including those who do advocacy work regularly, gained some insight into the dire need for effective advocacy – for themselves, their members and especially the sectors where they work.

IAM members are ready to keep up the work of improving their workplaces, their communities and the greater world around us.

“I am enjoying the exercises and working together with members from all over Canada to solve issues together. There are members here who have already done advocacy work and I’m glad they shared their experiences with us.” John Murphy, IAM Local Lodge 2707.

“I am so proud and impressed by the quality of the participants this week in our political action symposium, they are dedicated to improving the lives of the membership that they represent through political action. The participants are working on fine tuning their arguments and preparing materials so that they may be more effective when they meet with the MP’s in their ridings or on parliament hill. The sector-specific approach has raised the level of comfort of the participants, talking about issues that they are facing in their workplace will help increase member engagement.Make no mistake we can make a difference and the participants get it, they are the voice of the members they represent and intend to hold our elected representatives accountable!” David Chartrand, General Vice-President, Canada

“I was so impressed with the activists participating. This is a group that knows their issues, is passionate about their work and is ready to make real change in the lives of our members” James Pratt, Political Assistant to the President, Canadian Labour Congress

As always, it’s great to meet and connect with other IAM members. The participants represented a good cross section of our union from rank-and-file members to full-time staff. The classroom-based discussion was engaging, and the speakers did an excellent job. I really enjoyed when we broke out into sector-specific workshops near the end of the first day. I feel adequately prepared to advocate for our membership, their families and their communities. Lewis McIntyre, LL1857

I have enjoyed this experience and the wealth of knowledge being shared amongst everyone has been empowering.  The bonus of having MP Alexandre Boulerice here with us is priceless.  Jenn McKenzie – Local Lodge 16 / District 140

“Each symposium is different, and this one is special due to our guests (Alexandre Boulerice and James Pratt) who specialize in the political sphere. Their advice and insights on advocacy are valuable assets for us. As always, I fully understand the privilege and luck of having access to the Winpisinger Center for this training in 2023. It’s simply fantastic to share our issues, challenges, and concerns with my fellow members from all over Canada.” Marc Gallant, LL 712.