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Helping share knowledge among members and activists

The Report: October 2000 vol.21 num.5

by YUKIE KURAHASHI

Are you a new steward, and want to know more about your role? How do you ensure a safe, healthy work environment? Are you a supervisor in the union, and want to know how to avoid abridging the rights of your staff while carrying out your supervisory duties?

As the Education Officer, Maryann Abbs develops and facilitates the increasingly popular steward and member workshops where participants can discuss these questions and learn new information. But this is only the most visible part of the Education Officers job

After the Education Committee develops an overall plan for member and steward education, the Education Officer then coordinates the delivery of these various programs, which can include

  • training workshops for new stewards
  • workshops for stewards from new certifications
  • anti-harassment workshops
  • occupational health and safety workshops
  • specially developed workshops geared to address issues faced by supervisors who are also union members
  • a wide range of steward training level 2 workshops

Additionally, as part of HSAs education program, members are offered opportunities to broaden their experience in the labour movement by attending the annual Harrison Winter School (offered through the Canadian Labour Congress), or the Summer Institute for Union Women (coordinated through the BC Federation of Labour).

Through these educational venues, members are able to deepen alliances with the labour movement at large. HSA members bring their expertise and advocacy skills to a range of issues - such as protecting medicare and other public services - that the labour movement has consistently brought forward.

In delivering member programs, much of the labour movement brings to life the theory of popular education. This means designing workshops around the interests or needs of participants in workshops, valuing the experiences of members, and modelling democratic decision-making within the workshop.

The Education Officer works closely with the Education Committee in overseeing the disbursement of the Madden Memorial Fund and HSA scholarships and bursaries.

Maryann works closely with administrative secretaries Susan Isaacson and Sharon Derton, who provide invaluable support for the education department. For members wanting information about scholarship and bursary applications, or wanting to arrange travel and accommodations for attending workshops, Susan and Sharon are the people to call. (In addition, Lorraine Mack handles travel arrangements for Occupational Health & Safety Workshop participants.)

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