After four years of a Conservative government under prime minister Stephen Harper, NUPGE launched the 100 champions for change initiative in 2010 – a member-to-member education campaign that fought back against Harper’s right-wing austerity measures taking hold across Canada. HSA member Rachel Tutte was one of four HSA members to sign up as a champion. She believes the campaign came at an important time.
“That campaign was really aimed at basic economic education, which I think is something that unions have stopped doing for decades, and was really needing to be done. I remember [then-NUPGE Secretary Treasurer] Larry Brown relating a story of being at a political – I believe it was a municipal election – townhall.
And there were a lot of firefighters in the hall, and they were obviously paid through municipal taxes. And these firefighters were cheering every time the local politician was talking about how we all need to cut taxes. The light went on that even people who are in unions and whose wages are paid through people’s taxes were not really necessarily connecting the dots of what are taxes are used for, and how that was a cost-efficient way for us to all have the kinds of public services that keep us healthy and safe.
That campaign was meant to help educate the union members – the different unions that make up NUPGE. It was a train-the-trainer model where the people at the start went to campaign school, and there was lots of education and opportunities to ask questions. And we got PowerPoints and information to then take back, and we were involved in training the trainer in our local areas… We engaged quite a bit but I think it could have been much bigger than it was. There’s always competing priorities within unions, but the information and education that we were given through that, and then passed on through various different ways to our members, did address an area of background education about public services that was really necessary.”