Serving as a voice for the hopes and expectations of 4000+ people comes with challenges and consequences.
I was elected to the main YG Bargaining Team in the fall of 2021, ready to take on the challenge of negotiating a contract with the Government of Yukon. While it was an honour to be selected by my peers to fulfill that important role, my decision to accept brought increased visibility in the workplace and the community.
In a community as small as ours, that level of visibility can serve to make us vulnerable. If busting the ego is in your “to-do” list, I’d recommend serving on a bargaining team. If you approach the experience mindfully, fostering a graceful, somewhat detached disposition, exposure to the process itself is sure to be humbling and transformative.
Bargaining through the pandemic and the concurrent collapse of our society’s already tenuous hold on emotional well-being added another layer of nuance. Members’ expressions of disappointment, fear and disdain for the politics at play were passionate, raw and profoundly impactful emotionally for myself and other team members. Many workers have expressed to us their anxiety, grief and anger, feeling they were not recognized or meaningfully supported in their work even before the pandemic, and many felt the employer had failed them through the worst of the crisis.
While COVID has had many impacts, it’s notably fed fatigue, increased division, and reinforced a degree of separation between people. This is evident in the diminished participation at Local meetings and dwindling interest in stepping up to take on volunteer union roles. It’s little surprise that the result is a feeling of frustration at a bargaining process that feels distant and opaque to many.
For more than 18 months, we have been deliberate and mindful in our efforts to provide compassionate responses to our peers, discreetly manage privileged information, juggle our own anxieties about our effectiveness, and simultaneously fight for members. The complexities of this role have required us to tap into an inner resilience that has sometimes felt in short supply.
Serving as a member of the union’s Bargaining Team in this tumultuous time has left a strong and lasting impression on my own sense of where I see myself as an effective activist. Any doubts I may have had about the urgency of fighting for worker’s rights have been well and truly sublimated. Being involved has refreshed my own commitment to act deliberately, with kindness and compassion, to advance the principles of the labour movement in solidarity.
If you have the opportunity to serve as a member of your union’s Bargaining Team, I encourage you to face the challenge and commit wholly to the role. My front-row seat to the disinterested, invalidating, and sometimes repugnantly disaffected tactics of our employer during these ongoing negotiations has served to galvanize my commitment both to the labour movement and to my union peers.
Jon Deline, Local Y017
(Jon is currently in a term role at YEU)