Monday, 30 July 2007

U of S Labour Studies Program

In his letter posted elsewhere on this blog Dr. Kurt Wetzel makes a couple of very important points respecting the U of S Labour Studies Program - and he makes them very well:

" is standard practice for labour education programs to recognize the sensitivities and focus upon the needs of organized workers. Labour education programs treat labour as a legitimate denizen of pluralistic democratic societies with unique characteristics."

"In fact, the raison d’etre of such programs is to include a group in society which otherwise would not be served by a university."

I say, there is a way of accommodating those who want a similar type of class, but are not currently in a union. That is to create one for them. We have absolutely no objection to that, in fact we support the U of S doing so.

Wetzel points out: "The Institute for Labour and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois, where I studied, had and presumably has separate labour and management extension programs-- similar material, two audiences."

The concept of a university based Labour Studies Program acknowledges that there is a significant power imbalance between bosses and workers. When a boss is in the room there is a chill on discussion from those participants who are not bosses. It is as simple as that.

For 20+ years, the U of S Labour Studies Program has existed, and it has graduated a few hundred students in that 20 year period. Hardly an onerous offering by a university with the capacity of graduating thousands of students per year across a multitude of faculties.

Students in Labour Studies take one evening class once a week for 16 weeks each semester, until they acquire enough credits to get a certificate. The students are all working people who for the most part hold down full-time jobs. Many have families, and are trying to balance the challenges of working full-time jobs and raising children. These workers do not have the ability to attend "traditional" university for a number of very valid reasons.

And just to reiterate a point raised - the only time anyone who was not a union member ever tried to get into the Labour Studies Program was when two management people from the U of S Administration sought to enroll. Coincidence? I think not.

The fact of the matter is other students are NOT clamouring to get into this "evening" class. For those interested, the College of Commerce has many other classes in Industrial Relations, Human Resource Management, etc., etc.

As Wetzel also points out, "These university-based programs and many like them have operated successfully without being attacked for contravening a conveniently contrived university accessibility “principle”".

Let's have the U of S offer an identical program and set of classes, for all of those people who want to take the class but are not union members. I think that would present a great opportunity to educate others about trade unionism. I'd be delighted to attend as a guest lecturer from time to time.

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