For a trade unionism that is more democratic

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“The more people struggle, the more they think, the more they ask questions, and the more they find solutions, often with eloquence,” says the professor of philosophy at the université de montréal, Christian Nadeau.

This text is part of a special booklet.

Take action always requires a reflection, be it personal or collective. Christian Nadeau, professor of philosophy at the University of Montreal, is convinced that the unions have everything to gain to increase exchanges among their members. He makes a strong plea in his last test, Act together. Think of union democracy (in Sum, 2017).

“The trade union movement, it is a tool of social transformation, and not only retention of the acquired “, says Christian Nadeau, passionate as much political philosophy as evidenced by his career as an essayist (Against Harper, Boréal, 2010) and engaged citizen. He is president of the League of rights and freedoms of Quebec since 2015.


This observation appears like a no-brainer for some, but not necessarily for others, especially those who believe that the world union is leaded by evils which gnaw for a long time : corporatism, clientelism, slamming, etc., But for one who was himself a union steward, this does not detract from the core mission of trade unionism, but perhaps some of its methods, and especially the report with the members, sometimes reduced to no more than a ” seekers service “.


Invited several times in different trade union organisations after the publication of Against Harper, Christian Nadeau has found the interest of the members for the lively exchange, and not only in the framework of a conference. He also saw the need for unions ” to create places where discussion is possible on issues that are not the immediate union, or related to unionism “. Which does not betray their core mission, according to him.


To talk the talk, and more


Is this to say that it is necessary to replace the general meetings of the assemblies of the kitchen ? For the teacher, the AG, ” it is awesome when it comes to getting to a decision-making “, but not necessarily for the ” development of options on which we will take a decision “. As if the now famous code Morin, this bible discussions, stifling the emergence of new ideas, avenues unexplored. All this, in contexts where the friendliness and respect promote a voice imprint of political vitality and social justice.


Christian Nadeau acknowledges that, even before the publication of Act together, there has been some resistance to proposals that it deems ” modest, but could have a huge effect if they were taken seriously “. It is also necessary that the trade unions are ready to make a small revolution, the move from a representative democracy to a participatory democracy, to be responsive to the interests of the members, but also their ideas, their concerns and solutions on issues of society which may exceed the limits of their company or their organization. In sum, to avoid a quip that he hears too often : “If you want to change things, you just have to take the power and become a union delegate. “


A word that is rich and constructive


However, if all do not necessarily have the fibre militant, many are those who have something to express, in a trade union organisation as in the company. For the professor of philosophy, the more spaces of discussion are many and varied (a spaghetti dinner, a discussion after a film screening or a play, etc), the sooner will emerge a word that is rich and constructive, as well as the capacity of resolution of problems of this world, who could surprise the participants themselves. “I’ve seen it many times, says Christian Nadeau. The more people struggle, the more they think, the more they ask questions, and the more they find solutions, often with eloquence. Place them in a situation where they only receive information — even if it is relevant, it is the risk they are primarily passive. “


Even if some see it as an ” anarcho-syndicalist “, which also fun, Christian Nadeau remains convinced that unions cannot make the economy of this shift, especially in front of the power of the right. “They have understood that they must dominate in the culture and imagination of the people,” he says.


He urged the members of trade unions, but also community organizations and advocacy, to speak up without delay. And to put it into action.

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