CUPE 3911 had the privilege of organizing and hosting the COCAL XII Conference from August 5-7 at University of Alberta’s Lister Centre. COCAL stands for the Coalition of
Contingent Academic Labour, an international group that fights for the rights of contract academic staff in Canada, Mexico and the United States. COCAL conferences are held every two years, with the location alternating among the three countries. COCAL XIII will be held in Mexico in 2018, likely in the beautiful city of Santiago de Queretero which is 213 km northwest of Mexico City.
We welcomed 135 enthusiastic delegates from the three countries to the COCAL XII conference. There were two and a half days of excellent panel discussions and breakout sessions, as well as an evening reception at Fort Edmonton. The overall themes for the five panels were Organizing and Reorganizing, Diversity Equity and Human Rights, Job Security, Living Well in a Precarious World, and What is to Be Done? Each panel included presenters from all three countries and were followed by several related breakout sessions. The emphasis was on finding solutions rather than merely describing problems. CUPE members played important roles acting as masters of ceremonies, panel moderators, panel presenters, and breakout session facilitators.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Pam Palmater (left), well-known Mi'kmaw lawyer, author, social justice activist and Chair of indigenous governance at Ryerson University. She gave an excellent talk about the need for fighting for unity between indigenous peoples and contingent workers in order for both groups to affirm their rights. Dr. Palmater’s new book, Indigenous Nationhood, a selection of her blog posts offering critical political commentary on a wide range of indigenous issues, was sold at the conference to the tune of 35 copies. Dr. Palmater graciously signed copies for those who requested it.
Greetings were brought to the conference from a wide variety of key representatives, including Honourable Marlin Schmidt (below), Alberta Minister of Advanced Education; Michael Phair, Chair of the University of Alberta Board of Governors; Calvin Bruneau, Chief of Papaschase First Nation; Honourable Ricardo Miranda, Alberta Minister of Culture; Marle Roberts, President of CUPE Alberta; Siobhan Vipond, Secretary Treasurer of Alberta Federation of Labour; Caroline Sale, President of the Association of Academic Staff at University of Alberta, and Dr. Alain May, Associate VP Student and Academic Services at Athabasca University.
CUPE 3911 sincerely thanks everyone who organized, publicized, donated to, and participated in the conference. A huge amount of work was done by CUPE 3911 Administrator Kristy Burke, ably supported by student assistant Mary Morley. Special thanks to the very professional staff of Lister Centre at University of Alberta where the conference was held and to the efficient and expert translation group. Comments from the many participants suggest that the conference was a roaring success! The delegates left with many new ideas, heightened enthusiasm to fight for their rights and the rights of all, and numerous new allies, both national and international.
Fort Edmonton COCAL XII Evening Banquet
COCAL XII Mexican Delegates
3911 Co-Chairs Dougal MacDonald and Ronnie Joy Leah facilitating
Note: All photos above by Taryn Putinta Photography