Member Profile December 2018- Alex Silas

Alex Silas

What are your current role(s) in the union?

This month I was elected as Alternate Regional Vice-President Executive for PSAC-NCR. I am greatly looking forward to my role, to better understand the needs of the region and our members, to strengthen our union, to promote solidarity, and to move the labour movement forward. I am also part of the Regional Executive as a Member-At-Large and Vice-President of my local DCL 71250.

I see my role as a mobilizer. That’s how I got my start and that’s how I think I can best serve our members. I go where I am needed and organize at the grassroots level; I am a vocal and committed activist.

When did you first get involved in the union?

I first got involved in the union during the last period of negotiations. The employer was insisting on concessions, and refusing to negotiate in good faith with our bargaining team. They were also engaging in union-busting tactics, threatening layoffs and lockouts. We needed someone to head up mobilization, and so I volunteered.

We went from a historically un-engaged local to a mobilized group that banded together in solidarity, demanding a fair deal from our employer. We organized a plantgate which resulted in management at the highest level panicking (they even called the cops on us!). The employer had never seen that before and they soon realized we were ready for a fight and we weren’t going to back down or be intimidated.

In doing this mobilization, our members stood together, which directly impact our negotiations. We were able to win a new collective agreement with no major concessions, gain strong lay-off protection and recall language as part of our new agreement.

What is the most exciting or rewarding experience (s) about being involved in the union?

A lot of experiences come to mind but I’d have to say my experience at the 2018 PSAC National Triennial Convention. I was the first delegate to attend a national convention from our local which was humbling and a responsibility I didn’t take lightly. It was a real trial by fire and I did my best to hit the ground running, to learn as much as I could at the convention, to get involved, and to be a voice for my members. Meeting with our sisters and brothers from coast to coast and having a direct impact on the direction and governance of our union was truly inspiring. I was able to witness firsthand how big the union really is, and how big our family of activists really are.

We marched on Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office during the convention and you couldn’t see the beginning or the end of the line of activists walking through Toronto streets. That many people, voices, and energy really lit a fire in me!

What was the most important achievement you’ve been a part of? Or goals you’d like to meet?

I have a lot of goals. I am proud of my recently election as A-REVP.

I’m proud to be active in our #HeatIsOn Campaign and to fight back against privatization. In this campaign I helped with plantgating, providing testimonial, and meeting with elected officials in our effort to stop this disastrous plan to privatize the downtown-core heating plants.

I’m proud to engage in the fight against Phoenix, and one of many voices demanding our government fix this pay system and pay public servants what they’re owed.

I’m proud to be working towards engaging Directly Chartered Locals (DCLs), promoting better understanding of the challenges faced by DCLs as well as building relationships between DCLs.

I’m proud to be working towards strengthening our Young Workers Committee and engaging Young Workers in our region so that the next generation of activists is a voice in our union and in the labour movement.

In my local, one of the big wins was increasing engagement among our members. We went from experiencing union-busting to being an active and engaged group of proud union members. We now stand together and fought for job security and respect in our workplace.

What would you say to others who are thinking about getting involved?

If you’re thinking about it, that’s likely because you care. And if you care, then you should get involved.

The labour movement needs dedicated activists. We need people like you who care about their jobs, their colleagues, their workplaces, their friends and families. We are a movement for workers. A movement for the people, by the people.

I believe the labour movement is the main vehicle for enacting real positive change in our society. Everyone is a worker. Everybody works. It’s what galvanizers us all and it’s our defining common trait in today’s world. And when we stand together in solidarity we are stronger than any force in the world.

You’ll learn about your rights, how to defend those rights, and be empowered as a worker. More than that, you won’t just be doing this for yourself. You’ll be doing this for your colleagues and your friends, who are your brothers and sisters in your workplace, and for the next generation.

I’ve found it to be an extremely enriching and rewarding experience. I’ve gotten as much out of the union as I’ve put in. I encourage everyone who’s thinking about it to get involved. Give it a shot!

What do you hope to achieve in the coming year as a union activist?

I’m hoping to see more members mobilizing in the NCR. We’re nearly 47,000 strong and we should rise up and demand the change we want to see. Imagine 1,000 plantgates, 25,000 rallies, 50,000 petitions and calls to elected officials. It’s possible!

We need to keep the pressure on Phoenix, keep fighting privatization, to continue our work on our campaigns for affordable childcare and a national pharmacare plan. We need to demand that our government and our employers hear us.

I’m also hoping to see us increase our solidarity with our comrades in aligned labour organizations, community organizations, and progressive societally conscious movements. Taking these actions will improve solidarity in struggles that are bigger than ourselves.

The labour movement has immense potential to be the driving force for enacting real positive progressive change in our society. I hope to see us embrace the power that we collectively hold as workers and stand firm against the tide of regressivism, anti-union and anti-worker sentiment, and of those who keep us down. We need to rise up.

We need to bridge gaps and heal divides. That’s how we make our workplaces, our society and our world a better place.

We have the power. Union Power. Voting Power. People Power.