Moving into 2017 at the Windsor Workers’ Education Centre

January 5, 2017|Posted in: Uncategorised

Greetings and Happy New Year!

The Windsor Workers’ Education Centre (WWEC) was initiated by faculty and students in the Labour Studies Program at the University of Windsor in February, 2007. In 2008 that group acquired our current space at 328 Pelissier St.

The centre relied on paid memberships and individual/institutional donations and was able to produce pamphlets on employment law, set up a phone referral service, organize direct actions and publicity campaigns, meet with workers on a variety of workplace problems, and conduct workshops on the Employment Standards Act.

In 2013 we applied for and received a three year $216,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant which enabled us to hire a full time volunteer outreach coordinator who could more effectively carry out the work mentioned above. We were very successful with outreach, building community alliances with other non profit organizations such as Windsor Women Working with Immigrant Women and the YMCA Settlement office. We made contact with a greater number of workers who are women of colour employed in the non-union factories and greenhouse operations. As well, we increased the production and distribution of pamphlets and information sheets in multiple languages. The grant ended in September, 2016.

WWEC Received the 2016 Gary L Parent Activist Award Community Partner along with other honourees. WWEC president Paul Chislett is 5th from left

Over the three years of the grant we brought in dozens of students from St Clair College and the Volunteer Internship Program (VIP) at the University of Windsor to conduct workshops, produce literature, and promote the centre. The centre also hosts a no fee Forms Clinic operated by the St Clair College Para-Legal program, where a licensed Para-legal supervises students as they assist drop in clients filling out any manner of documents and forms.

The centre occupies a unique niche in the city core where we not only speak with workers on workplace issues, but we also have been in contact with the newest refugee arrivals as they seek to gain employment and are at risk of exploitation because of language barriers and intense pressure to find work. As well, the large community of women of colour have told us of routine occurrences of bullying, harassment, sexism, and racism in workplaces. We know a great deal of organizing needs to be done to confront these challenges.

In 2012, film maker Min Sook Lee filmed a segmentof the  documentary Migrant Dreams at the centre during a meeting of temporary foreign workers from Jamaica and Tunisia with Justicia for Migrant Workers.  Lee is 2nd from right with workers from Indonesia at the Windsor International Film Fest, Nov. 2016.

As we continue to do the work outlined above we believe a workers’ education centre should be involved in the development of worker cooperatives so that workers can democratically control their own enterprises. Over the past summer the centre hosted a sewing collective where women learned skills necessary to run a sewing cooperative. As a result, we need more space and we are working on further grant writing toward this goal. We hope to have a self-sustaining funding model for the centre where several different but related activities are going on: the continuing work with issues presented by non-union workers, the worker run sewing collective that pays workers and makes a surplus that could sustain the centre, and research into worker coops and the effects of automation on workers.

Women’s sewing Collective is a promising start to developing a worker co-operative

As we stand now, our monthly operating costs are approximately $1400.00. We have a group working on grant making and fundraising. Our Volunteer Outreach Coordinator continues to come in on a volunteer basis. To help us maintain our work and expand, we are reaching out to you for tax deductible donations in any amount. Individual memberships payable monthly are available and can be set up for pre-authorized debit as well. Please also consider joining WWEC as a volunteer member.

WWEC held monthly potlucks during the summer and fall.

I hope this brief synopsis shows that the centre is necessary and that we are working on a self-sustaining funding model. Your contribution will help us get there.

You can easily make a donation through Paypal using the Donate button on the right of the main page.

In Solidarity & on behalf of the Board of Directors,

Paul Chislett

Board president WWEC, member at large Social Justice Windsor District Labour Council, host of campus community radio program The ShakeUp on CJAM 99.1FM