Alliance-building is usually a game for small groups of leaders with big ideas.
But the turnout was the thing at the Good Jobs Coalition meeting on Saturday, November 22. The over-sized Metro Convention Centre meeting hall was abuzz with a standing- room-only crowd of more than 1,000 participants of every race and nationality in the city.
They came in answer to the coalition's call to begin laying the turf for a new-style movement aiming to bridge community, environmental and labour issues.
The day-long event, months in the planning, was the product of a collaboration between the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and a host of neighbourhood, ethnic, labour and enviro organizations across the GTA, all the way from the Toronto office of the Chinese Canadian National Council to the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
There was an almost electric quality to a gathering that offered so many constituencies the chance for face time with each other.
After the opening and keynote (see excerpt, this page), participants were divided into subject areas and invited to talk amongst themselves - with the help, of course, of a small regiment of facilitators aiming to steer conversations toward generating plans for action on the good-jobs front.
The result was a frustrating and fascinatingly inclusive process combining elements of dialogue, popular education and issue venting.
As one facilitator, Franz Hartmann of Toronto Environmental Alliance, says, "People came together for many different reasons. The green jobs angle was only one of these. But it was an opportunity to chat about priorities on a scale I haven't seen."
And as much as it gave ecos the chance to talk about issues like local procurement policies (which made it into the final statement), "it gave greenies a perspective on good-job issues," he says.
The groupthink may indeed have been closer to traditional old-school labour than the new economy thinking that informs the American Blue ?Green Alliance. But it was a promising local baby step toward stimulating a new social infrastructure for the reborn economy southern Ontario needs.