By Karen Kelly

The working conditions in long-term care homes were brought into stark relief during the Covid-19 pandemic. Workers were burnt out, stressed, and understaffed. As a Winnipeg native and a political economy student, Danielle Saj was interested in the role of unions in these homes.

Danielle Saj

Danielle Saj

“I wanted to know how unions in Manitoba are organizing around public ownership of long-term care in the midst of the pandemic,” says Saj, who is the Institute of Political Economy’s first graduate with a work and labour concentration. “I found that it fits into a bigger picture of the way that unions are working to defend public services, not only the working conditions of their members.”

Saj recently won the University Medal for Outstanding Graduate Work at the Masters level.

Saj says the public ownership of long-term care homes reflects her province’s “strong history of leftist politics and unionization,” which has influenced the public sector in Manitoba.

In her thesis, entitled “Labour Activists Always Find a Way: Social Reproductive Unions and their Social Unionism During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” Saj describes her findings based on data collected through a literature review and media scan, interviews with union officials, a social media analysis of labour and care advocate Twitter accounts, and a digital ethnography of organizing events.

“My research shows that long-term care unions in Manitoba have maintained a high level of organizing activity within crisis conditions,” says Saj. “Rather than maintaining the status quo, these unions continued to adapt a social unionist orientation to organizing in order to continue their fight for social change. However, despite this high level of organizing activity, there is more work to be done to advance the union vision of an equitable public long-term care system in Manitoba.”

After successfully defending her thesis, Saj will be working for the Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba and the International Trade Union Confederation. She says she is grateful for the support she continues to receive from the Institute of Political Economy.

“Professors have reached out to me with opportunities for different conferences and talks and job opportunities. It’s so tight knit, people don’t forget about you and they really want to find opportunities for you even after you’re out of the institution.”

Monday, June 20, 2022 in , ,
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