Standing Together through Hard Times

As the Alberta economy struggles to recover, the stress on families and individuals continues to mount. Thousands of previously well-paid construction workers have been without steady jobs for years and – having already made other sacrifices – many are now at risk of losing their homes. Low-wage workers – including most new Canadians – often work two or more jobs to make modest ends meet.

The economic stress has many ramifications, such as intensifying already extensive challenges with mental health and additions. People are particularly vulnerable when they are isolated or blame themselves. Many lives are being negatively impacted … or lost.

GEA's Living Wage and Mental Health Action Teams are working on ways for us to all stand together to shift larger policies and practices that can have a major impact on these problems. But there is more to do than just our united action.

Last month, leaders from GEA organizations gathered to talk about how to make life within their own institutions more “thick”. Thick institutions are not transactional – just paying dues or making a contribution in order to receive a service. Rather, they are places where members are engaged and supported as whole people, are drawn into working for a higher good and are shaped by the institutions enduring values.

During hard times, “thick” institutions figure out other ways that members can really stand with and for each other. It can include helping people understand that there is no shame in being un- or under-employed, in struggling with mental health or in fighting additions. It can be finding others ways to be mutually supportive, including going beyond the official “member” to engage the larger family or community. It’s intentional, creative and caring work … that members can do with and for each other.

In May, GEA will dig more deeply into the work of building thick institutions. The majority of GEA’s upcoming AGM will be dedicated to training and discussion about the role of Core Teams within member organizations. GEA organizational leaders will also be continuing that discussion at their monthly luncheon.

Let’s not just stand idly by while people inside our organizations and in the larger community struggle. We hope you will join us.

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