Labor education programs

Romeo Corbeil Summer Camp

Developing an understanding of the labor movement and the world of work, exercising a democratic voice in the decisions that affect everyday life, learning about the natural environment, and having a lot of fun. These are the objectives for young people participating in the Romeo Corbeil Summer Camp, sponsored by the Office and Professional Employees International Union, the Missouri AFL-CIO and the Labor Education Program of the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Romeo Corbeil speaking at lecturn

Romeo Corbeil served as Secretary-Treasurer of the OPEIU from 1980 to 1986. Because of his commitment to the young people of North America, the OPEIU initiated a scholarship program in his honor after his death in 1995. This effort led to the creation of the innovative summer camp program held at the University of Missouri Forest Environmental Education Center at Lake Wappapello in Southeast Missouri.

Cabin

Located at Lake Wappapello, near Poplar Bluff, Missouri, the University Forest provides a comfortable and beautiful setting for the camp experience. Camp participants are young men and women between the ages of 13 and 16 selected by the OPEIU and co- sponsoring affiliates of the Missouri AFL-CIO. The campers come from across North America for the camp experience.

Working with volunteer activists from Missouri labor organizations, the faculty and staff of the MU Labor Education Program provide leadership for the camp experience. Camp counselors are undergraduate and graduate students of the University of Missouri with a strong commitment to the principles of the camp experience.

Volleyball at Romeo Corbeil CampThe camp experience cultivates the principles of democratic participation through action, by assuring that campers are actively involved in all aspects of camp administration. Organized into local unions, the campers select representatives to serve on bargaining, education and recreation committees. After learning the basics of union administration and collective bargaining, the campers conduct a series of local union meetings to establish their priorities and provide direction to their representatives on the various committees. All campers serve on one of the camp committees and allcommittees are expected to keep their brothers and sisters informed of their work. The camp experience is enhanced because of the campers’ involvement in all major decisions affecting camp operations.

Camp rules are negotiated between the campers' bargaining committee and the staff. A collective bargaining agreement spells out the mutual expectations of the campers and the staff with respect to all aspects of camp administration. The agreement goes into effect only when the bargaining committee obtains ratification from the campers' local unions. If problems arise during the camp experience, the bargaining committee works with the staff to assure that a fair and equitable resolution is achieved.

Class

Educational activities at the camp are participatory and fun. Guided by the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," the campers explore issues concerning the organization of work, problems confronting young workers, and strategies for dealing with racism and sexism in the workplace and the community. In addition to structured educational activities, the campers' education committee leads a study circle each day to provide focus to the educational activities. The learning experiences take place in an environment that facilitates understanding of the structure and behavior of labor organizations and the importance of environmental integrity in all aspects of life.

Caneoing at Romeo Corbeil Camp

The natural wonders of Southeast Missouri serve as the setting for organized recreational activities. Whether it is rock climbing at Elephant Rocks State Park, swimming at Lake Wappapello and Johnson's Shut-ins State Park or canoeing on the Ozark National Riverways, campers are directly involved in the planning of camp outings and organized recreational activities. The campers' recreation committee works with the staff to assure that various options are available to campers for constructive and enjoyable use of free time. Basketball, volleyball, non-competitive games and arts and crafts are popular alternatives available to campers.

Lifeguard at Romeo Corbeil CampMissouri labor organizations are encouraged to take advantage of the various opportunities to become involved in the Romeo Corbeil Summer Camp program. Missouri unions may choose to sponsor or assist in the sponsorship of a camper. Individual leaders are also welcome to share their knowledge and experience by spending one or more days at the camp facility.

Information about the camp is available through the MU Labor Education Program and the Missouri AFL-CIO. To obtain information about becoming involved with the Romeo Corbeil Summer Camp as a sponsor or camp volunteer, please contact:
Paul K. Rainsberger, Director, rainsbergerp@missouri.edu