Our History

On April 21, 1951, 23 delegates representing 9 local unions, met in the Calgary Labour Temple to discuss their common needs and aspirations. Those locals were:

  •     Local 8, Calgary General Hospital Employees
  •     Local 30, Edmonton Civic Outside Employees
  •     Local 37, Calgary Civic Outside Employees
  •     Local 38, Calgary Civic Inside Employees
  •     Local 41, Royal Alex Hospital Employees of Edmonton
  •     Local 46, Medicine Hat Civic Employees
  •     Local 52, Edmonton Civic Inside Employees
  •     Local 70, Lethbridge Civic Employees
  •     Local 182, Calgary Department of Public Health.

These nine locals recognized the pressing need for joint action to promote the welfare of civic, hospital, school board and health department employees on the provincial scene and the importance of a union to organize exclusively in this jurisdiction. The delegates at that first convention passed two resolutions.

The first resolution passed was to approach the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada to request that a union be chartered to organize specifically in the civic field. The second resolution established an annual convention provincially in order to evaluate what they had accomplished in the past year and plan for the years to come.

In 1952, the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada agreed to charter a national union for civic workers. They issued a challenge: produce 17,000 members before the 1953 Toronto Convention of the TLC and a Charter creating such a Union would be issued.

When the 1953 Convention was held 23,000 members were clamoring for the formation of a truly civic union and the TLC chartered the National Union of Public Employees, one of the two Unions which merged to form the Canadian Union of Public Employees in 1963.

The nine original locals have met together annually since 1951, first as the Federation of Public Employees, then as the National Union of Public Employees, Alberta Division and finally under its present name CUPE Alberta.

Since then, CUPE Alberta has grown across the province.  Over 100 locals represent members in 200 different worksites.  CUPE Alberta represents employees of municipalities, hospitals, long term care facilities, schools, libraries, post-secondary institutions, social service agencies among others.

CUPE has played a leading role in the labour and political scene of the province.  In 1995, CUPE hospital workers in Calgary went on strike to protest Conservative Premier Ralph Klein’s attempts to privatize their work.  CUPE has worked with the Alberta Federation of Labour, the Friends of Medicare and the Alberta NDP to fight the many attempts to privatize health care in the province, including the fights against Bill 11 and Bill 37.  CUPE has always led the way against attempts to privatize public services.

In 2003, the provincial government introduced the regionalization of health care delivery in Alberta.  As a result,  CUPE lost a number of representation votes to AUPE.  Between the representation votes and raids between the unions, CUPE lost about 6,000 health care members.

The raiding continued until 2005 when CUPE was able to fight back against AUPE raids in Lethbridge and Edmonton.  The Lethbridge raid ended with a vote of all general service employees of the Chinook Health Care Region.  The employees voted by a 2-1 margin to remain with CUPE.  There were few raid attempts on CUPE after that decisive victory.

CUPE has also fought for the rights of workers in the private sector.  In 2005, CUPE led employees of ABS Calgary in the province’s first Casino strike.  The four week job action saw much violence on the picket line, as addicted gamblers went to extremes to feed their habit.  But the CUPE membership held on and won a fair contract which is still in place today.

In 2008, CUPE Alberta’s membership hit 30,000 – the same figure it was at before losing 6,000 members in representation votes five years earlier. Today, we have over 35,000 members. The growth in our membership reflects the strength, diversity, and integrity of Canada’s largest union.

Important dates and events in CUPE Alberta History:

1963 NUPE and NUPSE merge to form CUPE
May 1966 CUPE Alberta sets up an “Education Fund” to support labour schools in the province
Oct 1966 Alberta Council of Hospital Unions is formed
May 1967 CUPE Alberta convention passes resolutions calling for:

  • an end to the Vietnam War (CUPE 37)
  • making welfare rates equal for men and women (CUPE 38)
  • public auto insurance (CUPE 37)
  • public childcare (CUPE 37)
  • government control of nursing homes (CUPE 8)
1968 CUPE Alberta membership hits 10,000
1968 CUPE 40 strike at Calgary Board of Education
1970 1,100 members of CUPE 474 and 784 go on strike against Edmonton Public School District for 11 days, closing all schools. A committee of 100 students was formed to assist in the strike effort.  One of the main issues in the strike was wages for male caretakers (wages for women caretakers were settled before job action). Clipping
June 11, 1973 CUPE 41 goes on strike for eight weeks at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. Clipping.
1973 CUPE 37 signs an agreement with the County of Vulcan for 20% increases over two years
May 22, 1974 CUPE 1606 (Town of Wainwright) go on wildcat strike. See the scrapbook.
1974 CUPE 1606 (Buffalo Trail School Division) on strike for nine days. See the scrapbook
1974 Edith Kiehlbach is appointed as a National Representative, possibly the first woman rep in Alberta
1975 CUPE Alberta passes resolution calling for the removal of abortion from the criminal code of Canada
1975 CUPE Alberta calls for future exploitation of the oil sands to be Canadian owned and operated, and (1976) placed in the public sector
November 1975 CUPE 1855 (County of Panoka) go on strike for union security and automatic deduction of dues
March 1977 CUPE 41 strike begins at Parkland Nursing Home, Edmonton, lasts 26 months, putting the state of private nursing homes under a microscope for the first time.  Fifteen hundred people attended a rally at the Legislature in support of the strikers.
June 1977 First CUPE Alberta week long school, Olds Alberta. Photo
April 1978 Wages: Labourer, CUPE 1661 (Westlock School Division) 3.85/hour.
March 1978 The beginning of a bitter, 55 day strike between CUPE 37 and the City of Calgary. The Local gains a four day work week. Clipping
November 1978 2,200 members, at 17 hospitals strike to protest government wage guidelines of 6%.  Inflation at the time was 9% annually. Photo
March 1979 Members of CUPE 37 collect 20,000 names on a petition protesting pay hikes to city council members. Clipping
January 1, 1980 A breakthrough agreement between CUPE 8 and three Calgary nursing homes provides wage increases of 12.75% to 25% in the first year of the deal.
1980 CUPE 2426 (Town of Morinville) formed
July 1980 CUPE 38 holds a 13 day strike against the City of Calgary. Photos
March 1981 CUPE 70 (City of Lethbridge) makes big gains after three week strike. Scrapbook
Summer, 1981 CUPE 812 goes on strike against Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, organizes a successful boycott of Highway 3 to bring the strike to an end
January 1982 CUPE 520 members at Calgary Catholic schools strike for a week to earn 17% wage increase.  Due to poor finances at CUPE National, members did not receive any strike pay. Clipping
1982 CUPE 1606 goes on strike against Buffalo Trail School Division, wins a 30% wage settlement. Scrapbook
1983 CUPE organized in Edson.
1984 CUPE 1357 (Grande Yellowhead Regional School Division) on strike for first contract
1986 CUPE 2550 goes on strike for 10 weeks at Thibault Roman Catholic School Division (now called the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division).
March 1989 A 30 year old city worker (Ed Hanson) defeats four term incumbent Dolores Viney to become President of CUPE Alberta.
March 1989 CUPE 681 (CBC Calgary) and CUPE 684 (CBC Edmonton) strike for three weeks
December 1991 Calgary Paramedics start a 14 day strike, ending it on Christmas Eve, only to start again in January after the city rejected the settlement.
1993 CUPE Alberta passes a resolution calling for a full time Communications Representative for the province.
1993 CUPE Alberta adopts a harassment policy.
February 1993 Medicine Hat Area Office opens.
November 14, 1995 CUPE 8 laundry workers at Calgary Hospital stage a 10 day, illegal walkout to protect their jobs
1996 CUPE 474 gets protection from the contracting out of custodial services at Edmonton Public Schools
June 1997 Rather than take roll backs, CUPE 38 goes five years without a contract finally accepting a deal with wage freezes and modest increases. Newsclipping
1998 CUPE 520 gets protection from the contracting out of custodial services at Calgary Catholic Schools.
1999 Wages – Welder – start (CUPE 30): 13.32/hour
1999 CUPE 3421 (Calgary Paramedics) park ambulances at City Hall and walk off the job.
April 1, 2000 Wages: Cook 1 – start (CUPE 1158): $11.52/hour
2001 CUPE Alberta hosts its first anti-racism conference
May 3, 2001 Grande Prairie Transit Drivers vote 94% to join CUPE
June 1, 2001 Edmonton Paramedics (CUPE 3197) stage illegal strike.
November 2001 Strike at Bonnyville Extendicare. Photos and clippings
April 23, 2003 Thirty three Alberta CUPE locals contribute to the Solidarity fund to fight Bill 27 and its impact on health care workers.
September 2003 CUPE 1846 (Canadian Blood Services) goes on strike in Calgary
2003 Contracted out hospital workers in Calgary join CUPE
Fall 2003: CUPE loses 6,200 health care members to AUPE in reorganization and representation votes across the province. Photo
December 2003 CUPE 290 launches its first ‘Sock it to em’ campaign, collecting socks for Lethbridge area charities.  This has been an annual event ever since.
2004 CUPE1606 engages in one week strike at Buffalo Trail School Division. See photos and clippings
2005 CUPE Alberta elects its first full time President
Fall 2005 CUPE 4655 goes on strike against Calgary Casino for 45 days in Alberta’s first casino job action. The often violent strike ends with a first contract for CUPE members. Photos
2006 CUPE Alberta Aboriginal Council formed.
2009 Fort McMurray Area Office opened.
2010 Provincial legislation forces 1,800 paramedics and 800 health care workers out of CUPE and into other unions.
2013 CUPE hits 35,000 members in Alberta – higher than ever before.