Rachel Notley gets huge applause, cheers & hugs from CUPE Alberta convention delegates

 

GRANDE PRAIRIE — Moments after the CUPE Alberta convention voted (unanimously) to support the Alberta NDP in next year’s provincial election, Premier Rachel Notley was received with cheers, chants, hugs and multiple standing ovations by delegates.

After a rousing intro from CUPE Alberta President Marle Roberts, Notley took to the stage and gave thanks to public sector workers.

“Thank you for always working to make Alberta a better place.”

While giving a spirited defence of her government’s record, Notley vowed that as Alberta’s economy recovers, people from every walk of life will share that prosperity.

“An economic recovery that doesn’t reach everyone is no recovery at all.”

Throughout convention, multiple speakers addressed recent changes to Alberta labour laws and minimum wages.  Notley gave credit to CUPE and the labour movement for those reforms.

“The laws supporting Alberta workers had not seen significant updates in nearly 30 years,” said Notley. “While workers in other provinces benefited from three decades of new protections, Alberta’s workplace laws were still in bellbottoms.”

“Like you, we believe that no working Albertan, should have to stop off at the food bank on their way home. So, because of advice like yours, we set out to become the first province in Canada to have a $15 minimum wage. Friends, this October, that $15 minimum wage takes effect.”

Notley said her government was focused on making life better for working people, but opposition Conservatives wanted her to take the opposite approach and make it worse.

“The decision to support ordinary Albertans through the downturn wasn’t without its critics. They said we were killing the economy. Killing jobs. Killing dreams! You shouldn’t be investing in regular people, you should be giving tax breaks to the rich,” said Notley.

“Every time the boom turns to bust, the same voices emerge, demanding austerity, pain and tough love.

“But it’s not austerity, pain and tough love for them. It’s austerity, pain and tough-love for you. And for millions of Albertans just like you.”

“Well, my friends, we refused. Instead, we put the priorities of all Albertans first.”

“And you know what?  With the measures I mentioned and a whole whack more, our plan is working.  Exports are up. Manufacturing is up. Retail sales, drilling and jobs, all up.

“Last year Alberta created nearly 90,000 new, full-time jobs.  Today, there are 2.3 million Albertans working —the most people working than at any point in our history.”

“Because when you believe in working people and are guided by their hopes and values, good things happen.”

“Alberta has a government that stands firmly on the side of working people,” said Notley. “We’ve got your back.  I know you’ve got ours.”

Click here to see photos from the 2018 convention.

CUPE AB Executive Elections


The following people were elected to positions with CUPE Alberta:

Secretary Treasurer: Elaine Moore

General Vice President North: Lise Bettac

Diversity Vice President: Elizabeth Bonk-Richards

Peace River Area VP: Randy Wald

Fort McMurray Area VP: Elaine Bambidge

NW Area VP: Sheila Stewart

NE Area VP: Joyce Baker

Edmonton Area VP: Lee-Ann Kalen

Red Deer Area VP: Brenda Reid

Calgary Area VP: Troy Killam

Lethbridge Area VP: Lottie Freijer-Poulsen

Medicine Hat Area VP: Brenda Barton

NE Alternate Area VP: Brody Stoddart

Calgary Alternate Area VP: Zac Lawrence

Trustee 3 Year: Lise Comeau

Equality Award given to Lorna Tollma

CUPE Alberta lost a beloved family member in December with the death of CUPE 2545 President Lorna Tollman.

Tollman worked as an Educational Assistant at the Fort McMurray Public School District for over 35 years. She was President of Local 2545 for 25 years, likely the longest serving president in CUPE Alberta history.

In honour of her contributions to CUPE, Tollman has been given the 2018 Equality Award.

The Fort McMurray Today newspaper described her as “like a second mom to a lot of people.” Tollman worked with special needs students, helping them overcome obstacles life threw at them. After her death, flags at all Fort McMurray schools flew at half mast.

“I knew Lorna as a funny, friendly passionate advocate for her members,” said CUPE Alberta President Marle Roberts. “And if I can put this delicately, I always knew Lorna’s thoughts on a subject. Lorna was never very good at keeping quiet if she felt the need to tell you off.”

“Of course, that’s what makes a good union activist. No one ever fights for members silently.”

FLEURY: CUPE IS GROWING, BUT WE HAVE GROWING PAINS

For the first time in years, CUPE Secretary Treasurer Charles Fleury is delivering a good news budget for CUPE National.

In his address to the CUPE Alberta convention, Fleury said CUPE’s latest budget included eighteen new staff positions to handle growth in membership and workload.

But with the growth comes growing pains. Fleury announced a Task Force on staffing to address changes to the organization.

“Since I was elected seven years ago, more than 230 staff have retired,” said Fleury. “Thirty-two percent of our staff now have fewer than five years on the job.”

“You can see why we believe it is now time to do a more in-depth review of our staffing challenges and how we can better support our staff and locals.”

Fleury said the task force would look at issues like the turnover caused by retirement, the challenge of servicing big locals that cover wide geographic areas, and how we handle new, emerging workplace issues as they develop.

Fleury also called upon delegates to work hard to support the re-election of the Alberta NDP Government. While the NDP hasn’t given labour everything we are looking for, they’ve made excellent first steps.

“It’s like a collective agreement,” said Fleury. “You don’t get everything you want the first time, so you keep working on it over a few rounds.”

HANCOCK: MOVE FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD

CUPE National President Mark Hancock urged local union delegates to always work hard to improve collective agreements, and never accept rollbacks.

“In CUPE, we bargain forward for our members,” said Hancock. “We lead the charge so that all workers in our communities can move forward.”

Hancock told delegates that even in an environment when public workers are being offered wage freezes, CUPE needs to push forward on any front available.

“We can modernize our collective agreements so that they meet new employment standards,” said Hancock. “We can fight for better retirement security and care for our members by bargaining stronger pensions & benefits. We can fight for job security for our members by securing better layoff protections.”

“And CUPE National will be there to support you every step of the way.”

Hancock said the National Union is dedicated to supporting CUPE members in all parts of the country by finding new and innovative tools to fight the battles we need to fight. But he reminded delegates that the job falls to everyone, not just staff or national officers.

“There is lots of work to do everyday,” said Hancock. “And that means everybody has to actually pull together and do it.”

“So that we can protect the gains we’ve made, protect our public services, and take strides towards making our jobs even better.”

Marle Roberts – Keep building our momentum

Speaking to delegates in the same room she was elected President of CUPE Alberta seven years ago, Marle Roberts told the hall this was the most positive report she’s ever given.

“We’ve had some struggles this year, but seldom have I seen us progress so far in so short a time,” said Roberts.

Roberts reported that Alberta unions are on the cusp of achieving joint trusteeship of public sector pension plans after decades of lobby attempts and political action.

“Future governments will not be able to change our pension plan without our consent.”

Dramatic improvements to labour laws have been made in the last year under the Notley NDP government making it easier to join a union, improving working conditions and rebuilding the Workers Compensation Board to serve injured workers better.

“This is what happens when you tie union activism with ballot box support and elect a labour friendly government,” said Roberts.

Roberts told delegates CUPE has to work hard to re-elect the NDP in next year’s provincial election and make every effort to prevent Jason Kenney from becoming Premier.

“Jason Kenney wants to limit government spending to the same level as British Columbia. That’s a 20% cut in spending,” said Roberts.  “Look at your table. For every five people, take one of them out. Because that’s what Kenney and the UCP are all about.”

“And to what end? Jason Kenney wants to bring back the flat tax, resulting in huge tax cuts to people who earn over $125,000 per year. “

“It’s been an exciting year. I can’t remember a time in which we made so much progress so quickly.  Let’s do everything we can to keep building this momentum and keeping it going.”

Premier Rachel Notley to address CUPE Alberta convention

For the first time ever, CUPE Alberta’s annual convention will hear from the Premier of Alberta.

While Rachel Notley has spoken to CUPE in the past, this will be the first time since the NDP came to power in 2015, and the first time for any Premier.

Notley is no stranger to union conventions. Prior to her political life she worked as a union representative for the United Nurses of Alberta and the Health Sciences Association of BC.

The Premier’s address comes after a year of worker-friendly labour law reforms by her government.

Alberta has seen changes to the Labour Code, the Employment Standards Act, and the Workers Compensation Board. This fall, Alberta will become the first Canadian province to adopt a $15/hour minimum wage.