Our 24th national convention just concluded in Montreal and we wanted to share a few thoughts regarding the 2,500 delegates and staff who made this a memorable week for our union.
- Almost 40 per cent of the over 2,000 delegates were first-time attendees at the national convention. This speaks volumes to us about a strong future for CUPE. These delegates made an incredible contribution all week.
- We were amazed at the amount of business that was done at convention. Delegates arrived each day on time, we kept quorum each day, and delegates were extremely respectful in the manner they listened to and participated in the debates. As a result, close to 100 resolutions were passed, forming new policy for our union on a wide variety of important issues.
- We have experienced many powerful convention moments in the history of our union, but few could come close to the moving tribute delegates paid to the five CANJET flight attendants who were heroes in last winter’s hijacking of Flight 918 in Jamaica. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as delegates listened to this ordeal in which over 200 passengers emerged unharmed because of the actions of the CUPE flight attendants. This moment drove home the point that flight attendants are safety professionals whose primary function is to protect the travelling public.
- Brother Ken Lewenza, national president of the Canadian Auto Workers, made a moving speech to convention, asking delegates to support good-paying private sector jobs, and committing the CAW to fight for needed public services.
- Over the course of four days, delegates spent over five hours of convention time debating and shaping CUPE’s Strategic Direction Action Plan for the years 2009 – 2011. The plan will focus our union on bargaining, pensions and anti-privatization work, among other key priorities established by delegates.
- International guests from Burma, South Africa, Columbia and the United Kingdom added a global flair to our convention. In a moving presentation to convention Sister Berenice Celeyta, Executive Director for the Association of Social Research and Action (NOMADESC) in Columbia, shared with delegates how trade union activists literally take their lives in their hands in a country where labour and human rights do not exist. She thanked both the national union and CUPE BC for our ongoing support for the people of Colombia. Throughout convention, delegates spoke passionately about the importance of global solidarity and the need to support our Global Justice Fund which focuses on worker-to-worker projects throughout the world.
- Mid-week, delegates joined 4,500 members of CUPE 301 (outside workers – City of Montreal) as they staged their second one-day strike to back up members’ demands in a difficult round of bargaining for their contract which expired over two years ago. Convention delegates also gave a thunderous welcome to representative from the following locals currently on strike or locked out across Canada:
- CUPE 873, Paramedics in British Columbia
- CUPE 1000, Power Workers in Ingersoll, Ontario
- CUPE 301, City of Beaconsfield, Quebec
- CUPE 719, locked out by the Town of Woodstock, New Brunswick
- On a very sad note, Sister Kathy Paton of CUPE Local 2936 in Ontario fell ill during her stay in Montreal and passed away. Delegates paid tribute to Sister Paton by observing a minute of silence and pledging CUPE support for the family and the activists of CUPE 2936.
- The convention sector meetings and evening forums were well attended. Over 400 delegates – about one-fifth of the entire delegation – attended the health and safety forum which focused on important current challenges including H1N1.
- First-time delegate Sister Susan Kader of CUPE 4669 – Windsor Family & Children’s Services (Nova Scotia) captured it best in a podcast when she said: “It’s amazing to see what CUPE does for its members and the working class.”
To those members who were unable to make it to Montreal, we urge you to browse our convention website. The coverage is extensive, informative and educational. To those who did attend, we thank you for making our 24th constitutional convention what we believe to be the biggest and best national convention in a long time.
We face many struggles in the midst of the current recession, but we believe we have both the tools and the incredible power of our unity and solidarity to meet these challenges. The sisters and brothers who built our union over the last five decades would have been proud of the display of unity at our convention - we know we were.
Our sincere thanks to all delegates and CUPE staff who made our week in Montreal a memorable one. It is now time for us to implement delegates’ decisions and to continue to do the best possible job we can for the 600,000 members we are privileged to serve.