Sisters and Brothers:
We have an exciting autumn ahead of us following an eventful summer. I hope all of you had an opportunity to spend time with your family and friends, to get some rest and to rejuvenate.
Many of our staff at the National office, from Communications to IT to Organizing & Regional Services, have been busy preparing CUPE materials for the roll-out of our Unite for Fairness initiative. As you know, this project is part of our work with the Canadian Labour Congress to re-invigorate our movement and assert the power of working people.
Meetings with CUPE staff and “train the trainer” sessions began immediately following Labour Day and should be completed in most parts of the country by the end of this month. In Ontario, where the initiative got underway earlier this year, locals have been making their plans to have conversations with all members.
Besides reaching out to speak to each of our 627,000 members, we are working with the CLC to improve our image with Canadians, who have been inundated with anti-union propaganda. A big part of that effort will be a national television ad campaign scheduled to be on air in early October. When the National Executive Board agreed to support this initiative, we knew there would be a financial component over and above our normal per capita payments to the Congress. Come December, you will see in the third quarter financial statements for the General Fund that a new line has been added to record this additional per capita tax that will be paid over three months from September to November.
However, there is much more to this initiative than a financial transaction. CUPE’s Unite for Fairness project, together with the CLC’s Together Fairness Works, is aimed at winning the minds, hearts and souls of our members, first and foremost, and of all Canadians in defence of the working class and our right to unite to advance the interests of workers and our communities. All departments of CUPE will be focused on this initiative through convention and into 2014.
There is no sign that the political and business forces who oppose us are easing up on their anti-union offensive. We continue to monitor the advance of Bill C-377. With Stephen Harper’s decision to once again prorogue Parliament, it is as if the Senate amendments to this legislation never happened. The bill itself remains on the House of Commons agenda because it is a Private Member’s Bill, notwithstanding the backing it has from the Prime Minister’s Office. It remains to be seen if the Harper government has heard the concerns raised by CUPE and other unions, by a range of constitutional experts and by many of his own senators or if he will allow his majority to send the bill back to the Senate in its original form. We will continue our lobbying efforts at the Senate and do not expect that the bill’s reporting requirements will come into effect before 2015, should the bill pass.
The attacks on workers and unions continue, but it also feels like the tide may just be starting to turn. I had the good fortune to attend the founding convention of Unifor last month. This coming together of members from the CAW and CEP was energetic and positive. Just a few weeks before that convention, I also walked the picket line with 16 striking municipal workers in the town of Bonfield, Ontario where their community support is strong in face of a mayor and council who triggered the strike with threats to impose new terms and conditions of employment. Like their sisters and brothers at the North Shore Winter Club in Vancouver, who have been locked out for four months, they are determined to stand their ground. I was able to join the CUPE 389 picket line earlier this month.
CUPE locals are undertaking more and bigger campaigns than ever before and once again, with the financial requests coming to this NEB meeting, we will go over budget on our National Defence Fund allocation for cost-shared campaigns. There is no question that these campaigns are important, whether to stem privatization, save jobs, help create an improved bargaining climate or support negotiators at the table. However, we are noticing a growing trend to rely more on paid advertising with less emphasis on member mobilization. This is cause for some concern as it runs counter to our Unite for Fairness initiative.
It is important to remember that the need to reach out directly to every one of our members was identified last February at our National Bargaining Conference. Delegates recognized that there is no substitute for speaking one-on-one to keep members informed and engaged. The same is true when it comes to building support in the public. We won’t succeed if we rely on people staying tuned to television commercials or reading all the ads in their local newspaper. We have to talk to people about the issues that matter and the best spokespersons we have are our members. It’s a regenerative cycle that will help to keep CUPE members engaged and active.
To ensure that our campaign dollars are being used effectively, my office has begun writing to Communications Reps at the completion of campaigns with a reminder about Article 2.8 of the National Defence Fund regulations approved by this Board: “Within three (3) months of the termination date of the campaign, an evaluation of the campaign, in the form attached in Appendix ‘A’, shall be completed and forwarded to the National Officers.” At the beginning of the process, locals may find us asking more detailed questions about member involvement as we prepare the list of financial requests to bring to the NEB for approval. This is not about cutting costs but rather about running effective campaigns. We are engaged in serious battles to protect services and jobs, to keep our workplaces fair and safe and to continue to make improvements in the working and living conditions of all Canadians. These are battles we need to win.
Our union continues to operate within a sound financial framework. At the same time, you will see in the financial statements for the second quarter that per capita revenue is only slightly higher than the budget estimates while expenses are also over budget.