On June 22, CUPE overturned a skillfully orchestrated and aggressive attempt to hijack the 1,100 members of CUPE Local 1734 at the York District School Board. The margin was thin (436 to 399), but a clear win, nonetheless.
Nine days before, the then-executive invited local members to a year-end meeting and retiree celebration. After concluding the meeting and enjoying a $23,000 meal, the executive stepped down from their CUPE positions and introduced a new constitution and bylaws for the Education Support Staff Association. The former CUPE executive declared themselves the executive of ESSA and had everyone present fill out cards. ESSA also sent cards into the schools and these were picked up on June 15 and filed with the Labour Relations Board. They more than met the 40 per cent required for a decertification vote.
CUPE had less than a week to organize a counter campaign. An organizing committee was pulled together from CUPE 1196, representing custodians at the board, other school board locals and staff. By Monday afternoon, four meetings had been organized to take place over the next three days. A newsletter was on its way by Monday evening, courtesy of the CUPE Local 1196 delivery team.
The next three days were filled with phone calls, meetings and more newsletters. The energy and emotions were running at fever pitch.
Meanwhile, CUPE put the local under administration. Because of CUPEs concern about just how members dues were being used, there will be a forensic audit.
On June 22, the vote was held. One week after the threat surfaced, a majority of the 850 who voted chose CUPE.
The organizing team is meeting to look at how we can prevent these types of situations in the future and how we could improve our response. But this one week campaign showed that CUPE can and will respond to any threat to its members. And win.