Just a few months ago, over 2,000 CUPE members and activists gathered in Montreal to debate the future of our union and our movement. Many of the debates at CUPE’s 29th National Convention focused on modernizing our customary practices and our constitution.
While I know constitutional amendments aren’t what gets everyone up in the morning, I can say this: the amendments we adopted at our October convention in Montreal mark the largest and most significant changes to the constitution of our union since CUPE was founded in 1963.
Not only that, they go a long way towards making CUPE a progressive, 21st century union for Canada and the world to follow.
Many of the changes made at convention had to do with longstanding practices that were generally understood, but not written down. Clarifying these “unwritten rules” brings transparency and accountability to our constitution and our union.
In particular, the process for electing our National Executive Board relied heavily on custom and tradition, rather than written rules. Delegates in Montreal voted to change that, by adopting amendments that lay out clear rules for how we elect our General Vice-Presidents, Diversity Vice-Presidents, and Regional Vice-Presidents, and establishing clear roles and responsibilities for these positions.
We also voted to bring in electronic voting at future conventions for elections and standing votes at the call of the Chair.
Our convention also approved changes to CUPE’s Trial Procedure, stemming from a comprehensive review that involved consultations with members and chartered bodies.
As many of us know, our old trial procedure wasn’t working as intended. It was frustrating for locals, and too often being used for political purposes, which was never its intent.
Now, complaints will be dealt with outside of the local union, taking internal politics out of dispute resolution. An independent investigator will be assigned to cases and, if approved to proceed, trial committees will be composed of members from the surrounding region. Where complaints are rooted in harassment or discrimination, the complainant will have the option to proceed through an alternative dispute resolution process.
These reforms not only make CUPE stronger from within – they also allow us to devote more of our attention and energy to bargaining forward for our members and being a strong, leading voice for all workers across Canada.