Candace Rennick at CUPE National Convention 2023In her first report to convention, National Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennick applauded the resilience of CUPE members across the country who continue to build on the achievements CUPE has realized over its 60-year history.

“For six decades we have battled persistently and militantly for better wages, safe working conditions, and decent, secure jobs,” Rennick said. “We’ve wanted these things not just for ourselves, but for all workers. We’ve insisted that the great wealth generated by the hard labour of working-class people be shared equitably.”

In her first term, Rennick has travelled across the country meeting members. Walking picket lines and marching in demonstrations, she has heard stories of struggle in the face of rising interest rates and the strain on the country’s public services and the workers who provide them. Most importantly, she has seen the passion and determination of CUPE members.

“Friends, we’re fighting back.  We are living through a resurgence of courage and militancy all across the labour movement. The pain of the pandemic followed by soaring inflation has driven us to act with pride and determination,” she said.

Rennick credited the province-wide New Brunswick strike in 2021 for sparking a fire that CUPE members in every province and territory have continued to stoke. From local strikes and the successful fight of Ontario’s 55,000 school board workers against Doug Ford, to the monumental strength of the 420,000 workers united in Quebec’s Common Front, CUPE members are demanding more—and using collective bargaining power to get it.

“Our union is, and must always be, about solidarity and action. As your secretary-treasurer, I believe our union’s financial resources must be directed to strengthen solidarity and increase action,” she added, noting that she has worked with the National Executive Board (NEB) since the last national convention to develop and implement a financial plan for that purpose.

Rennick affirmed that a priority has been to make CUPE a more responsive, equitable and safer union. The women of the NEB led these initiatives through the Safe Union Spaces Working Group. An office dedicated to supporting members who have experienced gender-based violence and sexual harassment within the union will open next spring, she said.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which at its peak saw over 80,000 members laid off, CUPE is in excellent financial shape, Rennick asserted. With a combined balance sheet of 524 million, and nearly 200 million in funds, CUPE’s financial position is strong. The union’s strike fund is sufficient to back up locals’ bargaining demands in difficult rounds of negotiations, and the defence fund can support the creative campaigns developed by CUPE locals across the country.