AUPE's Convention is huge and it's even bigger in election years.
Hey, look at you. You're a delegate for AUPE's 2023 Convention, congratulations! You're about to participate directly in the decisions of your union and witness the largest model of union democracy in Alberta. Over 1,000 AUPE delegates, observers and guests and support staff will be there, taking over nearly two football fields of floor space.
“The decisions made at Convention will have ripple effects across the province,” says President Guy Smith. Over 95,000 Albertans are members of AUPE. Delegates have been elected to represent up to 100 of their fellow members within their Local. Smith explains, “Now is a great time to continue having conversations with your coworkers and Local Executive about their experiences with AUPE. What has been going well? What could be improved?”
Since 2023 is an election year, there will also be a few related events, like the Bear Pit, with candidates speaking to delegates about their platform for the upcoming term.
How to Prepare
All AUPE meetings, including Convention are governed by Article 32 “Rules of Order” of the AUPE Constitution, which outlines all the duties and responsibilities of membership at meetings. Each delegate will receive a printed copy of the Constitution to refer to during the convention, but it's a good idea to download a copy from the AUPE website and familiarize yourself with it ahead of time.
Attending Convention allows you to participate directly in the democratic process.
“We meet at Convention to reflect on the prior year, to engage in meaningful discussions and remind ourselves of the collective responsibility we all share,” says President Smith. "Year after year, our members are proving the importance of a transparent, accountable and democratic model of union governance.”
For first-time delegates, attending AUPE's Convention can be an extremely rewarding experience. You'll have opportunities to connect with other members from across the province, hear about the issues at hand and vote on the resolutions that govern our union. Think about it: how often does your average worker get to participate or be directly represented in the democratic process?
Breanna Bamber, this year's recipient of AUPE's RALY award for young activists, advises new delegates to find a friend and ask lots of questions. Recalling her first Convention as a delegate, Bamber says, "walking into such an energized space can be overwhelming, but if you have a good mentor, things will make sense a lot faster."
As a delegate, you represent up to 100 of your fellow workers within your Chapter and Local and assume the responsibility of voting on their behalf. It is important you talk to the members you have been elected to represent prior to Convention so that you can represent them effectively. All delegates will be able to access all Convention materials on their dashboard on the on-line registration system. Information will be continually added as it becomes available, so check back often. You will be informed by email when there is information to be aware of. Review it as soon as possible and start discussing the various referendums with your Local Executive and coworkers. If you need a refresher on any of your Local's past meetings, you can ask your Secretary for copies of the meeting minutes.
When you arrive at Convention, you'll need your credential to fully register and receive your name tag, which you will need to enter Convention hall and participate in votes. A floor seating chart will be posted near the entrance to the Convention hall . Each Local's spot on the floor was chosen by random lottery. Even if you're seated near the back, large video screens, subtitles and sign language are provided to make the event as accessible as possible.
Inclusive Discussion and Culture on the Convention Floor
Discussion on the floor can get a little heated at times. We are all passionate about our union and difference of opinion and emotions can sometimes run high. AUPE encourages a vigorous and respectful debate, following the Constitution’s Rules of Order. If you decide to approach the microphone and speak on behalf of an issue or raise a point of information, point of privilege, or a point of order you'll need to follow this format:
- The Chair of Convention will “recognize” you and let you know it is your turn to speak
- State your last name and your Local number. (example: Smith, Local 042)
- If this is your first time at the mic, say "First time at the mic" and you'll get a little applause of encouragement from the floor (and a chance to take a deep breath if you need it).
- Keep an eye on the timer, as your microphone will cut out after three minutes. Remember to be respectful and debate the issues, instead of attacking a person or group.
If you forget to say your name, or if you otherwise violate the rules of order, someone will let you know by yelling "Order!" and pausing the discussion until the point of order is resolved. You can also approach the microphone seeking clarification on an issue, by saying "I have a point of information," which is a fancy way of saying you have a question.
You'll notice that many members will refer to each other as brother or sister. This is a tradition of union membership that dates back a long time. If you prefer to use gender-neutral greetings with each other, you can still join the fun by encouraging your fellow members to refer to you as a friend, cousin, fellow worker or comrade.
The Voting Process
This year we will be using an electronic voting system called “Election Buddy" to vote on passing the budget, constitutional and general resolutions, and elections for Executive Officers. All other votes will be conducted by a show of hands as determined by the Convention Chair. There will be an explanation of how to use “Election Buddy" and some practice votes to make sure everyone is familiar with how it works before the real voting begins. During an election year, you'll see some members campaigning for positions on the union’s Executive (President, Executive Secretary-Treasurer and six Vice-presidents). Take a little time to get to know these folks and ask questions to understand how their platform might affect the members of your Local. You’re also encouraged to take the opportunity to hear from them at the candidates’ forum (also called the “Bear Pit”). After all, they will become the leaders who will represent the union over the next two years.
“We meet at Convention to reflect on the prior year, to engage in meaningful discussions and remind ourselves of the collective responsibility we all share."
AUPE staff members are forbidden from getting involved in anything to do with the election processes, so please don’t put them in an uncomfortable position by discussing it with them. If you are unsure of a particular candidate or issue, the best thing to do is consult with your fellow delegates. This way, you can decide which candidates will represent our union best.
Convention days are long and busy; but there will be many opportunities where you can continue to build friendships and solidarity with your fellow delegates once the hard work is done for the day.
“I remember my first Convention in 1989. I was excited, and a little overwhelmed, but I came out of that experience with more passion and dedication to help build the strength and solidarity within our union,” President Guy Smith said. “It is my hope that you as delegates will feel the same sense of collective power and democracy and take that enthusiasm back to your worksite.”
See you at Convention!