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Time for Action Rallies - All details

Members in Action: Fort McMurray strong

AUPE members raised the stakes in Fort McMurray. What started with wearing red turned into a full-on rally!

Apr 29, 2024

By Alexander Delorme, Communications Staff

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When we last checked in with AUPE members working at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre and Willow Square Continuing Care in Fort McMurray, they had used solid organizing tactics to pull off one of the best ‘wear red’ days yet. 

"The work we do is just as important as the jobs in the mine and we are worth more than what our employer is offering.”

Jackie Marshall, Local 056/13 Secretary-Treasurer

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Since then, they have taken their organizing skills to the next level. These AUPE members organized one of the largest rallies Fort McMurray has ever seen, where workers from several unions joined in support and solidarity. 

“We rallied on one of the busiest streets in Fort Mac and horns were honking the entire time,” says AUPE Local 056/13 Secretary-Treasurer Jackie Marshall. “We felt so empowered. The work we do is just as important as the jobs in the mine and we are worth more than what our employer is offering.” 

Marshall says privatization rumours made it easy to convince her coworkers to take action. Most of us know that we lose our jobs when public services, including health care, are privatized. 

Laying the foundation with smaller actions was another key reason for the rally’s success. The 056/013 members began with conversations about the issues that matter, which led to wearing red as a team, which led to stronger solidarity, which led to the confidence and excitement they needed for the big rally. 

“Our members in Fort McMurray are showing the importance of organizing,” says AUPE Vice-President James Gault, who represents the north-east region of the province. “More than that, they are showing the importance of just having a conversation with your coworkers about the issues that matter. For most of us, that’s bargaining.” 

Using tried and true organizing tactics is important, but there is another secret to getting members involved that Marshall and her team took full advantage of: having a good time. 

“Bargaining is serious business, but the trick is to make it fun,” says Marshall. “We all get together for food and other social events to talk union. It isn't a ‘you or me’ situation, it’s a ‘we’ situation.”  

“Our members in Fort McMurray are showing the importance of organizing. More than that, they are showing the importance of just having a conversation with your coworkers about the issues that matter."

James Gault, Vice-President

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The rally was not just for AUPE members, however. According to Marshall, members of the community joined en masse and were just as loud as AUPE, including the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, Canadian Union of Public Employees, and International Operating Engineers Local 955. Most hospital staff who work the evening and night shifts also made it out, as did members of the Wood Buffalo & District Labour Council. 

Gault says this is all a sign that our province-wide movement is growing. 

“We need this level of organizing and engagement to support our negotiating teams,” he says. “With bargaining town halls coming up in June, the entire province needs to get on board with our fight for fairness at the bargaining table.” 

The AUPE members in Fort McMurray couldn’t agree more. 

“We have become an amazing, strong chapter,” says Marshall. “We have to keep the connection and the momentum going. The plan is to build towards another rally, and after that, who knows.” 

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