The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) made Alberta labour history by using digital organizing tools for the first time in the province to assist workers to join a union.
“AUPE continually has workers contacting us to organize their worksites,” says AUPE Vice-President Karen Weiers. “Due to anti-worker policies from Jason Kenney and the UCP, many hard-working Albertans across the province are seeing declines in their working conditions. They can’t wait months or years to get the accountability they need from the employer that AUPE can provide through assistance in the bargaining process.”
Employees from two separate continuing care facilities were looking for opportunities that joining Alberta largest union provides, such as ability to negotiate with strength, stable labour relations environments plus solidarity with 90,000 other Alberta workers. But the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing rules and gathering limits prevented them from collecting petition signatures using traditional means. Though organizers could still build relationships with workers, they needed to create a digital sign-up process so AUPE could apply to ALRB for worksites to unionize.
“Even a pandemic shouldn’t prevent employees from fighting back and organizing to join AUPE,” says Weiers. “They have to find ways to protect themselves and their fellow Albertans now while Kenney’s UCP schemes to find more ways to line the pockets of their corporate pals.”
AUPE needed a digital process that was user-friendly enough to sign up members, but precise enough to pass scrutiny from the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB). Organizers reached out to unions outside of Alberta and heard of the use of the adobe signature program to enroll workers. AUPE then created its own digital petition with staff input from Organizing, Information Technology and Disputes and Arbitrations. The ALRB gave the entire process its final seal of approval in early October and granted certification to workers at Masterpiece Southland Meadows in Medicine Hat and Revera McConachie Gardens Retirement Residence in Edmonton.
“AUPE’s newest members have led the way on how Alberta workers fight back and unionize using digital means,” says Weiers. “Their efforts to join AUPE during this pandemic, has paved the way for wider use of these types of online tools other worksites have more options on how they can become unionized with AUPE."
Karen Weiers is available for comment. For more information, contact Wayne Arthurson, Communications Office 780-432-1460.