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Canadian Union of Public Employees

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Canadian Union of Public Employees

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Full name Canadian Union of Public Employees /
Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique
Founded 1963
Members 627,000 (May 2013)
Affiliation CLC, ITF, PSI
Key people Paul Moist (President)
Charles Fleury (Sec.-Treasurer)
Office location Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Country Canada
Website (French)

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE, Unifor (a merger of the CAW union and the CEP), which represents around 350,000 members versus CUPE's 657,000. Over 60% of CUPE's members are women, and almost a third are part-time workers. CUPE is affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress and is its greatest financial contributor.


CUPE was formed in 1963 in a fashion resembling industrial unionism by merging the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and the National Union of Public Service Employees (NUPSE). The first national president was Stan Little, who had previously been the president of NUPSE. Having led public sector unionism through a period where almost no workers had the right to strike, Little has been credited with bringing public sector unions "from collective begging to collective bargaining." By the time of Little's retirement, CUPE had already grown to 210,000 members and had eclipsed Steel as the largest affiliate to the Canadian Labour Congress.

Little was followed in 1975 by Grace Hartman, a feminist activist who was the first woman to lead a major labour union in North America. Hartman led CUPE to involve itself in broader struggles for social justice and equality, and emphasized the role of social unionism, as opposed to the more conservative business unionism practiced by many North American unions. She was arrested for leading Ontario hospital workers in defying a back-to-work order from the Ontario Supreme Court in 1981 and sentenced to 45 days in jail. She retired in 1983.

Hartman’s successor as president was Brian Mulroney-era wage restraint, free trade, the GST, privatization, deregulation, and cuts to public services. Under Rose’s leadership, CUPE was particularly effective in improving pay and working conditions for women. He stepped down in 1991 after eight years, becoming deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs for the Ontario NDP government.

In 1991, Judy Darcy followed Rose and became the defining face of CUPE. One of Canada's most visible and colourful labour leaders, Darcy was a vigorous opponent of privatization, two-tier health care, and free trade agreements. Darcy was firmly committed to the union's involvement in broader social issues, and under her tenure CUPE strongly attacked the invasion of Iraq, condemned Canada's involvement in ballistic missile defense, and spoke out loudly in favour of same-sex marriage. Darcy stepped down in 2003 after 12 years as president, and was replaced by Paul Moist.

Internal organization

CUPE has an extremely decentralized structure, in which each local elects its own executive, sets its own dues structure, conducts its own bargaining and strike votes, and sends delegates to division and national conventions to form overarching policy. Advocates of this system claim that it places the power in the

CUPE locals are affiliated directly to the National body, and affiliation in Provincial CUPE bodies is optional. CUPE National provides locals with support and assistance through National Representatives, who are employees of CUPE National. National Representatives are assigned to specific locals to assist the democratically-elected officers of CUPE locals in various aspects of the operation and functioning of the local union. They primarily assist in more complex issues, such as conducting Grievance Arbitrations, bargaining, disability/accommodation issues, human rights, preparation of legal documents, local elections and education. National Representatives also have authority to place a CUPE local under administration, pursuant to the CUPE Constitution, which effectively means that the Representative runs the local for a brief period of time in an extraordinary circumstance and suspends the locally-elected officers, usually only in very serious cases of fraud or gross incompetence or misconduct. In addition to servicing National Representatives, CUPE National employs Research Representatives and Legal & Legislative Representatives, who provide research and legal support to locals through their servicing representatives.

Organizationally, there are provincial divisions for each province, as well as the national organization. Nationally there are two full-time political positions—the National President (currently Paul Moist), and the National Secretary-Treasurer (currently Charles Fleury). Provincial organizations do not provide any servicing or support to the locals on specific operational items, focusing primarily on provincial lobbying, policy development and union education.

Internal Labour Relations

CUPE's employees have organized into two main bargaining units. The Canadian Staff Union (CSU) is the larger of the groups. It represents National Representatives and specialist staff in Area and Region Offices across the 10 Regions of CUPE. In 2008 CSU absorbed the Administrative and Technical Staff Union which represented about 60 administrative and technical staff at the Ottawa National Office. The Canadian Office and Professional Employees union (COPE) Local 491 represents support staff workers in the National, regional and area offices of CUPE. Additionally, a handful of CUPE Locals have dedicated CUPE staff working in their own offices.

Disinvestment from Israel and boycott

In May 2006, the [2]

In February 2009, CUPE's university workers committee passed a resolution which called for members at Ontario universities to boycott working with Israeli institutions doing research that benefits that nation's military, but not individual academics,[3] in protest of Israel's military action in the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict".[3]

National Presidents of CUPE


  1. ^ "Ontario CUPE website". Background on Resolution #50. Archived from the original on 2006-06-15. Retrieved 2006-06-13. 
  2. ^ "CUPE National statement on the Ontario Division vote to support a boycott of Israel". Retrieved 2006-06-13. 
  3. ^ a b

External links

  • Official CUPE site
  • CUPE French Version
  • A Critical Analysis of the 2013 CUPE Constitution
  • CUPE 2081 Local
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