The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) was first organized in 1919 as the Civil Service Association of Alberta (CSA) with some 400 members, most employed directly by the provincial government. Resistance was muted because before 1959 there was no Public Service Commission and most appointments to a still small civil service were patronage appointments. For many years, its members were treated as servants, with the expectation that they should be grateful to have jobs and accept whatever wages and working conditions their employer chose. Not only were they denied the right to strike; until 1938, the law declared that any effort on their part to bargain for wages or working conditions would be tantamount to tendering their resignations.
This ‘master-servant’ relationship began to unravel in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as growing dissatisfaction with wages and working conditions led CSA members into a growing number of job actions, civil disobedience and strikes. In 1971, the incoming Conservative government of Peter Lougheed promised full collective bargaining rights, but this promise was totally betrayed just a few years later by the passage of the Public Service Employee Relations Act (PSERA), which while it created the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, bound it by the most severe restrictions on bargaining rights and penalties ever seen in Canada.
In spite of this and other obstacles, AUPE grew steadily in militancy and strength. Today, it has grown into the largest Union in the Province with almost 100,000 members, and with a presence that extends far beyond the provincial government to include healthcare, municipal government, education and a wide range of other jurisdictions. Members are served by a network of stewards, committee members and multi-skilled staff working out of offices right across the Province. For more information see www.aupe.org.