The Edmonton Civic Service Association was formed in 1909. The Association represented clerical, technical and administrative employees of the City of Edmonton. On April 15, 1918, the Association, now know as Civic Service Union 52, affiliated with the National Union of Public Employees and received its charter from the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada.
In 1963, the National Union of Public Employees and the National Union of Public Service Employees merged. The new organization was titled the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). At a General Meeting held in 1963, the members of CSU 52 voted to maintain the independent affiliation previously held with CUPE. With approximately 85,000 members, CUPE National was the largest labour organization in Canada.
In 1965, CUPE National hired Business Agents under the employment of the affiliates Canada-wide. The intent of this re-organization was that the membership would be better represented if the business affairs were coordinated by one national office in Ottawa.
In 1969, due to a perceived decline in services provided, CSU 52 restored the self-servicing structure previously practiced and once again hired its own Business Agents and Legal Representation. Other large Unions in Canada made similar moves. CSU 52 was overtly challenged by CUPE National.
The confrontation resulted in Constitutional amendments passed at the CUPE National Convention in 1969. These amendments recognized the necessity for the affiliates to hire local Business Agents. The improved representation of CSU 52 members was, in part, resolved and the independent affiliation was maintained.
On March 7, 1978, motivated by concerns over the National office’s interference in local political affairs, inadequate training programs and lower per-capita tax payments by Eastern affiliates than Western affiliates, CSU 52 severed its affiliation with CUPE.
At this time, the Union was paying an excess of $175,000 per annum to maintain its affiliation with CUPE National and membership in the Canadian Labour Congress.
Despite legal challenges and periodic attempts to raid our membership, CSU 52 has remained as an Independent Union since March 7, 1978. The dues paid by our members are still amongst the lowest in North America.
Edmonton’s Civic Service Union 52: A Century of Service
This book was produced by the CSU 52 History Committee with the assistance of the Alberta Labour History Institute (ALHI) as part of the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Union in 2009.
“The short narratives in this book attempt to trace the birth, growth, setbacks and accomplishments that have shaped both CSU 52 and the City of Edmonton over the past century. The story they tell is not intended to provide a complete or authoritative history. They are a collection of ‘memories’ that we hope will promote an appreciation of the Union and its members, and the role they have played in building and running the City.”
Visit the CSU 52 section of the ALHI website at http://albertalabourhistory.org/civic-service-union-52 – featuring Oral Histories.