Friday, October 30, 2020

History of the NBU: Part 5

Throughout the month of October, heading into our 50th anniversary convention, the New Brunswick Union (NBU) will be posting a series of articles detailing the history of the union.
The fifth installment details the 2000s. The first piece detailed the years prior to 1970 and can be found here. The second article looked at the 1970s, the third put a spotlight on the 1980s and the fourth detailed the 1990s. A special thank you to Alex Wentzell for his work researching and writing these stories.
The fourth decade (2000-2010)
At the beginning of the new millennium, the NBPEA adopted one of its philosophical cornerstones: the code of solidarity. The code explicitly spelled out the operational principles of the association in all its endeavors.
In 2001, the NBPEA made another fundamental change to the organization by modifying the dues structure. Historically, the NBPEA had charged a flat fee to its members, originally 2.50$ a month. However, facing a large deficit in its operation budget, the NBPEA decided to circumvent another increase by altering the dues structure all together.
The average dues structure in Canada at this time was 1.5% of general income, rather than a flat fee across the board. The NBPEA was able to meet its operating budget by changing its dues to 1% of general income, well under the national average. This also ensured a fairer structure, since NBPEA members with lower salaries wouldn’t be disproportionately affected, as they were with a flat fee.
In 2002, the NBPEA organized its first private sector component. It the latter half of the year, the association became the certified bargaining agent of the Outside Workers of the Town of Saint George. This was a significant event for the union, given that throughout its history it had only represented public sector labour.
Another fundamental change occurred for the NBPEA in 2003. Historically, the NBPEA had been an independent trade union without national affiliation, despite the best efforts of certain national labour organizations. The perils of the Association’s lack of affiliation reared its head in the late 1980s with its fracturing and the persistent raids it endured from the NBGEU. However, by 2003 the NBPEA saw itself as ready to take its place within the broader “house of labour.” At that year’s convention, delegates approved a motion to make the NBPEA a component of NUPGE, which had changed its name to the National Union of Public and General Employees. Although the NBPEA had been moving towards affiliation over the past three years by sending delegates to CLC conventions and singing a working agreement with NUPGE, this move formalized its place amongst the house of the labour, granting the NBPEA national affiliation for the first time in 30 years. As of this day, it remains a component of NUPGE.
In order to symbolically mark its newfound position in the house of the labour, the NBPEA officially became the NBU—The New Brunswick Union of Public and Private Employees – at the 2004 AGM. Furthermore, delegates approved another significant change – shifting the role of union president to a fulltime position. The NBU had long been unique for its lack of a fulltime president, despite comparable organizations in other provinces having such a role. By opting to make the presidency a full time position, the chief-role within the NBU could focus solely on its duty of representing the membership in the best possible way.
Finally, 2004 saw the merger of the NBU and the NBGEU, reuniting the two organizations after their separation at the end of the 1980s. This merger meant that both ITCO and Resource Services rejoined the NBU, as well as a number of private sector groups. Now part of the NBU were the locals for Carleton Kirk Lodge, Loch Lomond Villa, Hotel Courtenay Bay, the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA), and Villa Chaleur.
These two years saw the NBU continue its trend of change seen throughout the early 2000s. It started with becoming the bargaining agent of several new components. The NBU signed a servicing agreement with what was then known as the Association of New Brunswick Professional Educators, or ANBPE. This group was made up of deans and department heads in the community college system, and would eventually join the union completely as the Educational (non-instructional) component. The NBU signed another servicing agreement with the St. Croix Stevedores, the second such agreement in 2005.
In 2006, the Union added two more components: it signed a servicing agreement with the Moosehead Brewery Workers. Long affiliated with NBGEU, the independent local switched over to NBU in 2006. The NBU also signed the Woodstock Police Association.
Two thousand six also saw the union change its convention: instead of it happening every year, the union opted to change to a biennial structure, meaning that the convention occurred every second year instead. This structure continues to this day.
These two years saw two more groups join the NBU. First was Simms Brushworkers from Saint John. They remained with the union until the factory closed in 2011. Second to join was Professional Services for Students in the Public School System, commonly shortened to PSPS. The organizing of PSPS marked the first time in over 27 years that a public sector group had been organized in New Brunswick.
In late 2008, the NBU made a change at the top: Debbie Lacelle retired as president. Elected to the position at that year’s convention was Susie Proulx-Daigle, former vice-president of the Union.