Posted February 9, 2022 at 3:32pm
Interviewee: Darren Graham, AUPE Vice President
Interviewer: Michael Doherty, CKXU Program Director
Transcribed by Genna Bourchier
Michael Doherty (MD): This is Michael Doherty here on CKXU as part of our coverage for the University of Lethbridge Collective Bargaining. We’ve got some interviews here – we’ll start off with a quick introduction. Who am I speaking with today?
Darren Graham (DG): My name is Darren Graham and I’m the Vice President for the South Region for Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
MD: Can you give us a quick description of your organization and what it is their purpose is in regards to the University?
DG: So our organization, we’re the largest Union in Alberta, and we also represent the support service workers that work at the University of Lethbridge that make up Local 53, which is about 500 support workers. Our members work in caretaking, admin assistance, animal care handling, IT services, fine arts, trades, library techs, the bookstore personnel, the materials management personnel, records management, etc.
MD: Thank you! What is your organization’s mission and values?
DG: Our mission statement is to represent and support AUPE members through solidarity and mobilization. Basically in that context, like I said before, AUPE represents about 95,000 workers in Alberta and once again 500 at the University of Lethbridge. We believe in fairness for workers and for Albertans, and we believe post-secondary education is important. We continue to represent our members and advocate for all Albertans, including students.
MD: What are you doing to uphold your organization’s mission statement at this time?
DG: Like I said, we continue to represent our members and advocate for all Albertans, including students all over the province.
MD: What are your intended outcomes and goals for the current Collective Bargaining situation?
DG: We are not part of the current situation with the Faculty Association, but we are in bargaining. Our Members are in bargaining for a new collective agreement and they’ve been in bargaining since August of 2020.
MD: So what if any services does your organization provide that will be or could be impacted by the current situation or future situations that could arise?
DG: Our members will continue to do their jobs, and their jobs only. They won’t be stepping over any strike lines to pick up slack that is happening. Once again, like I said, our members will do their jobs and their jobs only.
MD: Perfect, thank you. How can students and campus members get in touch with a representative from your organization if they need to?
DG: AUPE can always be contact at 1-800-232-7284 or you can also go online at www.aupe.org
MD: We’re going to move onto some questions regarding the current situation now. What is your general position on the current situation unfolding at the University and how do you think it will impact any future situations that you might have as well?
DG: We believe that workers deserve a fair contract and that universities should be adequately funded.
MD: How are you supporting the mental health of your members and the community you serve at this time?
DG: AUPE has supports in place to help our members not only with their mental health but we actually have supports as well to help them out with any financial difficulties, etc. that they may experience. Our members needing any help can contact their Membership Services Officer through the 1-800-232-7284 number, and they can also reach their local Officer, such as myself, or their Local, which is members that are on-campus, or they can also contact our headquarters once again at 1-800-232-7284.
MD: What are your thoughts on funding for post-secondary education? As a follow-up, what can campus members do to show their support for post-secondary education?
DG: AUPE believes post-secondary education is vital to Alberta’s future and needs to be adequately funded. Campus members can support the University Faculty Association in their actions, and they can also support any future actions that may occur out of the bargaining stall with the general support workers.
MD: Do you have any links or websites with additional information that you would like us to post on our website?
DG: We certainly do, we have a campaign going right now – AUPE Save Advanced Education Campaign. Campaign information is available through the following link: https://www.aupe.org/news-and-publications/campaigns/save-advanced-education
MD: We’re going to get into some future situation questions now. If there is a picket line or building on campus that is inaccessible, what should people do if they are a student, or a UofL Staff, or a community member, or a 3rd party organization or business?
DG: I would actually refer you to the Faculty Association. This is their strike line that they’re proposing to put up on this Thursday, so it will be them governing how that is ran.
MD: How do you feel that this situation could impact the remainder of the Spring semester?
DG: Well, we certainly hope that the Board of Governors and the Government themselves come to the table and we hope that the University Faculty Association gets a fair deal and quickly, and that the next semester won’t be affected.
MD: What steps can be taken following this situation to promote on-campus unity?
DG: The Alberta Government needs to adequately fund post-secondary education. That would remove these kinds of conflicts and lead to unity. We really need to focus on what we can all do to make learning easier for students.
MD: How would you support your membership and the community you serve if and when we transition out of this situation?
DG: Well I sure hope we do transition out of this situation by getting a fair deal and getting the respect that deserves to be shown at the bargaining table. We will support our members the way we always do – we’re always there to support our members, and our members drive our union. It is a grassroots organization.
MD: Just as a quick wrap up here, do you have any closing statements or would you like to expand on anything that we discussed earlier?
DG: We actually had a meeting of all the local chairs, which basically represent the 95,000 workers that AUPE represents. They actually passed a motion the other day to stand in solidarity with the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association in their struggles to obtain a fair agreement through collective bargaining. Furthermore, they called upon the Government to properly fund all post-secondary education within the province of Alberta and to allow Boards of Governors to independently bargaining with all their employees in a fair and respectful manner.
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