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How We Won - PW Transit On Demand Victory at Local 569-Edmonton, AB

When workers at Edmonton On Demand learned that they would have to vote a second time in order to join Local 569-Edmonton, AB, they didn’t falter. Over five months had passed since the initial election in August-September, but their employer, PW Transit, had successfully delayed the first vote count by filing new legal complaints against our Union nearly every week. 

During those five months, the workers pressured PW to drop its charges by circulating a petition and garnering support from a member of the City Council, but the company proved intransigent: the only way forward would be to cast aside the results of the first election, and hold a rerun that would determine once and for all whether the 129 drivers working for Edmonton On Demand would unionize and join Local 569.

Workers Fight Back

The workers’ Organizing Committee went into the rerun election confident that support had not declined among their coworkers because they had continued to agitate around workplace issues in the post-election period.

When a manager made a careless remark about bathroom breaks during a staff meeting, the workers circulated digital leaflets focusing on bathroom access as a key part of ATU contracts.

When PW reneged on giving workers a cost-of-living increase and blamed the union for it, the workers circulated a letter from Local 569 President Steve Bradshaw, who made it clear that the Local would sign off on a COLA and blasted the company for its false pretense.

When PW attempted to placate workers concerned about unfair discipline by creating four elected “Drivers’ Rep” positions, the workers coordinated turnout to ensure that the pro-union candidates won in a landslide.

One of the most popular actions they took was to circulate an issues survey focusing on the dangerous conditions they were forced to work in during Alberta’s brutal winters. Seventy-six workers participated in the survey (roughly 80% of the eligible group of voters), and 98% reported unsuitable uniforms and having to work on buses without heat in temperatures reaching as low as -40 C/F. 

Agitate, Educate, Organize

The Drivers’ Rep election, the cold hazards survey and the petition were not only opportunities to agitate around unfair discipline, safety conditions, and the anti-democratic injustice of PW’s spurious legal complaints but also served as important structure tests of member participation. By tracking engagement, worker leaders could discern whose support remained steadfast and who they needed to reach out to in order to shore up their support and keep them within our Union’s fold. 

The worker leaders’ rigorous application of the organizing model, and their unflagging determination to win even in the face of management’s contrived delays and retaliatory harassment, carried them to victory. 

The final mail ballot count showed that 84% of voters had voted yes, with an 83% total turnout. Local 569 is now pushing the company to commence bargaining: so the next phase of their campaign—negotiating a first contract— has begun.