Recently your Union did something that may have surprised many of you. We sent an actual physical postcard… to your home address. No one on the current Exec could remember ever having done anything like that before; and don’t for a minute imagine that it was an easy decision for the Executive Committee to make, either. We wrestled with the idea for a long time… we debated the responsibility that we have to be carbon and cost conscious. Seriously, I had no idea how much domestic postage is! And, there were even a few of you who came right out and told me that you felt that we’d crossed a line; that “work” business should just be done at work.
Fair points, but I’m glad we did it anyway, and here’s answers to some of your questions as to why:
Why didn’t we just distribute these through faculty mail?
- If our main goal was to get your attention, didn’t we? 😊
- Ok, so in reality, not every faculty member has a personal mailbox on campus, or office, or even a desk!
- To connect with all those who were employed in the last year (especially since April 1, 2022 when our current contract ended) who may not be currently working.
- We still have to hand them out to new faculty since the college won’t provide us with their addresses for up to several months.
Why couldn’t you have just emailed us at work?
- Did you know, when we use the College listserv, not all members receive our messages? (Give us a shout and we can add you if you’re being unintentionally left out.)
- But, some of you have actually “unsubscribed” over time; and, unfortunately, there are still others who never got added.
- The listserv isn’t always up to date. Our office staff work extremely hard to keep the list up-to-date, but the College has little interest in helping us with this.
- We build and cross-check our listserv from your contracts. Sometimes we wait several terms to get them all and there are still many gaps.
- In this instance, snail mail was actually a much more reliable means of contacting you.
- Besides, we HAVE been emailing you to ask you to fill out the Member Details form, but fewer than 5% of members had done so at the time of our mailing.
Fine, but what are you going to do with our Member Details information?
But, more to the point, this is what we consider “important” enough to use your personal contact information for.
The legal mandate of CCFA involves ensuring we are able to do these three things at all times during the relationship between the Union and its members governed by the Labour Code:
- Communicate with and determine the needs of our members (e.g. bargaining surveys, internal equity audits, and bargaining updates);
- Provide services and information to our members (e.g. informing members and/or past members of contractual and legal matters related to their employment, wages, pension, or rights); and
- Manage the business of the Union (e.g. contacting members about retro pay or other awards resulting from Bargaining, Mediation, Arbitration and other forms of Grievance Resolution).
Ok, so that means we need to be able to do all these things even in the event that the College’s email servers or physical resources are unavailable to us. You might think that we’re just talking about Picket Lines, Strikes or Lockouts here, but it’s more than that. Do you know that the college’s servers are still rejecting some of the faculty association’s email addresses as SPAM and that the College’s listserv was down for several weeks last year? Did you know that many term, sessional, and casual faculty members actually lose access to their college email immediately at the end of their contracts? Did you know that sometimes it takes weeks after they’ve been hired for some faculty members to be assigned their C# and employer email? How would we be able to carry out or duty to you without an alternate means of communication? Think of it as providing us with your “Emergency Contact Information”, for actual Union emergencies. And before you ask, no, the College has definitively indicated that it would be (in their opinion) a violation of your privacy to provide us with that.
What’s the likelihood for us needing to use this information anyway; and what harm is there if you don’t fill it out?
This is harder to predict, however, the reality is that we are already deep into the in the process of negotiating a new Collective Agreement with the College, but that sometimes takes years to complete. During the last round, we successfully negotiated for retroactive pay dating back to the expiry of the contract, even for people who were no longer employed at the College. The problem was, that for some members we had no way to notify them. We think we reached everyone, but we really don’t know for sure.
Our Member Details campaign is the first step in making sure we can reach each and every one of YOU independently from our employer when it really matters. We don’t know how many people might get left out of truly important negotiated Union Benefits, like retro-pay or Dispute resolution awards, in the future. And in most cases, the reality is, our employer has a financial interest in NOT helping us.
Come on, really, you ask? Well, here’s a recent example. We are still trying to learn how many of you have been turned down for Right of First Refusal and subsequently denied Regularization on the basis of our employer’s erroneous interpretation of how Term Faculty members should be awarded work for which they are qualified. The thing is, if we can prove that you were entitled to the work or rights – we want to get those for you immediately, but you might also be entitled to financial compensation for the lost work. Believe me, they don’t want us to know about THAT! (If you or one of your colleagues thinks this might have happened, get in touch with me straightaway.)
Honestly, if we can do better at preventing this kind of harm from ever happening in the future, I am confident that all members would agree that our dues money was well spent.
How will the information submitted be vetted?
- We have a database of all the contracts we’ve gotten that were written for CCFA employees at Camosun.
- Whenever someone fills out the form, we get notified and their personal information will be added to the database that already tracks their contract history.
- We are still determining the best processes for this step, but each name will be verified against your contract information.
- Whenever someone signs up with their Camosun email, we notified them that they should be using a personal email and remove their information from the collection list.
Did we think about the cost of doing this?
- Good gosh, yes. We agonized over the decision for several months. That’s one of the reasons we choose postcards, they were the least expensive to produce and mail.
- No one likes to waste paper or postage and we were very much aware of the fact that it is our responsibility to be good stewards of your membership dues and this planet we live on together.
- And it’s more than that, when we decide to do something like this, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We choose unionized labour (our own CUPE Printshop & Receiving) and follow all of the appropriate protocols for operating as a Union on campus.
Lastly, some of you have been curious about the overall “tone” of the postcards.
I’m so impressed that you made it all the way down here, this has turned out to be one of my longer blog posts… There’s not really a TL:DR version of all this other than the postcard itself. But just so you know, we intentionally designed them in a light-hearted way so as not to worry you; but, also not to alarm our employer, too much. I’m sure they’re already alarmed by the fact that we would do such a thing at all and I think that’s probably a good thing.
We are strongest together.
Lynelle Yutani (she/her)
President, Camosun College Faculty Association
Lynelle is a leftist rabble-rouser galvanized to guard the rights of union members and is on a crusade to convince you that you get out of your Union what you put into it. Lynelle serves on the FPSE International Solidarity Fund Committee, 2022-23 Resolutions Subcommittee, 2022-23 Budget Committee, and on the 2022-23 Ad-Hoc Presidents Council Committees for Shared Governance and Organizing. This year, she will also serve on FPSE affiliate committees for CAUT, the BC Fed, and the Canadian Labour Congress.