Canadian Union of Postal Workers

The first letter carrier delivery started in Regina in 1908, and mail delivery began in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw in 1911. As the postal service began to expand, post office workers joined national staff associations organized for their particular craft. The Federated Association of Letter Carriers (FALC) was the first federal employee association to view itself as a trade union and to join the Dominion Trades and Labour Congress. Responding to poor working conditions and rising prices during World War I, the first strike in the federal civil service took place in the post office in 1918. The ten-day strike was largely a western Canadian event. Letter carriers and postal clerks in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw joined the strike. In Saskatoon the metal trades and railway workers began a sympathy strike. A general strike in the west in support of the post office workers was a real possibility until the leadership of the Trades and Labour Congress withheld support.

The Federation of Western Postal Workers held its first convention in Saskatoon in February 1919. Delegates changed the name to the Amalgamated Postal Workers, hoping to build a strong national organization for all workers in the post office. In 1950 the employee associations began a campaign for collective bargaining rights. In 1965 a two-week postal strike led to this right being established for federal government employees. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers emerged from the Canadian Postal Employees Association (CPEA, 1931–65), as did the Letter Carriers Union of Canada (LCUC, 1966–89) from the Federated Association of Letter Carriers (FALC, 1891–1966). The two unions negotiated together with their employer through the Council of Postal Unions. In 1968, a 22-day strike ended with a first collective agreement.

After years of campaigning by postal unions and the CLC, and on the heels of a 42-day summer strike, the Post Office Department was converted to a Crown corporation on October 16, 1981. A review of the postal bargaining units by the Canada Labour Relations Board began in 1985, ending with a winner-takes-all certification vote between CUPW and LCUC in 1988. CUPW won the vote by 51%, doubling in size in January 1989. The LCUC’s last national convention took place in Saskatoon in July 1987. Today CUPW represents 1,400 members in Saskatchewan, grouped into twelve Locals. In 2003 CUPW won employee status and a first collective agreement for 6,000 rural and suburban mail contractors, 170 of them in Saskatchewan.

Keith Jeworski