The Progress Report support’s CSU 52’s decision to strike—and polling suggests Edmonton agrees

The Progress Report salutes the nearly 6000 city of Edmonton and Edmonton Public Libraries workers who are going on strike tomorrow at 11 am. Walking the line is never an easy decision, but correspondence from our readers—and now a bit of polling data—suggests the people of Edmonton are broadly with you. 

Civic Service Union 52’s strike vote results show that their own membership are overwhelmingly fired up to fight. 91 cent of them voted to authorize a strike, and 88 per cent voted no when the city of Edmonton’s bungling negotiating team forced them to vote directly on their terrible contract. 

If you’ve never been to a picket line, I would recommend you make this your first one. No experience is necessary. Bring some snacks, your voice and maybe a sign. A strike is an opportunity to express solidarity with your fellow worker and get involved in the sort of civic, community action that life in the 2020s so often lacks. 

There are 12 different picket lines to choose from. I’ll be reporting for the Progress Report from several of the various downtown picket lines tomorrow.

Discourse on the typical Edmonton social media hangouts has been very supportive of the strike, but now there’s a little quantitative data out there too. A poll provided to the Progress Report that was done by Spadina Strategies, a Saskatoon based polling firm, finds that 52 per cent of people polled support the unions in these negotiations and that 66 per cent of people polled find the union’s demands of a five per cent increase over three years reasonable. 

Spadina isn’t a big player in the polling game, but the methodology on this poll looks fine. It was a phone poll on March 12 (cellular and landline) with a a sample size 419 respondents and fairly neutral language. The margin of error for this survey is ±4.79 percentage points and is accurate 19 times out of 20. Here’s the entire poll package.

Now that the important stuff is out of the way and everyone who is able to has made their plans, called their friends and starting thinking of  their signs for to the picket line tomorrow, let me take a minute to roast the mayor, city council, and the city manager, Andre Courbould for letting this turn into such an embarrassing mess. 

There is no way negotiations with CSU should have led to a strike. There is currently a difference of 2 per cent between what the city is offering and what the union is demanding. The city is offering zeroes in ‘21, 1 per cent in ‘22 and 2 per cent in ‘23. The union wants 1.5 per cent in ‘21, 1.5 per cent in ‘22 and 2 per cent in ‘23. That zero in 2021 is on top of zeroes the union took in 2019 and 2020. 

The city of Edmonton is going to be cutting a cheque to every CSU 52 worker. They’re already there in negotiations. This contract is for years that have already happened and the pay is retroactive. 

By the union’s math, which they admit is fuzzy because they don’t have all the numbers, the city pays out $15 million for their offer and $26 million if they meet the union’s very reasonable demands. 

Considering the size of the city budget, and just how many workers that $11 million would be spread across, that’s a tiny number. Even one of the most conservative members of council, Tim Cartmell, thinks that the city should sit down and make a deal. Instead we’re getting a strike that could potentially be weeks or even months long, all over a small raise that nearly everyone agrees the city should give? What are Corbould and city council doing? 

I asked for the city’s numbers, by the way, to check the union’s math, and the city hasn’t yet sent me a response. I hope to update this later.  

Yesterday afternoon Mayor Sohi put out a social media release, cosigned by every member of council—including the ones you’d think would know better—that muddies the waters by comparing figures that don’t line up. Nobody liked it. Check out how thoroughly council is being roasted on their Twitter release.

If any members of city council are reading this, just a reminder: Andre Courbould works for you, not the other way around. If you don’t like what he’s doing in your name, pull him into a meeting, order him to offer 5 per cent and this strike is over. 

Council could do that at 10:59am tomorrow and avoid both the disruption of a massive strike and poisoning the well with the city’s biggest union. It’s their choice.

But if council chooses wrong, I’ll see you on the picket line tomorrow. 

ANDP leadership race just got interesting

The race to replace Rachel Notley just got a lot more interesting with the entrance of former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi. As a candidate he brings his own volunteers, his own machine and a level of profile, energy and media savvy that has so far been missing from the contest. 

We’re intrigued by Nenshi as a candidate to lead a party he’s never been a part of and we’ve scheduled an interview with him tomorrow. Keep an eye on your podcast feeds for that chat. 

We have also been updating our endorsement and platform tracker as well. Sarah Hoffman has closed the gap on Kathleen Ganley’s early lead on endorsements from party stalwarts and Hoffman also recently released some decent policy on a subject close to my heart–private and charter schools. 


  • Edmonton cops will be taking over as 911 operators as CSU workers walk the picket line. No one has any idea on what the overtime bill will be but the EPS were already fixing to have a massive overtime payout this quarter due to their war on encampments. 
  • The UCP just introduced legislation that would create a "new organization that would work alongside police services," and that would be responsible for "police-like" roles currently done by Alberta Sheriffs while at the same saying (with a straight face) that they have not yet made a decision on whether or not they will be creating a provincial police force. The contract with RCMP for provincial policing doesn’t expire until 2032. 
  • Did you hear the one about how an AHS manager told nurses to become Tik Tok influencers to supplement their income due to AHS policy limiting overtime? The Progress Report had the scoop there 
  • We’re still waiting on a decision from Justice Jonathan Martin on whether or not the city of Edmonton will be successful in their bid to extract $25K from a volunteer-run non-profit that tried to sue the city over the unconstitutionality of its encampment sweep policy. The city of Edmonton explicitly asked for such a large financial penalty in order to create a deterrent effect against future public interest lawsuits that might seek to defend the rights of homeless people.

This is the online version of the Progress Report email newsletter. Don't depend on some social media or search engine algorithm to find this content in the future. Sign up to get updates on the most important local political issues in your inbox every week. If you like what we do at the Progress Report there is also one big way you can support us and that's by becoming a monthly donor. The regular donations of the 500 or so regular monthly donors keeps this small, independent media shop going.