Following two weeks of voting, members have spoken and our union has a new name. We are the Society of United Professionals. This milestone decision was backed by 81% of members while voter turnout hit an all-time high at 59.5%.
In addition to the new name, members also approved each of the five other constitutional amendments that were on the ballot, as recommended by Delegates Council.
“I am overjoyed with the result of the vote,” said President Scott Travers. “But I am even more excited about how many members participated in the process. Our members are our strength. In the halls of government, at the bargaining table and in the community, our power comes from our members.”
“After this referendum I can say without hyperbole that in our 74-year history we have never been stronger.”
The process began almost a year ago when the union’s Executive Board approved a request for proposals to seek the services of a creative agency to build a brand that reflects how far we’ve come since we became The Society of Energy Professionals after the split of Ontario Hydro in 1999. Following comprehensive consultations, the proposed name and brand was recommended to Society Council. The big reveal of the brand at the November 2017 Society Council meeting was met with enthusiastic support. Delegates unanimously recommended that members adopt Society of United Professionals as our new name.
Society leadership was determined to drive member involvement through the referendum process. The campaign involved 28 member meetings – many of which were standing room only – dedicated to educating members about the proposed constitutional changes. Almost all meetings were led by President Travers or Executive Vice Presidents Michelle Johnston or Andy D’Andrea in partnership with local representatives. Geographically, member meetings stretched from Atikokan to Renfrew and Niagara to Timmins with lots of stops in between. To reach members who work in low-density areas or couldn’t attend an in-person meeting, Travers hosted a telephone town hall that was accessible to all members across Ontario. A web site was also setup with a trove of information about all aspects of the referendum.
The union produced a variety of branded products as part of the campaign to demonstrate what the new United Professionals identity would look like. Almost all members received a water bottle and lanyard from their Unit Director or Delegate. Members who attended meetings received a toque or scarf.
“The branded products served two purposes,” reflected Travers. “A brand isn’t much when it’s just on a screen so this gave it life and showed members the opportunities for us as United Professionals.”
“The other – and I would say much more important – part was about outreach,” continued Travers. “We wanted Delegates and Unit Directors to go into the workplace and have meaningful conversations one-on-one or in small groups to talk about the future of our union. Bottles and lanyards provided an easy conversation starter.”
In all, 7,000 members received branded materials, indicating 7,000 conversations about our union.
The conversations and meetings informed members about the constitutional changes we would be voting on but voting itself has historically been a challenge in our union. Once upon a time paper ballots had to be filled out and mailed in. Then, when we took voting online, there was a member login process that was too inconvenient for many members to bother with. In the last referendum, it mean that only 8% of members cast a ballot.
The leadership wanted to find a better way to vote and we did. By moving voting from a custom-built module within our web site to a third-party vendor that specializes in voting we made voting simple and more secure. Every member received an email with their unique elector ID and password. There was no more need to recall a long-forgotten username and password – it was all in an email with a link to the ballot.
With a history of low turnout in Society referenda, Executive Board’s primary goal was to reach the 25% turnout mark required to achieve quorum. That goal may sound modest but achieving it meant a threefold increase in voter turnout compared to the last referendum.
Having done so much work to educate members on the issues and to make voting easy, the union met our 25% turnout goal just a day and a half into the 14-day voting period. So President Travers set a new goal of 30%, which was surpassed just a couple of days later. With the record for voter turnout in our union’s history already in hand, Travers wanted to really challenge workplace representatives so he offered a stretch goal: could we get a majority of members to vote?
Using outreach in the workplace, text messages and emails, we surpassed 50% voter turnout with a day and a half of voting left to go. With a final surge of voting on the last day, we ended up at 59.5% voter turnout. 4,000 more members voted in this referendum than did in the last referendum.
With voting completed, the transition to the new name and brand begins along with implementation of the other five constitutional amendments. The new name takes effect immediately but there will be a period of weeks and months where members see reminders of the old Society of Energy Professionals identity.
As for the other five amendments:
This amendment comes into effect beginning with the 2018 general election cycle and is fully implemented at the start of the next term of office.
This amendment comes into effect immediately.
This amendment comes into effect immediately and is mostly applicable to the 2018-19 round of general elections.
This amendment comes into effect immediately as members of the current CIC become members of the Screening Committee.
This amendment comes into effect immediately. Society Council adopted short- and long-term investment procedures at its November 2017 meeting.
Full voting results were released at the close of voting on March 7, 2018 and they are available at: https://www.thesociety.ca/results-2018-constitutional-changes-referendum/.
If you have any questions or comments, please speak to your local representatives or contact the Society of United Professionals office at firstname.lastname@example.org.