Isabelle Boucher—Plain language is a service to members (PLAIN 2013)

Isabelle Boucher, education officer with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), made a strong case at her PLAIN 2013 plenary session for using plain language in union documentation and union activities. “Unions aren’t just about collective agreements,” she said. “They’re about social justice.” Plain language allows members to understand their rights and

  • is inclusive—not all union members have the same education and literacy skills
  • is democratic—union members who understand what’s going on are more likely to vote
  • encourages participation—members are more likely to speak up and take on roles within the union if they feel like part of the process
  • creates safe and healthy workplaces—workers can follow safety procedures only if they understand them.

Boucher outlined the work of CUPE’s literacy working group—which  develops programs and gives feedback on literacy tools—since it was created in 2000. In 2001–2002, the literacy program offered clear language training for CUPE staff across Canada.

At its general meetings in 2005 and 2007, CUPE accepted both traditional resolutions

Be it resolved that…

as well as plain language resolutions

CUPE National will…

It announced that in 2009 it would accept only the plain language version. The literacy program knew it was on the right track when, in 2007, virtually all of the resolutions submitted used the plain wording.

In 2011, CUPE rewrote its constitution in plain language, and in 2013, it began revising its model bylaws.

More information about CUPE’s clear language initiatives can be found here.

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