The Alberta Disability Workers Association (ADWA) is a provincial advocacy organization for all people employed in Community Disability Services who provide essential services to Albertans with disabilities.
Alberta’s Community Disability Services are in a staffing crisis.
Workers paid to support people with disabilities have not seen a wage increase since 2014 (despite an increase in the cost of living of 14% over the past eight years). They are feeling stressed and undervalued and many are choosing to leave their jobs for other employment where they will be properly compensated for their skills and valuable contributions.
The low wages and retention rates are of serious concern to community-based employers who are struggling to recruit and retain qualified staff to provide essential services to Albertans with disabilities.
In support of Community Disability Service Workers, ADWA is launching a provincial campaign to advocate for a 25% increase to current wages.
We hope that you will join us in this important campaign. More information and resources can be found below or you can email us at email@example.com.
Here are some guidelines on how to write letters to your Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Alberta in support of the “Essential but Forgotten” campaign to raise Community Disability Services workers’ wages. Agencies and families get the money they use to pay your wages from the Government of Alberta (GOA). Your MLA is a person who has a say on how much money comes to the Community Disability Services sector in the provincial budget. If we want an increase in our wages, we will need to convince the GOA to give more money to agencies and families to do that.
The GOA has limited money to spend on all of the services they provide to Albertans. Your active involvement in this campaign will be critical in convincing them that they need to put more money into our sector instead of putting it somewhere else.
Letter Writing Tips
Start with the title of the person you’re writing to. Make sure you get the right spelling of the name and correct title, including the correct salutation. (See example letter below.) You can find your MLA here (Who’s My MLA – Search | Elections Alberta).
Identify yourself as a constituent (someone who lives in the riding of the politician) by including your address when you write to your MLA. Generally, politicians are likely to pay most attention to people who live in their electoral district because they are people who can choose to vote for them. You do not have to vote for them, but they need to know that you could choose to do so.
Be polite and respectful. Avoid making partisan political (meaning supporting one particular political party or their policies) or religious comments. Some politicians will not share your perspective or philosophical outlook, but it is still important to engage them. Being courteous will go a long way in relaying a message, but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. While your representative’s job is to represent you, remember that politicians and their staff are people too. Threats, hostile remarks and rude/offensive language are among the fastest ways to alienate people who could otherwise decide to support your position in light of rational and reasoned argument. Your representative could be in elected office for decades, and could be promoted to higher, more influential, office within their party. Avoid creating enemies. Also, remember this is a campaign from a professional association, so if we are arguing we should be treated as professionals our writing should be professional in nature.
In the letter body, start with a clear statement of the purpose for writing the letter. For example: “I am writing to express my concern about the very low wages paid to Community Disability Support Workers in Alberta.”
Tell them something about yourself relating to why you’re concerned about the low wage issue. For example, “As a person who has been a disability support worker for 10 years, I am not making enough money to pay for my food, clothing and shelter costs unless I work more than 1,000 hours a month. I never get to see my own family, which is very hard on us all, and which creates other costs such as childcare that I cannot afford.”
Say that you are a constituent in the body of your letter. They are interested in hearing from people who might vote for them because that is how they keep their job. Personalize your relationship (if applicable): If you have ever voted for the politician, or contributed time or money to their election campaign, or have met them, etc., say so. The closer your representative feels to you, the more effective your letter is likely to be.
Be clear, brief and to the point. Try to keep your letter to one or two pages. Shorter is usually better.
Request that a specific action be taken. For example: “We need a significant raise to workers in the Disability Services sector immediately or I and many others who provide supports will have to look for other work just so we can survive. If you don’t do something very soon I fear the people who rely on us for daily living supports will have no workers left.”
Use plain, simple language. It is not a competition to see how many long words you can include. It’s much better to write simply as to avoid any confusion or miscommunication.
Saying thank you is as important as criticism. If there is anything your MLA or their party has done that you appreciate, let them know. We are always happier to help people who have said something nice to us.
Ask for a reply by signing off with something like, “I look forward to your response” or a request that shows you are expecting a response. You need to signal to them that you want them to reply to your letter.
Make sure your address is correct and send the original letter to your own MLA. If you are able, send a paper copy with your original signature to your MLA. Paper copies with original signatures tend to carry more weight. If you are not able to send a paper copy, an emailed copy is the next best option. Also send a copy of the letter to the following people (contact information in the sample letter below):
The Community and Social Services Minister, Jason Luan
The Deputy Minister, Cynthia Farmer
Opposition Critic, Marie Renaud
ADWA office (so we can track the campaign)
Sample Letter Format
Mr./Mrs./Ms. (full name), M.L.A.
Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. (last name)
(What you are writing about)
(Your personal story)
Will you commit to increasing the wages of essential disability services workers across the province? I look forward to your response.