As First Vice-President/Treasurer, I have the honour and privilege of working with the smartest and fiercest activists and leaders – and believe me, OPSEU is loaded with them. I am inspired every single day, and nothing can beat that – not Doug Ford, not anyone.
This last month I was reminded of the depth of the talent that we have, when hundreds of OPSEU leaders from every region met for an intensive strategy session.
It’s hard to express the great pride I felt when I looked out into that room full of local presidents, Executive Board Members, Regional Vice-Presidents, and sector and equity chairs.
Our goal – to hammer-out an action plan to guide our union for the next four years of Ford; a plan to strengthen and empower our membership, and our local and regional structures, and to build on our union’s rock solid foundation.
Let me tell you, the energy in that room was electric.
It was a reminder that despite the challenges we face, we’ve got all the strength and skill we need right in front of us – in our own union family. We are ready to get to work. And I can’t think of a better group of leaders and activists to take on that work; to stand up to Ford and his privatizers.
We have been challenged before, and we have risen to that challenge. We’ve been fighting for twenty-five years – from Rae, to Harris, Eves, McGuinty, Wynne, and now Ford. We’re in round six in the fight against austerity, and we won’t stop now. Politicians come and go, but our union is still standing – and stronger than ever.
We’ve not only survived many storms, we’ve grown. And we will continue to do just that. We will continue to fight for our members’ jobs and for quality public services.
We know that Ford sees public services and public sector workers as costs – things that can be trimmed-down and chopped-up – not as assets for the people, like we do. He’s got some learning to do, but luckily we’re here to teach him a thing or two.
Ford may think he’s on track for bigger and better political opportunities, but many of his backbenchers take their jobs much more seriously. When it comes to political pressure and the power of the people, they’re much more vulnerable too.
You see, Ford and his PCs won a majority government with only 40 per cent of the popular vote. The most recent polling shows that their support has plummeted to 31 per cent – less than five months into their mandate. It’s our job to exploit their weakness and spark opposition; to represent the interests of the 70 per cent who don’t agree with them, and to build-up our local networks. We’ve got to make our fight a ballot box issue.
It’s why we’ve got to bring the fight right to their front doors; on the ground in every community where our members live and work, and in every region of this province. We are the frontline and our line has been drawn. Our local leaders understand this well, and they are ready and willing to act.
OPSEU is not waiting around for Ford’s next attack. Our Regional Vice-Presidents and local presidents have already begun to plan next steps, and with Smokey at the helm, I know we’re in good hands.
As leaders of this union, I truly believe that we’ve got to lead by example if we want to inspire activism. I’ve got that fire in my belly, and I know you do too.
So forget Ford Nation. From Kenora to Cornwall, Windsor to Wawa, Sarnia to Sudbury, Ottawa, Toronto, and everywhere in between – this is OPSEU Country now!
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President / Treasurer
Ontario Public Service Employees Union