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North Bay OPSEU Quilt Sparks Region 6 Memories

North Bay OPSEU Quilt Sparks Region 6 Memories

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Quilt Designed and Created by Diane Gallupe, Past President of Locals 669 & 633
Submission Written by Arlene Phillips, Current President of Local 669.

Within the North Bay OPSEU Hall hangs an amazing collection of history for our locals in the form of a quilt. Let’s call it an “upcycle” of previously loved t-shirts, photos onto fabric, pins, uniform pockets, buttons, and so many memories captured in one unique piece of art.

The quilt’s creator, Diane Gallupe, is a “Femtor” who sets the bar high for giving of her time and talents. She is also an active member of the North Bay Flying Squad- a group of retired OPSEU members in Region 6. This group meets regularly to discuss current issues and work on special projects. In addition to the quilt, Diane also arranged for the local Legion in Mattawa to donate 10 aprons (which she embroidered with the OPSEU logo) to be worn at ‘The Gathering Place’, a North Bay soup kitchen where some of the group’s members volunteer. These retired members, while leading active lives, participate in rallies and pickets and also support local candidates at election time. Some members also attend regional retiree meetings twice a year and maintain a voice within OPSEU.

There are so many campaigns that bring back memories of why we continue to fight the good fight and some of the battles that we have won and some that we are still fighting. For example, when the MNR workers were told that there was no more funding for gasoline and that the vehicles had to be parked. The employees organized bake sale(s) to fuel their work vehicles! The newspapers picked up on the story and when Queen’s Park found out, the government came up with some gas money to get those people back on the road.

OPSEU has played an active role in the North Bay and District Labour Council (NBDLC) for a long time. Years ago, after the Harris government was voted out, the Labour Council turned to rebuilding local Labour Day Celebrations. It started out small- but has grown into something that is now celebrated by hundreds to thousands of people. Our Labour Day Picnic brings out more participants than local Canada Day Celebrations!

NBDLC Council t-shirts started off as red, easy to find in a crowd, then changed to orange, an affiliation to the NDP. OPSEU members who ran for the NDP include: David Flury (Provincial), and Rob Boulet (Federal).

The quilt contains a Correctional Officer’s pocket with an embroidered badge, a reminder for many of us of various pickets, protests, and cookouts at the jail. The staff at the jail have seen many changes over the years and institutions have suffered the direct consequences of cuts to mental health services in Ontario. As drug use and potency has increased, staff are also more likely to work with people going through withdrawal and face violence.

One of the photos included on the quilt shows a much younger group of Region 6 activists receiving word that we accomplished what we had set out to do! Sue Brown was getting the news while the photo was being taken and shared it with us.

So many past campaigns are evident in the quilts design. The “Bad Boss Tour 2010” named employers and the reason(s) why they made this list. For example, the Ontario Colleges Association which refuses to count votes in legitimization drive by part-time college workers and Vale Inco which guts contracts, impoverishes workers and attacks communities in Canada and Brazil. Reminders of the “We Own It” campaign can be seen; OPSEU’s efforts to keep our public assets public. OPSEU worked to educate the public about the true cost of privatization of assets such as Hydro One.

This quilt proudly hangs in the North Bay OPSEU Hall. I challenge anyone who is able to visit North Bay to stop in and share the memories of current members and those that came before them. The quilt hangs as a testament to the various struggles that all OPSEU members have been involved in and they continue to fight.

Thank you Diane – mission accomplished!!