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Another year longer, another year stronger

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It’s looking like it will be a beautiful, sunny day across Ontario on Monday. On behalf of OPSEU’s entire executive board, we’d like to encourage you to take part in Labour Day events in your community. 

Bask in the sun and the solidarity – you’ve earned it.

It’s not been an easy year for workers, in either the public or private sectors. The past 12 months have been a time of chaos, uncertainty, and heartbreak.

But never forget: when we stand together, we win together.

Since last Labour Day, we’ve had a number of wins.

Autism workers, standing together with parents and community members, forced the Ford government to shuffle out a crass and uncaring cabinet minister and start back at square one on its plans to reform autism services. 

Meanwhile, autoworkers and their allies across the province stood together and forced one of the biggest corporations in the world to back away from its plans to totally shutter its plant in Oshawa.

Those are just two of the countless victories that workers have won this year, but there are many others: 

Mental health workers in Kingston who belong to OPSEU saved many of their services from the chopping block.

In Owen Sound, OPSEU members stood together with residents and families to save the public long-term care home Grey Gables.

OPSEU and other union members on the board of the OPTrust pension plan stood together to give, for the first time ever, tens if not hundreds of thousands of Ontario workers their first-ever shot at a defined-benefit pension plan and the retirement security it offers.

All of these and others were victories. And all of them are worth celebrating.

And as we celebrate that in each and every one of our victories, we are standing on the shoulders of the workers who came before us. Weekends, health benefits, pensions, maternity leave – none of these were handed to us willingly. All of them had to be hard won by workers who had each other’s backs.

We need to keep on having each other’s backs.

This Labour Day, we gather and march in the calm before what promises to be a mighty storm.

Staggering from a long list of self-inflicted scandals that have sent their popularity plummeting, the Ford government has gone mostly quiet. It’s a blatant attempt not to hurt the chances of the Conservatives in the upcoming federal election.

But in late October, once the election is done, you can expect the Premier to come back to life. And we all know who’s going to be in his line of fire: unionized workers like us.

The Premier and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy made this crystal clear in the spring when they introduced Bill 124, their blatantly unconstitutional attempt to limit bargained public sector wage increases to just one per cent a year. That’s less than inflation will likely be, so it’s actually a bill to cut the wages of unionized public sector wages.

The good news is that the bill hasn’t yet been passed – it’s not yet the law of the land.

The bad news is that there are unscrupulous employers out there who are acting like Bill 124 is already the law, refusing to offer workers currently in bargaining anything more than one per cent, effectively cutting their wages.

It’s not right. We can’t let it happen. We won’t let it happen.

So this Labour Day, look around you. The workers you see are an incredible source of strength and solidarity. Share in it. Enjoy it. Wield it.

As trade unionists, we’ve been at this another year longer. And that means we’re another year stronger.

Together to win.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer