Black OPSEU members (African descent or origin, African Black Caribbean, African-Canadian, Canadians of African descent) are contributing to all areas of union activities and trade unionism adding their talents and assets to make OPSEU stronger, more vibrant and more successful.
As part of the work of addressing racism and anti-black racism, the Coalition of Racialized Workers (formerly, the Workers of Colour Caucus) recently began to engage OPSEU’s leadership in real discussion about the visibility of Black OPSEU members in the union and anti-Black racism signaling a change in some fundamental norms that govern collective OPSEU behavior.
“The question is not whether there is racism in society or in the union, but how can we be effective in claiming space for the diverse Black and racialized communities in our union?” stated Peter Thompson, Chair of the Coalition of Racialized Workers.
As part of its plan of action, the Coalition of Racialized Workers (“The Coalition”) advocated for changes to the OPSEU Statement of Respect, called for OPSEU to endorse the Ontario Anti-Black Racism Strategy and to commit to the eradication of anti-black racism in all its forms; as well as recognizing and supporting the International Decade of People of African Descent (2015-2024) at the Executive Board meeting in September 2018. The multi-pronged motion was passed by the OPSEU Board unanimously.
In 2017, the Ontario government passed new legislation, the Ontario Anti-Racism Act and launched the Ontario Anti-Black Racism Strategy.
The Ontario Anti-Black Racism strategy is especially focused on eradicating anti-black racism because black communities in Ontario are experiencing especially virulent forms of racism and inequitable outcomes in almost every measure of opportunity, security and fairness. This is as a result of the impact of historical disadvantage such as slavery, racial segregation and marginalization.
The Strategy includes several key measures to combat anti-black racism including mandating the use and application of an anti-racism lens in developing and implementing policies, and a framework for “race”-based data collection, analysis and reporting.
“When [black people] call for anti-racism, it isn’t about multi-culturalism. It’s isn’t about equity or diversity. It isn’t about inclusion. It isn’t simply about anti-racism…at the root of racism is anti-black racism.”
– Akua Benjamin.
An anti-racism approach is about taking proactive steps to fight for racial equality.
“We commend the OPSEU Executive Board for listening and asking questions and acting on our lobbying efforts to bring about change and sending a clear message to every structure within OPSEU acknowledging that systemic racism is real, and the need to confront the unequal power relations that sustain it,” says Kola Iluyomade, member of the Coalition of Racialized Workers.
“Let’s remember that when Stephen Lewis wrote the 1992 Report on Race Relations, he said, ‘First, what we are dealing with, at root, and fundamentally, is anti-black racism … just as the soothing balm of ‘multiculturalism’ cannot mask racism, so racism cannot mask its primary target.’ ”
For the revised OPSEU Statement Respect click here