Convention at a Glance is created and written by OPSEU’s inSolidarity Committee: Craig Hadley, Local 5109 (editor); Glen Archer, Local 719; Maria Bauer, Local 376; Julie Hunt, Local 405; Laurie Tarto, Local 292.
Singh sows inspiration
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh praised OPSEU for being a true ally of the people of Ontario.
He spoke to OPSEU members on the last day of Convention.
Singh urged the union to keep the pressure on the Ford government on the issues that really count: health care and the whole range of public services, affordable housing, student debt and income inequality.
Singh also shared some personal history about his father, noting that publicly funded health care and addictions services saved his father’s life.
He reminded us that the “mess” we are in is because of “Liberal and Conservative governments.” He described how the NDP had put forward a motion to limit corporate influence – and both the Liberals and Tories had defeated it, noting that big pharma has lobbied the Liberals over 600 times since taking power.
The NDP leader was inspirational when he said: “We’re done with the red door. We’re done with the blue door. Let’s choose the orange door!” He added, “When we help all those around us, we all rise together.”
New OPSEU Executive Board gets ranked
Elections were held on Friday afternoon to rank the Executive Board’s Regional Vice-Presidents. Regional Vice-Presidents are elected to ranks so that, should the President and/or First Vice-President/Treasurer be unable to complete the full two-year term, there is an established order to deter- mine who will take their place.
Below are the results of the election:
2nd RVP: Sara Labelle – Region 3 (also Highest-Ranking Female
3rd RVP: Len Elliott – Region 1
4th RVP: Lucy Morton – Region 2
5th RVP: Edie Strachan – Region 5
6th RVP: Ed Arvelin – Region 7
7th RVP: Tara Langford – Region 4
8th RVP: Tara Maszczakiewicz – Region 6
They gave so much
On behalf of the Executive Board, President Thomas expressed his deep appreciation for the dedicated service of outgoing board members.
Phillip Shearer (Region 1)
Shearer thanked Local 112 for supporting him in his work and thanked his EBM mentors for lessons in effective leadership.
Gareth Jones (Region 4)
Jones thanked the Region 4 members, saying his four years were the most rewarding and challenging of his life.
Chrisy Tremblay (Region 4)
Tremblay thanked her Local 454 “Blue Dragons,” as well as her labour family and mentors at the Ottawa Children’s Aid Society.
Julius Arscott (Region 5)
Arscott thanked Local 532 and said he’d fought hard for gains in contract negotiations. He added he had great respect for workers who rejected contracts and decided to fight.
Myles Magner (Region 5)
Magner said it had been an honour to serve for six years, giving a shout-out to merged locals 514 and 500.
Jessica Sikora (Region 5)
Sikora expressed profound gratitude to Local 586 and OPSEU for understanding she had to look to her health over union commitments.
Mike Bisaillon (Region 6)
Mike recognized his mentor Sue Brown, a “strong sister” who had held tough and showed him much. He said OPSEU had given him many goals and opportunities.
Jean Luc Roy (Region 6)
In his turn, Roy thanked Bisaillon for his mentoring. He said he’d taken a step back but would always be there for his region and OPSEU.
Carl Thibodeau (Region 7)
Thibodeau thanked the board, members and the RVP for their support in bargaining, the Constitution and resolutions.
Erin Thorson (Region 2) and Tracey Vyfshaft (Region 3) were not present.
OPSEU’s Got Talent!
The fifth annual OPSEU’s Got Talent contest took to the stage Thursday night in the John Bassett Theatre.
Darren Watts of Local 652 took the $3,000 first prize plus an additional $1,000 for the People’s Choice Award. His rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah was strong but vulnerable.
First runner-up Natasha Weese of Local 332 added a theatrical element with her Les Misérables number, while second runner-up
Stacey Boulianne of Local 4104 delivered Lady Gaga’s I’ll never love again. Both put the constructive comments of the celebrity judging panel to immediate action, with even better second performances. But it was Watts’ ability to sing in Italian and English that secured him the top spot.
Once again Brandon David dazzled the crowd with his magic show. Peel Paramedic Union’s Mary Kate Terepka and Christian Odorico played a ukulele and clapbox version of the early 2000s hit Valerie, which had OPSEU delegates grooving in their seats.
Previous winner Whitney Otis closed out the show with her sultry vocals paired with acoustic guitar. All performers got rousing ovations for sharing their talent with us.
The Whithering Trillium Award
Doug Ford has won the only award he is ever likely to get from OPSEU.
Ford and his cabinet easily picked up the 2019 Withering Trillium award, handed to the employer that demonstrates a complete lack of understanding, skill, knowledge, fairness, or competency as it relates to the work of their employees.
It was given in light of the generous tax breaks for Ford’s friends, cronies and wealthy corporations, as well as distractions around “buck a beer” and cannabis and the confusion, destruction and havoc he has caused to Ontario and public services.
Since Ford didn’t have the nerve to come and collect his award on Friday, OPSEU supplied their own Doug, complete with unthinking clapping minions to receive his just dessert.
By the way, OPSEU’s Doug had a much better tailor.
OPSEU’s got drag!
Sometimes union life can be a real drag – and on Wednesday night, we proved it!
OPSEU’s own Emile Thomas, Region 5, kicked off the second annual OPSEU’s Got Drag.
In a heartwarming retrospect, Emile shared how much the large crowd of OPSEU supporters in the seats meant to all those who organized and participated in the show.
The evening’s MC was Champagna, who put on quite a spectacle during the opening act. She discussed some of the stigma faced by drag performers and the trans community. She thanked OPSEU for its support and said, “We love the unions. Unions fight s****y government!”
Several drag performers followed suit with costumes ranging from risqué to stunning. After the featured per-
formers completed their shows, it was then turned back to Champagna and an impartial judge to oversee what, for some, would be the highlight of the night: the EBM drag review.
Each of the seven regions was well represented, with EBMs in evening wear, formal gowns and fantasy costumes.
Although each performer put it all out there on the stage, eventually the winner was declared to be Heaven in Seven and her unicorn-inspired costume and routine.
Special thanks went to Tina Ouellette and Morgen Veres from OPSEU’s Rainbow Alliance/Arc-en-Ciel, for making this event a huge success.
Keep services in public hands: McDonald
An internationally recognized expert on public services told OPSEU members that they need to be more aggressive in promoting the concept of keeping services in public hands.
Queen’s University Professor David McDonald was a keynote speaker at Convention on Thurs- day and shared more than 20 years of his own re- search into the causes and effects of privatization. “Ontario is in some pretty dark days,” he said. “The good news is we are really good at fighting this stuff!”
McDonald said that organized labour and its allies must alter their approach in fighting privatization. “We are now defensive,” he said. “We need to be pro-active, pro-public. It’s okay to be critical of our colonial, top-down bureaucracies.”
According to McDonald, when offered the chance to promote public over private owner- ship, labour activists need to offer progressive demands. “We put them on the defensive! We offer an alternative vision.”
After talking about the ongoing attack on public services, McDonald held out promise, noting, globally there were 835 cases of “remunicipalization,” with an expectation of 2,000 more soon. He documented Paris and its regaining control of its water, and Uruguay and its telecom system providing low-cost phone and Internet to rural residents. He discussed public banking and its ability to do public good as a viable alternative to our current system.
‘World’s oldest rebel’ receives Stanley Knowles Award
Austerity will spell the end of democracy unless we, the people, take back our right to a dignified life through the pragmatic protection of the social-welfare state. – Harry Smith
Harry Leslie Smith has posthumously received OPSEU’s prestigious Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award.
Born in Yorkshire, England on the heels of the First World War, Smith witnessed people dying around him in Dickensian-like conditions. It was only after the election of the Labour government following another world war that the great divide between the rich and the poor was narrowed.
Starting with the Thatcher era in the 1970s, it greatly disturbed him to see what democracy was becoming: the world once again separating into the haves and have-nots – and with very few fighting back against those who had created what he called the “Great Crash” of 2008.
This was the last straw, and in his ninth decade, he became a podcaster using young people’s technology to reach young people’s ears. He drew a worldwide audience of hundreds of thou- sands, most of whom were under 35. He died in Belleville in November 2018 at age 95.
When accepting the award, his son, John Max Smith, said, “I’ll leave you with some lines he wrote: “With a brutal lifestyle of diminished social services, we have to ensure our right to work is protected. Punish politicians who throw out justice through the ballot box, or we will have the world of my youth where people died from poverty and lived short lives.”
Smith concluded, “I can still hear his voice, his laugh and the joy he took in living.”
‘We want to be included!’: child with autism
A teenager with autism and his mother drew heartfelt support at OPSEU’s Convention as they talked about how the Ford government’s autism program cuts are going to negatively affect their lives.
The Provincial Human Rights Committee hosted a special presentation for Local 154 member Janice Hunter-Desjarlais and her 13-year-old son Josh.
They put faces to the fight with Doug Ford and his Conservative government over their cutbacks. Josh described growing up with autism in Windsor and his personal struggles.
Throughout his speech, he emphasized the need for more support for youth.
“We want to be included in society! Yes, I’m an expensive investment – but I’m worth it!” Josh said. He thanked OPSEU for its unwavering support for him and his family over the years.
His mother Janice took over the microphone and gave a very detailed, pointed history on all the challenges her son and her family have faced.
OPSEU members gave her and Josh a standing ovation as she asked them to keep up the fight against Ford.
The Provincial Women’s Committee Breakfast heard some inspiring words from President Warren (Smokey) Thomas as well as a former OPSEU member who has gone on to the Canadian Labour Congress.
Thomas said he and every male member of OPSEU stand shoulder to shoulder with their union sisters.
Marie Clarke Walker, the CLC’s Secretary-Treasurer underscored the importance of not only working within union locals, but also working within our communities.
She emphasized that it’s women who hold the labour movement together.
The breakfast also heard from OPSEU’s highest-ranking female and Second Vice-President Sara Labelle of Region 3.
The Bread and Roses 2019 award was presented to PWC member Sue Fairweather from Region 1.
Chrisy Tremblay of Region 4, a liaison for the PWC, was also acknowledged for her outstanding work over the years.
The event wrapped up with a rendition of Bread and Roses after outgoing chair Carol Mundley left attendees with a few thoughts on the importance of purpose, random kindness and intentionality.