Organizing and Fighting to Win! Inspiration at the Annual PWC Breakfast
The annual Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC) breakfast took place on Friday morning. Over one hundred people attended the popular OPSEU/SEFPO Convention event, raising money for the Live and Let Live Fund, which collects funds from our locals and other groups to assist in the combatting of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and Ontario.
The morning kicked off with an opening from OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick, who talked about the need to create space for different voices, and in particular, to make sure women’s voices are not lost. “Anyone who steps up to a mic is showing engagement with their union, and I want them to look around and ask themselves, who can I bring with me, whose voice can I include?” Hornick said.
First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell expressed concern over people feeling withdrawn from activism because they feel hopeless and encouraged self-care as a key part of activism. “There’s no denying that it takes a lot of work to organize and fight back in our workplaces and within our communities…but in doing that we can build off the strength of one another and share that workload so that no one person feels like they are carrying the full weight on their shoulders,” said Nancekivell.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Crystal Garvey, Region 3 PWC Representative, spoke about the discourse of the theme of the 2023 Convention, organizing and fighting to win. “This theme is reflective of our daily narrative, especially as women, based on the many hats we wear,” she said. Dr. Garvey told those in attendance that she wanted to inspire, enlighten, and encourage, and from the enraptured look on the faces of those in attendance, her mission was accomplished. She encouraged women to take risks and to get comfortable being uncomfortable. “Being a woman, in itself, is courageous,” Dr. Garvey said.
The PWC recognized regional activists with their Regional Recognition Awards. A woman or woman-identifying OPSEU/SEFPO member from each of the union’s seven regions was recognized for their contribution to the labour movement.
Demonstrating a commitment to supporting equity, promoting an understanding of the strength our union gains from diversity, and having the mindset that there are no barriers to anyone achieving their goal, the following are the very deserving recipients of this award:
- Region 1: Taylor Phillips, Local 116
- Region 2: Jenny Diplacido, Local 234
- Region 3: Sheena Parsons, Local 386
- Region 4: Roslynn Blodgett, Local 4104
- Region 5: Carol Mundley, Local 500
- Region 6: Tara Maszczakiewicz, Local 684
- Region 7: Jody Tsubouchi, Local 710
The highlight of the morning was the presentation of The Bread and Roses Award. This award recognizes achievements in leadership, innovative thinking and transforming communities as they relate to engaging more women or woman identifying individuals in the labour movement through their activities with OPSEU/SEFPO and their communities. Demonstrating the ability and spirit in advancing gender equality with a deep commitment to social justice, Tischa Forster from Local 133 was an obvious choice. The presentation of this award was followed by a moving performance of Bread and Roses by Janice Hunter-Desjarlais, Local 154 to close the breakfast.
Budget 2023 passes after continued discussion from previous day
Discussion about the 2023 Budget Report continued Friday morning, with debate and questions from delegates about projections and procedures. It was pointed out that the opportunity to ask about budget presentations is a great way for all members to learn more about the OPSEU/SEFPO budget before voting.
First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell explained that there was a Budget Q&A session held on Wednesday evening, where questions about the previous budget were answered, and that in the interest of time, delegates must speak only to the current budget report, debating why they will or will not support it.
After some further discussion, the 2023 Budget Report carried. President JP Hornick thanked Nancekivell and financial services staff for their work on the budget.
“When we lift each other up, we all rise together”: Marit Stiles and Jagmeet Singh address OPSEU/SEFPO Convention 2023
“This is exactly the kind of crowd I love the most, union allies that energize me!” said Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles to a roaring thunder of applause from the OSPEU/SEFPO Convention floor. Stiles is a long-time community activist, and former Toronto School Board Trustee. She has represented the Toronto riding of Davenport in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario since June 7, 2018 and on February 4, 2023 became the leader of the Ontario NDP.
Stiles said she has travelled to every part of the province and consistently hears the message that things just don’t feel right in Ontario anymore. “Workers in all sectors are suffering with the sudden and steep rise in the cost of living, some areas have 22 hour wait times for beds in the ER and young people have given up on the hope of having a home,” she said.
Acknowledging that Ontario has a strong and dedicated public service, Stiles noted that we can do better to restore fairness, opportunity, and prosperity. “For five long years the Ford government has been at war with workers and it’s time to stop putting public dollars into private pockets” she said.
Leader of the Federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh noted all the “Organize. Fight. Win!” signs and confirmed to the crowd “When we organize and fight, we win!”. Singh is a lawyer, and human rights activist who served as an Ontario MPP from 2011 until 2017. On October 1st, 2017, he became leader of Canada’s Federal NDP. “For us, it’s not enough to just wait for another election, we use our power now in this minority government to deliver changes for people,” Singh said about the NDP’s push to double the GST rebate to put money back in people’s pockets.
The best way to tackle inequality and strengthen the power of workers, says Singh, is to make it easier for people to join unions. “One of the things that undermines the decision to go on strike is when replacement workers are brought in as it undermines the power of workers” he said. Because of this, the NDP has a commitment that by the end of this year they are going to bring in federal anti-scab legislation.
Singh inspired chants of “shame” from the Convention floor saying, “When conservatives have power, they help their friends and hurt workers”. Those chants of “shame” turned quickly into applause as he continued, “Ford didn’t know what he was up against because he thought he could fight against workers and workers fought back!”
“We are all one and we are all connected”, said Singh. “When we lift each other up, we all rise together, we are better off as a people, as a province and as a country when we take care of each other”.
Mohawk filmmaker and water activist Layla Staats addresses Convention
Every year at the OPSEU/SEFPO Convention, many keynote speakers address the attending delegates and alternates. This year the membership was honoured to have Layla Staats give a keynote address, which included two short film presentations. Staats has spoken at numerous OPSEU/SEFPO functions and always provides a fresh perspective on Indigenous water issues and land claims.
Staats spoke of how much we as Canadians take water for granted. As many people are aware, many Indigenous reserves still do not have clean drinking water for their residents and it is a shame that this problem continues to exist in a developed country like Canada.
She also addressed how land acknowledgments are treated by organizations. Many times, people will give a land acknowledgment without knowing the real history and truth behind what the land actually means for Indigenous people. OPSEU/SEFPO has made a concerted effort to better personalize land acknowledgements so that members really understand the significance of them.
Staats also spoke about her experiences as an activist and having been arrested for simply taking a stand to defend her people and land. She continues to be a strong activist and OPSEU/SEFPO is always honoured and privileged to have Layla Staats attend its functions.
Equity Chairs, Social Mapping Project Ad Hoc Committee recommends equity seats on Executive Board, calls members to action
The Equity Report, presented by Chair of Equity Chairs Taylor Phillips, encouraged OPSEU/SEFPO delegates to better represent our union’s diverse membership by creating space and empowering marginalized members through a series of calls to action. These include participation in non-union events (e.g. Pride), succession planning, and other engagement strategies that encourage a broader representation of the membership.
On behalf of the Social Mapping Project (SMP) Ad Hoc Committee, charged with the responsibility to investigate ways to implement SMP recommendations, Phillips presented the most highly anticipated recommendation: the proposed addition of seven Equity seats to the Executive Board, which requires a constitutional amendment. The SMP Ad Hoc Committee (composed of two members from each Equity Committee/Caucus and two Executive Board members, with the assistance of Equity Unit staff) noted that such an amendment will help to address ten of 49 SMP recommendations. This proposed change represents a year and a half of work by the SMP Ad Hoc Committee and has the full support of the Executive Board.
OPSEU/SEFPO delegates will have the opportunity to vote on the Constitutional Amendment on Saturday morning.
Launched in 2010, the SMP has been a years-long demographic survey and review of OPSEU/SEFPO membership systems. The data collected through this process has allowed OPSEU/SEFPO to identify gaps and barriers in service. Since the original report, new priorities, programs and policies have been centred on promoting greater diversity. OPSEU/SEFPO 2017 Convention mandated a new Social Mapping initiative that began mid-2019. The intent was to provide a comprehensive view of the union’s diversity, inclusion and equity indicators and practices. The specifics of the Social Mapping Project are available here.
Enough is Enough!
The cost of living in Ontario has recently, gotten progressively more expensive. Many Ontarians are struggling to pay for food, housing, healthcare, and education. Many are struggling to work and live.
OPSEU/SEFPO has joined forces with the Ontario Federation of Labour and the broader labour movement to fight back against the cost of living crisis and stagnant wages.
Convention attendees watched a video on Friday that highlighted the “Enough is Enough” campaign. The five demands of the campaign are:
- Actual wage increases for the people of Ontario
- Keeping public schools and health care public for the people of Ontario
- Enabling groceries, gas, and basic goods to be affordable for the people of Ontario
- Controlled rent coupled with affordable housing for the people of Ontario
- Making the banks and corporations pay their fair share.
Want to join the fight against the cost of living crisis? Sign up for the campaign at WeSayEnough.ca.
OPSEU/SEFPO members test their knowledge at the PYC Trivia Night
The Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC) challenged OPSEU/SEFPO members to test their knowledge by hosting a trivia night Friday evening. A crowd of nearly 30 members of all ages gathered to demonstrate their union trivia prowess. Participants enjoyed three thrilling rounds of trivia that challenged them on a variety of topics including labour union facts. The energy was high with things really heating up on double point questions! The winner of each round was able to select a gift card as their prize.
The PYC works to promote young worker involvement in the union and advocates on issues and concerns related to young workers such as job security, environmental sustainability, and mobilization and education at the regional level. The goal of the PYC is to “educate, motivate, mobilize and empower young workers wherever possible”.
If you would like to learn more about the issues facing young workers across Ontario and around the world, try listening to the PYC’s new podcast, “The S word”.
The Coalition of Racialized Workers continues to strive
The Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW) held their annual Convention meeting where OPSEU/SEFPO members could come and see the work that the committee continues to do. The CoRW has made it a purpose to engage OPSEU/SEFPO members with the issues that racialized workers face on a daily basis.
The CoRW introduced their executive committee and the initiatives that take place on an annual basis. Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month, Pride and Caribana are some of the events that the CoRW have taken pride in advocating for racialized workers. Also, at their annual Convention meeting, the CoRW detailed the process for members who are interested in running for CoRW executive seats in the fall.
The event also showcased musical performances and was a great way for racialized OPSEU/SEFPO members to network with one another.
Day 2 Resolutions Committee and Constitution Committee Reports
Political Resolution O1 – Committee Recommendation: For
Therefore be it resolved that an ad-hoc committee be established by the President’s office, with the membership of the committee being the President or designate, the First Vice- President/Treasurer or designate, and three Executive Board Members as elected by the Executive Board, with support from OPSEU/SEFPO General Counsel and any professional expert(s) chosen by the President and approved by the ad-hoc committee as a whole, to conduct a review of OPSEU/SEFPO’s governance structure, including a comparative analysis of existing governance structures in other unions and not-for profit organizations, and that the ad-hoc committee will create a process to get input from local, equity and sector/divisional leaders, with the analysis and any recommendations from the committee to be presented to OPSEU/SEFPO Convention 2024.
(Submitted by Local 503, also submitted by Local 532, Local 568, Greater Toronto Area Council & the Executive Board)
Expenses Resolution J4 – Committee Recommendation: Against
Therefore be it resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO shall reimburse meal allowance, where appropriate, for all attended union events by its members, regardless of location.
(Submitted by Nipissing Area Council, also submitted by Ottawa Area Council, Provincial Women’s Committee & Thunder Bay and District Area Council)
Affiliations Resolution F1 – Committee Recommendation: For
Therefore be it resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO affiliate a minimum of 100 Black and/or racialized workers to The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (Ontario) with yearly dues paid on their behalf in collaboration with the CORW committee, with parity in regions taken into consideration.
(Submitted by the Provincial Human Rights Committee
also submitted by the Kingston Area Council, Nipissing Area Council, Ottawa Area Council, Provincial Human Rights Committee, Provincial Women’s Committee, Provincial Young Workers Committee, Thunder Bay and District Area Council)
Expenses Resolution J6 – Committee Recommendation: For
Therefore be it resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO Head Office will pay costs of single accommodation for Regional, divisional meetings, educationals, Ontario Public Service (OPS), Broader Public Service (BPS), CAAT (A)(S) conferences, the annual Convention, any affiliate Conventions/meetings and all other duly authorized meetings where OPSEU/SEFPO members attend and a hotel is required.
(Submitted by Provincial Women’s Committee, also submitted by Kingston Area Council, Nipissing Area Council, Ottawa Area Council, Provincial Human Rights Committee, Provincial Young Workers Committee, Thunder Bay and District Area Council)
Lobby/Campaigns Resolution L1 – Committee Recommendation: For
Therefore be it resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO in conjunction with the Ontario Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress will demand the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to explicitly legislate requirements for municipalities to implement the UN Declaration [on the rights of Indigenous Peoples], and
Be it further resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO in conjunction with the Indigenous Circle will develop a campaign on this issue with the planning to be started within 3 months of this resolution passing.
(Submitted by the Thunder Bay and District Area Council, also submitted by Local 527, Kingston Area Council, Nipissing Area Council, Ottawa Area Council, Provincial Women’s Committee, Provincial Human Rights Committee & Provincial Young Workers Committee)
Education Resolution E2 – Committee Recommendation: For
Therefore be it resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO will develop and roll out both a Building a State of Readiness tool kit/manual and a Building a State of Readiness leadership workshop for local, sector, divisional, regional, equity and area council leaders, and
Be it further resolved that a central objective of the “Building a State of Readiness” tool kit and workshop will be to increase our collective capacity to defend OPSEU/SEFPO members jobs, wages and working conditions and to rapidly mobilize our collective power to take whatever steps are necessary to bargain fair contracts, defend quality public services and defeat the Ford government’s austerity agenda.
(Submitted by Local 557, also submitted by Local 503, Local 553, Local 557, Local 568, Local 586 & Greater Toronto Area Council)
Constitutional Amendment H2, Article 13 – Conventions
Therefore, be it resolved that, Article 13.3 of OPSEU/SEFPO Constitution first and second sentence be replaced with:
13.3 For purposes of calculating delegate entitlement, all members paying dues in a Local shall be counted. Honorary members shall not be counted.
(Submitted by Local 205, Local 223, Local 228, Local 446, Local 447, Local 527, Local 546, Local 553, Local 557, Local 579, Local 5107, Local 672, and Ottawa Area Council)
Constitutional Amendment H1, Article 13 – Conventions; Article 14 – Election and Removal of Executive Board; Article 15 – Vacancies; Article 19 – Provincial Committees
Therefore, be it resolved that, OPSEU/SEFPO adopts a 3-year operational term commencing in 2024.
(Submitted by Local 205, Local 223, Local 228, Local 277, Local 446, Local 447, Local 449, Local 533, Local 546, Local 579, Local 672, Kingston Area Council, Nipissing Area Council, Ottawa Area Council, Thunder Bay and District Area Council, Provincial Human Rights Committee, Provincial Women’s Committee, and Provincial Young Workers Committee)
Constitutional Amendment H4, Article 13 – Conventions
Therefore, be it resolved that, the Executive Board endorses Constitutional amendments as necessary to permit alternates and observers to be seated with delegates on the floor of Convention, and refers an amendment to Convention to effect this change.
(Submitted by the Executive Board)