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Convention Update Day 1 – April 14, 2016

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Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award

OPSEU honours Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders

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For more than 40 years, Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF/DWB), have been providing medical assistance to people affected by armed conflicts, natural disasters, disease epidemics, malnutrition crises, and other emergencies. People the world over are familiar with how MSF/DWB rapidly deploys specialized medical and logistical expertise and equipment in various crises.

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders provides emergency healthcare including surgery, mass vaccination campaigns, water and sanitation, supplementary nutrition, medicine and medical supplies, training and health education, organization or rehabilitation of health facilities, and medical assistance within existing health facilities – all while observing neutrality in circumstances of conflict and impartiality in the name of medical ethics.

Importantly, it is through their medical humanitarian assistance that its members act as witnesses to, and advocates against, the suffering of the people they assist.

By focusing the public’s attention on various humanitarian crises, the goal of MSF/DWB is to alleviate human suffering and to restore dignity to individual human beings regardless of race, identity, religion, or political affiliation.

Honorary Lifetime Membership Award

David Rapaport, Local 503

As an OPSEU activist between 1984 and 2009, David Rapaport fought to advance the interests of OPSEU’s members as a steward, local president, Executive Board Member and Regional Vice-president, and worked for members as a trustee of the OPSEU Pension Trust Board of Trustees.

During this period, David played a leading role in many of the struggles that helped shape OPSEU as a fighting union. He was part of the OPSEU committee that successfully negotiated with the NDP government in 1993 to establish the right to strike for our members in the OPS. He then played a leading role on behalf of OPSEU to mobilize against the Rae government’s social contract. As a Regional Vice-President, David led the massive mobilization of the OPS in Region 5 through the historic OPS strike of 1996, and he helped lead the 1996 Metro Days of Action, the largest general strike in Ontario’s history.

David organized the successful campaign in 1996-97 to stop privatization of the Queen’s Park mailroom. He also ran the campaign against IT outsourcing in the OPS between 2002 and 2009. He served as a trustee, vice-chair, and chair of the OPSEU Pension Trust Board of Trustees where he fought to defend the integrity of the joint sponsorship model and to ensure the security and stability of the OPSEU pension plan and the pensions of more than 86,000 OPSEU members and retirees.

David is the author of No Justice, No Peace, an authoritative history of the 1996 OPS strike as told by its leaders and participants, and through developing and teaching numerous courses inside OPSEU and with the Canadian Labour Congress.

David served as a member of the executive of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council from 1998 to 2002, and the Toronto executive of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada. Currently he is a member of CUPE 3908, representing sessional faculty at Trent University in Peterborough.

Honorary Lifetime Membership Award

Jeannie Eberle, Local 468

Over the years, Jeannie Eberle was vice-president, treasurer, and president of OPSEU Local 468, and a member of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Ministry Employee Relations Committee (MERC) from 2006-2013, and served a strong role on the MOHLTC grievance committee.

In addition, Jeannie is a long-standing member of the Kingston Area council executive, an executive member of the Kingston District Labour Council, and also the chair of the Region 4 retirees division. A long-time active supporter of the NDP, Jeannie is a former winner of the Region 4 Bread and Roses award.

What is evident is that Jeannie has been a pillar of the labour movement for a long time and remains a key figure in the region’s activist base.

Peter Wall, Local 638

Peter was an active member of Region 6 and of Local 638 in Hearst where he worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources in northern Ontario. He was committed to protecting our lands and water, and to the workplace rights of his fellow workers. Peter was a long-time union activist, a local president, and a former OPSEU Executive Board Member.

Health & Safety Award

Deb Brotzel, Local 112

Deb Brotzel worked for 35 years as a child care worker at Child and Parent Resource Institute (CPRI).  As an LEC member of OPSEU Local 112, she was particularly interested in health and safety at her worksite.  She was co-chair of the CPRI’s joint occupational health and safety committee from the 1990s until her retirement in 2015. In this role she paid special attention to issues of bullying and harassment in the workplace; was active on behalf of workers injured on the job, and advocated for accommodations. Looking back over the years, an especially challenging time for all direct care institutions in Ontario occurred during the SARS crisis of the early 2000s. Deb rose to the occasion and was highly effective in helping to manage the many health and safety issues that arose at that time, working with the infection control committee to establish protocols that ensured the health and safety of clients, families, and staff.  Deb retired in 2015, leaving behind a very large legacy at the CPRI, and to OPSEU Local 112.

Tim Brown Award

Theresa O’Connor, Local 266

Theresa O’Connor is a Region 2 representative on the Aboriginal Circle.  She is also a women’s representative on the Great Lakes Métis Council, as well as a proud member of the Métis Nation of Ontario.

Theresa served as a director on the board of the M’Wikwedong Native Cultural Resource Centre. She remains actively involved.

As an Aboriginal Circle representative, Theresa helped develop the course “Aboriginal Journey.” She actively participated in the Region 2 Equity Conferences, providing incredible speakers on the topics of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and land claim issues.

Leah Cassleman Award: Individual

Janice Martell, Local 604

At OPSEU’s 2014 Convention, Janice Martell raised the issue of ongoing occupational health and safety hazards found in Ontario mines. As evidence, she pointed to recent deaths and long-term health issues suffered by former miners who inhaled the toxic McIntyre Powder during their time working underground. She noted the need to join with other unions in the fight for improved health and safety, and workers’ compensation reform. Convention delegates were so moved by her presentation that a few months later the executive board adopted a motion to provide support for enforcement of the Westray Act, and to a campaign to expand that Act that would include the harmful effects caused by McIntyre Powder.

Janice’s McIntyre Powder campaign is about bringing justice to miners and their families. You can imagine the opposition she has faced from the provincial government.

Janice Martell never fails to acknowledge the support she has received over the years from OPSEU. She has reached out to OPSEU members whose loved ones fell victim to McIntyre Powder. OPSEU’s presence can be found in her work, on her phone calls, during her media appearances, and in her campaign correspondence. Through it all, Janice has led Local 604 through reorganization and contract bargaining with clear success.

Leah Cassleman Award:

Local 294 (CarePartners)

Local 294, representing CarePartners’ worker in the Niagara region, organized with OPSEU in 2013. Fighting an employer for a fair first contract led to a strike in 2015 that lasted almost eight months.

These members are mostly part-time, low-wage earners.  Even though they carried an extremely difficult financial burden throughout the job action, the workers bravely continued their fight and demonstrated incredible strength, determination, and solidarity. 

Local 294 organized numerous pickets outside the offices of local MPPs and Community Care Access Centres. They took their demonstrations to other CarePartner locations and organized a province-wide Day of Action.

The workers made presentations at LIHN meetings and held a sit-in inside the offices of Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, until he finally agreed to meet face-to-face with them. They recruited support from provincial labour councils and made their presence felt at OPSEU general membership meetings and conferences.

Local 294 also organized an Adopt-A-Family campaign to help members get through the Christmas-New Year’s holidays. This collective act of kindness and generosity ensured that children and loved ones would receive gifts and food. 

Human Rights Award: Individual

Sandra Snider, Local 736

Sandra has been a very active OPSEU member for many years.  She has served on both the executive board and OPSEU’s Provincial Women’s Committee. 

As president of OPSEU Local 736, Sandra successfully campaigned to make her employer implement a scent-free policy, one of the first of its kind in Ontario. 

During Sandra’s two terms on OPSEU’s Provincial Women’s Committee, her social activism went beyond gender issues.  She was a member of the Thunder Pride Week organizing committee from its inception, and has been active with the organization ever since.

When her daughter Sarah was born 26 years ago, there were no daycares that could be used by shift workers in Thunder Bay due to their restrictive hours of operation. Sandra was a founding board member of the Kinderplace Daycare Centre at the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital, which offered early start hours and later closing hours than offered at other day care facilities in the city.  She would eventually serve as chair of the centre for five years.  She also served on the board of the Northern Ontario Coalition for Better Daycare, and the Thunder Bay Daycare Association.

Sandra has served as a member of the Thunder Bay Learning Disability Association, and the Lakehead District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee.

She facilitated the Thunder Bay and District Injured Worker Support Group’s annual strategy session.

Sandra is also a member of the Bay Credit Union’s board of directors, and sits on its social justice committee, where she advocated for a $14.00 per hour minimum wage policy which was later adopted by the Apple Credit Union when it merged with the Bay Credit Union.

Sandra also works to make positive political change as vice-president of the federal and a board member of the provincial NDP Thunder Bay-Superior North riding association.

Rainford Jackson Education and Development Fund

Justice for Migrant Workers

Justice for Migrant Workers is a grassroots advocacy group composed of migrant workers and allies who fight for the interests of workers in Canada’s temporary foreign workers program, including workers in the seasonal agricultural workers program. Not only does this group educate and organize workers, but it also takes its efforts into communities and organized labour. The advocacy group aims to reduce the racism that migrant workers often face in Canada.  Members of the group have faced hostility from opponents at times, but it hasn’t diminished their commitment to making life better in this country for migrant workers.

Convention entertainment and socials

OPSEU is offering all attendees a variety of social and entertainment experiences to make their convention experience as memorable as possible. 

OPSEU’s Got Talent

Thursday, April 14th – 8:00 pm

Join us at the John Bassett Theatre for the 2nd annual OPSEU’s Got Talent – a showcase of our own member’s talent hosted by David Merry and featuring judges Farley Flex, Greg Morton and Jessica Matten

LOL! Laugh out loud

Friday, April 15, 8:30 pm

Join us at the John Bassett Theatre for the Convention 2016 Comedy Night – doors open at 8:15 for this not to be missed event. Comedic performances by Darryl Lennox, Laurie Elliott and Greg Morton, hosted by Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

Hospitality Suites

April 14 & 15

There are several Hospitality Suites open to welcome attendees at the Royal York, hosted by each of region of OPSEU.  Suites typically start after 8pm.

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