The Fairness Express Tour – Week 2
It was another successful week aboard the Fairness Express. The second week of tour saw the big green bus visit Region 2, with stops in Hamilton, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Walkerton, Owen Sound and Sauble Beach.
On May 12, the bus was in Hamilton and made stops at Pier 4, McMaster University and Mohawk College. OPSEU activists Drew Finucane, Lorraine Skitch and Ryan Walker joined the bus and did a fantastic job engaging with folks at each location.
The following day, the bus stopped at the farmer’s market in historic downtown St. Catharines. The Fairness Express was given a stall right in the centre of the market and was once again joined by Drew, Lorraine and Ryan. Throughout the day, the team talked with several local residents who expressed concerns about the rising cost of living in the province.
“I am a pensioner. I live on a fixed income. My pension pays me only $900 a month” said an elderly woman “everything is becoming more expensive, and to get by I have to be very frugal. It is a real challenge.”
On May 14, the Fairness Express visited a very foggy Niagara Falls. The big green bus was parked adjacent to the falls and its tent and tables were in a high trafficked area. It was a busy day and both locals and tourists approached the tent to find out what the big green bus was all about. OPSEU members tending the beautiful Niagara Parks gardens stopped to chat about their changing working conditions in Niagara Falls.
The following morning, the bus stopped in Walkerton to visit the memorial garden and speak with students at Sacred Heart High School. This tour stop proved to be both moving and inspirational for all involved.
The Walkerton Memorial Garden stands as a solemn reminder of the critical importance of quality public services and the devastating impact of poor government policy. It was 14 years ago this month that 7 people died, and 2,500 others were sickened by contaminated water in the small community.
“It is important that young people in Walkerton learn about the history of their town so that politicians with a slash and burn agenda are not elected” said local teacher and town councillor Chris Peabody.
After visiting the memorial, the Fairness Express team gave a presentation to grade 12 students at Sacred Heart High School. It was a fantastic experience and extremely motivating to speak with young people about the importance of tax fairness, good jobs, public services and labour rights.
On May 15 and 16, the Fairness Express was in Owen Sound with stops in Harrison Park and nearby Sauble Beach. For those two days, the bus was joined by local OPSEU activists Karen Gventer and AnnaMarie Hampton-Alcock. Despite poor weather conditions, Karen and AnnaMarie were both enthusiastic and fantastic ambassadors for the tour.
“I feel that this is an important topic to discuss with Canadians and I think that we as a nation need to start a movement to close the income gap,” said AnnaMarie. “Unions created a middle class in North America and big corporations and businesses are trying to rip that away from us. It is becoming more difficult for people to get ahead in this country. We need to engage with each other and fight for a fair system.”
Beginning May 20, the big green bus will be in Region 1. If you are in the area, please be sure to come down and join the bus!
May 20 – Stratford, Queen’s Park
12 pm to 7 pm
May 21 – London, Ivey Park
11 am to 7 pm
May 22 – Windsor, Riverside Drive, Waterfront
12 pm to 7 pm
May 23 – Grand Bend, Beach
12 pm to 7 pm
May 24 – Chatham, Retrofest
8 am to 5 pm
May 25 – London, Gibraltar Weekend Market
9 am to 5 pm
May 26 – Goderich, Downtown Circle
12 pm to 7 pm
Meet the Activists:
Drew Finucane is treasurer for Local 219 and a residential counselor and instructor for the visually impaired at the W. Ross MacDonald School in Brantford. He has been an OPSEU member for 10 years, and active as a steward for 2 years.
Karen Gventer is president of Local 276 and the education representative for Sector 17 (Community Health Care Professionals). She is also the harassment and discrimination advisor for Region 2. Karen has been an OPSEU member since 2001 and an activist since 2004. She has been a dedicated activist for social justice causes her entire life. She is currently running as the NDP candidate for Owen Sound in the upcoming Ontario elections.
AnnaMarie Hampton-Alcock is a registered practical nurse at Lee Manor in Owen Sound (Local 299). She is active as a steward in her workplace and has been an OPSEU member and activist for 12 years. AnnaMarie is strong union advocate and passionate about raising awareness for growing income inequality in Canada.
Lorraine Skitch is president of Local 221 and auditor for Region 2. She is co-chair of the Western Region Probation and Parole ERC and the Support Staff Working Group. Lorraine is also a member of the Probation and Parole MERC Workload Sub-committee and vice-chair of the Region 2 Hardship Committee. She has been an active OPSEU member for 26 years.
Ryan Walker is chief steward for Local 249 and former chair of the Provincial Young Workers Committee. He is a delegate to the Hamilton District Labour Council and a dedicated developmental services worker. Ryan was raised in the labour movement and has been an active OPSEU member for 9 years.