Week 6 Recap
On June 6, the Fairness Express arrived in North Bay for seven fun-filled days in Region 6. From June 6 to 12, the big green bus made stops in North Bay, Manitoulin Island, Sudbury, Iroquois Falls, Cochrane, Monteith, Kirkland Lake, Timmins, Elliot Lake, Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa.
In North Bay, the big green bus met up with its Region 6 team; Felicia Fahey, Catherine Csuzdi, and Janine Johnson. To break the team in, the bus took a tour around the city to visit some local landmarks. We stopped at the waterfront, Canadore College, Nipissing University, and the famous “Gateway of the North” sign.
Later that morning, the bus joined a local labour rally in support of saving the Ontario Northland Railway (ONR). The ONR has provided northeastern Ontario with vital services for more than 100 years, but in recent years, the Ontario government pulled the plug on ONR passenger service and in 2012 decided to divest the ONR entirely. In April of this year, the government reconsidered it position, agreeing to keep the railway intact. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of the railway, and these workers (members of UNIFOR) are concerned about their jobs.
“800 jobs are at risk if the railway is lost” said one long-time ONR employee “the community of North Bay relies on the ONR, and losing it would have a serious impact on the local economy.”
In the afternoon, the bus travelled to Providence Bay for the Manitoulin Island Bluegrass Festival. At the festival, executive board member Felicia Fahey was invited up on stage to say a few words about the Fairness Express campaign.
“We are taking this big green bus from coast to coast to raise awareness for growing income inequality in this country” said Fahey.
“Aboard the bus we have a bunch of average Ontarians looking to have conversations with other average Ontarians about income inequality and how it has impacted their lives. We feel strongly that it is time to stand up and fight for tax fairness, good jobs, public services and labour rights.”
On June 7, the bus travelled to Sudbury to watch the Spartans square off against the Sault Ste. Marie Steelers in a football game billed as the “Battle of the North.” The game was sponsored by OPSEU and the bus team was given the opportunity to set up a tent near the entrance and chat with folks on their way in to the game. The team did a great job, and many people took a minute to stop and talk. Even a few players took a gander at our literature before heading off for pre-game warm-ups.
Unfortunately, our presence did not provide a boost for the Spartans. The “Battle of the North” proved to be mostly one-sided as the Sault Steelers crushed the Spartans 65-6.
The following day, the bus journeyed further north to Timmins. The Fairness Express set up on the edge of Gillies Lake in the beautiful Mattagami Region Conservation Area. In our conversations with local residents we learned that the local economy fared relatively well in recent years on account of the gold mining and forestry sectors. However, we were also told that not everyone benefitted from this, and well-paying full-time jobs are hard to come by.
In the evening, the bus travelled to nearby Cochrane to see the Polar Bear Conservation Habitat, and Cochrane Railway Station, the home of the Polar Bear Express, a train service operated by the Ontario Northland Railway.
On June 9, the Fairness Express joined OPSEU Local 642 for an information picket at the Monteith Correctional Complex. The current pressure on Ontario’s public services is significant, and the impact of inadequate funding is a reality staff at the facility deal with every day.
The lack of resources is putting pressure on staff to maintain an unreasonable workload, and many fear that further cuts are in the pipeline.
“We see what is happening in correctional facilities across the province” said one correctional officer “staffing levels are at an all-time low and this puts us all at risk.”
On June 11, the big green bus travelled to Elliot Lake and stopped at the site of the mall collapse which killed two people in June 2012, one of them an OPSEU member who worked for Cambrian College (Lucie Aylwin, 37). We chatted to a woman who lives in the community who told us how that collapse was completely avoidable.
“I saw leaks in many stores and every time I went it was the same. It was a tragedy that should never have happened”.
From Elliot Lake, the Fairness Express moved on to Sault Ste. Marie. In the Sault, the bus stopped at Mill Market on the waterfront. Located in the old Fish Hatchery building, this vibrant market is run by very progressive locals. The team set up a stall alongside friendly folks selling fresh farm produce, baked goods, native crafts and other handicrafts. The local people responded enthusiastically to the message and we were told many stories from those struggling against the tide of growing income inequality.
The week in Region 6 proved to be another success for the Fairness Express campaign.
“I want to thank NUPGE and OPSEU for letting the Fairness Express come through Region 6” said executive board member for Region 6 Felicia Fahey.
“It was an amazing opportunity for our members and our communities to see that they are not alone in this fight and that there really are people out there willing to stand up for the underdog.”
Beginning June 14, the big green bus will be in Region 7. If you are in the area, please be sure to come down and join the bus!
June 14 – Thunder Bay
Thunder Pride – Thunder in the Park
11 am to 3 pm
June 15 – Thunder Bay
9 am to 5 pm
June 16 – Atikokan
10 am to 12 pm
June 17 – Fort Frances
10 am to 2 pm
June 18 – Dryden
Confederation College Graduation
12 pm to 3 pm
June 19 – Sioux Lookout
Beach (OPSEU Locals BBQ at 5 pm)
12 pm to 7 pm
June 20 – Kenora
Kenora Show at Recreation Centre
12 pm to 5 pm
June 21 – Kenora
Little Big Fest (Anicinabe RV Park and Campground)
10 am to 4 pm
Meet the Activists
Catherine Csuzdi is the secretary/treasurer for Local 608 and an alternate for the Region 6 Youth Committee. She is a Learning Systems Technologist at Nipissing University and she has been a dedicated OPSEU activist for the past 4 years.
Felicia Fahey is an executive board member for Region 6 and a proud member of the Liquor Board Employees Division. Felicia has been a fierce labour activist for many years.
Janine Johnson is a retired member from Region 6 and the chair of the Retirees Committee and an extremely well respected unionist.