We are all strong. But sometimes we don’t know how strong until we’re tested.
For the women and men who work at the Owen Sound Family Health Organization, the test began 12 weeks ago. That’s when they made the wrenching decision to stand together against their bad bosses and go on strike.
It hasn’t been easy. Far from it. Along with the loss of pay, they’ve had to endure attacks and rumours and alienation.
But walking the picket line day in and day out together, solidarity started to take hold for the members of OPSEU Local 276. And even though the strike continues, they’ve already won an amazing victory: a newfound sense of just how deeply their strength runs.
“I’ve never felt stronger and more sure of myself,” said one of the women to us recently. “I’ll never let a boss treat me badly again.”
To celebrate the newfound strength they share, a number of them recently got matching tattoos — a beautiful Celtic design that represents sisterhood, solidarity, and strength.
This Labour Day weekend, we can’t think of a more fitting symbol for the power and strength that we all have, especially when we stand together in solidarity. And this Labour Day, more than most in recent memory, we need our solidarity and we need strength.
Over the summer, Premier Doug Ford has given us a glimpse into what we can expect over the next four years. It isn’t pretty. In the two short months since taking office, he has shamelessly destroyed, dismantled, and disempowered a host of programs and policies that provided real help to real people:
- Guaranteed Annual Income: Gone
- Up-to-date sex education curriculum: Gone
- Carbon tax to ensure polluters pay for the damage they do: Gone
- Ban on ticket scalping: Gone
- Half of Toronto City Council: Gone
- A living wage for 2019: Gone
- Cost of living increases to social assistance: Gone
- Task force on the future of community colleges: Gone
- A responsible and popular plan to sell cannabis: Gone.
- York University workers’ right to strike: Gone
What has Ford given us in the midst of all this destruction? Cheap beer in time for students returning to school, and a half-baked scheme to allow profit-hungry retailers to push cannabis at vulnerable young people.
Each and every one of Ford’s moves so far stand in stark contrast to values we share as public sector trade unionists. The values of caring and sharing and being good to one another.
Unless he reverses course, he is shaping up to be the worst bad boss public sector workers have seen since Mike Harris.
But like the members of Local 276 in Owen Sound, this is the test through which our true strength will shine.
Because OPSEU is strong. At 155,000 members and growing fast, we’re stronger than we’ve ever been. Our democracy is vibrant, our bargaining is effective, our members are engaged, and our finances are robust.
And when OPSEU members are strong, we help keep Ontario strong.
We fight the forest fires blazing in the north. We safeguard the health of seniors, families, and children. We keep our highways safe and clear of dangerous vehicles. We help adult and young inmates and those on community supervision find a better path. We ensure that the doctor isn’t only guessing. We crack down on polluters and unsafe workplaces. We stop underage drinking and overconsumption. We teach and shape young minds and provide a new path forward for adult learners. And we help and support those hoping to live independent and productive lives.
Our stories go on and on. From one end of the province to the other, we work in dozens of sectors and ministries under thousands of different job titles. But at the end of the day, we’re all doing the same work: providing publicly owned and managed services that help make this province a better place to live, prosper, and raise a family.
So this Labour Day, join us as we celebrate and share our strength. We’re about to be tested. And we’re about to be reminded that we’re even stronger than we realize.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer
Ontario Public Service Employees Union