Thomas elected to sixth term as OPSEU President
Warren (Smokey) Thomas has been re-elected as President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union for a sixth consecutive two-year term. He was first elected to the union’s top post in 2007.
Thomas defeated Myles Magner, OPSEU Region 5 Vice-President. Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, a correctional officer from Hamilton, was acclaimed for his fourth two-year term as First Vice-President/Treasurer yesterday.
In his campaign speech to delegates, Thomas vowed to continue to run OPSEU by his lifelong motto: “Don’t do anything your mother wouldn’t be proud of.”
Thomas thanked Magner for his candidacy and also praised Almeida, saying, “He’s the best Treasurer this union ever had – and I did the job for six years.”
Thomas campaigned as a “members-first president,” underscoring that, in OPSEU, his role as President is to support bargaining teams – not tell them what to do. He vowed to continue the union’s ongoing fight against privatization, build on its successes in collective bargaining and organizing, and further expand its commitment to equity.
“We will persevere against the forces working against working people and we will do it together,” he told the more than 1,700 delegates, alternates, and observers at Convention.
A native of Kingston, Thomas was trained as a registered psychiatric nurse and worked at the former Kingston Psychiatric Hospital for more than 20 years, serving as president of OPSEU Local 431 before being elected as an Executive Board Member. He served three terms as First Vice-President/Treasurer before becoming President.
Breakfast at Convention – with the PWC
OPSEU’s Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC) hosted another well received breakfast on Friday morning. The annual Convention event is an occasion to honour women in our union and the many achievements they have made in the ongoing fight for full equity.
Each regional representative of the PWC selects a woman from their region to recognize for their outstanding achievements in their activism. This year, these recognitions went to:
Region 1: Jayne McKenzie
Region 2: The Vanier Centre for Women Institution Crisis and Intervention Team
Region 3: Andrea Gordon
Region 4: Lisa Hovinga
Region 5: JP Hornick
Region 6: Catherine Saulino
Region 7: Crystal Skrien
Former OPSEU Executive Board Member Deb Tungatt was this year’s recipient of the Bread and Roses award. Moved by the honour, she spoke with gratitude to have been in a job that was unionized – and to have benefited from everything that comes with union representation. Assuring women and all activists of her continued support and motivation, she concluded: “Never give up hope and always have faith.”
Sara Labelle, Region 3 Vice-President and the highest-ranking woman in OPSEU, addressed attendees about the importance of women’s place in revolutionary movements of progressive change. Reminding them of the importance of solidarity and support in these endeavours, Labelle said, “We will not break through the glass ceiling as one woman rising up. It’s all women rising up together.”
Keynote speak MPP Peggy Sattler spoke of her pride in being part of the Ontario NDP caucus, which is 55 per cent female. She underscored the continued fight against privatization and the importance of equity. Thanking the activists in attendance, Sattler said, “It’s humbling to follow these sisters and speak on behalf of labour activists.”
The members heard from Sattler on her progressive Bill 26, the Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, 2017. If passed into law, the bill will provide survivors of sexual and domestic violence with up to 10 days of paid leave, as well as reasonable unpaid leave and flexible work arrangements. “No one should have to choose between their job and their safety,” she said.
Bill 26 would help break down some of the barriers that individuals face in their ability to leave work and begin the recovery process, free of unsafe and traumatic environments. The bill also provides for training in workplaces to aid employees who face these difficult situations.
Both OPSEU and the PWC have endorsed Bill 26.
Regional Vice-President Ranking
Region 3 Regional Vice-President Sara Labelle has been re-elected as Second Vice-President of OPSEU.
Here is the ranking by vote:
Sara Labelle: 513
Myles Magner: 311
Len Elliott: 64
Lucy Morton: 42
Gareth Jones: 11
Michel Bisaillon: 5
Carl Thibodeau: 4
Committee members: 54
Elected Board Members: 21
OPSEU’s Got Talent – lots and lots of it!
Hundreds of people filled the John Bassett Theatre to catch the fourth annual OPSEU’s Got Talent extravaganza, an event produced by video wizard Warren Campbell.
Judges included speaker, writer, comedian, and actress Kate Davis; Farley Flex, a media consultant, music promoter, artist manager, and motivational speaker, best known as a judge on Canadian Idol; and Liberty Silver, a Grammy winner and two-time Juno winner, recently given a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
David Merry, one of Canada’s premiere comics and magicians, filled the role of MC for the night.
Up for grabs was $1,000 in prize money – or, as David Merry estimated, “well over $60 U.S.”
As an introduction, We Own It mobilizers lip-synced Stuck in the Middle, bringing awareness to the truth that public is better.
The show kicked off with Local 143 member Runna McCormack, from Region 1, Windsor, performing She Works Hard for the Money by Donna Summer.
Region 2 was represented by Local 290 member Jessica Muir from Brampton. As Liberty Silver put it, “she presented herself just like a Bond girl,” singing Skyfall by Adele.
Region 3, Local 349 member Andrea Murray from Barrie brought an original and refreshing comedy routine, keeping it “on the line,” according to Kate Davis.
Torontonian Jonathan Michael, from Local 551, Region 5, kept the audience in awe as he effortlessly crooned the Italian classic Caruso by Lucio Dalla.
Finally, Region 6 was ably represented by Local 638 member Whitney Otis from Mattice. She gave a wonderful rendition of the Elvis ballad Can’t Help Falling in Love. Farley Flex summed up the performance when he told her, “You have to sing for a living.”
Judges chose three performers for the showdown.
Otis sang Feeling Good by Nina Simone, while Murray provided more comic relief, and Michael offered up the West Side Story song Somewhere.
Third place was awarded to Andrea Murray, while Jonathan Michael took second.
First place went to Whitney Otis.
However, because the talent was so overwhelming, in a surprising move, President Thomas made an executive decision: to thunderous applause and universal acclaim, the competitor placing first would receive $1,000, second place would take home $750, while third place would pocket an honourable $500.
Smokey closed the show with the Eternal Question, “Do we have talent, or do we have talent?” The crowd roared back their unanimous YES.
OPSEU marches to LCBO head office
Frigid temperature and gusty winds were no match for the hundreds of OPSEU activists that marched on LCBO head office to demand fair wages and better working conditions, and to stop the stealth privatization campaign lead by the Wynne government.
Led by the Samba Squad drum band, OPSEU activists chanted, “We own it!” and belted out OPSEU songs as they wound their way through Toronto’s downtown streets en route to head office.
The boisterous crowd was greeted by OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and First Vice-President/Treasurer Eddie Almeida, who both pledged their wholehearted support.
“We have a fight on our hands against a backwards-moving employer. But make no mistake: you have a great bargaining team, and we’re going to win this fight,” said Thomas.
“We’re a family. You mess with 7,000 of our members, you mess with all 130,000 OPSEU members,” added Almeida.
LBED’s battle with the employer is a snapshot of what is happening in workplaces throughout the country: good full-time jobs with a measure of work-life balance are being replaced by precarious, insecure part-time work, leaving many Canadian struggling to make ends meet.
That’s why this round is more than just bargaining, said LBED Chair Denise Davis. It is symbolic of the fight against precarious part-time work, privatization, and a banker-led neoliberal agenda plaguing workers around the world.
“Outsourcing, expansion of private liquor sales, and short shifts that force members to work seven days a week: that’s the language this employer is using,” Davis continued. “Our language speaks of good jobs, public ownership, work-life balance, and fairness.
“Brothers and sisters, our language will prevail!”
Resolutions and Constitutional Amendments
From the Constitution Committee (yellow package)
A.1 with 80% support – removal of “except that the Local President shall be the first delegate automatically”. Adding “In accordance with local by-laws, or by two-thirds majority vote at the local election meeting, locals may elect their delegates and alternate delegates by plurality. There shall be separate votes required for delegates and alternate delegates. The Local President shall be the first delegate automatically.”
A.2 with 92% support – adding “Where local bylaws permit, and where proper supporting documentation is available, local expenditures may be made by pre-authorized payments or by online banking”.
A.3 with 89% support – removal of “Signing”. Adding “Completing”.
A.4 with 97% support – removal of “convocation”, “appropriate number of delegates’”, “in duplicate”, “The originals should be retained by the delegates, who will present them at the time of registration immediately before and during a Convention, and” and “duplicate”. Adding “Convention,” and “form”.
A.5 with 17% support – adding “(at least one woman)” when 3 to 9 delegates are involved.
From the Resolutions Committee
C1 with 81.8% support – to divide the C1 proposal into two entities:
- All contracts bargained by OPSEU shall endeavour to include provision for paid leave and flexible work arrangements for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. This resolution passed with 88% support.
- All contracts bargained by OPSEU shall endeavour to include provision for paid leave and flexible work arrangements for those experiencing mental health illness. This resolution passed with 70% support.
M6 with 97% support – that when a member of the PHRC, PYC, PFC, PWC, is unable to attend a committee meeting that their alternate be given the opportunity to participate during the regional representative’s absence.
L5 with 98% support – that OPSEU will support any union struggling to defend secure pensions by organizing public outreach and lobbying efforts in conjunction with the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
H1 with 96% support – that each Regional Office will have an emergency AED at each location that is accessible to all staff, members and visitors and that its location is appropriately identified with signage. Training and AED registration the AED with MOHLTC is also included.
EB17 – referred back to the President’s Office to bring to the board meeting in May – that OPSEU opposes the sale of our public ground water reserves to private, for-profit water bottling and packaging corporations, and the privatization of municipal water systems. OPSEU to call on the Government of Ontario to action on water permits, public accessibility and developing comprehensive plans for groundwater conservation.
I-ran, we ski
By Scott McAllister, inSolidarity
I don’t consider myself an artistic kind of person, but recently I was invited to attend the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Owen Sound, Ontario.
One of the award-winning shorts was the film Iran: A Skier’s Journey, directed by Jordan Manley.
Not being a world traveller and somewhat naïve, I learned that people skied in Iran – a place I thought of as nothing but sand and more sand.
They do it in the Zagros Mountains, 300 kilometres east of the Iraq border. And it’s here, that the story begins.
Says Jordan Manley, “We are under the watchful eye of Iran’s foreign ministry. But here, high in the mountains, it’s as if the blinds are drawn closed.”
Mona and Sarvenaz are ski instructors at the Dizin ski resort. They agree that “there’s more freedom up here. People don’t care what others do anymore. Your appearance doesn’t much matter to them. Slopes aren’t segregated any more. People can ski together.”
On the slopes, all are equal.
Young and old. Civil servants and diplomats.
It is an escape from the Iranian world.
The mountain brings freedom. Skiing brings peace and unity.
Donald Trump continues to make headlines. Opposing camps continue to build their fires.
On the Crags of Contention, sitting around a campfire, are the Robert De Niros who say Trump is “totally nuts,” the Susan Sarandons who compare Trump to a “drunk uncle at a wedding,” and the Jennifer Lawrences who believe “if Donald Trump is President of the United States, it will be the end of the world.”
Not too far away, on the Ridge of Rile, another group sit around their fire. They are the Clint Eastwoods who praise “Trump for not being like the ‘kiss-ass generation’ and worrying about political correctness,” the Willie Robertsons who say Trump “is a real leader who represents success and strength, two attributes our county needs,” and the Mike Tysons who suggest, “Let’s try something new. Let’s run America like a business, where no colours matter. Whoever can do the job, gets the job.”
These two camps have the largest fires. Each camp tries to heap more wood on the fire. Bigger. Brighter. Hotter. But eventually they will run out of wood. The forest will be depleted. There will be nothing left to burn, except themselves.
Shaming accomplishes nothing.
But in the midst of this very public media civil war, there is a third camp. In the Valley of Shalom, they have quietly tended a campfire, around which you will find the Tom Hanks who share, “This is the United States of America. We’ll go on. There’s great like-minded people out there who are Americans first and Republicans or Democrats second. I hope the President-elect does such a great job that I vote for his re-election in four years.”
Sitting beside him are the Matt Damons who say, “First of all, I wish him well, and we all must. A successful American president is good for all of us and we really have to be rooting for him right now.”
This camp has decided to work with the elected leaders. It’s a matter of perspective. It asks a question.
Are you willing to be wrong together, or right alone? Or worse, are you willing to be wrong alone? The best, is to be together.
April 6-8th is OPSEU’s Convention. It’s a time and place where opinions are shared, concerns are raised, and votes cast. I hope that the voices of those around the third campfire echo loudly for everyone: Work together. Move forward. Unite.
And when the friction comes (and it always will), it’s time to escape to the mountain – a place where purpose “trumps” personalities.
Like our friends on the other side of planet Earth, it’s time to go skiing. To experience freedom without agenda.
And, most importantly, together.
Senator Murray Sinclair receives the 2017 Stanley H. Knowles Award
In our Day One issue, inSolidarity reported that the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair had been awarded OPSEU’s prestigious Stanley H. Knowles Humanitarian Award. Today, Sinclair would have received the award in person, had he not been detained in Ottawa by urgent Senate business.
Krista Maracle, Region 5 chair of the union’s Indigenous Circle, accepted the honour on his behalf. She had been invited to offer the Acknowledgement of Indigenous Lands at the start of Convention.
Maracle read directly from a communication she had received from Senator Sinclair, who wrote that he had accepted “without reservation” both the award, as well as the invitation to be the keynote speaker at OPSEU’s first Indigenous Conference, held in Cornwall last October on the Akwesasne Reserve.
Appropriately, delegates were given a glimpse into both the conference and the Senator’s thought by viewing a video produced by OPSEU during his visit to the reserve. Not surprisingly, given that Sinclair chairs the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, he focuses in the video on the residential school system and the horrors it unleashed on Indigenous children.
“Schools were in place for seven generations,” he notes. “Each generation was destroyed a little bit more by each of their experiences. We’re going to have to rebuild this generation by generation.”
Sinclair goes on to explore reconciliation – still widely unknown or misunderstood – in the context of the country’s Indigenous peoples and residential schools.
“Reconciliation is not about forgiveness, and it’s not about forgetting,” he says. “Reconciliation is about coming to terms with [residential schools] and being able to move forward.”
During the award ceremony, President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, whose mother is Indigenous, reiterated what he had said in the video:
“We want to continue to build that partnership with Indigenous communities – not just for the next few months, but for years to come: to keep building, to keep working together as true partners to make life better.”
The senator completes the circle as the video comes to a conclusion.
“What we have been taught is that our beliefs are wrong, yours are right. Key to reconciliation is education. It was education that created this mess through the residential schools, and it’s education that’s going to get us out of this in the long run.”