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inSolidarity, Number 3, 2018

Publication Date

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 1:00pm

Editorial policy

The content and editing of this newsletter are determined by the committee. We want members to feel ownership of inSolidarity and view it as independent of any particular segment of the union. Content comes from our base of activists, staff and other labour sources.

PDF iconClick here to download inSolidarity, Number 3, 2018

Where an article has a byline, the views are those of the author and not necessarily the views of OPSEU. While we welcome your contributions, we ask that these be constructive. All articles should be signed and include Local number and should contribute positively to the welfare of OPSEU.

We encourage thoughtful discussion of all related issues and reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity, and reply to those that seem to reflect a misunderstanding of the union and its policies.

Elected members of the inSolidarity Committee:
Craig Hadley, editor, Local 5109
Glen Archer, Local 719
Maria Bauer, Local 376
Skye Butters, Local 287
Laurie Tarto, Local 292

Ex officio members:
Tara Maszczakiewicz – Executive Board Liaison
Timothy Humphries – OPSEU Communications

Special to this issue:
Howard A. Doughty, Local 560
Joe Grogan, Retired, OPSEU Region 5
Morgen Veres, Local 487, Rainbow Alliance

Please send mail to: inSolidarity, c/o Editor,
OPSEU Head Office, 100 Lesmill Road,
Toronto, Ontario M3B 3P8
Email: [email protected]

A note from the Editor

Weather-wise, it was the summer everyone was hoping for: hot and sunny, with few rainy days.

Politically, it was the summer less than 60 per cent of the electorate wanted: a PC majority, headed by Premier Doug Ford, a man governed by a populist, right-wing ideology, with a fixation on laissez-faire economics.

After successfully campaigning on lower taxes and cheap beer, the Conservatives came to power without revealing any specific plans. But based on their actions since the election, we’re starting to see their true agenda – and just how far they’re willing to go to impose it.

Whether it’s ignoring public outcry, slash- ing the number of municipal counsellors or evoking the “notwithstanding” clause to ride roughshod over Ontario’s courts, there appears to be no slowing the Ford dictatorial juggernaut.

This government has cancelled dozens of successful programs designed to help lower-income Ontarians. They’ve frozen the minimum wage and privatized cannabis distribution.

In a lot of ways, the strike by workers of Local 276 in Owen Sound was symbolic of Ontario’s political climate: working people – disproportionately female and low-wage earners – at the mercy of wealthy business owners looking to supersize their profits.

Despite negative publicity and bad-faith bargaining allegations, the bosses pushed forward with their agenda. But the workers dug in and were joined by hundreds of OPSEU and other union activists from across the province to bolster their picket line.

After months of resistance, the working people were able to claim victory.

I think the same thing will happen in Ontario over the course of the next four years. Like the members of Local 276, the “little guys” of Ontario will reach a watershed moment and push back against the onslaught of cuts, austerity and privatization. Ontarians everywhere will stand up and become the collective resistance against this govern- ment and its radically neoliberal agenda.

And like the members of Local 276, Ontarians will emerge victorious, riding the tide of public outcry – and the government will quickly learn that Dougie don’t surf.

The Ford years: predictions for the next four years

Craig Hadley, inSolidarity

On June 7, Ontario elected a majority Conservative government, with 76 of the 124 seats going Tory. With 40 seats, the New Democratic Party forms the official opposition. The Liberal Party won just seven seats and lost party status – its worst showing in the party’s 161 year history. The Green Party won its first seat ever in the Ontario legislature.

So what’s next?

If Ford’s actions over the past month is any indication of the party’s direction, Ontarians will be in for a bumpy ride.

The Conservatives have already cut mental health spending, slashed $100 million earmarked to repair Ontario public schools, cut the increase to social assistance rates in half, cancelled the cap-and-trade program and replaced the sex ed curriculum with its 1998 version.

On the labour front, public sector wages and hiring have been frozen, with the exception of bargaining unit employees who are covered by existing collective agreements and select frontline workers.

Culling Toronto city hall seats by half has many Toron- to residents worried that it was crafted to give Ford’s right-wing allies a political advantage. If true, Toronto-owned public assets could be sold off in a provincially run merger scheme that places those assets into private-sector hands. The largest targets would be land and buildings, Toronto Hydro and, potentially, the Toronto Transit Commission.

With Ford’s cancellation of the cap-and-trade program, it’s too easy to assume any environmental or green programs introduced by previous governments will be eliminated. Expect any resistance to be dismissed by labelling green programs as “red tape” preventing the creation of new jobs and prosperity.

Prepare for media questions at Queen’s Park to be “clapped out” by Conservative MPPs – a new tactic whereby reporters trying to ask a follow-up question are drowned out by Tory staffers applauding the first answer.

Real questions from non-partisan media are being replaced with the false-news channel, “Ontario News Now.” Expect it to stick with the narrative that any problem Ontario faces is the result of Liberal and NDP governments. But now Ontario is “open for business.”

Get ready for a sell-off of remaining public assets. One of the biggest targets will be the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). With transfer payments to the Ontario treasury exceeding $2 billion annually, the LCBO is ripe for ripping off the vines of public ownership and sold on a road-side sale.

A major hurdle to the sell-off is the diminished value of the LCBO on account of the Wynne government’s decision to allow beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores. Ford’s campaign promise to further expand alcohol sales to corner stores and gas stations further reduces the LCBO's value as a monopolistic retailer of alcoholic beverages.

The future of the Cannabis Control Board of Ontario (CCBO) has been decided, as the Ford government announced provincially owned stores would be turfed and replaced with provincially licensed private cannabis retailers. The CCBO’s role will be limited to online sales, which has many critics concerned with privacy, social responsibility, placement of stores and the po- tential for owners seeking maximum profits to operate outside the law.

In their last year in government, the Liberals made several significant changes to update the Employment Standard Act (ESA), most notably, upping the minimum wage to $14 an hour from just over $11, with an additional increase to $15 hour scheduled for January 1, 2019.

During the election, Ford promised to freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour, claiming the further increase would force businesses to close or leave the province. Despite Ford’s fearmongering, recent statistics show that Ontario’s economy is strong, unemployment is low, and the increase actually helped business reach higher profits.

Also expect any ESA gains over the past few years to be cancelled. Doug Ford will say the changes were unnecessary and added to the red tape hampering business and the economy.

By November, the provincial government will have fulfilled its election promise of auditing the province’s books “line by line.” He had pitched to voters that the previous government was corrupt and in such financial disarray that an independent audit was required to deal with the province’s deficit woes.

If there’s a turning point as to when privatization and the severe austerity measures begin, it will be soon after this report is released. Even if spending is being well managed, the government will interpret the report as predicting financial Armageddon. The finance minister will preach doom, gloom and recession unless immediate austerity measures are taken. That’s when the layoffs will start. And the people of Ontario will see the true agenda of the Ford government.

There’s more to believing than seeing

Maria Bauer, inSolidarity

Didn’t you hear that? Are you ignoring me? Why didn’t she answer? She just doesn’t want to do that! She’s lazy! She’s always on break! Look, she’s gone to the bathroom again!

What are hidden disabilities? They can be anything from hearing loss and vision loss, mental health issues and brain injuries, to addictions, diabetes, heart disease and chronic pain – anything that affects a person’s abilities but is not as visible as a physical disability.

Hidden disabilities have a range of impairments. A person may be legally blind and cannot drive, yet they can see objects and shapes well enough to get around and do tasks. They also use other senses, like smell, to compensate for their vision loss. People may have no pain for days, weeks or months. Then they have so much pain, they can’t function. People with hearing loss may often be able to hear, but when there is background noise or certain pitches, may not be able to make out what is being said.

People with hidden disabilities can have difficulties in the workplace that go beyond their disability. Many people don’t believe these individuals have anything wrong with them, because they aren’t impaired with a condition that is obvious to sight.

A hidden disability can be extremely hard to live with, especially in a competitive business world. Someone with a hearing impairment must explain why they didn’t hear something. Someone with a hearing impairment doesn’t understand why her co-workers are angry – because she doesn’t realize someone was calling her.

Most people with hidden disabilities prefer not to talk about them. In fact, anyone with any disability tries to carry on just like anyone else. They don’t want to, and shouldn’t have to, explain themselves to the world.

Things are not always as they appear. We’re all different, and we all have our own issues to deal with. Work safe, work smart – and always be considerate and respectful of your co-workers.

Labour reads: The Making of the English Working Class, by E.P. Thompson

Howard A. Doughty, Local 560

When I was in school, “history” mainly meant memorizing the names of kings, military battles and the five official reasons for some revolution (the French, the American, the Russian – take your pick). It was never my strong suit.

Then, a decade after high school graduation, Frank Eastham (1944-1998) – a friend, colleague and future OPSEU staffer – presented me with a fresh copy of E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class.

It had already turned the writing of social history upside down and sparked an ongoing debate about its style and substance. It forever altered how we understood the past.

Fellow historian Eric Hobsbawm claimed that Thompson’s masterpiece combined “passion and intellect, the gifts of the poet, the narrator and the analyst.” That was just the start.

The Penguin Classics edition (published 50 years after the initial printing) is almost 1,000 pages long. It fo- cuses on the half-century from 1780 to 1832. It mentions monarchs and prime ministers in passing, but only when their actions affected his real subject: the emerging industrial working class. This was the time that witnessed the most intense, massive changes in technology, political economy and social relations in any era before our own.

Even people who rarely pick up a history book will be captivated by the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary times.

Thompson’s self-proclaimed mission was to “rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite [a member of any of the bands of workers who destroyed machinery, especially in cotton and woollen mills, to preserve their jobs] crop- per, the ‘obsolete’ handloom weaver, the ‘utopian’ artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott [a mystic who claimed she would give birth to a new messiah but did not] from the enormous condescension of posterity.” He does so brilliantly.

If such trades and names are unfamiliar, they won’t be after you read this book. “They were casualties of history,” Thompson acknowledges, “but their aspirations were valid in terms of their own experiences.” They endured tumultuous times, built the foundations of industrial society, defended the dignity of labour, created the earliest (illegal) trade unions – and did so with immense dignity and courage.

No tales of the “greats” in our civilization outdo the nobility of often nameless people who understood and chose to resist revolutionary modes of oppression, violent repression and systemic suppression of traditional ways of life and basic human rights.

As we confront computerization, corporatization, globalization and the radical shift from the “proletariat” to the “precariat,” Thompson offers insight, instruction and inspiration for our time of equal challenge.

E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class. Toronto: Penguin Modern Classics, 2013, 976 pages. ISBN: 9780141976952.

OPSEU feels the Pride

Maria Bauer, inSolidarity

In February 1981, Toronto police conducted a raid of four gay bathhouses in Toronto. Over 300 men were arrested, provoking outrage, protest and mass rallies.

Most of the charges were dropped, but out of these events came Toronto’s first Pride parade. While Pride had been more quietly observed for several years, this was the first time a goal was set to hold a parade annually.

This year marked Toronto’s 38th annual Pride Parade – and it drew the biggest attendance ever. The parade went from the thousands in the 1980s to one million this year. In fact, Toronto proudly boasts one of the world’s largest Pride parades.

However, this was the first time for this writer – and words cannot express the excitement I felt at this event. Happiness and freedom, love and acceptance were in the air. People were bold, expressive and fun. A broad smile was on every face.

I really suffer anxiety in crowds, but this time my anxiety was overcome by the joy and happiness that flowed from the people. My hope would be that everyone could feel this free – everywhere they are, at any time. The ability to express oneself without fear is a right we should all take for granted.

This parade marks not only the ability to celebrate and express freedom and respect for the LGBTQ community. It’s a celebration of the basic human rights of all people.

But when we are out celebrating the human rights that are now ours, we must never forget that people have suffered, fought and died to get to where we   are now. And people are still suffering and even being killed for standing up for their basic human rights.

Article 1 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

Once we fully embrace these words, peace will be upon all human beings.

Rant

Craig Hadley, inSolidarity

You know what really steams my clams? Drivers and advanced green lights.

Did driving schools stop teaching what a flashing green light means? It’s not red and it’s not a stop sign, yet most drivers freeze at the site of this mysterious illumination. It’s so bad that new road lighting systems have ditched the flashing green for a solid green arrow. And drivers still sit there wasting time.

Speaking of wasting time, life lesson at any sandwich shop: if a person takes 10 minutes to decide what toppings will be on their sandwich, always tack on another five minutes for them to figure out what credit card they’ll use to pay.

On the topic of paying, a bagel and cream cheese usually comes to $2.75, maybe $3 at a fancy place. Have you ever tried asking for a slice of tomato on that bagel? BOOM! That slice of tomato just transformed into a $5.75 sandwich! Kids, screw college. Grow and sell tomatoes. You’ll be rich!

You know who else is getting rich? Parking lot owners in downtown Toronto.

Twenty-five bucks for the day isn’t out of the ordinary, and if you see a sign advertising $10, the fine print at the meter will inform you that that rate is only for a few hours –  but for an extra $20, you can stay a full eight hours. Between parking and the cost of day care, you’re better off paying someone to drop you off at work and then drive your kid around for the day. Who doesn’t like car rides?

Speaking of rides, buckle up Ontario! We have Ford for the next four years. The only thing faster than Ford decimating past Liberal legislation is the speed at which a Tim Hortons bagel goes through the toaster when you request “double-toasted” light speed!

But you know what really, really steams by clams? More than people boycotting Solo: A Star Wars Movie because “they kinda get the story”? Even more than movie theatres charging 75 cents to butter-top an $8 bag of pop- corn? It’s the guy on social media who comments on a Pride post: “When’s the straight day parade?” It’s the other 364 days. But hey, since you’re here, you can join Pride parades: everyone is welcome!

Labour reads: Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, by David Graeber

Howard A. Doughty, Local 560

Aristotle, the antique Greek pagan philosopher, abhorred work. He thought it fit only for subordinates and slaves. The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) were more ambiguous. Toil was our punishment for that unpleasantness with the snake in the Garden of Eden – but it was also our path to salvation.

According to the “labour theory of value,” proposed by early-modern British thinkers John Locke, Adam Smith and David Ricardo (as well as by Karl Marx), work is the source of all wealth. To David Graeber, a large amount of it is “bullshit.”

Like the highly respected American philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt before him (On Bullshit, 2005), Graeber has great fun poking prudish sensitivities, but both their books are written in earnest. Bullshit Jobs is not about hard, dirty, dangerous, undervalued or ill-paid jobs. It’s about jobs that have no good reason to exist – but that exist anyway.

“A bullshit job,” he says, “is a job that the person doing it believes is pointless, and if the job didn’t exist, it would either make no difference whatsoever or it would make the world a better place.”

What isn’t a bullshit job? Well, among my friends are a Canada Post letter carrier, a Toronto sewer worker, a family therapist, a lawyer, a longshoreman, a couple of musicians, some college teachers and a guy with a small-appliance repair shop. They all make a difference.

Some non-bullshit jobs are dying. Although most blue- collar workers do actual work, they’ve seen their jobs automated or off-shored. Most bullshit jobs are white- collar.

Says Graeber: “Capitalism has produced endless bullshit jobs, which are designed to make you identify with the sensibilities of managers.” He calls this “managerial feudalism, whereby they keep adding more and more levels of intermediary executives. He adds, “If you’re an executive, you need to have an assistant, or else you’re not important, so they hire these flunkies. It has to do with power, really.”

Of course, people have made fun of corporate consultants, witless bureaucrats and paper-pushing drones (almost) for ever. Graeber has a more important purpose. Bullshit jobs are toxic. They’re not only useless, but they also mess up the minds of the people who hold them and clog up the work of everyone else.

Graeber, a self-described semi-anarchist, says that “the more meaning- less the work, the more people suffer doing it, and the worse they treat each other … [and everyone else].”

He’d like to reduce the misery. He has the makings of a “theory.” Between about 1500 and 1750, he thinks, capitalism was evolving a process that led to industrialism, but no one realized it. Since about 1970, capitalism has been evolving into “post-industrial- ism,” but we don’t know what that means yet. Bullshit jobs and insecure, precarious labour, however, betoken one possibility. But things can be otherwise.

Graeber is right: it’s all about power. The new Ontario government has one vision, but we can have another. Meaningful work and an equitable society are attainable, but we need to understand what’s happening – fast.

Bullshit Jobs provides some insight. The fact that it combines barely suppressed outrage and wry humour helps the message get across.

David Graeber, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. Toronto: Simon & Schuster, 2018, 368 pages. ISBN: 9781501143311.

Ford declares war on Ontario

Howard A. Doughty, Local 560

Remember when Conservatives wanted to “conserve” things? And when some of them were actually “progressive”? No more!

Instead, undemocratic impulses are driving decisions from the U.S. White House to the Ontario legislature. Donald Trump and Doug Ford delight in “blowing up” traditional norms, venerable institutions and workable policies that actually further the public good. They’re not conservatives. They’re vandals.

Supported by just 40 per cent of the electorate (about 28 per cent of eligible voters), Premier Ford declared “war on Toronto” by changing election rules mid-campaign. He declared “war on democracy” by spitefully cancelling elections in Peel and York Regions, where former rival Patrick Brown and ex-Liberal Cabinet minister Steve Del Duca were leading. He declared “war on the poor” by reducing promised welfare increases for Ontario’s poorest. His concession to the people? A buck a beer!

There’s more. Following Toronto’s recent mass shooting, Ford is funding increased police presence and electronic surveillance by defunding mental health programs. He rampaged through the province, trash- ing sex education without presenting an alternative curriculum. He blundered into the federal refugee debate. He cancelled “cap-and-trade,” inviting additional federal carbon taxes. He defunded desperately needed school renovations and is giving the lucrative marijuana industry to for-profit dealers.

What’s next? For starters, minimum wages won’t rise any time soon. But what about the modest improvements for precarious workers in the Fair Workplaces,

Better Jobs Act? Will he repeal it or just gut it?

What about Ontario’s colleges? I didn’t write “wars” lightly. The term was used in respectable newspapers to describe Ford’s approach to major issues. Now I’ll add one: Doug Ford’s “war on Ontario colleges.”

Last fall, 12,000 Ontario college teachers, librarians and counsellors held a bitter strike. I was one of them. We were out for five weeks, returning only when legislated back after the employer refused to bargain – never mind in good faith. We had surprising demands: employment equity for part-time colleagues, academic freedom and an overdue restructuring of college governance. And we not only held out, but rejected management’s last offer by 86 per cent!

To resolve the outstanding issues, Arbitrator William Kaplan created a task force to report this fall. Ford ended it: no report, no recommendations – nothing. OPSEU has launched a legal challenge to his blunt force attack, but win or lose in court, prospects for peace without justice are slim and dim.

Numerous impartial inquiries have already called labour relations in the colleges “hostile” and “toxic,” but Ford adds his own poison. Ahead are five years of union-led education and mobilization.

The struggle to re-create colleges worthy of the name was already going to be long and adversarial. From what we’ve seen so far, Premier Ford has no interest in improving prospects for success. We must now be in it for the long haul.

Second Biennial OPSEU Indigenous Conference

“Cultural reclamation and restoration: weaving culture back into our blanket”

OPSEU’s second biennial Indigenous Conference was held from June 22 to 24, 2018, at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Creek, Ontario. By all accounts, it was a huge success.

The conference was organized by Indigenous members in conjunction with Elders of the Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation. Together, throughout the weekend, Elders, organizers, speakers, workshop facilitators and performers invited Indigenous people and settlers to come together to engage in a process of education, healing and reconciliation. Conference participants accepted this invitation.

The Indigenous Circle chose “Cultural Reclamation and Restoration,” as the theme of the conference. It is in direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s finding of cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island.

OPSEU Region 7 Executive Board Member Ken Maclam, liaison to the Indigenous Circle, welcomed participants to the conference by quoting OPSEU’s Affirmation of Principles on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: “Healing cannot begin until Indigenous peoples re-establish full control over their communities, economies and cultural traditions, and revitalize their languages and cultures.”

The conference was OPSEU’s firm commitment to partner with Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation and other Indigenous communities to recognize and honour this cultural revitalization.

Participants were welcomed by Band Council member Rachel Manitowabi, designee for Chief Duke Peltier, and Ken Maclam on behalf of OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

The conference opened on Friday evening with a ceremony in Anishinaabemowin, the traditional Anishinaabek language preserved by the Wikwemikong community. The opening ceremony included drumming, traditional dancers and an opening prayer by Elder Raymond Jackson.

There was also an honour dance to recognize Darlene Kaboni, a member of Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation and an Indigenous Circle representative from Region 6, for her appointment as Public Education and Outreach Officer at the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The evening closed with a blanket exercise and teaching by Elder Dorothy Fox, who explained the traditional Anishinabe family and way of life, threatened by colonialism but preserved and thriving on Wikwemikong.

Saturday morning began with a sunrise ceremony at the teepee that was constructed for the conference. Fire keepers remained awake during the whole conference around the sacred fire in the teepee.

Then there was an official welcome by Glen Hare, the new Grand Council Chief for the Anishinabek Nation. His welcome was followed by a keynote presentation that included a teaching on cultural reclamation by Elder Phyllis Williams and an address by water protector Autumn Peltier.

Before and after lunch, participants attended two workshops: one led by Indigenous Circle members on storytelling, and the other led by Maya Ki’Ché midwives, who are preserving this cultural practice in Guatemala.

The afternoon included a showing of the OPSEU Sixties Scoop video, followed by a sharing circle led by Elders that challenged everyone to see their place in the history of colonialism and to take action

to create ways of relating that can undo the legacy of colonialism. Saturday evening featured music and dancing with Elijah Manitowabi and the Backburners: local musicians who energized the room.

The weekend closed on Sunday morning with a traditional closing complete with drummers, a blanket exercise led by the Elders, a closing prayer and travelling song, with everyone dancing as they exited the circle to greet the Elders, organizers and participants.

Commenting on the conference, OPSEU Indigenous Circle Chair Krista Maracle reminded everyone that “healing cannot begin until Indigenous peoples re-establish full control over their communities and this includes revitalizing their languages and cultures.” The conference gave participants a glimpse of what this looks like for Anishinabek communities.

Maracle thanked the planning committee for all their hard work and dedication to making the conference a success: Lauren Fong, Region 6 Indigenous Circle representative; Gladys Wakegijig, member of Wikwemikong Unceded Territory; Raul Scorza, Horizons of Friendship Community Outreach/ Communications Co-ordinator; and Tim Vining and Fridmar Facunda, OPSEU staff.

President Thomas noted that, as with any conference, its real success would be determined by the changes and new energy it brought to the union and workplaces. “That’s why I invite all participants to integrate the teachings learned at the conference into their work as frontline workers in child welfare, corrections and other public services,” he said.

“OPSEU is committed to walking with Indigenous communities for the long haul.”

Comments from partners and participants:

“I was humbled and honoured to have witnessed what working alongside Indigenous partners should look like – not just consultation, but real involvement at all steps and all times during the planning and execution process, with all conference spaces highlighting their thoughts, messages and actions. I will draw from this experience as a model to facilitate respectful partnerships with Indigenous communities and organizations.”
- A conference participant

“This was a completely new experience that opened my eyes. Indigenous Maya peoples in Guatemala have faced similar discrimination and oppression as Indigenous peoples in Canada. Seeing firsthand the resilience with which Indigenous communities in Canada are working to reclaim their culture makes me all the more committed to giving my best in helping improve the health of Indigenous Maya women and children back home.

By presenting our own experiences, struggles and steps forward, I hope to have shared strength that our Indigenous sisters and brothers in the North can draw from, too.”
- Verónica Mazariegos, traditional Indigenous mid- wife trainer with Horizons of Friendship’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health project

“Horizons of Friendship is extremely grateful to all organizers for the opportunity for our Indigenous Maya partners from Guatemala to have been part of this conference. The involvement of Wikwimekong Elders and community members at all parts of the process allowed for a real exchange between Indigenous peoples of the north and south, all while sharing the vital importance of reclaiming and protecting culture – both in Canada and Guatemala – with the OPSEU membership.”
- Raúl Scorza, Horizons’ Community Outreach/Communications Co-ordinator

New strategies needed for asylum-seekers in Canada

Laurie Tarto, Local 292

Canada has a long history of accepting and resettling immigrants. A low of 1,263 people entered Canada at non-official border crossings to claim asylum in June 2018. The number has been declining since May 2017, when 62,000 individuals were granted refugee status.

“These individuals have a right to a fair hearing regard- less of where they cross,” said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. He noted Canada, which joined the Refugee Convention in 1969, would be in violation of the UN Refugee Convention if it did otherwise.

The convention gives individuals forced to flee from war and persecution the right to seek asylum in a first safe country. The government granting asylum has the duty to assist and protect them until they can hear their claim and decide if they are a refugee. In Canada, it typically takes two-and-a- half years until the hearing.

In July, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced it would release asylum seekers into the community with conditions and bond, instead of detaining them. Currently, there are no maximum days in detention. Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, reminds Canadians that asylum seekers are not criminals.

“We need to recognize that taking people’s liberty away is a serious human rights step to take, and we should do so in a more limited manner.” He suggested a voice-reporting system and GPS electronic monitoring, which is being piloted, would ensure accountability.

In 2001, the federal government passed the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). It expanded the categories to admit newcomers as permanent residents to include economic and family criteria, in addition to protected persons and humanitarian reasons. However, with global conflicts, natural disasters, food shortages and growing economic uncertainty driving these mass movements, it has become increasingly difficult to fit displaced persons into the IRPA’s narrow categories.

It was following President Trump's announcement in May 2017 that the U.S. was ending temporary protection for Haitian asylum seekers that non-official border crossings to Canada began to rise. Canada made an agreement with the US in 2004 to return asylum seekers at official border crossings to the U.S. However, some now argue that the government should suspend this agreement, as the U.S. is no longer safe for asylum seekers.

A key goal of immigration in Canada is to replace the declining population and integrate people into the labour market. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Canada has 400,000 vacant jobs.

By partnering with settlement agencies, Canada provides specialized services to refugees. The Government Assisted Refugees system (GARS) directs immigrants to 36 destination communities across Canada. In 2016, 24,000 individuals were settled under GARS.

The Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) directs immigrants primarily to urban centres, but they are free to move.

Starting a new life in a new country means being able to integrate in communities both economically and socially. Privately sponsored refugees, of whom 15,000 were admitted in 2016, integrate sooner than under GARS and be- come self-supporting within three years, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Still, immigrant families integrate better into society than refugees. Further, when those denied their refugee claim are ordered deported, but remain in the country, they have no access to social supports, in effect putting their lives on hold.

In her CBC Massey Lecture, “The Return of History,” Jennifer Welsh envisions that the best outcomes will happen when our mindset shifts from an attitude of “us versus them” to one of “we’re all in this together.” By taking collective responsibility, we all benefit.

When is the straight parade?

Morgen Veres, Local 487, OPSEU Rainbow Alliance

“I’ll never forget the day I sat down with my family to tell them I was straight.” – Toronto comedian Peter Anthony.

The history of Toronto Pride is a story of protest. In the 1980s, the gay and lesbian population was much more marginalized than it is today, even in large centres like Toronto. There were very few “safe spaces.”

On February 5, 1981, the police made a series of police raids on gay bathhouses, which resulted in the arrest of 268 men in the largest mass arrests in Canada since the FLQ (Front de libération du Québec) crisis of 1970.

On February 20, over 4,000 angry people rallied at Queen’s Park and marched to Metro Toronto Police’s 52 Division to protest the raids.

The attack on the bathhouses brought many “out of the closets and into the streets” and raised the volume on the need for human rights protection for LGBT individuals.

The massive organizing on the streets encouraged them to stand up for their rights in the workplace. Over the following two decades, there was a dynamic and mutually supportive relationship between organizing for LGBT rights in unions and in society at large.

The need for protest has evolved over time into what we now know as Pride: an event where the LGBTQ+ community comes together in recognition of their struggle and in celebration of their autonomy. It’s a chance to meet people and to build community.

There are people who see this celebration and question why there’s no “straight pride.” Is a heterosexual pride celebration necessary?

No.

Straight people are not murdered for being straight. They don’t feel vulnerable to assault or harassment for holding their partner’s hand in public. They don’t fear for their lives when they travel to less tolerant countries. They don’t face increased risks of homelessness, suicide and job insecurity. They are never forced to undergo “conversion therapy.”

Their parents don’t tell them they’re sinful and then kick them out of their childhood homes.

They don't lose their jobs for being straight in North America. They're not denied an apartment for being straight.

Heterosexuals have never been repressed, oppressed, marginalized and stigmatized for their sexuality in the way that homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender individuals have. Straight people live their lives free of those fears and insecurities, as their way of life is accepted globally.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently apologized to the thousands of government employees who were fired by government agencies and the military between the 1950s and 1992 for being LGBT. They were investigated and interrogated – some even forced to undergo polygraph testing – then discharged because they were considered threats to national security. He called it our collective shame.

In America, it’s still perfectly legal in some states for employers to fire people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. According to workplace advocate Out and Equal, just 22 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

While everyone faces challenges in their lifetimes, straight people don’t face oppression on a cultural level. If you need to ask yourself why there isn't a straight pride, perhaps it’s because there’s no need for a special day to honour the straight community. Magazines, TV, movies, music and history books already assure them of that every moment of every day.

Rob Ford’s ‘buck-a-beer’ comes up flat.

Craig Hadley, inSolidarity

Premier Doug Ford has announced that by the Labour Day weekend, the minimum legally allowed price for a bottle or can of beer would be dropped from $1.25 to $1. The price rollback would allow breweries to sell a case of 24 bottles for $24 – a price not seen in Ontario since 2008.

The price drop has many believing the move to lower beer prices is a populist trick and a political distraction from the $330-million cut to mental health, slashing the rise in social assistance rates by 50 per cent, the $100-million cut to our schools, and the $2.8-billion fallout from the cancellation of Ontario’s cap-and-trade program.

The problem with a “buck-a-beer” isn’t just the social costs associated with increased drinking. It’s that it’s extremely difficult to produce and sell a beer for $1 and make a profit, as virtually all of Ontario’s craft brewers have loudly pointed out. They say the Ford government is catering to foreign-owned big brewers – the only ones that can do it.

As industry pressure mounts, the Ford government has attempted to relieve the self-created problem by suggesting buck-a-beer brands would be given preferential shelf space and free advertising at the LCBO. While specific details have yet to be released, critics have been quick to point out that LCBO advertising and shelf space are not free. Rather, the fees collected by the Crown Corporation are part of the annual $2.1-billion transfer payment to the province.

Less revenue for the LCBO means less revenue for the province. That means either taxes go up to cover the shortfall or social services get cut. Given the Ford government’s track record so far, all bets are on the latter option.

Pushing a beer nobody drinks and catering to foreign-owned big brewers nobody likes – at a cost to taxpayers that nobody wants to pay for – is why the buck-a-beer twaddle will come up flat.

This coffee is bitter!

Glen Archer, inSolidarity

I’m sure readers are aware of all the hullabaloo surrounding some employers’ actions taken in response to the January 1 raise to Ontario’s minimum wage.

Most notably, a lot of the anger and fight-back has been directed at the Tim Hortons chain after several franchisees decided to recoup their bottom line on the backs of their workers. The general public rallied in support of the affected workers in response to a well-orchestrated Facebook campaign by labour activists and social activists.

The franchisees, including some individuals whose net worth runs into the millions, advised their employees that, due to the profit hit the stores were taking, positions would be cut or their hours would be trimmed to offset their perceived loss.

Let’s look at their bottom line.

According to information gleaned from an industry insider website, in 2014-15, the average cost of a Tim Hortons franchise ran anywhere from $480,000 to $510,000. According to a franchise ratings report, the return is expected to garner the franchisee a net profit of $246,000 a year on gross sales of $1.5 million. These are average reported figures, so you can imagine the dollars from the top-producing locations.

This means that for every one of these restaurants that has operated for two or more years, they have already made back profits equal or approximate to their initial investment!

In March 2018, Tim Hortons corporate posted information that their franchisees stand to take a hit of around $230,000 on their gross, based on a jump from $11.60 to $14 in the minimum wage. Their figures are predicated on an average payroll of 30 staff.

Now, I may not be a math wizard, but I can tell you that their numbers just don’t add up. Using their pay- roll figures of 30 full-time employees working approximately 2,000 full-time hours a year: if they take home an additional $2.40 an hour, it would add a gross payroll amount of $144,000. That is a far cry from the

$230k they are claiming. And one must also consider the majority of workers in these stores are part-time, therefore, likely not receiving many, if any, benefits. Factor student wages into that mix, and their case weakened even more.

Fast forward to this past March. Workers at the Tim Hortons in Canora, Saskatchewan voted 100 per cent in favour of joining a union. All seven workers joined the Workers United Canada Council and have cleared most of the hurdles on their way to a first contract.

Surprisingly, there is one major hurdle left: an unfair labour practice challenge issued by the employer!

It was initially reported that both sides were amicable in contract negotiations, but it seems that Tim Hortons is now putting the squeeze on them.

Now, I don’t imagine that the Canora store is going to break any national sales figures, but fighting seven workers for the wages made in the fast-food industry seems like a lot of fritter and waste.

I had a conversation with the owner of a small coffee shop in Kenora, Ontario. He said: “If a Tim Hortons upped the price of every product in their store by a penny, no customer would notice and they would more than offset their payroll costs. And if that small increase caused them to ‘round up’ the change, they may make even more profit!”

I, for one, am finding the taste of Canada’s most well-known coffee to be a tad bitter lately.

A Guide to sanity for local leaders

Skye Butters, inSolidarity

I’ve nearly finished a two-year term as president of my local. Somehow, I’ve kept my sanity – or relatively so. Perhaps I was never really sane to begin with. And really, one has to be a little nuts to take this role on. But I feel that my insights, reflections and discoveries are valuable enough to pass on.

Insight 1: Find your own style

Dealing with management is seldom easy, so you need to be confident at the table. Maybe the last president got their own way by fist-pounding and fiery outbursts, but this may not feel right for you.

I go into every meeting hoping for a solution everyone can live with. We may not be completely happy, but a reasonable compromise is a win.

I also like to give voice to the management’s position. I have an understanding of, and even compassion for, their side of things, and I use it to advance my own agenda.

For instance: “The union understands that the budget is tight, and I certainly don’t envy your position in terms of scheduling. But we now see a dramatic increase in health and safety concerns as a result. So what can we do?”

Then again, maybe shouting about the increase in workplace injuries will garner a more prompt resolution. Who knows? At any rate, you need to find the negotiation style that works best for you.

Reflection 1: Learning from mistakes

I recently lost a potentially precedent-setting grievance. I filed it six years ago, and it was at arbitration for four years. The process was gruelling, emotional and tough.

I took advice from a lawyer that I shouldn’t have. My emotional intensity in the hearings may have hurt my case. I made decisions throughout the proceedings that I now regret. But hindsight is 20-20. I see now what I couldn’t see then. Unfortunately, this is how life works.

But now I understand how to win the next one:

1. Specific documentation is key. Record times, dates, durations and even how you felt during the incident.

2. Don’t let your log of events stand in for testimony. Your voice is the most important part of your case – it’s evidence. Lawyers can hack up a log you’ve written, but they can’t control what you say.

3. Don’t rely on a witness’s evidence unless they’re willing to testify. This simply becomes hearsay in a hearing and, ultimately, undermines your case.

4. Stay calm, measured and methodical. You know the facts. Report them and try not to get emotional.

Discovery 1: You will help a lot of people without even realizing it. Sometimes members just want to talk to somebody who understands, empathizes and, ultimately, just listens.

As a solution-driven person, I would often agonize over a course of action. But more often than not, the member would admit they weren’t comfortable filing a grievance – they just wanted to talk.

At first, I felt I’d wasted a lot of time listening to someone who had no intention of doing anything.

I learned quickly, however, that not everyone is a “grievance warrior.” Not everyone feels comfortable confronting management and making demands.

So I discovered that each person I listened to was on their way to becoming a union activist. That path is different for everyone. For some, simply calling “the union” is a big deal. I figured, if they had made that first step, I simply needed to support them.

Insight 2: Building solidarity doesn’t happen overnight

My local has endured a management that often resorts to intimidation and misinformation. This has damaged our membership. And to be fair, most people just want to get along. They don’t like conflict and try to avoid it.

Rather than holding “doom and gloom” meetings about management mistakes, I tried to involve the membership in other ways. We had a holiday party and a summer BBQ. We make regular visits to all our worksites. I created a Facebook page and a mass email list. And slowly but surely, more and more people are coming out to events and getting involved.

Reflection 2: Use your executive.

I’m a control freak go-getter, but I’ve learned that delegation is key. It’s comforting to know the job is done because you’ve done it, but you’ll get tired, then cranky and resentful. Don’t fall into that trap. Get a good team behind you, give them solid direction and trust them. They won’t let you down.

Discovery 2: You will learn more about yourself than anything else

This sounds utterly cliché, but it’s true. I’ve discovered I can accept and learn from defeat; that I can be charming, persuasive and assertive in the most challenging of times; that I can be headstrong, determined and unwavering. And I’ve come to know that my best is always good enough, regardless of the outcome.

As a local leader, sometimes outcomes are difficult to digest. The policies and procedures for dealing with problems are often fraught with their own internal brokenness. It’s easy to lose faith and curse the entire system.

But we must remember that this is the system we have – and the alternative would be unbearable. Every system – employers, unions or any other institution – is built by humans. So don’t expect perfection. Instead, we have this union that we can make our own, local by local.

Yes, getting involved in your local will make you crazy sometimes. But you’ll certainly have your own insights, reflections and discoveries that will benefit us all.

Dare to defy the digital revolution

Joe Grogan, retired

In this digital age, where it seems everyone has a cell phone, I confess I have many concerns I want to share with you.

I like my own space, time and solitude to sort out what is happening. If I had a cell phone, I suspect I would be tempted to be on it a lot.

Because I don’t have a cell phone, I can disconnect from society's frantic chatter and, quite frankly, avoid much miscommunication and propaganda that seems to be a large part of the cell phone experience.

There are too many distractions in our world today, and the cell phone’s use seems to perpetuate too much mindless data processing – making concentration, thinking and reflecting more difficult. If this is correct, then the cell phone user eventually loses more and more mental skills, and we become more and more dependent on technology.

An additional concern is that the digital revolution, by way of cell phones, makes electronic monitoring of the individual much easier. Who exactly are the monitors and why are they monitoring?

That is why some of us are concerned about the development of the surveillance state, which is a definite threat to our fragile democracy.

Do you not find it highly offensive that those American high-tech companies and service providers, such as Facebook and others, can sell data that reflect your use and private information? And why would we want to load our cell phones up with our personal schedules and email contacts? Are there some real dangers in this, even though such use makes our time use “more efficient”?

And when I see all those cell phone towers going up, I sort of shudder at the implications of a vast control system being established to track and control human behaviour – all in the interest of facilitating “business as usual.” But whose business and for what purpose?

Many of the programs and applications used by cell phone – and, for that matter, computer systems – reflect the values and goals of American culture and, in reality, that political and economic system.

I was recently in Cuba and was astounded at the recent massive use there by Cubans of cell phones, which now allow them to access the Internet quite easily. In my view, the cell phone technology use there represents a Trojan horse that may undermine the Cuban revolution. Why?

Because the technology allows many hidden and subtle messages to be communicated through the Internet that can undermine that distinct and unique society's collective and socialist system by means of propaganda and misinformation. If social media could undercut the recent American federal election, what possibilities exist for undercutting a socialist revolution more than 90 miles off the Florida Keys?

I want to also share this quote from an article in Granma dated February 8, 2018: “January, 2018: The Trump administration announces the creation of a new Internet task force designed to subvert Cuba’s internal order... The initiative is Washington's most recent attempt to disguise its plans to destabilize Cuba through the use of new technologies.” The article is an important eye- opener.

So let’s continue the work of being vigilant: ask questions, organize, agitate and educate. By our collective efforts, we can build the kind of Canada we want to protect and develop.

Dangerous things

Maria Bauer, inSolidarity

Guns, drugs, alcohol, tobacco – anything that requires laws to help ensure we stay safe – are dangerous things. They affect our lives, our heath and our safety.

Before we legalize dangerous things, there should be plenty of thought into how we are going to control and enforce the laws that apply to them.

The rash of violence and danger to the general population with gun violence has been horrific: innocent people, children, anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We all know that guns can kill. There has been incidents of young children accidentally killing their parent or siblings due to a misplaced weapon. Mass killings have erupted in schools, churches, malls and many other public places normally known as safe spaces.

There has been political and social upset in the United States regarding the Second Amendment, which reads: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” In fact, about a third of the American population have at least one gun in their households.

But politicians and the American people are split on the right to bear arms versus meaningful gun control. Many American people are against any infringement on their right to keep and bear arms. Others are upset at the mass killings of innocent people and feel that guns should be controlled or even made illegal.

After the horrific high school shooting in Park- land, Florida, where 14 students and three staff were killed, a rally was organized in Washington. The student protest was called a “March For Our Lives” and demanded that politicians look at gun control in the USA.

Currently, you can buy guns just about anywhere in the USA. Firearms are a multi-billion-dollar business. Walmart, Target and Costco, to name a few of the big companies, and even small corner-store locations throughout the USA sell firearms.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) offers members discounts on car insurance, flights, rental cars and bank affiliations, just to name a few membership perks. However, after the Florida shootings, many of these companies pulled themselves off the NRA affiliation list.

We all know that big and small companies’ reason for being in business is to make a profit. Should they have a right to make a profit on something as dangerous as a gun? Are gun regulations working? Are there enough government inspectors? Are these inspectors ensuring companies are following the rules? Can the police force handle the amount of weapons on the street?

In 2018, Toronto has seen a sharp uptick in handgun-related murders. Are handguns legal in Canada, you may wonder? Yes, they are – but only if you belong to small groups of people, such as collectors, target shooters and those who need one for their job.

To own a gun legally, there are but a few simple steps. You take a safety course to receive a licence. If your preference is a handgun, you can take a safety course specifically for handguns.

Once you’re licensed, you can now purchase a gun. These guns are put on a registry so that enforcement agencies can track where a gun is supposed to be. But too many times, we only find out when guns have fallen into the wrong hands much too late.

Furthermore, gun regulations are almost impossible to enforce effectively. Does anyone know what to do if a loved one passes away who had a gun licence? The Firearms Act leaves the onus on the executor of the estate, yet there is little or no follow-through to ensure this happens.

Over two million Canadians have a firearms licence. That is approximately one in 15 Canadians old enough to acquire a gun legally.

Once a product is put on the private market, like guns or alcohol or cannabis, it becomes much harder to control it. And maybe some products, like handguns, should not be sold at all.

But we should also think hard about the sale, distribution and regulation of things that we know are dangerous - before we put them in the hands of private retailers, whose only concern is to make the maximum profit.

Tories and Liberals disdain democracy

Joe Grogan, retired

Now that the election is over and we see what is happening with respect to the Ford Conservative government, let’s make a quick comparison between the Liberals and Tories.

Ford, the campaign and his actions

During the election, Ford made some interesting, seductive comments but did not reveal any kind of specifics. Instead, he relied on generalities to win support. In particular, he appealed to resentment about bureaucracies and the gouging of drivers through manipulated gas prices.

He also appealed to those hit hard by high hydro bills.

Then there were the promises to lessen “big government” and “red tape," which for me brought back ugly memories of the Mike Harris era and his cousins in the Harper camp. As a matter of fact, some of the folks in Ford’s government, either as MPPs or staff, are people who were with Harper and/or earlier with Harris.

Ford has revealed his disdain for democracy by cutting the number of Toronto councillors from 47 to 25. Municipal governments are the products of the provincial government – but why do this three months into the current municipal elections, without consultation, and without revealing it to voters during the election? It smacks of elitism and disdain for all of Toronto – in fact, for all of us.

In particular, Ford hopes to isolate his opponents in Toronto and lessen their ability to fight his many regressive actions as he continues to manipulate and misinform the public, many of whom are workers who voted him into power.

When are workers going to smarten up? Probably, some OPSEU members saw Ford as a benign person who could be trusted. Wrong!

Wynne, her government and her actions

Wynne showed her true elitist colours towards the end of the campaign, when she described the NDP as overly committed to ideology because Andrea Horwath refused to support back- to-work legislation to solve workplace disputes.

Our union has launched a Charter challenge on Wynne’s action in passing legislation that made a mockery of free collective bargaining. In the autumn of 2017, Wynne forced community college faculty back to work with legislation that did nothing to solve the problems her government’s actions had caused by underfunding the college system and creating a precarious work situation within the college system.

This employer-friendly system is mainly financed by the blood, sweat and tears of workers and in particular, college faculty. And yet, earlier in her reign Wynne did not hesitate to say she was pre- pared to fight for workers.

That is a complete myth – one Liberals love to perpetuate – because in reality Liberals always say they are for the workers until they join a union and try to negotiate some balance in their work- places. Then Liberals show their real colours and priorities: profit enhancement for employers, work intensification, cutbacks and contracting-out.

Further, the changes made to the Ontario Employment Standards Act did not go far enough. For example, they failed to include language that would make it easier and legal for more workers to join unions.

So when are workers going to get smart, anyway?

What about the NDP?

Their track record does include the disaster of the Social Contract back in the 1990s – legislation that I and many other activists and union leaders opposed. But seeing what Wynne did, what Ford is doing and is likely to do, I am sticking with the NDP.

The NDP is not perfect, but compared to the alternatives, New Democrats are the only real choice for workers, our union and our families. Especially important is their fundamental commitment to free collective bargaining in both the public and private sectors.

Once again, it is time to organize, agitate and educate our members, colleagues, community members and others to actively resist King Ford and his cohort. Our democracy demands it.

Strongman politics in Ontario – and what to do about it

By Skye Butters, inSolidarity

With the election of Doug Ford, the trend to right- wing populism has hit Ontario. Right-wing populism has been a growing trend for years: first in Europe, then in the U.S. and now here. Economic downturns leave people feeling disillusioned, so right-wing ideologies that favour protectionism, anti-immigration policies and deregulation appeal to voters.

But how does any candidate run, let alone win, without a platform? How could we watch the orange aberration over the border and be so easily swayed by the same empty rhetoric, impossible promises and general demagoguery? Because the similarities between Ford and Trump are striking.

Like Trump, Ford was born into wealth and inherited his family’s business. Yet both claim they are self-made men and anti-establishment.

Like Trump, Ford has attacked the media during his mayoral race, calling journalists liars (among less complimentary descriptors).

Just as Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton should be locked up over her email server, Ford sup- porters were also heard chanting “lock her up” with reference to Kathleen Wynne at one of his rallies in Niagara Falls.

The similarities go on and on and on. Both like giving tax breaks to the corporate elite. Both are nationalist and seek to “take care of their own,” rather than support refugees. Both dismiss green initiatives in favour of deregulation for corporations. Both make sexist and racist jokes.

Ford has ended co-operation with Ottawa on asylum seekers. He has ditched GreenON, a program designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He has axed cap-and-trade, which forced large companies to buy allowances for their carbon emissions. He will put an end to programs that help homeowners make their homes more environmentally efficient. He has put a hiring freeze on all public service jobs. He has decided that there will be no separate minister for Indigenous affairs.

It’s plain to see Ford has a disregard for refugees, Indigenous peoples, the environment, science and public services. These attitudes are typical of right-wing demagogues, who disdain intellectualism, put corporate greed before human need and win the populous over with strong-man buffoonery and outlandish campaign promises.

When precarious work prevails, history shows us that many people blame immigrants or others considered “outsiders,” rather than the corporate elite, for their bleak situations.

In the provincial election and presidential elections, we saw how easy it was to unite people in hatred against Kathleen Wynne and Hillary Clinton. Perhaps that’s a symptom of deep-seated misogyny, or perhaps it’s an example of people reverting to what they know – a tough white guy with a no-nonsense approach – in an era of un- certain and challenging times.

As union activists, what can we do?

First, the good news: political shifts are cyclical. This, too, shall pass. In fact, leaders like Trump and Ford tend to waken people from their political slumber. Community leaders get more involved. More women run for office. Folks who were always on the fence about politics finally get motivated to get involved.

Education and activism are key. Only 58 per cent of Ontarians voted in the June election. Yes, it was the biggest turnout since 1999, but it’s clearly not enough.

Getting out the progressive vote is critical. The largest and most progressive chunk of the voting population is now the millennials. They need to understand the power they hold in swaying the decision of an election. We also need to energize our own labour base. Most voters voted against Doug Ford. We need to ensure our members and left-leaning friends get to the polls.

We also need to learn to talk about politics in an informed way. The memes and “click bait” of social media are tempting but ultimately are polarizing and leave out facts. Over the next four years, let’s talk about politics at the dinner table. Let’s explain the importance, power and necessity of voting to our young people.

Let’s be the political shift that must happen in Ontario.

Solidarity defeats bad bosses

Maria Bauer, inSolidarity

The Owen Sound Family Health Organization is a large building with four entrances. When I arrived on August 29, there were picketers at all entrances with OPSEU flags, and picket signs were everywhere.

Striking workers were asking motorists to wait three minutes to discuss the strike before entering the medical office. Two men in a black car were getting frustrated and blowing their horn. Then the driver jumped out of his car and threatened to beat strikers with a baseball bat.

They were among a few people in the com- munity who had been aggressive towards the striking workers, barrelling through the picket lines and even running into picketers. Several OPSEU members were hit by cars, including Region 6 Executive Board Member Tara Maszczakiewicz, who ended up with a broken foot.

In early August, one of the doctors told the staff on the picket line: “You’re not coming back. You’ll all be on welfare.”

Some 102 days into the strike, the Owen Sound Police posted a notice to the public, stating that any person had the right to picket and citing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also said drivers cannot drive through a picket line if it is not safe to do so, concluding with “This is a requirement of law.”

Tensions were high – to say the least.

It takes a lot of courage to go on strike. It requires strength, unity and a meeting of minds. This is their income, their means of survival and their identity. They reached their breaking point and walked away from the protection of their income and survival.

I stopped to speak with some of the striking members. When I approached one, I introduced myself. I could see her eyes were swollen with tears and her was face red, and she was obviously exhausted – and it was only 9 am.

She said she needed to walk away for a little while, and I watched her grab a co-worker and wander down the sidewalk, away from the chaos.

Later, I asked her what had upset her, and her comment struck me hard. “I’m a nurse. I care for people. It’s not in me to be yelled at and threatened by people – that’s not who I am.”

Other bargaining team members explained they had been on strike since May 22. They started with 30 members but were now down to 14. They noted the doctors had created new supervisory positions for two who had given up. They joined some of the doctors’ own children – one as young as 15 – who helped replace clerical staff during the strike.

They told me they were concerned over the quality of health care at the clinic. “We’re striking for the people,” one said. “We want quality care for Owen Sound.” Another member told me her workload was unbearable. They used to have one RPN per doctor. That was doubled to one RPN per two doctors. The nurses were seeing 25 to 50 patients per day, per doctor, along with trying to complete all their other nursing duties – all of this without an increase for four years. On July 17, the doctors proposed doing the same work with unskilled workers. These same doctors are negotiating their own contract with Ontario Medical Association and are asking for a 15.25 per cent increase over four years – an almost four per cent increase annually.

As the strike dragged on, there was a callout to OPSEU members, along with a motion at the Executive Board, to walk in solidarity with Local 276. OPSEU members from across the province answered the call, along with Unifor members and NDP local support – to the relief of striking workers.

On September 4, 2018, the doctors finally called Local 276 back at the bargaining table. They could tell they were losing. With the weight of that support behind them, Local 276 ratified a deal with the employer on September 5. It took just two days of negotiations to come to an agreement. Workers received a wage increase and job security – and pushed back the employer’s demand for cutbacks to their pensions.

It’s a shame they had to go through such a stressful strike. But it’s not a shame that people still know and understand the strength a union gives working people!

Solidarity defeats bad bosses

Maria Bauer, inSolidarity

The Owen Sound Family Health Organization is a large building with four entrances. When I arrived on August 29, there were picketers at all entrances with OPSEU flags, and picket signs were everywhere.

Striking workers were asking motorists to wait three minutes to discuss the strike before entering the medical office. Two men in a black car were getting frustrated and blowing their horn. Then the driver jumped out of his car and threatened to beat strikers with a baseball bat.

They were among a few people in the com- munity who had been aggressive towards the striking workers, barrelling through the picket lines and even running into picketers. Several OPSEU members were hit by cars, including Region 6 Executive Board Member Tara Maszczakiewicz, who ended up with a broken foot.

In early August, one of the doctors told the staff on the picket line: “You’re not coming back. You’ll all be on welfare.”

Some 102 days into the strike, the Owen Sound Police posted a notice to the public, stating that any person had the right to picket and citing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also said drivers cannot drive through a picket line if it is not safe to do so, concluding with “This is a requirement of law.”

Tensions were high – to say the least.

It takes a lot of courage to go on strike. It requires strength, unity and a meeting of minds. This is their income, their means of survival and their identity. They reached their breaking point and walked away from the protection of their income and survival.

I stopped to speak with some of the striking members. When I approached one, I introduced myself. I could see her eyes were swollen with tears and her was face red, and she was obviously exhausted – and it was only 9 am.

She said she needed to walk away for a little while, and I watched her grab a co-worker and wander down the sidewalk, away from the chaos.

Later, I asked her what had upset her, and her comment struck me hard. “I’m a nurse. I care for people. It’s not in me to be yelled at and threatened by people – that’s not who I am.”

Other bargaining team members explained they had been on strike since May 22. They started with 30 members but were now down to 14. They noted the doctors had created new supervisory positions for two who had given up. They joined some of the doctors’ own children – one as young as 15 – who helped replace clerical staff during the strike.

They told me they were concerned over the quality of health care at the clinic. “We’re striking for the people,” one said. “We want quality care for Owen Sound.” Another member told me her workload was unbearable. They used to have one RPN per doctor. That was doubled to one RPN per two doctors. The nurses were seeing 25 to 50 patients per day, per doctor, along with trying to complete all their other nursing duties – all of this without an increase for four years.

On July 17, the doctors proposed doing the same work with unskilled workers. These same doctors are negotiating their own contract with Ontario Medical Association and are asking for a 15.25 per cent increase over four years – an almost four per cent increase annually.

As the strike dragged on, there was a callout to OPSEU members, along with a motion at the Executive Board, to walk in solidarity with Local 276. OPSEU members from across the province answered the call, along with Unifor members and NDP local support – to the relief of striking workers.

On September 4, 2018, the doctors finally called Local 276 back at the bargaining table. They could tell they were losing. With the weight of that support behind them, Local 276 ratified a deal with the employer on September 5. It took just two days of negotiations to come to an agreement. Workers received a wage increase and job security – and pushed back the employer’s demand for cutbacks to their pensions.

It’s a shame they had to go through such a stressful strike. But it’s not a shame that people still know and understand the strength a union gives working people!

Electronic voting? What’s that?

Laurie Tarto, inSolidarity

Ontarians voting in the provincial election voters saw scanners, netbooks and electronic tabulation machines for the first time. Elections Ontario’s initiative to modernize the election process was introduced to improve the efficiency of voting and reliability in counting the votes. Faster reporting of election results was also a goal.

The number of electoral districts increased to 124 ridings in 2017, up from 107 previously. Elections Ontario projected a need for 100,000 polling officials. However, with the new technology, Elections Ontario only needed 55,000.

At the polls, voters’ registration cards were first scanned. As in the past, voters marked the ballot by hand behind a privacy screen. Then the poll officials electronically process the votes by running the ballots through an electronic tabulation machine, also used to count paper ballots. This process makes it less likely the ballots will need to be recounted.

But the paper process is still carried out for verification. Electronic vote tabulation machines are not particularly vulnerable to cyber threats, as they are not connected to the Internet. How- ever, the tabulation machines cannot be reliably tested, and Elections Ontario didn’t reveal the extent of their testing, according to rabble.ca. Of course, Elections Ontario has assured the public that voter data are secure.

Each party has the right to appoint a scrutineer to look out for cheating and to question counting. With this technology, scrutineers are not needed, and the procedure has been amended to omit them. Risk-limiting audits have been proposed as a good alternative.

After the polls close, votes from each polling station are transmitted to a central location. According to rabble.ca, the transmission and centralization of data could leave the system vulnerable to cyberattacks and should be of concern to the public. Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, however, contends that only trans- mission over the Internet is risky. The National Election Defence Coalition insists that even remote-access software and cellular modems make the machines vulnerable.

Voters in Estonia have had the option of Internet voting (“i-voting”) since 2005, with no serious security issues. This is due to technology and processes being updated as technology advances and putting lessons learned from each election into practice, according to Estonia’s Electoral Office. The Netherlands also used electronic vote tabulation machines in their 2017 election. In response to a cyber threat, they also hand-counted the votes.

Voting was at a recent high in the last election. Did the ease of electronic voting have anything to do with it? Hopefully, it did play a role – and that participation in the electronic process will grow as a result.

 

 

In Solidarity
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