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inSolidarity, Summer/Autumn 2017

In Solidarity Cover: Dr. Elaine Bernard
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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.

Click here to download inSolidarity, Summer/Autumn 2017

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
Scott McAllister, vice-chair – Local 250
Glen Archer – Local 719
Maria Bauer – Local 376
Katie Sample – Local 499

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
Michael Lundy, Local 737
Shantelle Marcoux, Local 586

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

An Interview with Dr. Elaine Bernard

Tara Maszczakiewicz, Region 6 Executive Board Member

For 19 years, the National Union of Public and General Employees Union (NUPGE) has held an annual Leadership Development School. Dr. Elaine Bernard has been teaching components on leadership, strategic planning for unions, and organizing since the school’s inception.

A native of Ottawa, Dr. Bernard recently retired from 27 years as Executive Director of the Labour and Worklife Program (LWP) at Harvard Law School. Part of that program includes the annual six-week Harvard Trade Union Program, a residential union leadership program.

Founded in 1942, this is the oldest and, arguably, most prestigious residential union leadership program in North America. OPSEU routinely sends new Executive Board Members to the NUPGE school. As a new Executive Board Member for Region 6, I had an opportunity to attend Dr. Bernard’s NUPGE sessions and to interview her at the end.

Tara Maszczakiewicz (TM): Are you criticized for using management models in labour training?

Elaine Bernard (EB): For the most part, what I teach are not management models but good organizational practices. There is a notion that unions can’t learn from other successful organizations, which is not true. Successful organizations are learning organizations. The stuff I introduce has been adopted by very successful unions. For example, I think it’s important to do strategic planning. Not because of the military or businesses, but it’s important because strategic planning is being purposeful and is acting, rather than reacting. As unions, when we simply react, we fail. Our members deserve leadership that is purposeful, sets direction, and is able to take action.

TM: You have so much experience and knowledge in the labour movement. Does anything ever surprise you?

EB: Every day, every day. What always surprises me is how many roads people take to get to the same place. There’s a tendency to want to say, “Tell me what to do.” There isn’t some one thing that someone can tell you. It’s something you have to work out yourself.

What’s interesting, for instance, is most workers join unions for issues of dignity. But when we try to persuade people to join unions, we often talk about wages and benefits. Their motivation is often very different from what we use to motivate others. It always surprises me when I learn from groups of workers their original story and why they came to form an organization.

TM: What are the effects of the right-towork movement in the US, and how do you think this impacts on the Canadian labour movement?

EB: First, the “right to work” is legislation that forces a union to represent everyone in a bargaining unit – but prohibits the union from being able to guarantee that the people they represent have to pay a share for the services and rights they receive through the union. It's patently unfair.

The problem is that it uses very popular language that disguises what the right to work really is: the loss of the right to protection. Sometimes we get very popular language which is incorrect. For instance, when I was growing up, there was a right-to-work movement in Europe – to have a job! Not the right to avoid paying union dues and undermine unions.

But the right wing has stolen that language, and now it means the opposite. We are really in a 1984 world where Trump says, “Make America great again,” but what he really means is, “Return to the privileged, racist America of the 1950s, with Jim Crowe and women deemed to be second-class people.”

TM: Because you’re an expat living in the US, I have to ask about Trump and your thoughts on the future of organized labour in the US.

EB: Well, I really think it’s a sad thing for the UnitedStates and the world that Trump became President. But I’m one of these glass half-full, not glass half-empty, people. What I’m seeing is how many young people aregetting involved in, and worried about, the world they live in and about democracy.When I look at young people and their decision toengage in politics, it’s inspiring. It’s going to be a challenge for the labour movement to take advantageof the new excitement and desire to actually make democracy great again and recover what a real justand what a caring society should be. It’s actually quite exciting when you look at counter-demonstrations.

TM: What are your thoughts on what to look for in an effective leader?

EB: The time you need a leader is when you’re facing big challenges. Leadership is, first, taking responsibility.We often don’t think of it that way, but it’s taking responsibility to enable others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty. Leadership is never just “follow me” by itself. It’s collective. But it’s taking responsibility to step up front – not just stepping up front, but being upfront to enable others to achieve purpose.

This is a time when we’re going to see new leadership, because some leaders from previous periods are going to say the world is just too weird for them.Then other people are going to rise up to say, yeah,this is unacceptable. I’m seeing a whole generation of young people coming forward around the US and inCanada, whether it’s Indigenous people, the women’s movement, or the labour movement.

The jobs that people leaving school are taking aren’t like the jobs I took after school. I took many jobs but ultimately figured I would get a “real” job. A real job meant full-time pay, vacation, benefits, etc. But the real jobs are becoming a minority. The vast majority of folks are going into jobs that are precarious, limited-term,with no benefits or limited benefits.

For the labour movement, this is a major challenge. How do we, as a movement, create organizations and structures that can deliver for the new workers whatwas delivered – thank you very much – for people like me, who are nearing retirement? Because the folks behind us are not getting the same sorts of jobs.

One of the key things unions have always done is actually help restructure the labour market by taking jobs that used to be pretty crummy and, through collective bargaining and through political action, have improved. At the end of World War Two, auto worker jobs were not great jobs. But by the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, they were great jobs that people really wanted to have.

We need to start looking at some of the jobs that younger folks are going into and thinking about what a union looks like, how we provide the resources, how we start to change the benefit packages. And that is going to be both political and collective. Often what we did as unions, we won first for our members, and then we passed it on to everybody else through legislation.

Often unions had health care programs before we had medicare. Think about universal child care programs and housing. There’s lots of areas for us to work on.

TM: You don’t seem ready to slow down at all. What are your plans post-retirement?

EB: I chose to retire in the sense of having taken my pension. I like to say you can retire from a job but not a movement. Today, in taking retirement, I’m freer to do things with the movement.

I’m a baby boomer, and I think it’s important for boomers not to view retirement as leaving the movement, but as freeing up a position for somebody else to get a good salary with benefits, etc., and making it possible for you to work full-time for the
movement. I don’t need to get a salary, because I get a pension. My passion is working with organizations that fight for equality, justice, and the environment, and now I’m much freer to do that.

Elaine closed the interview by commenting she is hoping she is invited back to teach at NUPGE Leadership School next year. For the sake of the next participants, I do, too.

The Day that Shook America

Craig Hadley, inSolidarity

On August 11 and 12, the world watched in horroras hundreds of white nationalists assembled in Charlottesville, Virginia for a “Unite the Right” rally. The attendees consisted of white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, and various militias. These groups, otherwise known as “alt-right” (alternative right) groups, marched and chanted racist and anti-Semitic slogans, spewing hate throughout a normally sleepy college town.

The rally-goers met fierce resistance from counterprotesters, which made the police disperse the crowds in an attempt to keep order. Tragedy struck when a Nazi  sympathizer drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19 others.

The incident that took place in Charlottesville sent shockwaves throughout the world, as many fear a resurgence of white nationalism throughout the USA, Canada, and Europe. Much to the shock of the general public, President Donald Trump stated that the hate groups were legally allowed to assemble and voice their hateful opinions because
they had a permit.

This raises the question: is there a difference between freedom of speech in Canada and the freedom of speech in the US? South of the border, freedom of expression is heavily protected from government restriction under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Criticism of government and advocating for popular and unpopular ideas alike are almost always permitted. The only real restriction is when speech is deemed obscene (as in the case of child pornography), fraudulent, or inciting lawlessness.

The legality of whether speech is obscene can be challenged under the “Miller Test,” which is a three-part legal template. One of the problems with the Miller Test is that part of it relies on the values and perception of community standards. This creates a free speech paradox that, because if enough people agree with the white nationalists’ messages, then their speech would not be considered obscene and could very well flourish, such as happened in Germany, leading to Hitler’s rise to power.

In Canada, our freedom of speech laws are not absolute. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms permits freedom of expression – as long as it can be justified in a free and democratic society. This limitation takes into account what the expression is and seeks to balance the fundamental freedoms of every Canadian. That’s why Canada has hate speech legislation that protects against the incitement of violence against racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, and religious groups. The law covering hate is not only vested in the Criminal Code but is covered under human rights legislation, other federal legislation, and statuary provisions in each province and territory.

It’s clear that Canada has better safeguards against white nationalist rallies, since the First Amendment leaves very little wiggle room to stop them from happening – at least until its determined that the rally’s purpose is to incite lawlessness. That’s what  happened in Virginia.

However, that’s not to say various Canadian white supremacist groups aren’t lobbying to relax the hate speech laws to ensure they receive the benefit of what they perceive as their constitutionally entrenched right to free speech. Let’s not be lulled into a false sense of security because of our hate speech laws. As activists, we must continue to battle the forces of evil and use all available tools to shut them down.

If you’re a pacifist, stop them through any and all forms of municipal, provincial, and federal legal action. Circulate their pictures on social media by letting the world know this type of scum exists. When their home communities ostracize them, their bosses fire them, and parents disown them, they will learn there are consequences for such foul behaviour.

For activists who are more politically aggressive: attend anti-rallies, and bring numbers. Get in their faces.

Over 60 million people died during World War Two. You owe it to those souls to stomp out the embers of intolerance – before the flames of hatred engulf the world.

Labour Reads: Weapons of Math Destruction

Howard A. Doughty, Local 560

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, by Cathy O’Neil

Though Mark Twain often gets the credit, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli may have said it first: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Whatever its origin, that early critique of governing by the numbers is nothing compared with Cathy O’Neil’s best‑selling book.

Today, we inhabit a world where every online search, email, text, tweet, credit card purchase, medical appointment, and library withdrawal is captured, collated, and kept for future use. You don’t have to be paranoid to worry about who gets to see that data and what is done with it.

However much businesses, governments, and social media reassure us that our privacy is a top concern, we know that our information is vulnerable and that aspects of our identity are traded on the open market to people wanting to sell us goods, influence our opinions, or just tally up what folks in our particular demographic think, do, and say. Aggregate data analysis and endless algorithms trace our steps― individually and collectively―and come back to haunt us later.

Cathy O’Neil is understandably worried, and she is the perfect person to tell us why. Her Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard establishes her academic bona fides. Her time as a quantitative analyst on Wall Street shows her practical experience. She has worked as a quantitative analyst for a hedge fund and knows the numbers game in theory and practice.

She had an insider’s look at the banking and housing collapse of 2008. She left the finance industry because she was ashamed of what she was doing and became active in the Occupy Movement instead.

She now blogs regularly at mathbabe.org, illuminating the dark arts of the investment, insurance, and commercial sectors (while also offering lighter fare, including travel tips and weight-loss advice), and she has started an algorithmic auditing firm – not to stop the use of mathematical models that influence everything from credit assessments to parole board decisions, but to ensure their use is transparent and fair.

Cathy O’Neil still thinks mathematics can be used for good purposes, but she knows that there are insidious aspects of weapons of math destruction (WMDs) – especially when “big data” are used in support of predatory advertisers, to reinforce discriminatory hiring policies, to rig employee performance evaluations, and to subvert democratic elections.

Weapons of Math Destruction isn’t a warning of a futuristic dystopia. It’s a well-crafted and attention-grabbing description of the world as it is. And we’re all involved. Most of us are unwilling victims, and some of us are unwitting collaborators, who help gather and store the data that will eventually (more likely sooner than later) affect people’s lives, without their knowledge or consent.

As for people who say that, if we’re doing nothing wrong, there’s no reason for concern, there are two problems. First, it assumes that the decision-makers are trustworthy – both morally, in distinguishing right from wrong; and practically, in doing their jobs competently. Our own experience with “big data analytics” may have already made us sceptical on both points. Cathy O’Neil gives us good reason and good evidence to confirm our views – and good ideas on what to do about it.

2017 Provincial Young Workers Conference

Katie Sample, inSolidarity

In mid-August, our young workers gathered once again to learn, inspire, and share ideas at the Provincial Young Workers Conference, expertly put together by our Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC).

This year’s theme was “Bargaining for the Future” – an important topic, as we have continued to see an erosion in our job market for jobs that offer security, pensions, and many other workplace protections that can, and should, be recognized and addressed at the tables of all our contract negotiations.

The conference included lessons on the bargaining cycle, pensions, enforcement of the collective agreement, union demands, and global solidarity. The attendees also were privileged to hear from Mike Palecek, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), as the keynote speaker.

I spoke with Andrew Welsh, a steward in Local 499, about his first-time experience at the Young Workers Conference.

Katie: As a first-time attendee to the Young Workers Conference, how did it compare to your expectations and other OPSEU events you have been a part of?

Andrew: It was by far the most interesting event I have ever attended. The educationals are great, as we see how stewardship and health and safety matter in the workplace. But the opportunity to network and see how many other young workers there were in places I hadn’t really thought of, like corrections, was cool. And to realize that much of the issues I face as a young worker are the same issues other young workers face in different workplaces.

Katie: Did you find the theme relevant to the challenges you face as a young worker in today’s work environment?

Andrew: Our keynote speaker was really inspiring. He was the youngest national president in the history of CUPW. He addressed the importance of bargaining for the future, right up to including eco-friendly language in contracts. I had never even thought about such practices in bargaining, and that really is bargaining for the future – not just his or ours, but the whole world’s future.

We went on to discuss what information he found most useful, and how/whether what he learned will be applied to his workplace, local, and personal life.

The conference inspired him to become more active in his workplace, local, and community, and seek out opportunities to get further involved. He said that one of the biggest lessons learned was that “improving the workplace starts now, not only when bargaining comes around.”

“Now is the time to see how gains and loses in our current contract affect us,” Andrew continued. “What we should be trying to gain and protect in our next while enforcing the important language our contracts have now.”

For more information on the Provincial Young Workers Committee and their events, find them on Facebook under OPSEU Provincial Young Workers Committee and on our OPSEU website at opseu.org.

Your workplace health and safety rights: use them!

Joe Grogan, Retired, OPSEU Region 5

All employers in the public and private sectors use various methods and procedures to establish a controlled workplace environment. This is done to maximize production and reduce their costs.

This effort to exert greater control was a response from employers that really took off in the early 1980s to offset worker advances in workplaces and in society in general. The efforts were first employed in the auto industry in North America using methods applied in Japan and covered by the term “kaizening”: doing more with less.

In this article, I propose that workers don’t have to take this abuse of power which, in my view, amounts to violence that produces physical and psychological stress for workers and families.

We in Ontario have the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which gives workers three very important workplace rights: the right to know, the right to representation, and the right to refuse. It’s our responsibility to educate and protect ourselves and others at work. (You can access the act at www.Ontario.ca/laws)

The right to know

The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives us many rights in our workplaces. When using the act, you must read an entire section – not just superficially scanning the sections – otherwise you lose the act’s impact. In particular, familiarize yourself with those sections dealing with workplace harassment and violence. Further, many workplace managerial controls establish a hostile environment, such that we can’t do our jobs without experiencing stress, which causes many healthrelated problems.

The right to representation

This is the right to be represented by another worker if we feel there are circumstances of concern in our workplace. We also have the right to be represented on a workplace joint occupational health and safety committee, on which at least half of the members must be workers chosen by workers to represent their concerns. Further, this right gives us the ability and responsibility to do workplace inspections through which workplace hazards can be identified and eliminated.

The right to refuse

Workers have the right to refuse a work assignment if they think it will endanger themselves or another worker (except in situations where certain dangers are considered to be inherent in the worker’s work or is a normal condition of employment). Our duties are spelled out in section 43: “A worker may refuse to work or do particular work where he or she has reason to believe that, (a) any equipment, machine, device, or thing the worker is to use or operate is likely to endanger himself, herself or another worker.”

We have the power to improve our workplaces

Obviously, we need to exercise these rights in cooperation with the consultations and advice we receive from our workplace stewards, health and safety reps, and OPSEU regional/head office staff. Always refer first to the up-to-date version of the act in ALL discussions. Further, we have our collective agreements, which also include language on workplace health and safety. Finally, we have the OPSEU Constitution, which spells out our rights and responsibilities as union members, as well as our union’s responsibility to represent members on all legitimate union-related matters.

We have the power to change our workplace conditions. Through these and related rights, we can improve our workplaces and reduce work-related stress. We owe it to ourselves to be informed, to be active, and to receive some of the benefits that our labour has produced – especially the rights enshrined in legislation, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

One last point: the index to the act appears at the back and organizes all the sections in alphabetical sequence. The index is essential to use so, please, make use of it.

Labour Reads: Work and Labour in Canada: Critical Issues

Howard A. Doughty, Local 560

While we are not always told the truth, there is no shortage of news, information, and propaganda about business in the mainstream and social media. Financial, commercial, manufacturing, resource, and the seemingly dominant information technology industries are covered in every daily newspaper. As well, television network news and current affairs programs regularly address business issues. There is even a cable network that deals with nothing else.

Labour? Not so much!

Major mass media have dozens of business reporters but next to no one regularly reporting on labour. In fact, about the only time unions and workers get attention is during a strike or when some internal dispute provides sensational headlines for the print and broadcast media.

That’s why it is so important to find sources that discuss the struggles of working people fairly and in depth. Without books such as Jackson and Thomas’s Work and Labour in Canada, we’re at the mercy of the corporate media, which have two basic approaches: ignore labour for 95 per cent of the time and criticize unions for the rest. Ever notice, in contract negotiations, how employees greedily make “demands,” while employers generously make “offers”? That pretty much sums it up!

Work and Labour in Canada provides an alternative narrative. It is an up-to-date account of the conditions and challenges facing working people in the early 21st century. The picture isn’t pretty, but it is clear.

Precarious work with little job security and low wages is the new normal for far too many people who get little from politicians except smiling faces, endless empty talk about protecting the “middle class,” and promises to “have conversations” about the problems that people outside the top one per cent encounter daily. Jackson Work and Labour in Canada: Critical Issues and Thomas not only present a convincing analysis of the economic problems of working people, but also add in such complicating factors as gender, race, and disabilities to document how inequality and inequity are built into what’s called “late capitalism.”

That analysis is the foundation for a close look at the quickly transforming workplace of today – one in which unions must join with other progressive forces to respond creatively to new job-destroying technologies, globalization, environmental degradation, and profoundly different day-to-day life in contemporary workplaces.

New times demand new tactics to confront the tired corporate rhetoric claiming that unions are somehow obsolete, when the fact is that unions have seldom been more desperately needed. With governments doing everything possible to discredit the workers’ movement and making the unionization of whole industries harder and harder to achieve, Work and Labour in Canada explains why engagement with new generations in the workforce is necessary to revitalize the labour movement. With examples such as the Bernie Sanders (a Democratic nominee for the 2016 presidential election) and the Jeremy Corbyn (the Labour Leader of the Opposition in the UK) campaigns to give hope for progress in Canada – and with the growing leadership role of public sector unions, such as OPSEU, to provide a focus – the future of labour activism isn’t as dim as corporate opinion leaders would have us believe.

In this thorough, cogent, and accessible book, Jackson, a senior policy adviser at the Broadbent Institute, and Thomas, the director of the Global Labour Research Centre at York University, give new and veteran union members alike a firm knowledge base on which to write a new and energetic chapter of successful advocacy in a world in which the stakes could hardly be higher.

Andrew Jackson and Mark P. Thomas, Work and Labour in Canada: Critical Issues – 3rd edition, Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s Press Inc. 2017, 339 pages.

Behind the scenes

Scott McAllister, inSolidarity

He approaches the line. Focused. Determined. He sets his body. He is ready. He calms himself. He is in control. The gun fires and he explodes out of the blocks. For 9.58 seconds the world watches as he sets a new world record for the 100-metre race.

And the world will wait another four years to relive the moment. Another 7,568,640,000 seconds.

But for Usain Bolt the work is just beginning.

Running the 100-etre in 9.58 seconds made Bolt great. But it’s what the world doesn’t see that made him the greatest. In those four years, you need to go behind the scenes to see how legends are made: the daily weight training, the strictest nutrition, the constant running.

For four years, Bolt trains for a mere 10-second race of his life – behind the scenes, away from the camera, away from the microphone. It’s the people and support staff that drive the machine. Behind every presidential speech is a devoted writer. Behind every painting in a museum is an artist who is likely long dead. Elvis Presley, the king of rock-and-roll, wrote very few of the songs he sang. Yet he is the king.

It’s behind-the-scenes people that make others great.

Meet Heather Reay Heather Reay is a member of OPSEU Local 266 and works out of the Early Years Centre in Hanover. As a mother and grandmother, children have been her world. Heather has been involved with day care for 30 years, and she has seen the child care landscape change drastically throughout those years: unionization, political decisions affecting subsidization, and downsizing and closures. Through it all, her love for the children has never wavered. This was apparent when I was honoured to meet and walk through the day care centre she now supervises.

The umbrella that covers the centre is one of love. Whether playing outside or on a field trip, having a Picasso moment on the floor, or a free-for-all spaghetti playtime, the smiles on the faces of the children and their parents transmit a feeling of fun and acceptance.

As I looked at some of the arts and crafts by the future generation, Heather was quick to point out that crafts shouldn’t be about the finished product. A sobering truth hit home: love is greater than all!

With an open-door policy, it would be safe to assume the focus is about the children. But you would be wrong. Heather explains that the centre is a place for families – children with their moms and dads. As much as they focus the lives of the children, it hasn’t escaped them that they must recognize the needs of the parents as well.

The “Fabulous First Years” program is a time of social interaction among moms. It’s a time of bonding, when mothers meet other mothers, discovering they are not alone in life’s struggles.

The “Moms’ Morning Out” program attracts guest speakers to encourage and build the lives of mothers. Heather shares that isolation is the greatest challenge for a new mom. The centre is a place where like-minded parents can come together to share, to play, to laugh, or to cry.

But the story doesn’t end there. Look behind the scenes.

For the past 18 years, Heather has been involved with child care for OPSEU conventions and Region 2 educationals. She is one of many who give of their time, out of the limelight, to work with – and love – the children so others are able to attend OPSEU activities.

By providing child care, Heather is helping the present generation build their knowledge base, meet new contacts, and interact. But more importantly, by spending time with the children, she is readying the next generation to maybe follow in the steps of their parents.

Behind the scenes, yet so important. A noble cause. And after 30-plus years, Heather admits she is still enjoying it.

Thank you, Heather Reay, for all that you do.

You can't hide

Maria Bauer, inSolidarity

We are all connected through our phone, computer, laptop, or tablet. Over the years they have become more and more sophisticated. They have evolved into a tool that many of us cannot live without.

But what should you do when your employer develops a new application (“app”) and suggests that all workers should add this app to their own personal device? It may sound like a good thing, because workers can now easily find information to help them in their workplace. It may even include online training and how to improve yourself at work.

But before you install any app, look at the permissions that the app is asking to access on your device. Most apps will need access to your location, phone number, phone call log, photos, media, and files, including the device’s storage and camera. If you feel your employer should not be able to see what the app is permitted to access, you should not download it.

You should also think about problems that could happen should you break your device, or even if your device is stolen. Watch for the employer’s stating that they are not responsible for damage to your private property – even when it is being used during company time for company business. I also noticed that many companies have one app for employees and a separate app for the public. They both serve the same purpose but a separate employee app can, and will, track employees in every way possible.

Why companies create apps

From the employer’s perspective, an app is a tool to promote sales and awareness. Apps have information about products, which consumers can order right from their personal cellphone – no need for a customer service worker to advise them. Online shopping is taking a toll on many sectors of business and is eliminating the workforce. More and more people are shopping and banking online. (The next time you make an online order or go through self-check, remember: you’re increasing corporate profits at the expense of working people.)

Apps can also tell a company how many people are looking at their products, what products they are looking for, and where that device is located. Many apps can also tell a company where else that personal device is surfing or what other types of products they research on their phones. They learn the spending habits, trends, and personal habits of that device’s user. In other words, while some apps access only the data they need to function, others access data not related to the purpose of the app.

Remember: if a company is collecting your data, they may be sharing it with other companies.

Employer apps

Apps created solely for employees are used, as they say, to increase productivity. Here are some things that company apps can track:

  • your phone and email contacts
  • call logs
  • Internet data
  • calendar data
  • data on the device’s location
  • the device’s unique IDs
  • information on how you use the app

There is also case law that could allow a company to confiscate your device, should there be an investigation.

My suggestion is to use your personal device for personal use – and only personal use. If your employer wants you to use a device at work, have them supply the device at their own expense, not yours. (I’d also suggest that people interact, say hello to their colleagues, and ask for help in person, rather than staring at a screen.)

They say “buyer beware.” When it comes to using apps, be doubly aware. 

Adam Capay

Michael Lundy, Local 737

I’m a correctional officer at Thunder Bay Jail. It’s where Adam Capay is, who allegedly killed a fellow inmate at Thunder Bay Correctional Centre, was held in segregation for 52 continuous months while awaiting trial.

In 2012, this young Indigenous man was charged with killing a fellow inmate. He was moved to a Plexiglas cell. Then he was essentially forgotten for four years, with minimal access to showers, reading and writing materials, radio, and Indigenous services. Artificial lighting beamed down on him around the clock – and for 1,636 days, Adam did not feel the sun on his face.

Rewind eight years.

When I became a correctional officer, I wanted to make a positive impact on society. True to my word, I always maintained that philosophy, even while dealing with my own struggles with depression.

However, as I got more involved, I became increasingly frustrated. How could I possibly make a positive impact on society while working behind these walls?

Because for corrections staff to make that impact, they need proper resources: funding, training, adequate staffing. But after four decades of neglect by all three major Ontario political parties, we’ve reached a state that can only be described as a full-blown crisis.

So when Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane tweeted that she would visit Thunder Bay Jail, I decided to reach out to her. I wanted her to hear at first hand the struggles staff face in trying to make a difference – trying to help the folks in our care fix their mistakes.

No, I’m not naïve. I don’t believe we can rehabilitate every offender in Thunder Bay Jail. But as a correctional officer, I do believe we should at least have the tools to try. And when we ask the government for these tools, all we hear is: “There’s no money.”

The commissioner agreed to meet with me before the tour. As she was about to leave, she asked whether there was anything she should know or ask about during her tour. I told her about a man who had been in uninterrupted segregation for four years.

We know the rest. Adam was removed from segregation and taken to Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care for proper housing and treatment. His trial is set to begin later this month.

His story is frustrating, because people immediately blame correctional staff.

But it’s not staff’s fault. It’s not administration’s fault.

It’s not the superintendent’s or the regional director’s fault. We all work with what we have – and for far, far too long, that has meant the square root of zero.

The blame needs to be placed squarely where it belongs: at the feet of the politicians at Queen’s Park.

At Thunder Bay Jail – scene of the infamous 2015 riot – there simply were no housing options for Adam. And someone had to bring that issue forward.

That’s why I tweeted Commissioner Mandhane. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut any longer without failing the inmates in our care, failing the people of Ontario, and feeling that I was personally failing at my job.

So now we’re faced with a series of reports on segregation and corrections reform. But the truth is, they will do nothing until we all get on the same page.

That’s why I’m calling on the Corrections minister to establish a round table. Those invited to the table must include OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, the Deputy Minister for Corrections, the Ministry Employee Relations Committee for Corrections, the Provincial Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (PJOHSC), the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, the John Howard Society, the Ontario Ombudsman, and Howard Sapers, author of the recent report on the use of segregation in Ontario jails.

We must work together to right this ship. As Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé stated recently, “The time for studies and consultations is over.” It’s time for real change. 

Michael Lundy is vice-chair of the Provincial Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Word games

Maria Bauer, inSolidarity

Everyone has played word games. It starts when you’re young: you play with letter blocks to put words together and make bigger words. As we get older, there are games like Scrabble, crosswords and many others.

Games are fun! We find ways to get creative, challenge each other and stimulate our minds, while building our vocabulary.

I keep seeing the word “modernization” in the media. The government keeps using this word when they are proposing changes.

The definition of “modernization” is “to make modern; give a new or modern character or appearance.”

Now, who doesn’t like modern things? When I think of modern things, I think of new things, innovative ideas, upgrading. It sounds like a good word. It makes people believe things would be better if they were updated and modernized. Modernization makes old things new and improved.

The modernization theory has been around for centuries. When you read about the modernization theory, they talk about a progression from a traditional society to a modern society. The theory started back in the 1950s, and it is based on taking a traditional, rural and agrarian society, and transforming it into an industrial society.

Technology is a prime example of modernization that many people cannot live without in today’s world. Modern technologies have created many changes in our societies over the past 50 years. It started slowly, then grew very quickly.

I remember being a kid and having to get up to change the television station. Modernization made it so that we had a cable box that allowed us to stay seated when we changed our stations. Now we can watch our favourite movies and shows, or even surf the Internet any time of day, anywhere we want.

We mostly approach modernization as a good thing – something that makes things easier and better. But when we look at the word “traditional,” we generally view it as passé – something we can and probably should do without. Traditional countries and communities are viewed as the poor or the suffering, lacking the knowledge or the will to “move forward.”

But traditional can also be a good thing! It can refer to our families, our communities and how we relate to each other. Some people see tradition in their faith or sense of morals. There needs to be a balance to make modernization work, while keeping some of our traditional ways.

Take Toronto’s infamous rubber duck. There was plenty of interest in the $200,000 toy. It did bring some tourism and income into our province. But I heard many people ask, “Why a rubber duck?” What does a rubber duck have to do with Canada? If the government had purchased a traditional bird, such as a loon or even a Canada goose, people may have accepted the concept of a giant inflatable fowl. It might have been more acceptable to the people of the province. Instead, most people were saying, “What a waste of money!”

Now, over the past few years, we have watched the government use the term “modernization” in relation to Hydro, the LCBO, the OLG, and even our hospitals. While many things are in need of modernization to keep up with the technological changes in our society, we should never forget the advantages of keeping some traditions.

The government has moved forward with technology within our public assets. Many technological changes are indeed needed and have improved these assets. But “modernization” has often been misused. It’s been a distraction from what they government has really been doing. In the name of technological change, our traditional ways have been sold off to private companies. By doing so, there has been a breakdown of a society that discourages human relationships – particularly, the notion of a common good sought in a communal way. In its place, we’ve substituted individual, private interests attaining their own, personal goals at the expense of the common good.

Here are some examples of the Ontario government’s misuse of modernization:

“[Privatization] would improve sector efficiency and modernize the province’s electricity market…” 

The majority of Hydro One has now been sold to forprofit, private interests. “Ontario patients deserve a modernized medical laboratory testing system.” Similarly, Ontario’s blood labs have now been sold to private companies.

“OLG is changing for the better. Four reasons to modernize…” The Ontario Lottery Corporation has sold all casinos and will soon make in-store purchases of lotto tickets unnecessary.

“Striking the right balance: modernizing wine and spirits retailing and distribution in Ontario.” Alcohol can now be purchased in private grocery stores.

In 2006, there was a full report written on the modernization of the Ontario Public Service (OPS). Since then, the government has privatized large units of the OPS.

These are but a few examples of the “modernization” of our public assets. Rather than using the modernization of our assets to our common advantage by making more money and services available, the government uses this “word game” as a distraction while selling off our assets and public services.

All traditional methods of providing public services are being sold off when they have been proven ways to support our people and communities. The modernization of these assets could in fact increase revenues for the province if the assets were kept in the public hands and enhanced through genuine modernization. But in fact, the word “modernization” now equals “privatization” in government-speak – and it has taken away the assets our country has relied upon for decades. That’s not modern – robbery is as old as humankind.

The majority of Hydro One has now been sold to forprofit, private interests. “Ontario patients deserve a modernized medical laboratory testing system.” Similarly, Ontario’s blood labs have now been sold to private companies.

“OLG is changing for the better. Four reasons to modernize…” The Ontario Lottery Corporation has sold all casinos and will soon make in-store purchases of lotto tickets unnecessary.

“Striking the right balance: modernizing wine and spirits retailing and distribution in Ontario.” Alcohol can now be purchased in private grocery stores.

In 2006, there was a full report written on the modernization of the Ontario Public Service (OPS). Since then, the government has privatized large units of the OPS.

These are but a few examples of the “modernization” of our public assets.

Rather than using the modernization of our assets to our common advantage by making more money and services available, the government uses this “word game” as a distraction while selling off our assets and public services.

All traditional methods of providing public services are being sold off when they have been proven ways to support our people and communities. The modernization of these assets could in fact increase revenues for the province if the assets were kept in the public hands and enhanced through genuine modernization.

But in fact, the word “modernization” now equals “privatization” in government-speak – and it has taken away the assets our country has relied upon for decades. That’s not modern – robbery is as old as humankind.

The Power of the picket

Craig Hadley, inSolidarity

Bargaining and reaching a ratified collective agreement (CA) can have very significant consequences on your income, job security, work-life balance, and overall quality of life. After all, whether you’re full-time, parttime, or contract, your CA is arguably one of the most important legal documents in your life. The work that goes into the process of reaching an agreement is equally or more important. With any collective bargaining campaign, there are multiple factors that play into achieving a deal, with specific, strategic milestones that have to be reached to continue with the process.

The first and most important is member buy-in. For many rank-and-file members, collective bargaining and the onus to get a good deal rest on the elected bargaining team. Unfortunately, this is a misconception – one that can be the single biggest detriment to reaching a deal. You’ve likely heard it before: a team and their position at the table is only as strong as the support they receive from members on the ground.

The first step in member involvement is the demand-set survey. These surveys determine what members need in their CA and help the team prioritize their demands at the table. They also help OPSEU campaigns officers craft what the campaign will look like by determining the media message and overall strategy on how to reach that goal.

For example, if combating precarious part-time work is a top demand, it’s safe to say the campaign message will reflect that fact and tap into the public’s concerns over the need for employers to provide good, full-time jobs. If wages are the top demand, the campaign would likely focus its media message on the increased cost of living and how regular working people are falling behind.

Regardless of the campaign direction, the overall goal is to deliver our workers’ concerns and goals in such a way that the public gets on board and supports them. This tactic is almost useless if rank and file members fail to complete the survey. Completing it not only shows the team what members need, but also starts the process of getting members involved in collective bargaining.

Once the bargaining team is elected, the next crucial step in reaching a deal is often a strong strike vote. While it’s entirely possible that the employer and bargaining team could reach a deal before a strike vote is called, it’s fairly unusual. The employer usually wants to see if members are serious enough that they’d be willing to withdraw their services to reach a fair deal (assuming they are in a right-to-strike environment).

This is where two numbers play a significant role in determining the union’s strength at the table. First, the strike vote results. If the voter percentage is high, (say, 90 per cent or higher), it sends a very clear message to the employer that they need to offer more. If it’s low, (say, 50 to 70 per cent), the employer realizes they don’t have to offer too much more to get a deal.

The second number is the member voter turnout. Voter turnout numbers are rarely made public – unless, of course, voter turnout is unusually high. If the turnout is low, it sends a message to the union that mobilizers need to work harder to get more involvement from members.

The next major milestone may be an application for a “no-board” report. Simply put, a no-board is permission from the province to start a 17-day (sometimes 16-day) countdown to a legal strike or lockout. The application for a no-board doesn’t mean a strike is guaranteed. It just means that the parties have roughly 17 days to get a deal – or face the potential of a work stoppage. Either party at the table can request a no-board if they feel bargaining has reached an impasse.

When a no-board is issued, the employer and union ramp up their efforts to reach a deal. Bargaining sessions are longer, talks become more intense, and proposals from each side attempt to capture what both parties want in the deal. Away from the bargaining table, an equally important, or arguably more important, thing is taking place: strike preparation. Mobilizers, local presidents, and activists ratchet up their efforts to prepare the members for a possible strike or lockout with strike pay forms and phone trees, by getting union cards signed and, most importantly, motivating members to attend info pickets. Info pickets are as simple as they sound. Members meet at a strategically chosen location, hold signs and hand out literature to the public to try to draw as much attention to their cause as possible.

Info pickets can garner a lot of media attention – attention that influences how the employer and the union position themselves during the final stages of the bargaining process.

Like any protest, the higher the participation, the greater the likelihood of winning the cause being fought. If a dozen members out of an eligible 3,000 participate, regardless of how strong your message is, the overall outcome weakens the union’s position at the table. This is because, when the employer sees low numbers, they recognize that members aren’t supporting the union. Further, the media reduce their coverage, resulting in less public awareness, while the provincial government feels no pressure to intervene to help both sides to reach a deal.

On the flipside, if 2,500 of 3,000 members attended the info picket, the media would explode with coverage, the employer would realize members are serious, the union would burst at the seams with confidence and, in most cases, the provincial government would likely motivate the parties at the table to reach a deal.

The info picket is the ultimate test of members’ involvement in the campaign. It might seem dated. Participating may take you out of your comfort zone. You may even have to brave the elements. But its success will determine how far your bargaining team can push the employer and, ultimately, how good a deal can be reached.

Never Forget

Scott McAllister, inSolidarity

November 11 is Remembrance Day. Located in Ottawa, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents the approximately 116,000 Canadians who gave their lives for their country, including the 28,000 soldiers whose resting place is unknown.

The tomb holds the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died in France during World War I. This unidentified soldier was selected from a cemetery in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge.

In the United States of America, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery has been guarded 24/7 since 1930.

The guards are all volunteers, and are considered to be the best of the elite United States Third Infantry Regiment (the “Old Guard”), headquartered at Fort Myer, Virginia.

Each soldier must be in superb physical condition, possess an unblemished military record and be between 5’10” and 6’4” tall, with a proportionate weight and build.

In the first six months of duty, a guard cannot talk to anyone or watch TV. All off-duty time is spent cleaning weapons and studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred.

Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty. They must commit two years of their lives to guard the tomb and live in a barracks under the tomb. Of course, they cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way.

For the rest of their lives, they cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty, or swear in public. After their two years of service, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as a guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their life or give up the wreath pin.

The guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the tomb, turns and faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process. Twenty-one symbolizes the highest military honour that can be bestowed, such as with the 21-gun salute. After the turn, the sentinel executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors to signify that the sentinel stands between the tomb and any possible threat.

This position respects the honoured dead and all unaccounted American combat deaths who are “known but to God.”

The steady rhythmic steps continue in rain, sleet, snow, hail, heat, and cold without interruption.

In 2003, Hurricane Isabelle hit the United States with disastrous results. Winds reached 165 miles per hour, thousands of trees were downed, and there were multiple power outages, as well as flooding from drifting debris. Damages totalled $5.7 billion. Sixteen deaths were the direct result of the hurricane.

During the devastation, the commander of the United States Third Infantry Regiment sent word to the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to secure the post and seek shelter from the high winds to ensure their personal safety.

They respectfully declined the offer.

Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of the tropical storm, they said that guarding the tomb was not just an assignment – it was the highest honour that could be afforded to a service person.

At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, we honour those who have gone before us. Thousands of men and women have served their country and its people with their lives.

World War I claimed over 65,000 Canadians. At the time, Canada’s population was only 8 million people. World War II claimed over 45,000 Canadians.

The blood of these fallen soldiers defended the freedom that Canada was founded upon. This freedom continues to be fought for: on the battlefield, in the courtrooms, in politics, and in the workplace.

In honour of their service, please consider wearing a poppy this Remembrance Day.

Pot luck: The LCBO and its 150 new joints

Craig Hadley, inSolidarity

On September 8, the Ontario government announced that the LCBO will open 40 stand-alone cannabis stores by July 1, 2018, when pot becomes legal in Canada. The province expects to have an additional 110 stores operational by 2020. The provincially owned stores will be part of a Crown corporation and run as a subsidiary of the LCBO. The new stores will not sell alcohol. Rather, they will focus solely on the sale of cannabis.

The move to have the LCBO manage the cannabis retail business has come to the surprise of many but, fundamentally, it makes sense. The LCBO’s proven track record on social responsibility, as well as its awardwinning store designs, quality control, and experience as a large-scale wholesaler, make the agency perfectly suited to the task.

For an established retailer, opening 50 new locations within a year is a daunting task. Location analyses, architectural work, store design, additional IT infrastructure, and staffing for each location is time-consuming. Those tasks are made easier with established retailers, because they typically follow a template to maintain brand continuity.

For the LCBO, this is a unique circumstance, because there is no template on how the stores should look or on how they should be run: it’s all brand-new. With all eyes on the LCBO, this operation has one chance to make a lasting impression and usher in a new era of legal cannabis sales. Below are some recommendations for success.

  • Ensure quality: A pillar of success is ensuring the product is better than anything on the black market. If it’s not, people’s buying habits may not change.
  • Selection, selection, selection. It is imperative that the new stores offer as much variety as possible. If selection is limited, customers will find other sources.
  • Edibles: The government announced the edible cannabis products will not be sold. Cannabisinfused edibles are the most desired product in Colorado, where cannabis sales are legal. Whether its candy, baked goods, cooking oil, or any of the thousands of edible products currently available, it is irresponsible to ignore such a hugely profitable portion of the market. The government also sends a mixed message when it promotes the sale of combustibles, but doesn’t offer the much safer edible version of the product. ·
  • Great shopping environment: We've seen what the LCBO can do with its bright stores, beautiful décor, and store ambiance. The LCBO has to do the same for these new stores. The more pleasing to the eye, the less likely critics will be to attack the province’s decision to sell cannabis publicly, rather than leaving it to the private sector.
  • Personal shopping experience: Cannabis enthusiasts like to get up close and personal with the product they’re shopping for. That 23 inSolidarity ~Summer/Autumn 2017 means being able to touch it, smell it, and talk about it with highly trained sales associates. While supplying properly trained –and unionized – sales associates should be easy, being able to offer the intimate shopping experience of a small dispensary in a high-volume store could be a challenge.
  • Store security: Like alcohol, cannabis has a high value on the street. Steps must be taken to ensure the safety of staff and customers, while avoiding having stores feel like Fort Knox.
  • Cannabis accessories: Bongs, pipes, vape machines, culinary devices: customers want one-stop shopping. Considering it’s unlikely that marijuana will be displayed on shelves or end-isle displays, a smart retailer will take advantage of an empty sales floor.
  • Price: If the product is more expensive than the black market, most consumers will stay with the black market. A third of tobacco sold in Ontario is contraband, so it’s a safe assumption that the same will happen to legal marijuana if it’s too expensive.
  • Location: The operation has to strike a balance between establishing stores within easily assessed locations and keeping them far enough from parks, schools, and other sensitive locales.
  • Customer service: The new stores will be under a lot of scrutiny in their first few months of operation. It is imperative that frontline staff are friendly, knowledgably, and eager to serve. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression – offering excellent customer service is a great way to do it.

Online learning means offloading full-time faculty

Joe Grogan, Retired, OPSEU Region 5

As a member of the teaching faculty at Humber College from 1969 to 2003, I went through a number of work reorganizations, or “restructurings.” As a union member, union steward, and health and safety rep at various times, I observed how little consideration college administration gave to worker rights, especially collective bargaining rights.

Frequently, faculty became aware of changes after the fact, as the administration frequently used the “management’s rights” clause in the collective agreement. Very often, the administration’s use of this clause caused employee stress levels to increase. Management pushed the “increased efficiencies” that would come from its actions.

One important example of actions taken is the case of the Open Learning Centre and online courses. In my view, the extensive use of online courses by Humber College represents another form of contracting out and, as such, is a direct threat to full-time faculty employment. Why? Let me explain.

It means that instead of hiring full-time faculty, the college/institute can hire part-time teachers who are willing and need to have some kind of employment – a worker with lower wages, without access to benefits, and a worker who would NOT be a member of the academic bargaining unit.

Such an arrangement gives the employer a tremendous advantage, because it can better control and limit its costs, while also having an arrangement that undermines the union. Such a situation would produce the same consequences if the college decided to contract out many of the Business School courses to one or more of the many private business schools that exist.

There is another angle to consider. The administration can argue that such courses can make it possible for workers presently employed as shift workers to follow/ complete courses as their personal timetables dictate. In other words, the administration can claim it’s helping the community and thereby gain a public relations advantage.

While such an arrangement may produce some benefit to the community, the college is doing this to save dollars, while shifting more and more resources internally to non-union jobs. Online courses make many faculty positions redundant. Furthermore, such arrangements are a direct attack on the faculty Workload Formula gains negotiated as a result of the successful 1984 faculty strike. What’s to be done?

As I understand it, Humber College now has more than 500 courses available through the Open Learning Centre. I believe we all should be concerned about this.

What should OPSEU’s position be? I would argue that the union has to fight against it by educating the membership on the implications for present and future job security. The union and its members must see online courses as another form of contracting out. We must oppose any additional growth in this area through stringent and effective contract language, especially contract language covering academic leadership in the development and administration of curricula by fulltime faculty.

In addition, we should examine the current collective agreement to see if the issue can be addressed through stronger contract language on health and safety. The issue also needs to be addressed through contract language clauses that strengthen our concerns about the quality of education that learners experience.

This issue is not just a Humber College issue, as all the colleges – and probably universities, too – are using online courses to justify their activities in light of cutbacks in funding from the province. Yet, at the same time, the province is providing more funding, as in Humber’s case, for capital expansions.

We must join and expand the fight against precarious employment, which affects us all.

Francophone Conference 2017

Shantelle Marcoux, Local 586

During an amazing sunny weekend in June 2017, over 70 francophone, bilingual, and francophile OPSEU members from around Ontario participated at union’s Second Francophone Conference in Ottawa. The threeday event was packed with guest speakers, workshops, and social and cultural activities to ensure that participants were well satisfied.

Early morning on day one, many participants joined in the smudging ceremony conducted by a local Anishinaabe woman, which set the tone for the conference: peace, harmony, and the spirit of learning in diversity.

Jean-Luc Roy, Executive Board Member for Region 6 and liaison to the Francophone Committee, as well as Dan Brisson, chair of the Francophone Committee, opened the conference with a welcoming speech. France Gélinas, MPP for Nickel Belt and NDP critic for francophone affairs, also spoke to the crowd that evening. Her message was to organize, research the issues well, and pursue them at all levels of government to ensure that the voices of the francophone minority are heard and felt, and improvements are made in their daily lives.

The next day, to get participants stimulated and excited about the day’s sessions, conference planners hosted an amazing treasure hunt. Participants were organized into several groups of about eight people and were told to hunt for a list of monuments around downtown Ottawa and to take a selfie at each one. Wow! What a great way to learn about Canadian history.

Afterwards, it was back to business as we listened to a panel of guest speakers talk about the impact of privatizing so many public services on French‑language services (FLS) and the francophone community. Later in the afternoon, participants were trained on how to speak in public in French. The workshop’s aim was to help individuals improve their confidence in public speaking – and the feedback was very positive.

But this jam-packed day was not over yet! The last event was a purely pleasurable experience for all conference participants and their family members. It was none other than a murder-mystery supper played out by a local French troupe! We ate, we deduced, and we solved the mystery! After a wonderful day of fun, learning and socializing, we were very ready for bed.

Day three started off with lots of laughter as a comedy troupe called “Improvisation” made up skits by drawing random subjects from a hat – and then including conference participants. What a way to start off the last day of the conference! The day’s events ended with participants providing insightful ideas that will help in developing an action plan for the Francophone Committee over the next two years.

Throughout the conference, participants were treated to many film vignettes about francophone history and messages from the Francophone Committee. The conference was a way to rejoice in our native language, learn more about francophone culture in Ontario, mingle with FLS workers from the various ministries, and get to know the real issues surrounding FLS services and francophone communities at large.

I give this conference an A plus plus!

Snowflake

Katie Sample, inSolidarity

“Snowflake is used to characterize young adults as being more prone to taking offence and less resilient than previous generations, or as being too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own.” (Wikipedia)

The right often likes to try to unarm a left thinker with this term, insinuating that the left is weak and too easily offended or what they like to call “triggered” – all the while ignoring the hypocrisy in their statement alone. It’s progress that the right is offended by, and often this progress does not have a negative impact on them in any way. If it did, they would be able to properly construct an argument on their behalf, without immature, deflecting words such as “snowflake.”

But how does one form an argument for racism, bigotry, and all forms of prejudice? You can’t, so you lash out emotionally and without rationale.

Moreover, is it really unreasonable and oversensitive to be “triggered” into action when white nationalists march the street in 2017 with the same message from before the civil rights movement? When you ally with, or are member of, the LGBTQIA community, which still has to fight for equality in laws and society? When we’re still battling to resolve and correct sexism, which still allows practices such as a gender wage gap? When we have to build awareness of the erosion in our labour force, knowing we need better labour laws to build a strong economy?

It all that makes me a snowflake, then so be it! I will wear that name with pride and rest easy, knowing I’m in good company with other movements supported by snowflakes – not just triggered, but motivated, to make a change for a better society.

In the past, we had the Suffragettes, civils rights activists, gay rights activists, Mother Jones’ march for mill children, and so many more. Today, we have 15 and Fairness, Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March on Washington, etc. It’s we snowflakes who don’t just turn our heads and ignore injustices but understand the need to right the imbalances in our society to make it better for all.

By definition, snowflakes are unique, but they all come together to create one simple, yet powerful, message: “No justice, no peace.” We understand that without a just society, there’s no way to have a peaceful society. We know that without the same liberties and freedoms for all, we weaken the very definitions of freedom and liberty. And are convinced that we’re all strengthened by lifting up others, versus holding others down.

So, yes! Call me a snowflake. But remember: I’m among strong, smart, and determined company. And winter is coming.

Seven tips when writing about Donald Trump

Craig Hadley, inSolidarity

If you’re a writer for your local newsletter, you may have been tempted to submit a piece on the current President of the United States. He’s constantly on Twitter and in the news. And although we’re in a different country, it’s virtually impossible to ignore his impact on Canadian social culture. Below are seven tips to aid you when writing about President Donald J. Trump.

1. Never use hard numbers. Trump's presidency includes a full-ring circus featuring a constant turnover of professional clowns. Five of his handpicked, closest advisers resigned. By the time your piece is published, the number will be eight.

2. If the man uses the phrase “believe me,” don’t! Also, never get caught up in proving what comes out of his mouth as incorrect – unless your editor has allotted you eight pages in your publication. During his first six months of office, Trump has lied (or used “alternate facts”) 414 times. The list grows by the day, and if his plan is to wear down journalists with fact-checking, it’s working.

3. Don't panic over World War III. The man has the launch codes, and he’s an egotistical maniac who believes America is the only global player with a nuclear arsenal. Wait… Maybe you should panic. Bomb shelter sales are booming at a pace not seen since the Cold War.

4. Don’t bother looking for a silver lining in this man, as a business person or President. Despite his claims, as a business person, he’s not self-made. He was gifted a large sum of wealth to get started and has declared bankruptcy four times. His reputation of shortchanging or outright stiffing companies for work rendered is backed by over 3,500 legal actions made against him. Since taking office, he has accomplished nothing outside of creating domestic and geopolitical instability.

5. Give up on trying to change the minds of Trump’s supporters. They’re morons. There's no getting around it.

6. On the rare occasion that Trump says something well worded and presidential, before getting your hopes up, remember two things: someone else wrote it, and within minutes, he will contradict himself or say something so completely off the wall that you’ll literally forget the scripted portion of his speech.

7. As a writer, you have to come to terms with the fact that he’s not getting better. As Trump approaches a year in office, he’s only getting worse – way worse.

To sum up Mr. Trump, he’s that family member who visits during the holidays whose political statements, social commentary, social graces, and boorish behaviour trigger social anxiety in everyone within earshot of him. He’s someone you would normally despise, but because he’s your grand-dad, you take a deep breath and warn any guests in attendance that Grampa Trump is from a different generation and is a little “off.”

Despite his business success despite being President of the United States, he’s a bigoted version of Grampa Simpson – and we’re stuck with him till he’s impeached or put in a retirement home.