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inSolidarity – The newsletter for OPSEU stewards and activists, volume 23, number 4, spring 2017

inSolidarity Newsletter, Volume 23, Number 4, Spring 2017
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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.

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 to reply to those that seem to reflect a misunder-standing of the union and its policies.
Elected members of the inSolidarity Committee:

Maria Bauer – Local 376
Stacey Dowden – Local 112
Craig Hadley – Local 5109
Scott McAllister – Local 250
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
Angela Bick-Rossley, Local 303
Geraldine Kakeeway, Local 731

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

We are also your elected members of Informed Newsletters for OPSEU/Bulletins informés pour le SEFPO. If you require any support, advice or start-up information concerning newsletters, please contact one of the Executive Board Members.

Why Trump won: a personal opinion

Joe Grogan, retired member

When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, I cried tears of joy. On November 8, 2016, I cried tears of sorrow with the election of Trump. How could this have happened?

What follows are my thoughts on a situation that is dangerous for working men and women, our unions and, of course, our communities. There are many reasons for the result on November 8, but I wish to talk about two important factors: globalization and technological change.

Globalization

Beginning in the early 1980s, corporations and their political allies in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain started to organize the fightback against the social contracts that workers and their unions had fought for and negotiated from employers, management, and governments soon after the conclusion of World War II. Corporations had to develop a way to head off the growing power of unions.

For example, in the late 1970s, union membership as a percentage of the paid Canadian workforce was 32.6 per cent, with many more workers gaining collective bargaining rights in the public sector as teachers, nurses, and other public sector workers joined the labour movement.

So the Trudeau government introduced wage controls in the mid-1970s. In the early 1980s, Ontario followed suit with wage controls on the public sector. In the mid-1980s, Brian Mulroney mused about the need for greater productivity and began the process that led to the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1989. Many branch plants of American corporations relocated to the United States.

The Chrétien Liberals won the 1993 federal election after campaigning against NAFTA – and then implemented it in January 1994! Branch plants again moved, this time chiefly to the southern United States, with their “union-free” environments, while many American corporations relocated to Mexico.

A massive restructuring of the economies in Canada and the US affecting jobs in the private and public sectors was facilitated by NAFTA. Politicians like George H.W. Bush and, later,  Bill Clinton supported free trade. Trade among the three countires grew. Jobs did not.

Canada has lost 540,000 manufacturing jobs. South of the border, states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio saw the ravages of the so-called “rust belt” as plants moved overseas to China, Vietnam, and other countries with weak unions, lax environmental and health and safety legislation, and “employer-friendly” governments. Massive job losses were seen in the US.

Globalization – the process whereby business operations were extended worldwide, while the centre of power resided mainly in the United States – became the rallying cry for “progress.” Many enterprises kept their head offices in North America but relocated their manufacturing and warehousing offshore.

For many communities in the US and Canada, the possibility of building a secure economic future for workers vanished. Despair and anger became defining forces throughout the American northeast.

Trump was able to mobilize this despair to gain political power. Many American workers and their families were so desperate for change (“make America great again”) that they supported Trump. They ignored the contradiction of a corporate boss supposedly fighting for workers and overlooked the record of his mistreatment of workers and unions.

Democratic contender Hillary Clinton was notseen as the solution, since the Democratic Party was on record as supporting free trade and, by extension, globalization. The processes associated with globalization have reshaped economies to the detriment of a majority of the population in the United States, here in Canada, and elsewhere.

The technological and digital revolution

During the same period, technology began to be applied in workplaces throughout the world, and particularly in North America. These “labour-saving” devices were, and are, a very positive advantage for employers and governments, because they enhance control at work and in society. They permit the restructuring of work through methods that emphasize doing more with less.

Through work sharing and telecommuting, additional white-collar work in both the private and public sectors has been negatively affected, producing new conditions of temporary, contract, or precarious work featuring low pay and few benefits.  

Obviously, many employers are using this technology to restructure their workforces and work locations, replacing human labour with digital applications.

There is another implication. Employers need not worry about the unionization of their workplaces if the workforce is smaller and scattered in many locations.

With a few key strokes, corporations can move billions of dollars all over the world. This gives corporations enormous economic and political power, making accountability for such actions less and less possible.

Conclusion

Globalization and the technological revolution have drastically affected today’s social, economic, and political realities. These two factors have produced desperate times for many American workers.

These factors – together with others, such as sexism, elitism, and racism – help to explain the election of Donald Trump. Many American labour leaders now realize that there is a huge gap in the relationship between unionists and their leaders, who mainly supported Hillary Clinton. The fact is that many workers and their families supported Trump and other Republicans.

The American labour movement is even weaker now than in the 1980s. It must see that there is a huge need for labour education so that their members can be mobilized and informed for future struggles, which are certainly on the horizon – struggles that must be waged on the basic principles of justice, equality, integrity, and accountability in order to build a solid secure future.

Guatemala educational tour 2017

Geraldine Kakeeway, OPSEU Indigenous Circle, Region 7

I travelled to Guatemala with Horizons of Friendship from February 6 to 18, 2017, as an OPSEU member. I’d like to share some reflections.

Horizons of Friendship has worked with over 130 grassroots organizations in Meso-America, including Guatemala. It is committed to promoting social justice, human rights, and grassroots community development. We visited five partner projects.

The goal of the Association for Health Promotion, Research and Education is to promote the right to health for Indigenous people in Guatemala.

The Guatemalan Intercultural Highlands Association’s mission is to promote development projects that will benefit women and families, including maternal health in rural areas.

The Santa Maria Linguistic Project advocates for bicultural and intercultural language education.

The Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepequez was founded to strengthen Indigenous Kak’qchickel women and develop, promote, and protect their cultural identity. It also promotes the preservation of their ancestral medicinal knowledge, which is based on sustainable agriculture and soil recuperation, to achieve food security.

The Observatory on Health, Education and Nutrition of Quetzalenango (OSARS) is a strategic alliance of civil groups, such as midwives, doctors, psychologists, community leaders, and students, within the department (province) of Totonicapan. They monitor and enforce legal frameworks regarding the rights of women and children, and they create alliances with NGOs and other social justice organizations – like Horizons of Friendship – to advocate for quality health, education, and justice.

Horizons of Friendship, together with local grassroots organizations, moves the country towards incremental social justice within its borders.

On a personal level as an Anishinaabe woman, there was a strong connection to the Indigenous Mayan people I met. The historical and contemporary struggles of cultural, linguistic, and spiritual loss, then revitalization and resurgence, touched me at the core of my being. These were my brothers and sisters. Their struggles and strengths were mine, and I knew them as kin.

Labour reads: Trauma-Informed Youth Justice in Canada: A New Framework toward a Kinder Future

Howard A. Doughty, Local 560

Debate about criminal justice is complicated. Previously, arguments were mainly about retribution and punishment.
On the dominant, “eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth” side were supporters of harsh penalties based on an unhealthy blend of morally questionable revenge and generally ineffective deterrence. In the minority, “turn-the-other-cheek” faction were earnest advocates of rare displays of mercy and desultory attempts at rehabilitation.

More recently, however, better ideas have shifted away from “hard-versus-soft” moralistic attitudes towards a more practical approach. A key to this emerging strategy is the concept of “harm reduction.” Originally popularized by academics such as Patricia Erikson and applied by institutions such as Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, harm reduction uses holistic methods that are closer to public health measures than to the Criminal Code.  Its goals include both individual redemption and social protection. Now it is being expanded to include all young offenders – not least Indigenous youth, whose own traditions of restorative justice help inspire the initiative.

In Trauma-Informed Youth Justice in Canada, Judah Oudshoorn, a professor of community and criminal justice at Conestoga College, builds on his skills as a eacher, a federal mediator, and a writer to analyse the problems of youth conflict and to propose constructive alternatives to currently false assumptions, dysfunctional policies, and failing institutions.

Oudshoorn recognizes the emotional, cognitive, and behavioural effects of trauma that result in juvenile and youth crime. He includes Indigenous peoples, who bear the individual consequences of intergenerational trauma dating back to colonialism, as well as the broader societal problems of poverty, addiction, and domestic violence today.

Oudshoorn is not content to repeat the tired liberal mantras that have been around for decades. Instead, he provides a workable framework for desperately needed changes to failed programs.

Informed debate about the future of youth justice depends on thoughtful arguments—not idealistic sentimentality or self-righteous severity. Oudshoorn asks the reader to recognize that kindness is not an offensive word.

If we can agree to that, his book will supply most of the necessary questions and many of the best answers. The rest is up to us.

Judah Oudshoorn, Trauma-Informed Youth Justice in Canada. Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s Press. 2015, 339 pages. ISBN: 9781551308852.

Washington Women’s March: women caring for women

Angela Bick-Rossley, Local 303

An activist on the move really has only three needs. The first is water and the third is food. Then add enough people to overflow the rally space on to the entire parade route and beyond.

When I found myself separated from my group, I was quickly lost and disorientated in a sea of bodies that I dubbed the “mosh pit of no return.” I began to panic – and it wasn’t pretty.

Sensing both my distress and our shared need for a common destination, I was quickly adopted by a local woman named Michelle. From our conversations throughout the day, Michelle identifies as a Little Person afflicted by dwarfism. Standing at four foot, six inches, she is considered to be tall within her community.  She requires the use of a walker.

I couldn’t walk in her footsteps, but I followed in them. Literally.

It was like molasses moving through the crowds. People who saw us coming scrambled out of our way. Each and every person with their back turned to us had to be asked to step aside. It was a never-ending “pardon me, excuse me, coming through” – always following by the customary “stare of pity.”

As we approached curbs, people would pick up Michelle’s walker in a misguided attempt to help. Since we could not see over the crowd, we were blind to the locations of barriers, access points, the path of least resistance, the shortest distance, or even escape routes. In the event of an emergency, fence-hopping would be impossible.

Overwhelmed, my head was swimming and my senses were dulled. but Michelle remained my anchor. Then I saw the condition of the four wheelchair-accessible washrooms, and my heart sank.

Michelle shared that the size of the march was much greater than she had imagined. But she was fully aware of the potential for violence. If it had gotten ugly, she explained, it wouldn’t have been the fault of our sisters but the hate of counter-protesters hoping to smear our message. I never asked her about her safety plan, if she had one, or if it was even feasible to make one.

As we passed various protest groups, Michelle lamented the loss of funding for Planned Parenthood. Before Obamacare, it was the only place that would offer her insurance.  Even as a long-serving nanny to high-ranking military members when the family was posted to Germany, her coverage was not transferable. She expressed admiration for our universal health care plan.

Only once did she ask me for assistance. I never offered – not out of apathy but out of respect. One does not raise two boys, travel the world, fight for women’s rights, and care for her sisters, and not learn how to navigate the world with dignity and independence.

I-ran, we ski

Scott McAllister, inSolidarity

I don’t consider myself an artistic kind of person, but recently I was invited to attend the Banff Moun-tain Film Festival in Owen Sound, Ontario.

One of the award-winning shorts was the film Iran: A Skier’s Journey, directed by Jordan Manley.

Not being a world traveller and somewhat naïve, I learned that people skied in Iran – a place I thought of as nothing but sand and more sand.

They do it in the Zagros Mountains, 300 kilome-tres east of the Iraq border. And it’s here, that the story begins.

Says Jordan Manley, “We are under the watchful eye of Iran’s foreign ministry. But here, high in the mountains, it’s as if the blinds are drawn closed.”

Mona and Sarvenaz are ski instructors at the Dizin ski resort. They agree that “there’s more freedom up here. People don’t care what others do anymore. Your appearance doesn’t much matter to them. Slopes aren’t segregated any more. People can ski together.” 

On the slopes, all are equal.

Young and old. Civil servants and diplomats.

It is an escape from the Iranian world.

The mountain brings freedom. Skiing brings peace and unity.

Donald Trump continues to make headlines. Op-posing camps continue to build their fires.

On the Crags of Contention, sitting around a campfire, are the Robert De Niros who say Trump is “totally nuts,” the Susan Sarandons who compare Trump to a “drunk uncle at a wedding,” and the Jennifer Lawrences who believe “if Donald Trump is President of the United States, it will be the end of the world.”

Not too far away, on the Ridge of Rile, another group sit around their fire. They are the Clint Eastwoods who praise “Trump for not being like the ‘kiss-ass generation’ and worrying about politi-cal correctness,” the Willie Robertsons who say Trump “is a real leader who represents success and strength, two attributes our county needs,” and the Mike Tysons who suggest, “Let’s try something new.

Let’s run America like a business, where no colours matter. Whoever can do the job, gets the job.”

These two camps have the largest fires. Each camp tries to heap more wood on the fire. Bigger. Bright-er. Hotter. But eventually they will run out of wood. The forest will be depleted. There will be nothing left to burn, except themselves.

Shaming accomplishes nothing.

But in the midst of this very public media civil war, there is a third camp. In the Valley of Shalom, they have quietly tended a campfire, around which you will find the Tom Hanks who share, “This is the United States of America. We’ll go on. There’s great like-minded people out there who are Americans first and Republicans or Democrats second. I hope the President-elect does such a great job that I vote for his re-election in four years.”

Sitting beside him are the Matt Damons who say, “First of all, I wish him well, and we all must. A successful American president is good for all of us and we really have to be rooting for him right now.”

This camp has decided to work with the elected leaders. It’s a matter of perspective. It asks a question.

Are you willing to be wrong together, or right alone? Or worse, are you willing to be wrong alone? The best is to be together.

Together.

April 6-8 hosted the 2017 OPSEU Convention. It was a place where opinions were shared, concerns raised, and votes cast. Being my first Convention, I hoped that the voices of those around the third campfire echo loudly for everyone: Work together. Move forward. Unite.

And when friction came, it was time to escape to the mountain – a place where purpose
“trumps” personalities.

Like our friends on the other side of planet Earth, it was time to go skiing. To experience freedom without agenda.

But, most importantly, together.

Labour reads: Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives

Howard A. Doughty, Local 560

People in the health care sector are usually pushed into one of two camps. First are those which emphasize “biomedical” models and treat injuries and illnesses that show clinical symptoms. They rely on pharmaceuticals, surgeries, and the like. They are absolutely necessary for people who require treatment for everything from terminal cancer to concussions. Second are those that emphasize public health and prevention. They try to prevent health problems before they begin, perhaps by encouraging people not to smoke, or to wear protective headgear while playing sports.

Most people understand that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” but evidence also suggests that every dollar of “upstream” investment in public health programs yields as much as $30 in “downstream” treatment savings – almost twice the rate suggested in our folklore. None the less, governments and the medical industry operate differently. They spend vastly more money on intervention than on prevention.

College textbooks are usually poor choices for review in trade union and popular magazines. This one is an exception. It is written so that any attentive reader can understand it, and it contains more immediately useful information than any other book in the field. In Social Determinants of Health, York University Professor of Health Policy and Management Dennis Raphael gives us a thorough treatment of health care that should be read by everyone in health education, front-line support and service, medical research, administration and government, as well as by citizens who use or will use medical facilities – which, of course, is all of us. This new edition includes up-to-date information on recent developments in health policy and practice. It explains the political and economic factors that not only create conditions for illness, but also obstruct efforts to make improvements in the public interest. Why? In part because there is more profit in costly cures than in low-cost prevention.

Raphael and his colleagues persuasively link employment and income security to disease and premature death. They show clearly how promoting medical literacy, from the early stages of elementary school to health and safety awareness in the workplace and on to long-term care, can profoundly affect health and health care budgets – central concerns for working people and our unions.

The obvious facts that nutritious food, good housing, and social inclusion affect rates of illness are brought home in ways that make them matters of urgency, not soft topics to be ignored or delayed by employers that claim to respect workers and citizens.

Not content with diagnosing the current health care system and its distorted priorities, Raphael finishes with chapters that outline a therapeutic regimen to improve health, while reducing costs and freeing up cash for technological innovation at the high end of health science.

Words such as “oppression” and “inequality” are used openly, not to inflame readers, but to stress passionately that ongoing problems can best be understood if we just “follow the money.” The contents of this book are well known to those profiting from our illnesses, so there’s little need to “speak truth to power.” Dennis Raphael, however, gives us the knowledge to share among ourselves and to use to interrogate the health-care profiteers, demand better for our tax dollars and, ultimately, for our long-term quality of life.

Dennis Raphael, ed. Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives 3rd edition. Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s Press Inc. 2016, 624 pages. ISBN: 9781551308975.

Why do you march?

Katie Sample, inSolidarity

One opinionated woman’s response to the reaction of many to the Woman’s March on Washington, January 21, 2017.

A century ago, our foremothers and allies finally started gaining human rights for women. Suffragettes sacrificed and fought an uneven political war to “allow” women to have a voice in their own democracy.

It was only in 1960 that all Canadian women had the right to vote. And here we are, 50-plus years later, still taking to the streets, raising our voices, and demanding that equity not only be a theory put to paper, but an action lived personally, professionally, and socially by women the world over.

Women march in 2017 for the same fundamental reasons we marched over a century ago. We may have won the vote, but we have not yet obtained our equity inasmuch as we are not just “persons,” but persons who deserve the same rights, respect, opportunity, and value as our male counterparts.

We march for our economic worth: that pay equity and “women’s work” have no less importance to the economic and social structures of our societies. Because the work we do in the home, in our careers, and in our communities is not only equal to that of a man’s, but is crucial in bettering the lives of all.

We march for equal work for equal pay: that the monetary amount paid to an employee should not be diminished by classification according to sex, but established by ability, potential, and drive.

We march for accountability in our workforce: to acknowledge continued discrimination and create equal opportunities for woman, and so allow our economy to grow as a whole. We march to end the stereotypes that define a woman’s interests and work.

We march to further our outreach to younger generations of women and tell them that they really can achieve the same educational and career opportunities as their male classmates. Their passions and futures are fully attainable and within their reach. No goal is too challenging, taboo, unconventional, or “manly” to achieve.

We march to demonstrate that a woman’s value is not rooted in the shape of her body or the appeal of her face. Genetics do not dictate our place in society. And our society still has a long road to travel in its view that a woman’s intelligence, talent, and achievements are trumped by her ability to be visually and physically pleasing to men.

We march for woman’s sexual freedom and safety so that her health – emotional and physical – belongs to her and is hers alone to choose its function and use.

We march for a woman’s religious rights and freedoms. A woman’s choice of faith or absence of faith is solely hers. No man, government, or social pressures should dictate what a woman feels in her soul. And we understand that the idea of forcing a woman out of her choice to wear symbols of her faith is as oppressive as forcing her into such symbols.

We march as members and for members of the LGBTQIA community, recognizing that sexual discrimination expands well past a particular set of chromosomes. And any person’s sexual orientation or identity should never set a boundary on access to rights, liberties, or respect.

We march in recognition that abolitionists are still a vital part of the movement. Women of colour experience systematic sexism with the added injustices of racial discrimination, making the breach between privilege and equity a promise that is yet to be honoured or seriously considered by our current social order.

We march because we still have a dream – and a demand – that all people will be judged on the content of their character, not on the colour of their skin or their gender. We have marched, we do march, and we will continue to march to educate, learn, share, progress, commend, support, validate, celebrate, and make needed change.

We march, not because these ideas are groundbreaking or profound, but because they are not yet realized. There will be no slowdown or fade till full respect, dignity, and equity are obtained. But mostly, I march because many still ask the question: “Why do you march?”

BPS Conference 2017

Maria Bauer, inSolidarity

This year’s Broader Public Service (BPS) Conference celebrated 25 years with cupcakes and the famous speaker’s corner. In these 25 years, we have seen the BPS group grow from 200 delegates to over 700 this year.

Twenty-five years is also known as a silver anniversary, and suitably, one of the subjects at the conference was pensions.

As the years pass, we see our hair turning silver and realize that many of us don’t have concrete plans for our retirement. I was inspired by a speaker by the name of Donna McCaw. Donna managed to retire at the young age of 54 after a career in education.

When I looked around the massive room of delegates, I noticed many young workers just starting their careers were in attendance. These young workers’ focus is on building a better workplace and progressing up the ladder of success. Many of them don’t even think about their pensions and what they’ll do when they retire.

The first question I always ask young workers in my workplace is, “Are you paying into the pension?” Many of them aren’t even aware we have a pension plan, while some say they don’t want to stay at this workplace. Some have even asked me, “What do I need a pension for? I’m too young for that.”

Donna made us realize that many of us don’t “plan” our retirement. We’re usually forced into retirement through medical issues, downsizing, or even pink slips! Many of us don’t talk to our loved ones about money and investing in our lives after our working careers.

Donna was inspiring and had humorous ways of making us realize that planning our retirement is just as important as planning our careers. If we do talk about our future of life after work with our spouses, we may realize that living on a boat may be what our partner would like – yet you turn green at the thought of waking up on the water. Our plans may not always go as we would like, so having a few options is the best.

Work safe, work smart, and plan for your future. Hopefully, many of us will be ready to retire when the time comes.