In a show of massive solidarity, hundreds of OPSEU presidents from locals across the province met last Saturday to send a clear and powerful message to Doug Ford and his anti-worker Tories at Queen’s Park: The front line has been drawn.
The First Vice-President/Treasurer with Regional Vice-Presidents (from l to r) Sara Labelle (Region 3), Lucy Morton
(Region 2), Carl Thibodeau (Region 7), Tara Maszczakiewicz (Region 6), Len Elliott (Region 1), Gareth Jones (Region 4) and Myles Magner (Region 5).
“Doug Ford has declared war on Ontario,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, who chaired and set the tone for the Toronto meeting. “He couldn’t even wait to get sworn in before attacking public sector workers. Then he turned his sights on some of the most vulnerable Ontarians by slashing Ontario Works and ODSP rates. Next on his radar was Toronto City Council and he also quietly scrapped the college task force.”
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida chaired the meeting.
“Most recently, he launched a disgraceful assault on the province’s working poor by wiping out paid sick leave and torpedoing the minimum wage increase that was set for the new year,” Almeida continued.
“OPSEU is not waiting around for the next attack. Over 155,000 frontline members have drawn a line in the sand: ‘Step away from Ontario’s vital public services. Hands off our prized public assets. You can’t bulldoze Ontario into the ground.’”
Several OPSEU staff made information presentations.
Almeida was joined by a number of OPSEU staff, whose presentations mapped out the political lay of the land. Challenges were identified, but so were several recent victories that gave local presidents hope and inspiration for the days to come. As Almeida underscored, governments come and go, but the union carries on: OPSEU – not Doug Ford – will have the last word.
Almeida with Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff
The busy day’s keynote speaker was Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Yussuff delivered a rousing speech that highlighted unity, discipline and focus as the keys to defeating Doug Ford. He noted that labour was galvanized into action during the 2015 federal election, targeting ridings where the Harper Conservatives were most vulnerable – a tactic that proved highly successful. He pledged the CLC’s full support to topple the Ontario Tories in 2022.
During the afternoon, regional breakout sessions were held to formulate and put forward elements for an OPSEU action plan to be developed and put into action.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas could not attend the meeting due to an urgent personal matter. However, he sent along his best wishes and a message of solidarity.
“We’ve drawn a line in the sand. On one side are Doug Ford, his elite corporate cronies and his right-wing shills in the media and think tanks,” Thomas said. “On the other side are millions of ordinary Ontarians – the 60 per cent who did not vote for Doug Ford – and their allies, all prepared to do whatever it takes to protect public services, public ownership and the rights of everyday citizens.
“We are the real majority, but we can’t be a silent majority,” he added. “We are many, but we must come together as one. We are strong, but to tackle a premier who claims to be a populist we must be stronger than ever. We will do that by uniting among ourselves and behind our elected leadership.
“Together, we will defeat Doug Ford, take back the rights he’s stolen from workers, and continue the hard work of building a province founded on justice and fairness where everyone can feel included.”