Albert Einstein once said: “Peace is not the absence of war – it is the presence of justice.”
That is one of the many reasons why OPSEU has always been, and always will be, a “social justice” union. Our members understand that basic fairness – basic justice – are vital to a world in which people have an equal and equitable shot at living safe, healthy, and prosperous lives.
So today, Feb. 20, we mark the UN’s World Day of Social Justice by celebrating our successes and looking ahead to the challenges we still face.
OPSEU has a long and proud tradition of supporting social justice movements here in Ontario, across Canada, and around the world.
Through our Social Justice and Live and Let Live Funds, OPSEU has played an active role in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and the push for full compensation for Bangladeshi garment workers.
And earlier this month, OPSEU member Derek Armstrong leveraged the Social Justice Fund to travel to Costa Rica and Panama to forge connections with Indigenous communities fighting for basic human rights.
We’re just as active and engaged with social justice movements here at home, whether it’s through our support of movements like Occupy, Save Our Schools, or 15 and Fairness.
Engaging with and supporting our social justice allies isn’t just good for them – it’s good for us, too.
In this era of globalization, corporations and unscrupulous politicians play workers off each other, setting up a race to the bottom that lowers working and living conditions for all. So as we help achieve justice and fairness and equity for others, we help achieve justice and fairness and equity for ourselves.
But perhaps the most important contribution OPSEU makes to social justice is in our day to day work as a democratic union. We help empower our members to speak up against injustice wherever they see it, whether in their communities or in the workplace.
Together with other unions, we are a powerful force.
For example, Western law professor Michael Lynk has studied the evolution of disability rights in Canada and found that unions have been far more effective at protecting and expanding rights than human rights commissions have been.
Although we have much to celebrate, the fight for social justice is obviously far from over.
Whether it’s the Ford government’s attacks on workers and families here in Ontario, or the exploitation and oppression of Indigenous and vulnerable populations around the world, the struggle continues.
But you can count on OPSEU to be a leading force in that struggle, fighting for social justice for all. Because where there is no justice, there can be no peace.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida