Toronto – All staff working for the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) are now members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). The vote on whether to unionize was held on November 29. However, legal wrangling at the Ontario Labour Relations Board delayed opening the ballot boxes until February 23. The vote in favour of joining OPSEU was unanimous.
“The result of the vote was well worth the long wait,” said Kareen Marshall, chair of OPSEU’s Community Agencies Division. “When you get a unanimous vote on unionizing, it’s a great harbinger of success. Solidarity is key to achieving a great first contract and future contracts.”
ACTO employs an equal mix of lawyers and program staff. Marshall said a number of issues led them to seek representation by OPSEU.
“Workers are seeking improved compensation. Their hearts are in helping vulnerable Ontarians, but they also have themselves and their families to support. They’re looking for a pension to help fund their retirement years, as well as some other benefits. Vacation time is also an issue. While employees are entitled to time off, they have a hard time getting permission to actually take it.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, said he noted a growing trend among legal professionals seeking union membership.
“We already proudly represent hundreds of Legal Aid Ontario workers,” he said, “and many more are planning to seek the representation that OPSEU offers. We’re seeing an increasing number of lawyers, despite the general prohibition that exists in the Labour Relations Act.
“Certainly, OPSEU has a wealth of experience – and an outstanding track record – when it comes to defending the workplace rights of legal professionals,” Thomas added. “That’s why OPSEU is their union of choice.
“I warmly welcome ACTO to the OPSEU family. I’m delighted that we can now help individuals who have fought so forcefully for so many vulnerable residents over the years.”
ACTO is funded by Legal Aid Ontario. It is a legal clinic that helps low-income residents, including tenants, co‑op members and homeless people. It operates the Tenant Duty Counsel Program, which provides legal advice to unrepresented low-income tenants at Landlord and Tenant Board offices.
For more information: Kareen Marshall, 416-540-3759