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OPSEU President demands that Northumberland CAO retract anti-democracy election memo

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Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is demanding that the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Northumberland County immediately retract a memo to all employees that tries to strip them of their constitutional rights to free speech and free association.

“This is outrageous and must stop immediately,” said Thomas. “If the Northumberland CAO doesn’t issue a new memo by the end of this week, we’ll take the appropriate legal action, as well as informing Elections Ontario.”

In a memo to employees dated May 15, Northumberland CAO Jennifer Moore wrongly contends that, during their off hours, employees are not allowed to take part in the upcoming provincial or municipal elections.

She attempts to ban employees from volunteering for specific campaigns, and tries to strip them of their rights to free speech and free association by wrongly declaring that when they’re not at work, they’re not allowed to:

  • display a candidate’s sign
  • wear clothing advertising a candidate or a party
  • make public statements or post on social media about a candidate

“Some managers get a little bit of power and start to believe they’re third-rate dictators,” said Thomas. “But workers have a right to free speech like everybody else. No employer will take that away from us.

“If the County of Northumberland, or any employer, tries to use pressure or intimidation to keep OPSEU members from taking part in our democracy, I can promise them a fast, furious, and powerful response from our 155,000-member union.”

Thomas said he’ll respond just as forcefully if he hears of any other employer trying to suppress democratic participation. “Voter turnout is at an all-time low in this province. The last thing we need is ill-informed managers making a bad situation even worse.

“Instead, we should be encouraging people to participate in our democracy every chance we get,” said Thomas. “And that’s exactly what OPSEU is doing and will continue to do.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931