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OPSEU/SEFPO Response to CBC Media Profile

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The CBC published two recent profiles on systemic flaws within OPSEU/SEFPO that have racist impact on Black members.  As one who never shies away from difficult conversations, I welcome the CBC reports. The revelations shine light on some of the reasons OPSEU/SEFPO is actively engaged in efforts to dismantle anti-Black and other forms of racism within the Union and in the workplaces we represent.

Dismantling anti-Black racism within OPSEU/SEFPO requires more than issuing statements and performative measures that do not reach deeply rooted structures and systems that perpetuate white supremacy.  Very often, the way we do things, regardless of our intent, reproduce racial disparities.  To change this reality, all of us must be willing to change the ways we apply policies and make decisions, including addressing the composition of decision makers, whether it’s about internal hiring or member representation at all levels of the Union.

This is why I am proud to support the tireless work of the Equity Unit that creates space for Black and other racialized members to organize, mobilize and ensure full participation in their Union.  The OPSEU/SEFPO Equity Unit organizes conferences, educationals and trainings on dismantling anti-Black racism, human rights and building a more inclusive Union.  Yet, education is not enough.  Black, Indigenous and racialized workers need greater access to decision-making structures and OPSEU/SEFPO is committed to making this a reality.  Implementing the recommendations of our Social Mapping Project is a major step forward.

The OPSEU/SEFPO Employment Equity initiative began in October 2019 to increase the representation of Black and racialized staff at all levels of the organization.   Recently and during the awakenings provided by the pandemic, we made a bold organizational decision to hire a number of Black and racialized staff at various levels of the organization.  To paraphrase Dr. King, change may not always be popular or safe, and it may meet resistance, but it must proceed because it is right. There will be difficult conversations ahead, but I am hopeful we will effect an outcome commensurate with our organizational objectives and consistent with the principles of anti-black racism.

Regardless of our internal entanglements, change is here.  I have instructed our Employment Equity Team to apply an equity lens to all Union structures and systems conscious of their impact on Black, Racialized and Indigenous staff and members.  I am proud that we have placed this level of staffing and resources into dismantling anti-Black racism. In fact, I presently have a motion in front of the Executive Board to make these three temporary positions permanent on our organizational chart.  This work will be bold and it will be intentional. It may be perceived as provocative.  But it will achieve real results.  All of our staff are currently being trained. It is expected that their performance and modelling will be consistent with OPSEU/SEFPO values as an anti-racist organization.

I welcome being called out anytime someone can identify structures and practices that maintain white supremacy within OPSEU/SEFPO.  But to be effective, such calling out must be accompanied by a commitment and dedication to work together to transform OPSEU/SEFPO into an anti-racist Union.  This includes measurable outcomes that have a positive impact on the experiences of Black, Racialized and Indigenous members and staff.  We are on a journey together.  We are going places we have never been.  But we are going the OPSEU/SEFPO way.  Together. Then. Now. Always.

In solidarity,

Smokey