Toronto – All employees with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) 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 March 27. The vote in favour of joining OPSEU was unanimous.
The majority of CELA workers are lawyers, thereby adding to the growing number of lawyers the union represents. They join hundreds of Legal Aid Ontario workers and staff at community legal clinics who are OPSEU members – a number that also continues to rise.
“We waited four long months just to be allowed to unseal the ballot boxes and count the votes,” noted Kareen Marshall, chair of OPSEU’s Community Agencies Division. “But our patience and determination were amply rewarded by a unanimous vote. This is great news for CELA and great news for OPSEU.”
Marshall said a number of issues had led CELA staff to seek membership in OPSEU, but equal compensation was the prime motivator. “CELA receives its funding from Legal Aid Ontario. However, CELA staff lawyers make less. It’s fundamentally unjust, and we need to address that.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, said he was extremely pleased by the result of the vote.
“It’s wonderful news whenever there’s a new addition to the OPSEU family,” he said, “but it’s always particularly special when you get a 100 per cent vote in favour, as we did with CELA. It’s a tremendous vote of confidence and speaks to OPSEU’s reputation within the legal community.
“Our new members can be certain we won’t let them down,” Thomas continued. “We’ve got an enviable record in landing great contracts for members working in legal clinics, and I know our professional staff are eager to work with CELA to negotiate a first collective agreement that responds to workplace concerns.
“I wish our new CELA members a very warm welcome to OPSEU.”
The Canadian Environmental Law Association is a public interest law group and legal aid clinic that represents low-income individuals and communities who have been harmed by pollution.
For more information: Kareen Marshall, 416-540-3759