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Southwestern Legal Aid staff choose OPSEU

Legal Aid Ontario Office

Windsor – All Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) employees working out of the six locations of the Essex-Lambton-Kent district office have voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

Kareen Marshall, chair of OPSEU’s Community Agencies Division, said the union’s organizing drive was welcomed by workers.

“It didn’t take long to get enough cards signed to call a vote. So we were pleased, but not surprised, by the very favourable result. These workers knew they needed representation – and they knew that OPSEU would do the best job.”

Workers at the district offices cited a number of reasons for wanting to unionize, including a desire for greater fairness, increased transparency, the security of having terms and conditions of employment that cannot be changed unilaterally, and having a voice to raise and address issues collectively, rather than individually.

“The common denominator was that workers really wanted a voice in the workplace,” Marshall continued. "They had had enough of one-way conversations with the employer. OPSEU will give them that voice – one the employer can no longer simply disregard.”

The LAO offices are located in Windsor, Sarnia, and Chatham. The new members work as legal aid workers and district triage officers. They join some 250 LAO workers already represented by OPSEU.

“The essence of unionization is empowerment,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU. “These workers took it upon themselves to seek a strong, collective voice, and as members of OPSEU, they’ll have it.

“I warmly congratulate them and welcome them to our union, where they’ll be in the company of a large – and rapidly growing – number of hardworking LAO members. They made the right decision in joining OPSEU.”

LAO is an independent, publicly funded, non-profit corporation that provides low-income individuals with excellent legal aid services. LAO helps almost 4,000 disadvantaged people from 76 clinics every day.

For more information: Shannon Morton, OPSEU organizer, 416-522-8317