Thomas in the Sun: Unions here for workers, not corporate elite

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President, speaking at Convention

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has written an op-ed for The Toronto Sun about the vitally important role unions continue to play in a world dominated by big corporations and the politicians they finance.

You can read it online and add your comments here.

And this is the text in full:

Unions here for workers, not corporate elite

By OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas

After decades of better pay and perks for the corporate elite, unions are here to fight for workers.

And we’re not sorry.

We’ve had enough of bad bosses — like the managers and executives at Sears who walked away with millions in bonuses while their employees lost their jobs and hard-earned pensions.

It’s about time our governments started to side with working people, not greedy corporations.

And when it comes to public sector workers — those on the frontlines of education, health and social services — we’re proud to defend their interests.

The high-quality public services they provide for all Ontarians make life more affordable and fair.

We’ve chosen sides, and we’re not sorry.

It’s about time our government chose the right side too.

Because despite the rhetoric, unions aren’t just about pay and perks for our members.

Our history speaks for itself.

It was unions that fought for workers’ compensation, parental leave and safer workplaces for all.

Unions were at the forefront of the struggle against Apartheid and the fight for women’s rights, just to name a few.

Canadian unions fight for social justice and fairness and we believe in the power of the people and in speaking truth to power.

We think our governments can do a lot better and that’s why we’ll continue to challenge them.

We’re not the only ones who don’t get along with Ontario’s premiers — just ask the voters who turfed every single one of them from office.

We believe in a better Ontario, and we’re not sorry for that either.

We won’t defend stumbling, bumbling governments that are willing to pay a billion dollars to put beer in convenience stores, or raid the public purse of $3.8 billion tax dollars so they can dole out handouts to their wealthy buddies and big corporations.

Despite what the right wing shills say, compensation costs in Ontario are actually on par with, or even below, service industry norms.

So-called “think tanks” like the Fraser Institute who say otherwise are dead wrong.

So are lazy columnists and their editors who use the Fraser Institute as their only source of information.

According to Ministry of Labour data, unionized public sector wage increases have been lower than inflation for eight of the past 10 years, while those in the private sector have actually been higher than the public sector.

Public sector wages didn’t cause Ontario’s deficit, and cutting public sector salaries won’t fix it.

So we’ll keep on fighting and we’ll encourage our youth to do the same; they are the workers of tomorrow and they deserve quality education and good jobs when they graduate.

We’ll keep doing our job, and we’re not sorry.

— Smokey Thomas is president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union

On Twitter: @opseusmokey