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Eddy Almeida: Leading by example

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During my time as president of this great union, I’ve met all kinds of different leaders.

Some like the thrill of being in charge. Some like having a fancy title in front of their name. Some just like being in the limelight. 

And then there’s our own First Vice-President/Treasurer, Eddy Almeida. All he wants is to get good things done. 

I’ve seen it over and over again since he was first elected to the union’s second-highest position eight years ago. And I was reminded of it again when I asked him earlier this month to go down to Queen’s Park to tell the Ford government what it can do with Bill 124, the law that effectively cuts our wages for three years. 

His first reaction to me?  We already made it crystal clear during those so-called “consultations” that we’re against any limits on our bargaining — what a waste of my time and theirs. 

And then moments later, his second reaction: I’ll do it because it’s got to be done. But I’m not going to hold back — I’m going to tell them exactly how frustrated we feel. 

And that’s just what he did. 

He sat down in front of the Standing Committee on General Government and spoke passionate truth to power. 

“I wish I could say I’m happy to be here, but I’m not,” he said after introducing himself to the Tory-dominated committee. “Ontario faces urgent issues that require all of our government’s time, attention and energy: climate change, hallway health care, the gender pay gap, and record high personal debt. “Instead, we’re all stuck here—again—talking about a bill that is flagrantly unconstitutional and that unfairly targets front-line public service workers. What a colossal waste of time—mine and yours.” 

It was classic Eddy: passionate, tough, and always focused on finding real solutions to real problems. 

What else would you expect from a guy who grew up working on the family farm? 

There’s no point spending time and money painting the barn if you haven’t fed the animals inside. And you’re not going to make much money at market if you don’t get out into the fields and tend your crop. 

In other words, Eddy was raised to know that when there’s work to be done, there’s no point trying to find a reason not to do it. You’ve just got to roll up your sleeves and get it done. 

That’s been his attitude from the moment he was elected First Vice-President/Treasurer. When he looked at our books and saw that we were $14 million in the hole, he knew what he had to do and he got down to doing it. And that’s why he was the obvious choice to confront this government on its ham-fisted attempt to control wages. 

Safeguarding the treasury in the face of relentless pressure isn’t easy. Saying no isn’t always popular. 

But by sticking to sound union and financial principles, Eddy got our finances turned around. This government would be wise to pay heed to his advice: “Invest in people and cut back on pork-barrel politics.” 

He didn’t cut for the sake of cutting. He cut carefully, and only what was needed, always focused on the end goal: making sure we’re all better off. 

That’s leadership by example. Well done, brother.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union
@OPSEUSmokey
facebook.com/OPSEUSmokey

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