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Labour Day 2020: One of our most memorable yet

Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a blue suit standing at a podiu
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Labour Day 2020 certainly looks different than any I’ve seen in my 30 plus years with OPSEU. Usually, we’d gather in-person to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of Ontario’s workers. This year, we’re showing our solidarity from a distance.   

For many Ontarians, Labour Day 2020 comes with a newfound, deep level of gratitude for Ontario’s front-line workers. The support I’ve seen for OPSEU’s members is stronger than ever. It may be a physically distant celebration this time around, but I’d count this Labour Day as one of our most memorable celebrations.   

The outpouring of appreciation during this pandemic for the work that OPSEU’s members do to support the public has been heartwarming, and well-deserved. The strength and commitment of front-line workers has helped get us through this uncertain, unsettling time in history.   

Who would have predicted this time last year that so many people would have signs on their lawns and in their windows thanking front-line workers for their heroic efforts during this pandemic?  

And who’d have guessed that public opinion polling would show that Ontarians now overwhelmingly support investing in the services that public service workers provide?     

Ontarians have seen the bravery and dedication of front-line and essential services workers over the past six months. And they’ve understood the significance of the support that our members provide as many public services soldiered on to keep us all safe.   

This pandemic really turned everything around on its head. How we live and work changed. How our union carries out its day-to-day operations has changed.   

How we do our work as union activists going forward is something that I’m thinking about all the time these days.  One of the things that I love the most about being an activist is to go to a union meeting and soak up the enthusiasm and the energy in the room.    

The thought of giving all that up in the coming months is hard to accept, but one of the things that keeps me up at night is the risk of an outbreak if we gather in large numbers – front-line and essential workers coming together in one place and then going back out to assist the public. We must work together to mitigate that kind of risk. Adjusting to this ‘new normal’ is difficult at times, but we must protect each other and those who we support in our workplaces.  

I know that the past six months have not been easy for OPSEU members and for all of Ontario’s workers, and we still have many months of this pandemic ahead.   

As we march forward, making sure that workplaces are safe is my number one priority. OPSEU will continue to work tirelessly for all our members. We will support and protect you, and we will fight for you.   

Even while apart, I want every one of OPSEU’s members to know, you are never standing alone. You have a union with over 300 staff working for and with you, and 170,000 fellow members standing alongside you. I believe our best times are still to come.  We will make it through this pandemic, just as we have through every challenge our union has faced – together.   

Then. Now. Always.  


In solidarity,  
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU President
@OPSEUSmokey
facebook.com/OPSEUSmokey