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Looking ahead to the next 100 years

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Convention 2011 provided OPSEU with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate 100 years of achievement for our great union as well as a timely occasion to look forward to the century ahead. I'm sure everyone who attended the Convention would agree: our future is bright.

I would like to sincerely thank every delegate, alternate, observer and staff member who made last week's Convention an historic success. (I invite you to check out the OPSEU website for Convention articles, including the video based on OPSEU's first 100 years of growth.)

As your President I must say the energy, commitment and momentum our union demonstrates was clearly on display throughout the debates, discussions, reports and in the democratic decision-making approach we embrace. Tough choices were made. Delegates delivered clear and decisive decisions that will require us to challenge the politicians, employers, laws, regulations, reviews and investigations that represent obstacles to the success of our members.

Many of those same barriers challenge the people of Ontario. After all, we know that financial challenges, the quality of community services, employment security, quality health care, education opportunities and a stable retirement are important not only to OPSEU members but to our extended families, friends and neighbours, too.

In the years ahead we will confront these challenges. We will face them together. OPSEU is at its best when all activists stand together in common cause. While this begins with each person on the Executive Board, it also includes every steward, local executive member and union activist.

OPSEU activists ensure that campaigns are understood and implemented by members. They give our union the "traction" it requires to succeed. This is critical during the delivery of campaigns. It is just as important when campaigns are planned and developed. This is why OPSEU stewards will be involved in how we respond to future challenges.

As we move forward I will seek your input as we shape our plans and actions. This will make our actions stronger and more sustainable.

The coming years will be exciting and challenging. Our success will draw on the talents and commitment of all OPSEU activists. We must ensure that we remove barriers to participating in the union. Our collective power is diminished every time a union activist faces a barrier and must turn away. We cannot afford to have this happen.

There can be no distance between the OPSEU President and our union's work in Ontario. Think about it. A commitment to make certain OPSEU responds to challenges by opening its doors even wider, builds success. Listening and valuing the thoughts of activists will create our best plans and actions. Strong and respectful teamwork between members and staff create the conditions for success. Clear and constant campaigns, built on inclusiveness and human rights, ensure we will be joined by others, making our voice even stronger.

This is what lies ahead. Our future will be one where we work together with all our activists. We will remove participation barriers and make connections with other groups, linking and blending diverse voices. This is the key to building power.

This approach is not new or novel. It simply builds on the methods OPSEU members have exhibited for the past 100 years. Many actions of government and employers seek to divide us. The pressure is constant. That is why I have restated these important basic principles. I will be living by them (and leading with them) in the coming years. I will ensure that OPSEU leaders and activists hear these principles constantly, understand their meaning, accept their importance and act on them.

I have no doubt that our future will be shaped by the challenges we are certain to face in the coming decades. Let's begin to work on them today!

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Ontario Public Service Employees Union

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