With another Convention come and gone, I’m honoured to have been re-elected to serve as President of our great union once again. I believe in the course we’ve charted and I’m thrilled that OPSEU members have put their trust in me to continue this important work.
So, where do we go from here? I believe our path is clear. Here are a few reasons why:
#1: We’re on the winning path, so let’s keep building the momentum.
As public sector workers, we understand it’s our moral duty to lead the fight against Ford’s destructive agenda. I’m proud to be President, but I also firmly believe that leadership isn’t about just one person. It isn’t about a title, it’s about taking action; it’s knowing when to fight, and how to fight smart, and it’s about being responsible to our members.
I believe that strong leadership is about putting principles before personalities, always.
At OPSEU, we’ve built a powerhouse together, and that’s why we’re winning the fight. We’re up against the most corrupt, tone deaf and ham-fisted government this province has ever seen. But we’re winning because of OPSEU members and leaders in every community; the ones organizing demonstrations and pickets, the ones on the front lawn at Queen’s Park and the ones talking one-on-one to members on the ground.
We’ve got to keep the pressure up.
We’ve already driven Ford’s popularity down below 20 per cent. After less than a year in power, Ford’s popularity is dropping faster than a beer being shot gunned at one of his tailgate parties. This is an opportunity for us, but we’ve got to be strategic.
#2: Our solidarity is more important now than ever.
The power of the people means power in numbers. Doug Ford has alienated a lot of people, including those who voted for him and his own Conservative backbenchers. Where Doug destroys, we must build.
And we’ve got the power to do just that. Working with our local presidents and Executive Board, we’ve developed a solid campaign, and the name says it all: Together to Win. It’s about mobilizing on the ground and taking action in our local communities where it counts – on the front lawns of MPP constituency offices and splashed on the front page of local newspapers.
We also must keep building bridges with our community and labour allies. Last month, we invited Ontario’s labour leaders to OPSEU Head Office to discuss the road ahead. Together we’re developing a plan to harness the power of our united voices against Doug Ford’s government.
Because we know that when labour is united, we can’t be defeated.
Ontario’s unions are also committed to doubling our efforts to support the Ontario Federation of Labour’s (OFL) Power of Many campaign and to supporting our community allies who are fighting for public health care, education and much more.
#3: We’re doing the right thing, for the right reasons.
We’re not just fighting the Ford agenda, we’re putting forth a better vision for Ontario; a unified vision for high-quality public services and good jobs.
The people of Ontario agree with us; they didn’t vote for cuts and they don’t agree that public services should be cut to help pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. We’ve helped to shift opinion on the budget and show that Ontario has a revenue problem, not a spending problem. But we need to hammer home the message that Ontario is richer than ever, and we can afford to do better.
No matter how tough the road ahead may be, OPSEU is leading by example. Just like my mother always said: always do what’s right, no matter how tough it is.
We’re a powerful force in this province; with media, employers, opposition leaders, within the labour movement and in every community where our members live and work. It’s why we continue to grow as a union.
Just recently, we welcomed 4000 new members from the education sector into our union family. We must continue to fight for them and for all working people in this province – it’s our moral duty.
#4: We must act today but plan for tomorrow.
Like any powerful machine, we’ve got to keep the engine well-oiled.
Political terms in OPSEU are only two years, but our union is here for the long-haul. It’s my duty as President to make sure that we’re building our union up so that we continue to be a powerhouse for years to come.
We’ve charted a course, and we will keep building – and winning – like never before.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union