And so it begins.
That time in OPSEU referred to as silly season.
Elections for the Executive Board, Committees, and last but not least, President and First Vice-President / Treasurer occur in late May.
In all my years on the Executive Board, I’ve never seen it start so early or so aggressively. Or so mean.
Our First Vice-President / Treasurer, Eddy Almeida, penned a blog a while ago in which he addressed social media and the way in which we communicate with one another.
In a nutshell, he called for respectful communications, always mindful that there is another human being on the other end of our transmissions.
People with families. People with reputations. People who face life’s everyday problems. And people with feelings.
And it was a huge hit with our members.
The response was enormous and positive, except for a few nameless trolls who seem to get their jollies as anonymous keyboard warriors.
Recently, it was brought to our attention that a number of fake Facebook pages had been set up to attack both me and select senior staff.
The caricatures, in my opinion, are both ageist and misogynist. The content is libelous and defamatory, with the basic message that change needs to occur.
Hey, there is nothing wrong with having that opinion. That’s democracy. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
At least everyone who puts their name to it.
These nameless, faceless attacks don’t help your candidates. In fact, experience tells me that it has the exact opposite impact.
I’m proud to lead a union where fierce, difficult debates are not only encouraged but expected.
It’s in our DNA.
But anonymity is the cloak of a coward. So come out from behind your darkened room and let’s have a real debate.
Meanwhile in the face of this digital defamation the OPSEU machine continued to roll.
- We built alliances with students.
- We continued our work with food banks.
- We prepared and presented a full budget submission in several locations to the standing committee.
- We supported the parents of children with autism and led the call for Minister MacLeod’s resignation.
- We bargained an historic first contract for our college part-time support members.
- We negotiated a fair three year collective agreement with our front line staff union OPSSU, months in advance of the expiry of the old deal.
- Our repeated calls for action to reduce shoplifting at LCBO outlets resulted in increased and more visible security at many stores.
- Our strong campaign against privatizing cannabis sales persuaded some 77 municipalities to say no to the Ford government’s plan.
- We joined with Unifor to send activists from both unions to Queen’s Park to talk to MPPs about the upcoming provincial budget. Our Health Professionals and Corrections members will go to the legislature next month on similar missions.
- We continue to bargain, defend and organize on a daily basis.
On the subject of our upcoming elections, since the season seems to have begun already, let me offer some advice for would-be candidates.
Run for something rather than against someone.
There are lots of opportunities this time around. We have had five resignations from the current Executive Board and while I’m not getting into specifics, their reasons were real.
They range from family to health to professional development to just being plain sick and tired of some of the political nonsense described above.
So the next Executive Board will have plenty of newcomers.
That is both good and challenging.
Good that new activists step up.
Challenging in that it will be a steep learning curve because we are in the battle of our lives against the real enemy, The Doug Ford government.
So for those contemplating stepping up, I say welcome to the race.
But if you’re throwing your hat in the ring, please do it respectfully, positively and with your name attached.
Let’s keep the “silly” to a minimum.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union