Times may change, but our principles never do. Just look at the historic year we’ve had.
There have been ups and downs, and plenty of new challenges, but our collective strength and dedication have remained intact through it all. So thank you – to each and every member for your resilience, strength and the work you do to make this union and province better.
As the pendulum of politics swings, we are the voice of reason. We don’t sacrifice our principles just because those in power have none. We believe that a better Ontario is possible, and we fight for it every day. That’s what OPSEU’s Vote Better election platform was all about. It was more than just a wish list, it was a vision. A vision based on the principle that everyone deserves a fair shot and a decent job.
But achieving any vision demands courageous actions, and sometimes a lot of patience. We don’t expect instant gratification, because we know that progress isn’t as simple as clicking “like” on Facebook.
Just look at our historic win for College support workers; the largest organizing drive in Canadian history. It was an uphill, 14-year battle, but it was an important one in the war against precarious work. It took the first four years to fight the law so that these part-time workers could legally unionize, but our members and executive board stuck with it and supported this effort all the way through. Times got tough, but we never threw up our arms and said “that ship has left the dock.” Now 20,000 of Ontario’s college support workers have the protection of a union. Because together, we fought for fairness, decent working conditions and respect – and we won.
Whether it’s 20,000 members or 20, our principles don’t change.
This year, a small group of members at the Owen Sound Family Health Organization were up against a bully employer, emboldened by our new bully premier. We rallied behind our members on the picket line and used the full force of our union to support them. And believe me, our presence in that community was felt, not least by the powerful and wealthy employers we stood up to. At OPSEU, we fight for what’s right for every member, in every workplace, and every bargaining unit – big or small, urban or rural.
When OPSEU members work together, we are stronger. And when the entire labour movement works together, we are stronger than any force. As workers, we are part of a common struggle, and with the election of Doug Ford and his anti-worker, pro-privatization agenda, we’ve got enough work to go around.
That’s why the year ahead is about building bigger bridges. That work has already started, as we continue to support our allies at CUPW and Unifor to demand fairness for workers at Canada Post and GM. Our principles matter, especially when our politicians have none. Ford and his cronies might think that a job is a job, but in OPSEU Country, good jobs matter, and we’ll keep fighting for them.
So while Ford is focused on tearing things down, we’re focused on our principles; bringing a better Ontario to every community and every corner of this province, and building solidarity in our regions. We’ve got to fight hard for a better future with good jobs and quality public services.
As we approach the end of 2018, this is the time to reflect on the principles that have guided us here, and that will continue to carry us forward – as workers, as members of a union, as members of the broader trade union movement, and as allies in a common struggle.
It’s been an historic year. I’m honoured to be your president, and to be part of a union family that fights hard every day for a better Ontario – a union with principles.
Wishing you and your families a happy and peaceful holiday season and all workers a great and united 2019.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union