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To OPSEU’s next leaders: the secret of our success

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One of the reasons OPSEU is so successful is that every single president in its history has been dedicated to leaving it stronger than they found it.

And I’m very proud to say that it is the same with me.

It’s no secret that this is my final term as president. And we’re bigger, more powerful, and more inclusive than we’ve ever been.

I’m confident that OPSEU’s Executive Board Members will take the union to even greater heights once I’ve passed the torch. They’re an excellent group – hard-working, committed, and developing quickly.

And as I get ready to move on to the next phase of my life, I’d like to pass on some of the hardest-won lessons of leadership that I’ve learned over the years.

Here’s one of the most important: Executive Board Members are at their best when they’re focused outwards on creating policy, supporting members, and building the leaders of tomorrow.

They are much less effective when they spend their time focused inwards or on each other. They’re not staff reps or grievance officers – we already have those. They’re not supervisors or administrators – we already have those. And they’re not the President or the First Vice-President/Treasurer – we already have those, too.

Doubling up on what we already have is a waste of effort and energy. And these days, we can’t afford to waste a thing.

Doug Ford may be trying to put a new face on his government, but the heart of this group is as cruel and vindictive as ever. Educational workers are the target right now, but they won’t be the last. Every OPSEU member is vulnerable and it’s going to take every OPSEU member to fight back.

The contracts of tens of thousands of us will be up for negotiation over the next couple years, and believe me, bargaining will be a challenge. It will be acrimonious. And while we always seek to bargain agreements, there will be strikes. 

I was there through the Harris shutdown, and many others before and since. When governments are desperate, they do desperate things. And entering the second half of its term with the worst polling numbers in the country, this government is nothing if not desperate.

Our members need to be prepared to fight, and it’s the job of our Executive Board Members to get them prepared for that fight.

And that means getting out there into our members’ workplaces and into their communities. It means attending lots of local and area council meetings, and it means talking to as many people as possible.

I hope our Executive Board Members will wave the OPSEU flag far and wide. And I hope they convince rank-and-file members to wave it, too.

I have no doubt our Executive Board Members are up to the job.

They understand that our most serious challenges come from bad bosses and not their union. 

In order to leave OPSEU stronger than when they found it, our current and future leaders must focus their energies outwards and not in. Sure, hold the administration accountable, but apply at least the same level of scrutiny to the bosses that deserve our undivided attention. 

This was the secret to my success. That’s the secret to OPSEU’s success. Then. Now. Always.

In solidarity,

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

View all President’s Messages: 2009 to Current