Towards tomorrow together

Smokey Thomas
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Out of adversity comes opportunity. It’s a lesson we’ve learned throughout our history, and it’s a mantra with new meaning in these challenging COVID times.

Challenging times push us to think bigger and do better – adversity forces us to grow.

The lesson: that times of stress are our signals for growth; that when we use adversity properly, we can grow through it.

It’s what happened in the postwar era, when social programs like employment insurance, old age security and Medicare were booming. After so much loss, pain and destruction, Canadians came out of wartimes understanding the importance of coming together, and looking out for one another.

They understood, with renewed vigour, the importance of equality, democracy and solidarity, and they believed that a strong social safety net could help make people’s lives better.

Now, as we come out of lockdown, we have the opportunity to reshape our province, and our country, once again – to push through the pain, and grow. As Ontario’s largest public sector union, we will have an important role in shaping the discourse to ensure that we’re moving towards tomorrow together.

We’ve got the best union, in the best province, in the best country in the world. Our union, like our country, isn’t perfect; there is always room to do better and we’re committed to growth.

But we’re also very proud of what we’ve accomplished together during these challenging times. While so many jobs were on the line, we fought to keep people working during the COVID-19 crisis, and doing so safely. We stood strong with our corrections members and stopped CSN’s predatory attempt at raiding, and we even gained thousands of new members, including those from the Educational Resource Facilitators of Peel (ERFP).

We have bargained good contracts, with the highest possible wage increases, for LCBO workers and College Support Part-Time staff, despite the current climate of labour relations under Bill 124.

But despite all that we’ve achieved together, it’s time to think even bigger and do even better. It’s time to build on what we’ve learned during this pandemic, and throughout our history before it.

It’s time for us to build the campaign to change Ontario.

First, let’s get rid of Bill 124. Let’s focus on improving working conditions and workers’ health and safety. Front-line workers have proven themselves time and again, and it’s about time that our government and employers start treating them like heroes, not zeros.

Let’s protect and improve our public services like the LCBO, which brings in billions of dollars in revenue each year to help pay for the vital public services Ontarians rely on. It’s a crown jewel of a corporation, so let’s keep it that way.

Let’s invest the resources to strengthen our public institutions, like colleges, where the next generation of front-line workers will be educated, trained and prepped for the workforce. They will keep our province running in the post-pandemic, and the next-pandemic, world.

Less than a hundred years ago, our forebearers brought their vision for a better province and country into reality, building up a strong social safety net in the postwar era. Now, we must reshape our province once again; to build hospital capacity to meet population need, and to establish a fully public long-term care system where people come first.

Our future depends on us doing better.

While growth may be difficult and uncomfortable, it’s necessary. So, let’s take our future in our hands – to break free from the shell of austerity and to move towards tomorrow together.

In Solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU/SEFPO President

@OPSEUSmokey
facebook.com/OPSEUSmokey

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