As we start a new year, let’s review what we have accomplished and what still needs to be done. The more we do, the more we need to do. Our work and struggle will never end.
We will continue to bargain collective agreements that support quality public services, one contract at a time. While zero-wage increases have become part of the collective bargaining landscape, the world-wide move towards an austerity agenda has been momentarily stalled.
Why? Our message calling for tax fairness and income redistribution is now part of the public debate. Polls show our defense of quality public services against the perils of privatization has hit the mark. Ontarians are getting it.
Corporations have no place in the services provided by government. Government is not a business.
It doesn’t hurt that corporate greed helps to prove our point. The efforts of organizations such as OPSEU have ensured that public anger is directed at the proper target. In the economy, the target is not the 99 percent; it is the 1 percent. Soon the “1 percenters” at the top of the income ladder will have to take their own advice and “do more with less”.
Change takes time. Over the past two decades the right wing has used the media to convince people that only if they were more productive, worked harder, took individual responsibility, forfeited entitlements, and worshipped at the altar of big business, these “job creators” would set us on the path to prosperity.
Their strategy of the powerfully rich was brilliant. Lower existing wages, reduced demand for future wages and create artificial inflation of the economy through cheap credit. Think about it. All of those corporate profits and CEO six-figure salaries came out of our pockets, our equity and our future. That’s why banks and large corporations are making record profits. That’s why taxpayer bailouts covered the possible Armageddon caused by an economy financed by credit instead of real wages.
But all is not lost. We have fought back and the narrative is changing. There is so much more to do.
It starts with a provincial election coming soon.
The provincial Liberals are steeped in mismanagement. The scent of corruption is all around them. They are set to select our first female Premier. It is clear the Liberal right wing is pushing hard for Sandra Pupatello. She will talk about her labour allies but will, in the end, do whatever her colleagues in the financial community tell her to.
Meanwhile, Tory leader Tim Hudak is rebuilding his base with right wing nonsense that just hurts those already victimized. They are an easy target, given they would never vote for him anyway. His program is simple. Destroy unions, marginalize and stigmatize the poor and give big business everything.
Despite undeniable proof that trickle-down economics does nothing but make the rich richer, Hudak is determined to reduce government revenues and put money into the hands of corporations – all too eager to shift those dollars into the pockets of shareholders and CEOs rather than growth. With this, community infrastructure and public services are starved for funds. To Hudak and his Conservatives this means: mission accomplished.
Corporations and the rich aren’t job creators – workers are. Wages, benefits and job security influence consumer spending. To block other options, individual credit has also now hit its limits. Poor workers do not make eager consumers.
There is reason for hope. Big business will eventually give in to the needs of people. They have to as their individual wealth and growth depends on it. The days of racing to the bottom to spur business support is coming to an end. It was a good run for them, but times are changing.
OPSEU is a key part of these changing times.
It starts with democracy: our votes and our support. If a spring election is called, we will be there, standing for all our members and the good of our communities. The choice will be clear.
On one side, the Conservatives, a party with a rudderless, ruthless leader tied to a bygone right wing era that the majority of Ontarians would rather forget. Or the Liberals, an equally rudderless party who would do or say anything to hang on to power so that they continue their reign of mismanagement?
We have another choice – a party and leader that understands that while our challenges are huge, nobody should be left behind in a civil society. That party is the NDP.
It’s going to be an exciting time. I look forward to working with each and every one of you to create an Ontario we can all be proud of.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU