It’s summer time again.
For many of us, this is the time of year when things slow down and we finally get a break. But for a lot of OPSEU members, summer time is work time.
In June, 138,400 Ontarians paid dues to OPSEU – a jump of more than five per cent compared to normal mid-winter numbers. This is the time of year when new or returning workers are running provincial parks, fighting forest fires, and selling liquor to tourists. Meanwhile, summer students are on the job right across the province. More than 2,400 of them are working in the Ontario Public Service alone. Hundreds more are now college employees.
All of these summer members see a deduction for union dues on their pay stubs. But how do they relate to OPSEU?
Maybe they check our website. Maybe they hear President Thomas on the radio. But for most, the connection to “the union” means people. It means the steward who welcomes them on their first day. It means having a colleague explain how the workplace (really) works. It means representation on a grievance or a health and safety issue. And if we do our job right as union members, it means a feeling of connection. It means solidarity.
When an OPSEU unit is in bargaining, all eyes look to the bargaining table and the team. But the power that gives our teams the ability to drive a hard bargain comes from the bottom up. It comes from connecting with each other in our locals and making a commitment, together, to take action. Strong, vibrant locals connect to each other at the community and regional level; strong, vibrant regions come together to make one powerful union.
OPSEU is structured so as to take the power of solidarity and direct it where it’s needed, when it’s needed. That’s how we won a new collective agreement at the LCBO. It wasn’t just a fight for the Liquor Board Employees Division; it was all of our fight.
That’s how we support each other, through thick and thin.
But again, that support all starts with workplace connections. So let’s make this summer our summer of solidarity. If you have been an OPSEU member for a while, go introduce yourself to a new co-worker. If you are only with us for a few weeks, you are still OPSEU. So find out who your steward is and go say hello.
That connection is what we’re all about. Happy summer.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, Ontario Public Service Employees Union