A lot of you know me as OPSEU’s First Vice-President/Treasurer, and I spend a lot of time and energy making sure your dues are working as hard for you as possible. It’s important work, and I’m happy to do it.
But don’t think for a second that OPSEU is just a bunch of numbers to me. Far from it.
For me, the thing that makes our great union so great is you. All 165,000 of you, people from all kinds of different backgrounds from all across the province who work, campaign, struggle, and even laugh together in pursuit of one basic goal: making the important services we provide even better.
And that’s why I’m so excited to report that we might soon be joined by another 4,000 people who are just like us – caring, passionate, and dedicated front-line public service workers at the Peel District School Board in and around Mississauga and Brampton.
They work as Educational Assistants and Designated Early Childhood Educators, and later this month, they’ll be voting on whether to join us.
These folks are no strangers to the trade union movement, and they’re no strangers to OPSEU either.
They’ve been working and negotiating together in a great union called the Educational Resource Facilitators of Peel (ERFP) for decades. For many of those years, they’ve sat side-by-side with OPSEU’s Boards of Education members at a common provincial bargaining table.
Last year, their executive voted to formally “affiliate” with OPSEU in the face of the Ford government’s class-size increases, failure to deal with growing violence in the classroom, and Bill 124 – the law effectively cutting the wages of all public service workers.
The affiliation has been a great success. By pooling our energy and resources, we’ve been able to continue to help raise community awareness and support for educational support workers, show stronger solidarity at the bargaining table, and launch Charter challenges against Bill 124.
The affiliation has been so successful, in fact, that ERFP members are poised to take the next step and become full OPSEU members.
In some ways, it’s going to be a tough choice. When you’ve stood together so successfully in a strong union like ERFP for so many years, it can be hard and even a little sad to imagine picking up another union’s flag.
But as many in OPSEU already know, it’s a decision with far more pros than cons. And it’s about strength. Our members working as hospital professionals, at The Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and at the LCBO were all once members of stand-alone unions. Yet, they decided to join OPSEU because of the strength in numbers, and the strength in diversity.
OPSEU is definitely stronger because of it, and I think those members will all agree that they’re stronger, too.
If you’re reading this and feel like offering some welcoming words to the ERFP members, please do. Send a note, and we’ll pass it along.
And if you’re an ERFP member, let me assure you: you will feel right at home in OPSEU. Nearly half of our members do work you’ll be able to relate to. You already know that we represent thousands of school board workers just like you, and we have tens of thousands of other members who work in education at colleges and universities, and with children and teens in fields like child treatment, child care, and children’s aid.
So when you vote, vote yes to OPSEU. You’ll be stronger with us, and I guarantee we’ll be stronger with you.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer