March: Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination 2015
March: St. Patrick’s Day
March: Women’s History Month
Women Make the Union Strong
So often when we look at the obstacles and challenges that we face as activists for both good jobs and gender equality, it can feel daunting and disappointing. In 2015, to still be fighting the same fights that generations before us fought, such as universal quality, childcare and equal pay, is frustrating to say the least. With that being said, we know that this is a fight we must finish for future generations because of what it will mean to the working mother whose daycare is a precarious patchwork of friends and family.
We also know that this is something that can be accomplished. In 1981 the Canadian Union of Postal Workers won the right to paid maternity leave as we know it. As a direct result of this, less than a year later my mother who was a member of the Public Services Alliance of Canada was able to take maternity leave after giving birth to me.
When I ran to represent Region 5 on the OPSEU Provincial Women’s Committee (OPSEU PWC), I did it because I saw the potential to be a part of the kind of change that created paid maternity leave. I believe that the labour movement will be the movement that finally makes universal childcare a reality in Canada, and that the energy and activism exemplified by so many of the sisters here in Region 5 can continue to drive OPSEU in that direction.
Every year Toronto puts on one of the biggest International Woman’s Day (IWD) events in North America. This year the theme of IWD is “Our Bodies, Our Territories, Our Communities,” and focuses on putting feminist issues front and centre as we prepare for the Federal Election. Every year I find IWD to an inspiring day because I am surrounded by the positive energy of past achievements made by so many generations. I am reminded that no matter how huge the fight in front of you may seem, if you do the work, progressive change is possible.
Written by Laura Thompson
How Does a Union Support Members?
Belonging to a Union provides many advantages for everyone to participate in. Being a part of OPSEU, we have access to educationals, conferences and conventions where child care/family care, accommodation and meals are covered so that all members can attend. Without that I don’t believe many people could participate, especially single parents. We all know that education and knowledge is a powerful combination and let’s not leave out the networking with others in the Union which gives us more connections, more allies and support when we need it. I personally believe that having access to educationals and having child care/family care, and accommodation coverage allows more women to participate. You can see the results when you look at the Local steward executive, the LBED Divisional Executive and the OPSEU Executive Board members. It’s exciting to see that more and more women are stepping up to the plate each year.
OPSEU also provides us with Provincial wide equity committees such as the Provincial Women’s Committee, the Provincial Human Rights Committee, the Provincial Young Workers Committee, the Provincial Francophone Committee and the Aboriginal Circle.
In particular, the Provincial Women’s Committee develops and promotes programs to encourage women to participate in union activities, and strives to increase the awareness and understanding of equality issues throughout the membership. Make sure you research the OPSEU website to learn more about what the committees do, what events they are working, how you can get involved and what assistance they can offer you. Go to www.opseu.org.
Human Rights Complaint
During bargaining it was clear that we needed to deal with discrimination issues. In May 2013, OPSEU filed a discrimination challenge before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. In it, the union charges that the LCBO has deliberately created a core workforce of predominantly women, who commonly work 25 to 40 hours per week throughout the year but that the Crown retailer classifies them as “casuals”. OPSEU’s position is that the LCBO has created this imbalance so that it can pay thousands of workers less and restrict benefits and promotions. This is beyond the issues of pay ¬– it is systemic discrimination against casual retail workers, who have inferior benefits, less job security, weaker guarantees of hours of work, and who have to work years longer to reach the top of their pay grid or obtain a permanent position.
As of February 12th, 2015, the Human Rights Tribunal advised OPSEU that the facts and submissions are well detailed and in order, and therefore there was no need to meet face to face on February 12th and 13th, 2015. Instead as per the Vice Chair of the Tribunal’s request, a preliminary hearing did take place between the parties by way of a conference.
On the conference call it was determined that the case has demonstrated enough merit to satisfy the Tribunal and now we will proceed directly to formal hearings to be held on July 6th-10th and July 20th-24th, 2015 where the representatives of LBED and OPSEU Legal Counsel will be presenting the OPSEU complaint. We look forward to the meetings in July.
Written by Denise Davis, Chair of the Liquor Board Employees Division
February: Black History Month
OPSEU Local 5110 is dedicated to diversity within its membership. We take pride in accepting each and every member as they are, no matter what gender, race, or sexual orientation.
February is Black History Month, and although we celebrate equality all year long, we would like to take this time to remember and celebrate. We remember those involved in the African diaspora, in which slaves were shipped from Africa to different nations around the world. We remember those whose who were enslaved simply because of the colour of their skin. We remember those who were tortured and those who lost their lives due to racial profiling. We celebrate those who have served our country generously and without hesitation, despite the way their ancestors have been treated.
See below for some names to keep in mind this month.
Bromley Armstrong is a black Canadian Civil rights leader. He was active in the nascent civil rights era in Canada, beginning with his arrival in 1947. Armstrong was a committed union activist who worked to improve conditions for workers in industry. He was also active in promoting equal rights for African-Canadians and was involved with the National Unity Association (NUA) in sit-ins I Dresden, Ontartio restaurants that refused to serve blacks.
Herb Carnegie played professional hockey at a time when there was racial discrimination in the NHL that prevented him from playing for the New York Rangers in the 1948-49 season. After his professional hockey career was over, he became a successful businessman working in the investment industry. In 1954, he founded one of Canada’s first hockey schools, Future Aces, and through his work in training young hockey players, became a member of both the Order of Ontario and the country’s highest civilian award, the Order of Canada.
Rosemary Brown was born in Kingston, Jamaica on 1930, and moved to Canada in 1951 to study at McGill University. She served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the British Columbia legislature from 1972 to 1986, making her the first Black Canadian woman to be elected to a Canadian provincial legislature.
Howard McCurdy served the city of Windsor as an alderman and later joined the New Democratic Party, eventually becoming the party’s first African-Canadian Member of Parliament.
Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence and gay rights.
Harriet Tubman was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and during the American Civil War, a Union spy. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made about thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women’s suffrage.
Gene Augustine was a Liberal member of the Canadian House of Commons, representing the riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore. She is a former member of Cabinet, and a former school principal. Augustine served as the Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien from 1994 to 1996, and was the Minister of State for multiculturalism, and the status of women until 2004.
William Peyton Hubbard a City of Toronto alderman from 1894 to 1914, was a popular and influential politician; he was the first politician of African descent elected to office in Canada.
He made his name fighting for public ownership of Toronto’s water and hydroelectric supplies. Hubbard was appointed to the Toronto Board of Control, the city’s powerful executive body, in 1898 and agitated to have the body directly elected by the people. He won election to the body in the first city-wide election in 1904, the first and only person of colour to win a city-wide election in Toronto’s history.
Frederick Langdon Hubbard was Chairman of the Toronto Transportation Commission from 1929 to 1930. He was the first African Canadian to serve on the TTC board (first as Commissioner and later as Chairman).
Anderson Ruffin Abbott, M.D. was the first Black Canadian to be a licensed physician. His career included participation in the American Civil War and attending the deathbed of Abraham Lincoln.
Roosevelt (“Rosie”) Bernard Douglas was a Dominican politician. In 2000 he became the fifth prime minister of the Caribbean island. While attending university in Canada, Douglas garnered fame as being one of the instigators of the Sir George Williams Computer Riot of 1969 (aka Concordia Computer Riot). He led an anti-racism sit-in at Sir George Williams University, Montreal, which resulted in the occupation of the computer centre and its destruction when police broke up the protest. Douglas was charged with arson and served 18 months in prison before being deported, when he vowed that he would only return as “prime minister of my own country”.
Lincoln MacCauley Alexander was a Canadian politician and statesman who served as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, the federal Minister of Labour, and later as the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, from 1985 to 1991. He was the first Canadian of Afro-Canadian Decent to hold that honor.
What does black history month mean to the Labour Movement
Black history month is much more than a reflection of struggles and pain, it’s about discrimination, courage and perseverance.
Hundreds of years ago – still feels like yesterday – my ancestors of black descendants stood strong in solidarity, many lost their lives to end slavery, to end racism and demand equality for all black people . This was basic rights as a human being. They were fighting for their children children’s.
Today we are still fighting for workers right to organize in a union but this issue is not about which colour has rights to union representation. Black workers did not always have rights to union representation. Today we must recognize the action and solidarity of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Union. They demand equal representation for black railway workers and struggle to end discrimination in railway employment.
Today we celebrate our gains in Canada and all over the world but we are still facing struggles in our communities and within our unions. The labour movement continues to work with members and the community to end racism, exploitations, inequality and to end police discrimination against black youth.
The labour movement understands that decent life can only be achieved when we stand in solidarity with all people. We must continue to raise awareness by celebrating the achievements of black people, those of the past and the present. Continue to mobilize members to fight the higher power for decent life and equal rights all.
Our unions are a reflection of every skill and talents that people of African descent contribute to Canada and over the world. Changes will come one day when our children fully understand their past to embrace the future.
Andria Babbington is the Vice-President of the Toronto & York Region Council