Outgoing Executive Board Members honoured
The end of Saturday saw the Convention attendees honour the outgoing EBMs:
Region 1: Sandi Blancher and Gino Franche.
Region 2: Mike Grimaldi
Region 3: Pete Wright
Region 5: Rod Bemister, Krista Maracle and Nancy Pridham.
Region 6: Sue Brown and Jennifer Giroux
Region 7: Jamie Tocker
Each board member was given a chance to speak to the attendees to say goodbye.
Ranking of Regional Vice-Presidents
1.. Debbie Tungatt 176
2. Sara Labelle 163
3. Chris Cormier 140
4. Ron Elliott 117
5. Jeff Arbus 109
6. Myles Magner 107
7. Carl Thibodeau 17
Who is here?
Solidarity Guests 11
Resolutions and Constitutional Amendments
“Right to Work” campaign
OPSEU will create a campaign for the membership and the public about the impacts of “Right to Work” legislation.
Statement of Respect will not changee
An amendment was debated and defeated on the floor regarding the Statement of Respect. The amendment wanted to remove the list of equity groups which is currently included in the statement.
Global Minimum Corporate Tax will not be promoted by OPSEU
OPSEU delegates defeated the amendment that would allow working with other unions and like-minded organizations to develop and promote the concept of a Global Minimum Corporate Tax.
In Solidarity wishes to correct an article in the Day 2 Convention Update. OPSEU is still affiliated with the OFL. OPSEU is currently withholding their dues until an agreement can be worked out between OPSEU and the OFL regarding respect and dignity.
Day 3: April 27, 2013
OFL affiliation defeated
A long-awaited debate hit the floor first thing Friday morning. Despite passionate motivation, resolution to re-establish full affiliation and good standing in the OFL was strongly defeated.
The Resolutions Committee suggested members support the board’s decision to refrain from membership in the OFL, yet supporters of renewing relationships were numerous. Speakers urged members to fight the province’s austerity agenda, citing the best way to do this is to get back to the table with all unions.
Supporters for the resolution echoed the need to make OPSEU heard by taking our place on the board of OFL. Rod Bemister urged that OPSEU be part of the OFL in order to make changes. Myles Magner from the submitting body addressed the delegates: “We are not alone—now more than ever we need to be part of the OFL so we can work with all of our labour brothers and sisters.” Tracy McMaster echoed, “We need to work together. This is not a pick and choose [situation].”
Conversely, Tom Wilcox’s desire for OPSEU is for proportional representation in the OFL not for the “taxation without representation” he believes we would receive if restoring our membership. Jeff Arbus noted that 20 of 21 EBMs voted against OFL affiliation and that OPSEU was basically locked out. Mary-Lou Martin said she doesn’t always agree with her president but, “When the OFL attacks our president, they attack all of our members.”
Several speakers reiterated that we are all union activists—we all take part on the lines with other unions, we’re doing our part, and we do not need to be members of the OFL to show our solidarity with all unions.
Overwhelmingly, the feeling of many is that OPSEU wants to be part of the OFL, but members are not willing to be members at the cost of dignity and respect.
Resolutions and Constitutional Amendments
Training for new stewards
OPSEU commits to having all identified new stewards or members, who have never had steward training and who apply for regional educationals, have the first opportunity for steward training.
Electronic voting defeated
Without motivation or debate on the Convention floor, the delegates defeated a motion which would allow for electronic voting at Local General Membership meetings.
One trustee not enough
An amendment was debated to allow, on an interim basis, to submit an audit report with only one trustee signature. This was defeated by the delegates.
What happened to past resolutions?
A majority of resolutions are sent to the Executive Board to be decided after the close of Convention because they weren’t debated on the floor. This year delegates narrowly carried a resolution to produce a pre-convention report regarding the resolutions disposition from the previous year.
OPSEU to lobby to reinstate the Ontario Ranger Program
OPSEU will join the coalition to lobby the Ontario government to re-establish the full Ontario Ranger Program and will provide “in kind” support and $5,000 for social media advertising and related promotional material.
No automatic dues to area councils
Delegates debated on automatic remittance of dues from each local to their area council on a yearly basis. This constitutional amendment was defeated.
Help for members injured/ill doing union business
OPSEU will identify supports for members who are injured and/or become ill as a result of doing business for the union.
No attendance monitoring
Delegates defeated that OPSEU employ a system where attendees must sign out upon their departure from Convention in order to claim their expenses, and that OPSEU not pay members’ expenses from locals that attend Convention but are not represented on the Convention floor at all times, barring a valid reason for absence.
CAAT part-time vote
OPSEU will immediately convene a meeting of the two divisional executives of CAAT(S) and CAAT(A) to discuss appropriate next steps.
An additional resolution to deal with the possibility that the legal challenge is unsuccessful was defeated by the delegates despite a number of amendments from the floor.
OPSEU to fight world hunger
OPSEU will form a coalition of unions, including the CLC and NUPGE, to work towards the goal of a universal minimum wage and social security system to battle the ongoing world hunger crisis.
Voices from the sidelines
Sometimes in our role as communicators we need to reach out to the members and solicit feedback. This year In Solidarity utilized roving reporters to ask questions of the Convention attendees. On the first day, we asked about what attendees were looking forward to this year. On day two we asked about your favourite traditions.
In Solidarity reporter, Glen Archer ventured into the sidelines to chat with the “Alternates & Observers” section, respectfully labeled the “Cheap Seats” by some.
At this year’s convention more than a few members voiced their perceived lack of knowledge of Convention proceedings.
A question was posed to several members, both new and seasoned veterans, that asked “Do you feel adequately prepared and informed of the procedures and protocols of Convention?”
Most respondents stated that, overall, they found the format was useful. Brother Joshua Freeland (Local 222) who is attending his first Convention, said he found the members’ kits handed out at registration was helpful. Specifically he appreciated the Rules of Order and Parliamentary Procedure tool, often referred to as “The Wheel.”
Sister Gillian Piccinato (Local 735) attending her first Convention said she felt she was adequately prepared to take part but would be extremely uncomfortable standing up at a microphone.
Sister Heather Foote (Local 243) suggested that “perhaps the information packages should be mailed out earlier so that new delegates, alternates and observers would have a better idea of what happens at Convention as far as protocols and procedures.” A suggestion was made to have information online prior to Convention for those who wanted to read it beforehand. This move would also be in line with OPSEU’s green initiatives.
When this subject was brought up with Sister Jen Aarnamo (Local 708) she said she has been in the OPS for over 13 years and many of those as a steward in various locals. This is her first Convention and she found the processes to be easy to navigate. She further added that she was moved by the passion shown by the entire membership and was thankful for the inspiration she has received.
Brother Robert Hampsey (Local 586) is attending his sixth convention as an alternate but is also Chair of the Rainbow Alliance and Chair of the OPSEU Equity Chairs. He echoed many of the above sentiments. He pointed out that some of the equity issues might be improved down the road. Hampsey said, “We shouldn’t have a visually impaired member having to rely on another visually impaired member for assistance.”
So in the end, it turns out that perhaps we could do things a little better. OPSEU continues to make our Convention a more inclusive event. We encourage all attendees, from all sectors and divisions, to engage, inform, and educate all of their members so that they may become involved and take part in the most dynamic part of our unions business – Convention.
What is your favourite tradition at the OPSEU Convention?
Nancy John (Local 161): “Our local is mostly female- we always share a room whether there are two people or five people attending convention. It saves our local money, and gives us a chance to build friendships and network.”
Marco Costa (Local 283): “It's my first convention! I plan to start a tradition of welcoming everyone to the Welcoming Space. It's a space in the hospitality hallway that is alcohol and smoke free. Everyone is welcome and there is food, games, and it’s quieter.”
Kevin Herbert (on left) (Local 683): “Evening socials in my room.”
Adam Ly (on right) Local 499: “Bartending at the hospitality suite.”
Heather Hodinott (Local 629): “The Provincial Women's Committee breakfast. People always leave feeling great. It's a morale booster.”
Day 2: April 26, 2013
‘Our Union, Our Voice’
Warren (Smokey) Thomas welcomed 1,400 energized delegates, alternates, and guests to Convention 2013. This year’s theme “Our Union, Our Voice” urges OPSEU members to speak up for those who are victims of greed, harassment, and bullying in our province. A common theme throughout was that all Ontarians deserve the right to be able to afford to live.
Thomas noted that 2012 was fraught with its share of tough contract battles. Two big sectors, CAAT (A) and OPS, stayed strong and stayed solid throughout negotiations. Thomas said it was often “tough to hang on” with everyone wanting a piece of us.
The battle for members continues to be one for what we already have—more and more, our labour relations focus the on fight to hold on to hard-fought gains.
Thomas tipped his hat to members and their continued demonstrations of solidarity. He argued the G20 and the Occupy Movement did an incredible job of opening the eyes of Ontarians to the income disparity of the one per cent. Thomas outlined how thrilled he was that this movement was driven by young people and urged young members to keep up their union involvement. On a positive note, Thomas noted that people are “starting to get it”; having a strong economy means having strong jobs and tax fairness.
Thomas also gave a warm welcome to new delegates and urged them to “get active and stay active.” He also urged new members to be active in their own way and to fight their own way but to get involved in the union’s “nuts and bolts” by attending meetings and taking their places on committees.
Thomas made clear his desire for OPSEU to maintain OFL membership but he wants it to be a membership of respect: the OFL needs to respect OPSEU’s contributions and, importantly, respect women.
Thomas concluded with the idea that OPSEU is making headway with the media— both in fighting corporate spin and through the use of new media. OPSEU hosted “The Rich and the Rest of Us” tele-town hall meeting in Sudbury and the plans are in place for tele-town hall meetings in Kingston, Hamilton, and the rest of the province in the near future.
Thomas and Almeida acclaimed
The OPSEU President and 1st Vice-President/Treasurer positions were both acclaimed Thursday morning.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas is entering his fourth term and Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida his second term.
OPSEU video awards
1st place: Ian Mather, Local 217 for “Strength and Solidarity”
2nd place: Ryan Walker, Local 249 for “Unions Work”
1st place: Jack Wilson, Local 415 for “Quality Education”
1st place: Paul Marut, Local 669 for “What did a union ever do for my community?”
2nd place: Nicole St. Louis, Local 676 for “Union Solidarity”
1st place: Erin Rice, Local 740 for “The Rant”
2nd place: Lee Covas, Local 731 for “Deadline”
3rd place: Erin Rice, Local 740 for “What your union does for you”
Overall winner: Paul Marut, Local 669 for “What did a union ever do for my community?”
Lights, camera, action!
Need a break from the convention floor? Check out the various displays outside the main hall where many committees and caucuses, etc., are showcasing information.
Of special note, new this year, OPSEU Communications has set up a mini movie theatre (with popcorn!) to showcase thirty or more short promotional videos they’ve created for various campaigns over the last year. The film loop will be running only until Friday, so grab a comfy seat and a bucket of corn, and enjoy some of the following favourites: “No Free Ride,” “Rally For A Better Ontario,” “Pushing Back,” “The Rich and the Rest of Us“ and many more.
Even cooler is the “Speaker’s Corner” area. Communications staff are on hand waiting to film your questions, concerns, and issues. Check it out!
Toronto welcomes OPSEU
Toronto Councillor Janet Davis welcomed OPSEU on behalf of the City of Toronto. She spoke about the solid public services delivered by diligent public servants in the city of Toronto but also spoke about how city council is intent on contracting out jobs, “It’s shameful and it’s hypocritical. We want good jobs in Toronto, but we won’t protect the ones that we have.” She thanked OPSEU for their tireless work.
Denise Wiese from Tourism Toronto, a not-for-profit organization, returned for her third year. On behalf of Tourism Toronto, Wiese presented a $10,000 cheque to OPSEU’s Live and Let Live Fund.
Andrea Horwath, Leader of the New Democrat Party (NDP), welcomed our convention, and OPSEU welcomed her with a standing ovation. She spoke about the work the NDP are doing and the plan they have devised to invest in the future of Ontarians. She spoke about the Tories’ and the Liberals’ growing push to undermine labour laws in Ontario. “Kathleen Wynne voted with Tim Hudak to violate the Charter Rights of working people in this province,” she said. “We Democrats did not. We were the only party that stood up against it in the legislature.” Horwath said, “When this union speaks, everyone listens. So keep speaking.”
Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour of Congress (CLC) welcomed OPSEU. He spoke about getting back to a dialogue with our members and to reconnect with them. The CLC is developing a campaign to do just that with our members. “It’s not THE union, it’s MY union” he said. “Talk to your neighbours and friends. Our accomplishments are what every worker should have.”
We march on!
Prior to breaking for lunch on Thursday, Convention was treated to a visit from ten of the striking Porter Airlines fuel handlers. Twenty-two employees have been on strike since January 2013. Their demands are not unreasonable. They are demanding that health and safety become a priority, citing a recent example of an employee being injured despite repeated pleas for appropriate staffing to reduce safety risks. Porter fuel handlers are also the lowest paid in the industry. During the strike, however, Porter has hired replacement labour (scabs) and are paying them higher rates than they pay the striking employees. The Porter employees have asked that OPSEU members check out their website dontflyporter.com and sign the petition.
From there, hundreds of convention attendees streamed out of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and marched towards the LCBO head office at 55 Lakeshore Boulevard East. The rally was organized by the Liquor Board Employee Division (LBED) bargaining team who are currently in negotiations with the LCBO.
OPSEU members were joined by striking Porter employees in a show of solidarity.
Denise Davis, Chair of the LBED bargaining team, thanked the 130,000 members of OPSEU for their support. The LCBO netted $1.6 billion last year yet they are at the bargaining table offering workers no increases and asking for concessions.
Smokey Thomas had some encouraging words for the bargaining team, praising their strength and solidarity for “drawing the line in the sand and saying that we need GOOD jobs.” Two weeks ago LBED members voted 95 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.
President Thomas called Premier Wynne the “ghost at the bargaining table” and stated that “we do not want to negotiate a strike; we want to negotiate a contract." He told Wynne, “If you want a dry province on the May Holiday weekend – you own it.”
Budget passes on first day
What a difference a year makes!
Last year’s budget debate saw many a verbal jab exchanged in a raucous session that overshadowed the entire Convention. This year’s budget debate was practically sedate by comparison.
1st Vice-President/Treasurer Eddy Almeida highlighted a few points before breaking down the dollars and cents.
Almeida pointed out that over 47 per cent of our dues revenue is now collected from the BPS. He also explained that we have not had a dues increase since 2001 and that we have held our dues to 1.375 per cent of salary.
A motion brought forward by Francophone members asked members to consider equal budget amounts for the Francophone committee to ensure parity with the other equity committees. The amendment was carried which sets the funds at $50,000 instead of the original budget of $30,000.
An amendment was presented to remove the 15 per cent dues rebate reduction implemented in last year’s budget. Debate ensued regarding the hardships and inequities faced by small locals and by members from the North. Brother Almeida spoke to this amendment and explained the rebate reduction was a stop-gap measure intended to last for only one year. The continued reduction was believed necessary in order to produce a balanced budget at the end of the year. After a vigorous but respectful exchange, the motion was defeated. Now, any excess monies held back by OPSEU will be added to the general revenues.
Brother Almeida further explained his vision of establishing and maintaining a true contingency fund. Almeida was proud that after the belt-tightening measures enacted after last year’s Convention, we have achieved a fair budget that plans for the future.
The majority of the delegates approved of the financial plan and passed the budget by 3:30 p.m.
What are you looking forward to at Convention 2013?
Mike Lalone (Local 204): “This is my third convention. I'm looking forward to the presidential election.”
Lynn Mullen & Christine Marshall (Local 320):“We are looking forward to meeting other nurses and RPNs within OPSEU.”
Bryan Stamm (Local 677): “I'm looking forward to the excitement on the floor!”
Ian Magcale (Local 105): “I'm here to learn. It's my second convention, and I want to see what goes on during an election year.”
Karen Cudmore (Local 116): “I'm looking forward to reconnecting with sisters and brothers from both Region 1 and all the other regions.”
Day 1: April 25, 2013
Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre honoured
Correctional officers of Local 248 at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre (HWDC) stood up to their employer when their health and safety was put in jeopardy last August. This determination as a local earned them the honour of the Local Health and Safety Award this year.
Over 200 correctional officers work at the detention centre with close to 80 officers working each day.
What started out as a typical day at the jail turned sour when officers reported a metal object missing from inside the walls of the facility. Officers knew that this metal object, in the hands of an inmate, had the potential to be fashioned into a weapon or other dangerous device—inmates and staff at the facility were at risk of being harmed.
The correctional officers asked that they be allowed to wear protective vests when conducting the cell-by-cell search for the missing object. Walking their beat behind the walls of Ontario’s correctional institutions, officers face unknown dangers every day. However, this missing metal object raised their on-the-job risks. The object needed to be found, or at the very least, the institution needed to be searched to verify it was no longer a danger to the men and women who work there. Workers have the right to refuse work they believe may endanger their health and safety under the OHSA, but they weren’t refusing. They just wanted to be protected.
Correctional officers at HWDC said they would conduct the search but only with their protective gear: protective Kevlar vests which were already issued by the employer. Management refused to acknowledge this risk and ordered the search to be conducted without protective vests. This produced a stalemate at HWDC. Management then stopped the officers from reporting for duty and refused to pay them. Subsequently, managers were brought in to HWDC from other facilities across Ontario to perform the duties of the correctional officers. The officers continued to report to duty each and every day and continued to request to wear their vests to conduct the required search of the institution. Each day they were refused.
Negotiations between the local and management continued each day but did not produce the desired results. After a week with no agreement reached, management imposed a “no work, no pay” penalty and other disciplinary measures for the period of time the correctional officers were denied access to their duties. The local would not agree to any disciplinary action towards their members for upholding their health and safety rights.
An information picket was held on August 23 outside HWDC. In addition, correctional staff from across the province showed strength and solidarity by donning their own protective vests while conducting their day-to-day duties.
On Monday, August 27, hundreds of correctional officers from across the province demonstrated at Queen’s Park. There was considerable news coverage and support from opposition MPPs at the rally. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS), promised a further meeting to resolve the issue.
Unprecedented support was shown from every corner of the province including monetary donations for the officers who were without a paycheque because they were standing up to their employer.
On Wednesday, August 29, the union was left with no choice but to withdraw from the Ministry Employee Relations Committee, including all MERC sub-committees (excluding the Health and Safety Committee). The union remained adamant that officers have the ability to stand up for health and safety in the workplace with no reprisals.
Nearly a month after the dispute began, an agreement was reached between OPSEU and the MCSCS. In the settlement the employees would return to work, and any discipline or reduction in pay would be subject to arbitration before the Grievance Settlement Board. In addition, correctional officers in every institution across Ontario will now be allowed to wear their protective vests at any time during the course of their duties.
Correctional officers across the province will continue to put their health and safety first. Going home alive at the end of their shift is their number one priority.
Health and Safety Award – Individual
Trish Goden, President, Local 108, representing members at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) in London, is honoured this year with the Health and Safety Award for individual achievement.
Working with the Corrections Division and OPSEU, Sister Goden has tirelessly fought for safer working conditions for this understaffed correctional facility. She has facilitated tours of the facility by NDP and Tory MPPs (including critics) and blew the whistle on the Ministry mismanagement within the centre. Sister Trish had OPSEU President Smokey Thomas tour EMDC, speak to the media, and attend their Local General Membership meetings.
She has met with Liberal cabinet ministers, pleading her case for safe working conditions within her local. She has also worked hard to outline working conditions for all men and women working behind the concrete walls and razor wire of provincial correctional facilities.
In 2012 Goden was disciplined by her employer for talking to the press, which created a great deal more media attention for EMDC. These unsafe working conditions, including understaffing and overcrowding, have been reported in local, regional and national print, radio, labour media, and television.
She has led demonstrations and workplace actions to call attention to the unsafe working conditions her members face every day on the job.
Honourary Lifetime Membership Award
At the beginning of his career, Brother Murphy became a steward of Local 341; through the years, Dan held every position within the local. Dan was mentor and guide to many new stewards during his time on the Local 341 executive. Upon the closure of Millbrook Correctional Centre, Dan was transferred to Central East Correctional Centre where he immediately became a steward of Local 368.
Dan was past President of the Peterborough Area Council and an executive member of the Peterborough & District Labour Council. After Dan’s transfer to Central East Correctional Centre, he became involved in the Lindsay & District Labour Council, eventually becoming president. Since its inception, Brother Murphy has been an elected member of the Region 3 Hardship Committee.
Dan also was on the 1992 Corrections Bargaining Team, and he chaired the Corrections Bargaining Team for the 1994-1998 Collective Agreement. This round of bargaining was the first time the OPS had the right to strike. Dan was instrumental in negotiating the first Essential Service Agreement and led the bargaining team through the strike of 1996.
Brother Murphy has been the elected representative to the OPSEU Constitution Committee for over 20 years and chaired the committee on numerous occasions. In addition, Brother Murphy has been elected by Region 3 as a delegate to NUPGE, OFL, and CLC conventions since the 1990s.
Gibson McIlwrath, past Local 230 President, was a selfless OPSEU leader and advocate of members’ rights. Gibson spent 22 years as a steward and 15 years as Local 230 President.
He has served on ERC, MERC, CERC, strike committees, working groups, has travelled the province on the Tony Dean Panel Tour, and has attended endless OPSEU educationals and conventions. Gibson achieved a Certificate in Labour Studies and has assisted OPSEU members and leaders locally and province-wide.
Gibson’s vast knowledge made him an instrumental resource in providing solid union leadership—an outstanding dedication.
Rick Nemisz from Local 353 at Durham College was on numerous bargaining teams and was a key contributor to the current CAAT(S)Collective Agreement. He chaired many committees and was a highly respected labour activist serving as one of OPSEU’s longest local president for 30 years.
No nominations were submitted for the following awards:
· Live and Let Live Award
· Rainford Jackson Education and Development Fund
· Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award
· Tim Brown Award
Human Rights Award – Individual
He is driven by his progressive ideals, youthful determination, and nearly boundless energy to make the world a truly better place. Although the right-wing media says that one person cannot make a difference, you will never meet anyone more dedicated to proving that sentiment wrong!
Brother Eric is constantly on the go searching, working, researching, learning, and volunteering on a host of progressive causes. Eric is widely recognized as a leader who has proven he can get things done.
He is President of Local 497 and the treasurer of the Kingston Labour Council. Brother Eric not only works hard, but he enjoys activism, and his activism is one of his most valuable gifts to OPSEU in that he inspires other young activists to get involved.
Eric has worked on the international campaign on the Right to Water. He has raised money to help fund wells in Malawi and has spoken out to gain support for an increase to the Social Justice Fund.
Always a campaigner for social justice on LGBT rights, Brother Eric rallied members of his local to participate in the second annual Pride Parade in Brockville. Eric has also worked on creating and sustaining the Region 4 Equity Committee.
When it comes to human rights laws, Eric has worked toward the election of several equity minded candidates to win elections at all levels of government. Eric’s definitely making a difference in his community and region. Eric is honoured with the individual Human Rights Award.
Leah Casselman Award – Local
Participation Lodge employees began rotating strike pickets Saturday, September 22, 2012 after being without a contract for 18 months.
Managers at the rural healthcare facility “kicked out” the workers on the Friday evening at 8:20 p.m., hours before the midnight strike/lockout deadline.
The registered practical nurses, personal support workers, and other unionized staff provide services for some 40 residents at the lodge as well as at two apartment sites in Owen Sound and Hanover.
Clients at the Lodge near Holland Centre, at St. Francis Place in Owen Sound, and at St. Matthews Lutheran Manor in Hanover face significant physical care needs and developmental disabilities. Compensation and working conditions, especially scheduling, were at the heart of the labour dispute.
OPSEU called on the Ministry of Community and Social Services to audit the books at Participation Lodge. The union maintained 45 per cent of the budget is earmarked for the wages of 11 managers who are in charge of 50 staff. Of the $3.9 million budget, OPSEU also claimed $700,000 was listed as miscellaneous management expenses.
OPSEU negotiators called on Participation Lodge to soften its hard-line stance and help resolve the strike which was entering its eighth week.
The next week the employer came back to the table with a significantly better offer. Local 235 ratified a new collective agreement on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 with a vote of 91 per cent in favour.
Leah Casselman Award – Individual
In the summer of 2012, the provincial government announced its intention to close several provincial parks in Ontario. One of the parks slated to close was Fushimi (pronounced “foo-sheh-me”) Park near Hearst.
This park employed eleven OPSEU members and also was part of the fabric of Hearst and its neighbouring towns. The proposed closure of this park was a big blow to a community that has suffered significant job loss in recent years.
Sister Coté, the lone member of Local 673 at the Hearst office, stepped up. In the true spirit of leadership, she led her colleagues and her community to initiate a fight-back campaign. Before long she rallied the community at all levels. Support came from OPSEU Local 638, other sectors of OPSEU, other unions, and from the community at large. The initial rally attracted several hundred people. Meetings were held with politicians, business leaders, and other community activists. A dynamic and effective social media campaign was launched with a Facebook group “Friends of Fushimi Provincial Park,” YouTube videos, and Twitter feeds.
Sister Coté was backed by a solid team which included several OPSEU members and retirees. This group, led by Sister Coté, worked tirelessly for their community.
In October, the government announced that three of the parks scheduled to close would be saved. Sadly, Fushimi was not among them. Rather than lose hope, Sister Coté and her team doubled their efforts, and in early December, the reward came. Fushimi would remain open.
Although elated over their victory, Sister Coté’s team’s efforts remind us all of the need to remain vigilant, even after initial success. Sister Coté also reminds us that OPSEU members have what it takes to lead, to mobilize, and to fight back against injustice.
This is the twentieth year that the editorial committee of In Solidarity has produced the daily updates. We will provide a record of Convention events and happenings. Who we are: Laurie Sabourin, Local 368; Lisa Bicum, Local 125; Nancy Hart-Day, Local 234; Virginia Ridley, Local 116; and Glen Archer, Local 719 . Ex-officio members are James Tocker, Executive Board Liaison and Don Ford, OPSEU Communications.