Convention 2023 picketed by children
Day 3 of Convention was “disrupted” by possibly the most adorable picket line ever. The children of Convention attendees paraded the Convention floor with picket signs created at the child care service provided by Convention.
Jollene Levid captivates Convention attendees with keynote address about organizing and winning.
“If there’s anyone in this world who knows about winning, it is Jollene.” This was part of President JP Hornick’s introduction of Day 3 keynote speaker Jollene Levid, Regional Organizer with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).
Levid, who has been organizing in Los Angeles for 19 years (8 years with UTLA), and for two campaigns in the Philippines, addressed Convention via video link. She talked about the way the successful 2019 Los Angeles Teachers strike of 33,000 educators was organized and carried out.
According to Labor Notes, the strike resulted in impressive wins, including a reinstatement of limits on class sizes, a moratorium on new charter schools, the hiring of more staff, reduced standardized testing and police searches of students, the creation of an immigrant defense fund, and putting control of 30 school budgets into the hands of local communities.
Levid stressed that their win was systematically organized, and included four years of intense planning and structural building in the union. They performed structure tests to assess their base of support among the workers until they got 80% of the workers ready to commit to going on strike.
UTLA organizers would set up meetings and sit in break rooms engaging with workers, answering their questions, and having them sign petitions. This helped the leadership see which schools were not engaged, and prioritize where they had to be stronger.
Member leaders at every worksite spoke to every one of the 34,000 UTLA members one-by-one. In order to win workers, Levid stressed, workers must take collective action willingly. They chose their battles. They picked “good fights with bosses.” And when the union felt they had built enough of a power base to strike, they did.
“Every worker built the strike,” emphasized Levid. “The media likes to make it seem that strikes are spontaneous.” Levid countered that perception, saying that their strike was “strategic, specific, and purposeful.”
Jollene Levid was introduced as a social worker, mother, and bookworm with an incessant assurance in the united power of women, workers and people. She is a member of the anti-imperialist, transnational feminist organization AF3IRM, and is currently sitting on its international committee.
After listening intently to Levid’s address, Convention attendees gave her a standing ovation in recognition of her insight and leadership.
Convention 2023 passes historic Constitutional Amendment creating seven Equity Seats on the OPSEU/SEFPO Executive Board
After an inspiring keynote on the final day of convention, Constitutional Amendment H12 opened for debate (text of the Constitutional Amendment is at the end of this article).
Constitution Committee Chair Dave Wakely explained that the Committee was recommending a vote against, not on the idea of equity seats per se, rather on the terms of reference. Specifically, Article 5.3 which states, in part that “The number of eligible members who are confirmed as participants” (those eligible to participate in the election process of the equity board seats) “will be limited to 150 for each equity-deserving group according to the order in which participation forms are received … Limiting participation to 150 members has the effect of silencing the voice of equity deserving seats,” said Wakely.
Laurie Nancekivell, First Vice-President/Treasurer of OPSEU/SEFPO, motivated the amendment saying “It’s important for the [Executive] Board to be representative of the membership. Being an ally doesn’t go far enough, this amendment allows Board members to be elected by their peers, so please vote in support of this amendment so OPSEU/SEFPO can have a more active and representative board going forward.”
Debate at the mics was contentious. Those speaking against the amendment largely focused on what they saw as the ambiguity of the terms of reference. Those speaking in support highlighted the difference between equality versus equity, asking people to consider that the number of racialized people, women and those with a disability who had gone to a mic during convention to speak had been only a handful.
After approximately 30 minutes of debate a vote on closure was called and carried. The vote on the constitutional amendment dealing with equity seats was defeated with 59.27% in favour, just shy of the two thirds majority required to pass.
The defeat of the amendment resulted in a spontaneous and very emotional reaction from many of the delegates on the convention floor. Many people called privilege to speak to their disappointment of the vote, while others walked away. A motion for a reconsideration of the vote was called, which required consultation from Barb Byers, the Advisor on Rules of Order for Convention 2023, who advised that while a motion for reconsideration was valid, it had to be moved and seconded by people who had originally voted against the amendment.
After hearing the anguish expressed by several members from equity-deserving groups, many delegates set aside their procedural concerns – including those who moved and seconded the motion for reconsideration.
The vote on the motion for reconsideration carried and debate opened back up on the amendment at hand. Shortly thereafter, closure carried and the reconsideration vote on the amendment opened. This time, with 67.11% in favour, just over the two thirds requirement, the constitutional amendment to include equity board seats carried.
For members in equity-deserving groups, this was largely seen as a huge win. “Equity issues can no longer be pushed to the side-lines and marginalized away from OPSEU/SEFPO’s core mandate; equity is now at the forefront of decision making,” said Nadine Vaillancourt, Region 1 Disability Rights Caucus Representative. “This is a big step towards treating our members like they are equity-deserving and not just equity-seeking. I am very proud of my union, and my union siblings who worked tirelessly on this for us all – inclusion feels really good!” she said.
Constitutional Amendment H12 – Constitutional Committee Recommendation: Against
Therefore, be it resolved that, the Executive Board approves the creation of equity positions on the Executive Board, as set out in the proposal of the ad hoc Committee;
Be it further resolved that, the Executive Board endorses the proposed amendments to the OPSEU/SEFPO Constitution, as necessary to create equity positions, on the Executive Board, and refers the amendments for approval by Convention 2023; and
Be it further resolved that, the Executive Board approves the Terms of Reference of the Board Equity Committee, which will come into force upon the approval by Convention 2023 of the proposed amendments to the OPSEU/SEFPO Convention.
(Submitted by Local 130, and the Executive Board)