Participation in political rallies gives ETFO members an important opportunity to support their union’s bargaining position; it gives them a public voice on how contract provisions directly affect classroom working and learning conditions. ETFO members find themselves once again compelled to protest the government and employer stance at the bargaining table.
Annual Meeting 2015
A sense of purpose was in the air as over 800 public elementary school teachers and other education professionals gathered for the ETFO 2015 Annual Meeting at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto from August 17 to 20. The theme this year – Bargaining for the Future, Respecting Our Past – was reflected in highly visible banners and displays throughout the meeting area and on the Annual Meeting website at annualmeeting.ca. Delegates to the 2015 Annual Meeting elected a new Executive, passed a budget, voted on dozens of resolutions, watched the general secretary’s year-in-review slideshow, learned about this year’s award winners and honorary life members and heard speeches from ETFO President Sam Hammond, CTF President Heather Smith, OTF President Rian McLaughlin and social justice speaker Wab Kinew.
Sam Hammond's Opening Address ETFO President Sam Hammond established priorities in his opening address when he told delegates that if the return to the bargaining table on September 1 does not lead to strips coming off the table, the government and OPSBA are in “for the fight of their lives. Make no mistake … we will defend public education and fair collective agreements,” he declared to a rousing standing ovation. After reviewing important bargaining achievements from the past, Hammond asked delegates to reflect on what we want the legacy from this round of bargaining to be 10 to 20 years from now. He spoke proudly of bargaining victories in the 2014-2015 school year that included the cancelling of EQAO testing by the government in May and the decision of school boards to back off on cancelling report cards in June. Hammond thanked the delegates for their ongoing efforts to use the democratic process to decide how ETFO will move forward. He gave heartfelt thanks to the local leaders for coordinating local bargaining and answering the many central bargaining questions related to the Phase 1 work-to-rule strike action that began on May 11. He also thanked the 2013-2015 provincial Executive and ETFO staff for their multi-faceted work over the past year, noting “our members’ values are reflected in the work we do.” Hammond also spoke of the importance of ETFO’s involvement in this fall’s federal election, observing that the current government does not reflect the values of the vast majority of Canadians.
Speakers Wab Kinew Aboriginal Leader and Social Justice Speaker
Wab Kinew, a charismatic Aboriginal social justice speaker, spoke eloquently about the legacy of the residential school system in Canada as cultural genocide and encouraged all Annual Meeting participants to endorse the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He explained that the original intent of building understanding among different cultures was broken with the Indian Act and the creation of residential schools. His stories of how children were treated after being taken away from their parents were chilling, and made all the more vivid with his telling of the traumas Kinew’s own father endured at residential school. Kinew spoke of the “Indigenous resurgence” that is underway that is finally beginning to heal some of the horrors of the past. He pointed out several famous Aboriginal people who are serving as role models for all of Canadian society. However, he was quick to add that many challenges remain, including an underfunded national Aboriginal education system and the many missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Kinew commended ETFO members for the great things they’re already doing to introduce students to “authentic Indigenous culture.” He suggested that educators look specifically at TRC recommendations 62, 63 and 64 to continue to infuse Aboriginal realities in all classrooms. He also asked delegates to consider Aboriginal issues when voting in the 2015 federal election. Wab Kinew’s book The Reason You Walk: A Memoir will be released in the fall of 2015. Rian McLaughlin President, Ontario Teachers’ Federation
OTF President Rian McLaughlin delivered news of OTF’s activities in several distinct areas. McLaughlin expressed OTF’s ongoing concerns with the mandate creep by the Ontario College of Teachers and said that the OCT cannot be seen to be representing the interests of teachers. She suggested that delegates check out a new video series on the OTF website to understand “Who Does What?” McLaughlin spoke passionately about OTF’s international aid and development. OTF has supported 158 projects in 24 countries. She encouraged ETFO locals to consider taking on unfunded projects. McLaughlin spoke about OTF’s important role in retirement planning and ensuring sustainable practices in the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. McLaughlin observed, “We need to lobby for this security for all Canadians.” After her speech, McLaughlin answered questions about the pension plan. Heather Smith President, Canadian Teachers’ Federation
CTF President Heather Smith spoke of the biggest threats to public education according to Education International – commercialism and privatization. Warning that corporate influence is being felt more and more in Canadian schools, Smith told delegates that CTF is concerned that increasing competition, school comparisons, narrowed curriculum, and technology, not pedagogy, is driving education. She told delegates that public education is being undermined and it is essential that we address poverty and properly fund schools to counteract this influence. Smith declared unequivocally that “public education is a public good” and benefits society in a meaningful way. Smith introduced delegates to CTF’s Hear My Voice campaign and stressed how important it is to raise our “teacher voice” in the federal election. Smith concluded by thanking ETFO members who have served on CTF committees and in the Project Overseas program.
Awards President’s Award: Maureen Weinberger and James McCormack
ETFO President Sam Hammond honoured two retiring ETFO vice-presidents this year with the prestigious President’s Award at the Annual Meeting dinner. In presenting the award to Maureen Weinberger from the Halton Teacher Local and James McCormack from the Waterloo Region Teacher Local, Hammond declared: “It has been an amazing journey that we have taken together to represent ETFO’s 78,000 members.” Weinberger, a teacher from Halton and former local president, served as an ETFO vice-president from 2009 to 2015. During that time, she participated in and chaired a number of ETFO task forces. She also served as vice-president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation from 2013 to 2015. McCormack, a former president of the Waterloo Region Teacher Local, served as an ETFO vice-president from 2011 to 2015. He also served as vice-president on the Executive Board of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Hammond concluded his presentation by thanking Weinberger and McCormack for their leadership and dedication to ETFO, the teaching profession and the union movement both at home and around the world. Honorary Life Memberships: Ellen Chambers, Martin Long, Sharron Raymond and Gene Lewis
Honorary life memberships are awarded to retired members and staff who have given outstanding service to ETFO. This year four people were recognized as honorary life members at the Annual Meeting dinner:
- Ellen Chambers – Lakehead Teacher Local
- Martin Long – Elementary Teachers of Toronto
- Sharron Raymond – Peel Teacher Local
- Gene Lewis – Former ETFO General Secretary
Gene Lewis thanked ETFO for the honour on behalf of the group and entertained those assembled with a slideshow highlighting the varied careers and lives of each new ETFO honorary life member. Arts and Culture Award: Melanie Blanchard Simcoe County teacher Melanie Blanchard was awarded the Arts and Culture Award for inspiring student artists and arranging for displays of their art. She has integrated visual arts with math, music, technology and equity.
Children’s Literature Award: Beverley Terrell-Deutsch
Beverley Terrell-Deutsch was awarded the Children’s Literature Award for her book Running Scared. A former elementary school teacher and school psychologist, Beverley has written a story about a boy who finds ways to overcome obstacles at school after losing a parent in a tragic accident.
Curriculum Development Award: Sue Irwin
Hamilton-Wentworth teacher Sue Irwin was awarded the Curriculum Development Award for her book and teacher resource Safety Stars: Players Who Fought to Make the Hard-Hitting Game of Professional Hockey Safer. Sue wrote Safety Stars to address health and safety awareness, particularly in regard to concussions. Environmental Education Award: Ron Ballentine Halton teacher Ron Ballentine was awarded ETFO’s inaugural Environmental Education Award for his leadership in educating students about nature and ecosystems. Ron was a founding member of Ontario EcoSchools and was the lead writer of the resource Into Nature: A Guide to Teaching in Nearby Nature. Health and Safety Activist Award: Heike Schiller Upper Grand teacher Heike Schiller was awarded the Health and Safety Activist Award for her advocacy work in making schools safer. She has brought about many positive changes as the ETFO local representative on the Upper Grand District School Board’s Joint Health and Safety Committee, including the implementation of a full-time safety inspector system. Humanitarian Award for an ETFO Member: Cathy Fairley Halton teacher Cathy Fairley was awarded the Humanitarian Award for an ETFO Member for her work in helping Kenyan orphans access education, food, shelter and medical care. She set up Home of Grace Centre Care to raise funds for an orphanage in a rural Kenyan community that has been hard-hit by the AIDS epidemic. Member Service and Engagement Award: Niagara Teacher Local/Trillium Lakelands Occasional Teacher Local ETFO recognized two locals with its Member Service and Engagement Award. The Niagara Teacher Local was recognized for developing innovative ways to engage members from both an educational and community perspective. The Trillium Lakelands Occasional Teacher Local was recognized for winning important advancements for its members. New Member Award: Nathan Core Waterloo Region occasional teacher Nathan Core was awarded the New Member Award for his commitment to ETFO at both the local and provincial levels. He is currently serving as president of the Waterloo Region Occasional Teacher Local and served as a member of an ETFO Provincial Task Force examining issues around Regulation 274. Rainbow Visions Award: Key Straughan Hamilton-Wentworth teacher Key Straughan was awarded the Rainbow Visions Award for her work in incorporating age-appropriate teaching and modelling around transgender and gender issues. Straughan has used role-play and drama in her kindergarten classroom to explore students’ gender perceptions. Social Activism Award: Kathryn Cummings Kathryn Cummings was awarded the Social Activism Award. Cummings is a social worker in Peel and the founder of the Elizabeth Fry Society’s Empowering Against Exploitation Program. This is a preventative education program provided by the Elizabeth Fry Society of Peel-Halton for girls who are vulnerable to or have experienced commercial sexual exploitation.
Elections for the 2015-2017 ETFO Executive
On the first day of the Annual Meeting Sam Hammond from the Hamilton-Wentworth Teacher Local was acclaimed ETFO president and Susan Swackhammer from the Grand Erie Teacher Local was acclaimed ETFO first vice-president. Nancy Lawler from the Bluewater Teacher Local was elected to the position of vice-president and Karen Brown from the Elementary Teachers of Toronto Local was elected to the position of vice-president (female). Lawler and Brown are filling the positions formerly held by James McCormack and Maureen Weinberger who are both retiring. Diane Dewing from the Upper Canada Occasional Teacher Local was elected as the new OTF table officer, taking the place of Rian McLaughlin who is the retiring OTF president. ETFO welcomed four new members to the provincial Executive this year: Gail Bannister-Clarke from the Peel Teacher Local; Tracy Blodgett from the Trillium Lakelands Occasional Teacher Local; Nathan Core from the Waterloo Region Occasional Teacher Local; and Greg Weiler from the Waterloo Region Teacher Local. Adelina Cecchin from the Greater Essex County Teacher Local; Kelly Holley from the Algoma Teacher Local; David Mastin from the Durham Teacher Local; Monica Rusnak from the Ontario North East Teacher Local and Deb Wells from the Limestone Teacher Local were re-elected to the Executive.
Sam Hammond's Closing Address
Hammond, acclaimed early in the meeting for another term as ETFO president, received a thundering standing ovation as he started his closing speech. Hammond observed that no one seeing this display of solidarity could doubt that we are acting collectively in our resolve to get a fair agreement. Annual Meeting participants showed their unity by wearing red t-shirts with the Annual Meeting’s slogan “Bargaining for the Future, Respecting Our Past” on the final day of the meeting. Hammond confirmed the start of Phase 2 work-to-rule strike action at the beginning of the school year for all ETFO teacher and occasional teacher members if an agreement is not reached by then. He specified that this phase of the work-to-rule strike action would include saying ‘no’ to involvement in fundraising, field trips, board professional development and training, email communication with administrators outside of the work day unless a safety issue was involved, distribution or collection of board communications to students and attendance at open houses or ‘meet the teacher’ nights outside of the school day. Teachers will remain in schools to carry out their instructional duties with students and provide voluntary extra-curricular activities. Hammond declared: “While we have agreed to return to the bargaining table on September 1, there must be movement at the table towards a fair collective bargaining agreement that respects teacher working conditions and student learning conditions.” He was adamant that ETFO would never agree to strips that are really about increasing management rights and control. Hammond expressed his heartfelt thanks to all members for continuing to stand up for what is right. Hammond concluded by introducing the newly-elected 2015-2017 Executive and pledging a commitment to two years of hard work on ETFO members’ behalf.
The minority government at Queen’s Park means Ontario could face an election this school year. ETFO members may still harbour strong feelings about the Liberal government’s attack on collective bargaining rights and the failure of anyone in the legislature to vigorously defend them, but we should not overlook the bigger threat to the public sector and to unions: the agenda of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.