This issue of the magazine reminds us of the work we do in our classrooms and communities every day for equity, and of the tremendous amount of work that has yet to be done.
ETFO: A Union That Takes Action (From the General Secretary)
ETFO is a union that takes action even in the quietest of times. But these are not quiet times, and ETFO’s activism is at the heart of an organization that cares about the future of public education and the social justice and equity issues that affect women, children, families and communities in Ontario and beyond. Activism can include a range of actions, from petitions, lobbying and donations, to programs, campaigns and demonstrations. ETFO does them all. Top of mind right now is ETFO’s commitment to protecting students’ learning conditions and ETFO members’ working conditions. In his column, President Sam Hammond reflects on the actions ETFO took this spring when talks broke down at the central bargaining table for teachers and occasional teachers. ETFO also stood in solidarity with members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation who were on strike in several school boards for fair local collective agreements. This spring, ETFO launched a public relations campaign to educate the public about important issues in education. The campaign is profiled in this issue of Voice. ETFO’s activism in areas that affect women and children is long-standing. In March, ETFO sent five women leaders to the UN Commission on the Status of Women as part of a labour delegation calling on world leaders to build an inclusive labour market for women. ETFO also recently made a submission to the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment to offer recommendations on the Ontario government’s action plan to address sexual violence and harassment. ETFO continues to raise awareness about the close to 1,200 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. An article about a workshop related to this issue offered at … and still we rise, ETFO’s leadership conference for women, is featured in this issue of Voice. ETFO recently did a review of its programs for women and a priority for ETFO is identifying women who are interested in leadership and providing mentorship for them through a cross-service area mentorship program that will begin in 2015-2016. You can find out more about this program and other leadership programs for women in the Your Federation section of this issue of Voice. The over 400 women members who attended … and still we rise had the opportunity to explore union leadership this year. The conference opened with a dinner celebrating women union leaders from many labour sectors. A video introducing these leaders can be found at etfo.ca in the Photo Gallery in the Multimedia area. Strong women leaders are needed in a union where 81 per cent of the members are women. Many ETFO women members have already benefited from formal and informal mentoring by other women in leadership positions. Consider this your call to begin or continue your leadership path, then reach out and encourage other women to become leaders too. ETFO is active on many social justice and equity issues. This spring, ETFO was proud to participate in the Spirit Horse tour in southern Ontario, which included a thought-provoking play and professional development in building an understanding of First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) cultural and historical perspectives. ETFO also helped launch The PrideHouse That Kids Built in advance of the PanAm and Parapan Am Games to engage elementary students, educators and school communities from across Ontario in discussion around inclusion and participation in sport. Other new initiatives included offering a workshop on white privilege for the first time and seeking intervenor status on cases related to services for migrant workers. ETFO supports children and teachers around the world through donations to charities such as the Stephen Lewis Foundation, the CTF Trust Fund, the Canadian Red Cross and the Education International Solidarity fund through its Humanity Fund. ETFO initially donated $20,000 for relief efforts in Nepal and has since matched an additional $20,000 raised by ETFO locals to rebuild communities and lives after the earthquakes there. Last fall, ETFO’s Project Overseas alumni members arranged a walk in support of educators affected by the Ebola crisis in West Africa. An article in this issue of Voice outlines ETFO’s participation in Project Overseas. A quick peek at “ETFO Takes Action” on ETFO’s website reveals its dedication to improving living and working conditions at home and around the world. ETFO members should be proud of all that ETFO does. I know I am. - Victoria Réaume