As we worked on this women’s issue of Voice, I thought a lot about the importance of narrative, the stories we tell about ourselves and our social movements.
Meeting the Needs of Members
ETFO has proven itself over and over again this year. Let’s start with our finances. We managed to accumulate a surplus of almost three million dollars this year in our General Fund (the part of our budget that provides services, programs and resources) and our Defense Fund balance continues to be healthy. The Defense Fund would provide strike pay if it ever became necessary. We did this by exercising the kind of fiscal responsibility our members expect. And we did it without asking for a fee increase.
But it was more than just careful management and oversight exercised by the Executive and staff. It was also the result of growth in membership and increases in average salaries. We ended the year with more than 2,000 additional members – most of these designated early childhood educators (DECEs), ETFO’s newest members.
This growth in membership arose directly from our work in the past to enrich the experience of Ontario’s youngest students, those in junior and senior kindergarten. ETFO lobbied for full-day kindergarten and welcomed DECEs into our union with training, resources and support.
This attention to meeting the needs of our members is a hallmark of ETFO’s work. This year we will be introducing new programs to support the work of our local leaders, work they do to meet the needs of members in their own communities. Specifically, the Executive has approved programs that will use technology to enhance communications and supports to locals and members.
More programs are being delivered via the Internet. This allows members to participate in ETFO professional and personal learning opportunities when it best suits them. Our very popular AQ courses are available online as are our pension and pregnancy and parental leave workshops.
Many of our resources are available online too. At the Annual Meeting this summer we highlighted our new labour curriculum for intermediate students, Learning from Labour.
New programs to address the needs of our Aboriginal members and Aboriginal students have been developed and will be available in the coming year. We now have a curriculum guide for teachers from Kindergarten to Grade 8 that introduces First Nations, Métis and Inuit histories and realities in age-appropriate ways.
This fall we are releasing our new LGBTQ Inclusive School Place Starts Here video and the accompanying guide for educators that explores homophobia and transphobia in school communities.
Other new initiatives are highlighted in this issue of Voice.
None of our new programs would be possible without the support of our Executive and local leaders. They identify emerging issues and gaps in our services. This happens during the year at Executive and Representative Council meetings.
It happens every summer at the Annual Meeting when hundreds of ETFO members meet to determine the ETFO budget, elect the Executive and passes resolutions that speak to the needs of all 78,000 ETFO members. It is union democracy in action. This year, for the first time, ETFO used electronic voting at the Annual Meeting. There were a few glitches, but at the end of the day it sped up vote counting, particularly for the elections, and ensured that delegates to the Annual Meeting had more time to debate the issues before them. Your Executive will be studying the continued use of electronic voting over the coming year.
Your Executive, local leaders and staff have worked extraordinarily hard on your behalf of the past year. It is their work with your support that makes ETFO such a strong effective voice for you, the members.
– Victoria Réaume