Article

My Goal: A More Open and Accountable Federation (From the President)

Sam Hammond

As you read this I trust you will be settled into the new school year. For educators September is a month of  change and adjustment, of setting goals, and establishing a classroom routine. By now you and your students are moving forward, working to make your goals a reality.

There  are  many  parallels  between  what happens  to  you  in  the  classroom  and  what I have been experiencing  in  my new role as your president. Change and adjustment  have been a constant since my election to the ETFO presidency at  the  annual  meeting in August. But at the  same  time, I have hit the ground running  and  have  experienced  many  firsts, including this one—the president’s column in Voice magazine.

Over the past few years I have been clear about  my goals  for this federation: to  make this a more accountable  organization, with a more transparent and inclusive  decision-making structure – an organization that works for you, the educators who are the heart of ETFO and the public education system. I offered you strong leadership, leadership  that is collaborative, responsive, and respectful. Now, I too am working – on your behalf – to ensure my promises and my goals become a reality.

Since I first ran for office in this union in 1998, I  have  taken  principled stands, I  have questioned the status quo, and, at every turn I have done what I have felt was right. I was the chief negotiator for the Hamilton-Wentworth Teacher Local when it endured a 17-day strike/ lockout in  2000.  During this time my leadership style worked to ensure that every member of my local was fully informed and  included every step  of  the  way  –  and  it  paid  off,  as every   member  jointed  our  picket  line  and stayed strong throughout the dispute. It was a time when we had to fight a government that wanted to undermine our profession and  our public education system. We understood that we were fighting not only for ourselves but also for our students.

Teacher federations have fought  this fight many times over the years. We have won significant  improvements that have not only benefitted us but have also improved public education in this province. But  we must never take any advance for granted and we must now vigorously  defend the  hard-won  gains of  the  last round  of  negotiations.  You  deserve  nothing less.

As educators we are professionals, but we are also union members. Unions have always taken the lead in social justice and equity work – we work hard  to  improve the  lives of  our members and we wish these improvements for all of society. As a union we have much more to do.

I have always believed that it is important to understand and work with the broader labour community and to make our voice heard in the Ontario Federation of Labour, in the Canadian Labour Congress, and in local labour councils across the province. That’s why I have marched with union brothers and sisters in every Labour Day   parade  in  Hamilton  for  more  than  a decade.

Presidents do not work alone. As I begin to undertake the work you elected me to do I feel fortunate to be able to work with a dedicated leadership team, your ETFO executive. We are supported in our work by the  leaders of the ETFO locals across the province. We are also fortunate to have the support of our dedicated and  hard working ETFO staff. I am looking forward to working with them and with each and every one of you over the next two years.

I wish you all the best in your assignment this school year.

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