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