Article

ETFO and Early Childhood Educators: A Great Fit (From the President)

Sam Hammond

Last  spring the ETFO executive turned the first page in an exciting new chapter in the history of our federation: it decided that our federation would unionize early childhood educators (ECEs) employed by public and Catholic district school boards.

The executive made this decision because ECEs in the new Early Learning Program are working alongside ETFO members and, like all our members, they deserve the benefits of belonging to a professional union.

Historically, ECEs have had to fight hard for recognition and respect. They are mainly women, and their work has consistently been undervalued by their employers, and by society as a whole.

Teachers understand this, because we too fought that battle. When teachers organized themselves into a professional union they had the clout to begin demanding wages and working conditions that allowed them to practice as professionals. For decades those who educated younger students were thought to be less worthy – of respect, and of equal wages and working conditions. As elementary educators our fight is not yet over, but we have come a long way.

Now it is time for ETFO members to help raise the status of early childhood educators by offering them the opportunity to join our federation.

Membership in the same union will have many advantages both for teachers and for ECEs: it will facilitate team building, professional learning, quicker problem solving and conflict resolution. A strong, united early learning team is better placed to resist pressure.

ETFO understands elementary education and elementary educators. This federation is a natural choice for ECEs. Our ECE members will be equal partners in our federation.

ECE locals in ETFO will have equal stature within the federation as teacher and occasional teacher locals. They will have an equal voice shaping ETFO policy and programs by attendance at Representative Council and the annual meeting. They will have equal access to ETFO services and our award-winning professional learning and leadership development programs.

For the past several months ETFO organizers have been working hard to sign up these new members. To date ETFO has organized ECE locals in seven school boards: Durham, Durham Cath- olic, Grand Erie, Hamilton-Wentworth, Rainbow, Toronto Catholic, and Trillium Lakelands. Other applications for representation are pending. In some boards, because of existing collective agreement language, ECEs will not have an opportunity to decide whether they want to be ETFO members. However, we have seen that ECEs choose ETFO whenever ETFO is on the ballot.

The faith these new members have in our federation is a confirmation of the important work we do as educators and as union members. Working together we can and do make a difference in the lives of our members, our students, and in public education in Ontario. We welcome Early childhood educators into ETFO.

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