The past year of negotiations has been a difficult one, but ETFO members have continued to stand strong and, through their solidarity, demonstrate that we are a force to be reckoned with.
Charter Challenge (Your Federation)
On October 11, 2012 ETFO filed a court challenge against the Ontario government’s Bill 115 on grounds that the law, which strips the education sector of its right to bargain collectively, violates rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “We want all Ontarians to understand that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms exists to protect the rights of individuals, even when governments seek to override them. That is the strength and back-bone of democracy in Canada,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. Similar challenges are being filed by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). Lawyers for the groups hope to have the challenges heard together by the court.
Mobilizing Members Across the Province
The participation, motivation, and action of members across the province have been inspiring media coverage and fuelling a successful and energetic campaign in support of fair collective bargaining and a repeal of Bill 115. Letters to the editor, rallies, information pickets, and meetings have all had a tremendous impact. Here are some highlights. KINGSTON ETFO Picket Hot Topic at Business Conference On October 12, we organized an information picket in Kingston, intended to slow the traffic of business leaders going into a meeting on “jobs and prosperity” with Dalton McGuinty. Many business leaders attending the meeting, which was sponsored by the Kingston Economic Development Corp., showed support for our cause and spoke with us as they arrived. Our picket was the hot topic among guests inside the Holiday Inn, while outside we stole the show speaking with the media. During McGuinty’s speech, we were loud enough to be heard from the street. That was thanks to Erin Blair, from the Upper Canada Teacher Local, who brought his bagpipes. Executive member Deb Wells was able to work her magic from inside the hotel, securing a meeting with the premier. Deb Wells, Diane Dewing, Deputy General Secretary Marilies Rettig, and I met with Dalton McGuinty for about half an hour. He asked us how teachers were feeling, so we told him in a professional but candid way, using concrete examples. We indicated that our provincial leadership is always prepared to meet. Big thanks to all the ETFO members who were able to attend our information picket, including eastern Ontario occasional teacher and teacher local presidents who sent released leaders and members, some of whom drove a long way to stand in the cold for hours; Allison Ryan from Renfrew; Marg Merpaw and Erin Blair from Upper Canada; Pierre Martin and colleagues from Hastings– Prince Edward; Karen Chow from Hastings– Prince Edward OTs; Sylvia van Campen from Upper Canada OTs; and many others. Thank you for your dedication and support. – Mike Lumb, President Limestone Teacher Local BLUEWATER Great Day to Delay the Minister October 19 was a warm, sunny day – perfect weather for a protest rally outside the Outdoor Education Centre (OEC) in Wiarton where Minister of Education Laurel Broten was speaking in celebration of the OEC’s fortieth anniversary. Surprisingly, the organizers of the ETFO rally were contacted the day prior to the event and advised that the minister would be willing to meet with two union reps for a few minutes at the event. On the day, representatives from Bluewater Teachers and OTs, York Region Teachers, Simcoe County Teachers and OTs, and OSSTF Teachers and OTs lined the road leading to the centre. Flags, protest signs, chants, and honking horns set the mood. Shortly after her arrival, the minister met with Bluewater Teacher Local Vice-President Barb Balderston and Bluewater OSSTF Teacher President Betty-Jo Raddin. They spent 15 minutes reiterating their disappointment with Bill 115, but the minister did not budge from the Liberal position of assault on teachers’ hard-won collective agreement entitlements. Along with delaying the celebrations for over 20 minutes, the protest received good coverage in the Owen Sound Sun Times the following day. – Nancy Lawler, President, Bluewater Teacher Local ALGOMA Teachers Dismiss Orazietti On Saturday, September 15, nearly 400 members travelled to Sault Ste. Marie from all parts of our very large district to participate in a strike vote and rally at MPP David Orazietti’s office. Members came from as far north as Hornepayne and from Elliott Lake in the east, to send the strong message that it is not business as usual! They cast ballots, marched with members from CUPE, OSSTF, OSPEU, CAW, the Sault Ste. Marie Labour Council, and parents, and delivered letters, report cards, and even character education packages to Orazietti. Orazietti, a former teacher and OSSTF local president, responded by engaging in public media attacks on us and spreading misinformation through the media and paid ads about negotiations, teacher salaries, and benefits. We have responded with TV interviews and frequent letters to the editor from retired teachers, concerned students, parents, and myself. Our mobilized members ensured that front-page articles dominated the papers with headlines, such as “Teachers Take to the Street,” “Teachers to Orazietti – Shame on You!,” “Teachers Dismiss Orazietti,” “Teachers Vow to Remove Orazietti Come Election Time,” and “Teachers Give Overwhelming Strike Mandate.” – Kelly Holley, President Algoma Teacher Local LONDON If R is for “Runaround” then V is for “Vindication” On October 11, the London–Fanshawe Liberal Association had booked two possible venues for its annual fundraiser, the Four Points Sheraton and the Marconi Club. Their “special guest” was unannounced, but it was likely Premier McGuinty. The Liberals went to great lengths to keep the actual location of the event from the public because they were concerned about teacher and union protests. After a last-minute change of venue, the organizer of the event was interviewed by the media at the Four Points while our rally took place alongside. Other event organizers were seen at the hotel scurrying to their cars and packing up Liberal brochures and banners. As it turns out, the event was cancelled very late in the afternoon on October 11. Despite the runaround, we were joined by approximately 300 protestors from ETFO, CUPE, ATU, and other members of the broader labour community. We were also joined by colleagues from Greater Essex, Lambton Kent, Upper Grand, Grand Erie, and Halton. ETFO and CUPE persevered, got our message out through the media, and saw an important Liberal fundraiser cancelled as a result. Our success and vindication are a credit to the collective tenacity of ETFO members and our friends in the broader la- bour movement. – Craig Smith, Vice-President Thames Valley Teacher Local WINDSOR Bill 115: A Call to Action by Greater Essex There is a reason why the word great exists in the name of Greater Essex: our teachers. With every call to action, they have mobilized with strength, heart, and unwavering commitment. Our local’s plan began with information meetings immediately following the passing of Bill 115 on September 11. The focus: to provide a contextual overview of Bill 115, its implications, and our next steps. The objective: the repeal of Bill 115. Our message: Solidarity is a must, both in voice and in action. With this foundation in place, we began our work. This has included political rallies and letters to the editor; “black Mondays;” letters to MPPs; lunchtime demonstrations and after-school information pickets. And more: neighbourhood drops of ETFO’s parent pamphlets; amassing ETFO’s petition; visiting MPPs’ offices; local radio and newspaper ads; media releases; bumper stickers and wrist bands; picket signs; and an executive decision that all local committee work include a political message or action around Bill 115. Still to come: a local Facebook; a presentation to local trustees to join in the repeal of Bill 115; a joint forum on this bill with the OSSTF local; and outreach to various organizations. And this is just the beginning! It is in moments of challenge that we truly define ourselves. The teachers of Greater Essex are defining their greatness. – Adelina Cecchin, President Greater Essex Teacher Local SPECIAL MEETING OF LOCAL PRESIDENTS AND CHIEF NEGOTIATORS CALLED President Sam Hammond called a special meeting of local presidents and chief negotiators on November 23,2012 to discuss the upcoming months in light of recent developments in negotiations. Local presidents affirmed that ETFO will stand strong and united in the defence of our principles and our demand that Bill 115 be stopped in order to allow for free and fair collective bargaining. UNION SCHOOL 2012 ETFO’s seventh Union School for local leaders got underway in October. Union School is an intensive and transformative year-long leadership development opportunity, and part of ETFO’s ongoing commitment to building the capacity of ETFO locally and provincially. Participants strengthen their skills and knowledge about collective bargaining, communications, conflict resolution, using technology effectively, emotional intelligence, equity and social justice issues, labour relations, legal responsibilities, and member engagement and support. FALL REPRESENTATIVE COUNCIL, NIAGARA FALLS The October Representative Council meeting of local presidents focused on strategies for mobilizing to oppose Bill 115. With overwhelmingly positive local strike votes in hand, President Sam Hammond outlined a plan that includes the escalation of our response to the government, a communications campaign that will continue to impact locally and provincially, and sustained action on the local level. “The reality is that the McGuinty government has mishandled discussions with teachers from the very start. We will not stand by and have our rights legislated away,” Hammond said. OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHEER THANKS ETFO The October Representative Council meeting of local presidents focused on strategies for mobilizing to oppose Bill 115. With overwhelmingly positive local strike votes in hand, President Sam Hammond outlined a plan that includes the escalation of our response to the government, a communications campaign that will continue to impact locally and provincially, and sustained action on the local level. “The reality is that the McGuinty government has mishandled discussions with teachers from the very start. We will not stand by and have our rights legislated away,” Hammond said.
Bill 115 is the legislation that was passed by the Liberal government to legislate ETFO collective agreements and those of other education unions.