Article

Building from Strength (From the President)

Sam Hammond

While this past year was extremely  challenging, it has also been incredibly inspiring and galvanizing.  It demonstrated across Ontario what we at ETFO already know – the powerful force, commitment, and integrity of our members.  I am so proud to be the president of this outstanding organization and grateful to local presidents for their leadership, tenacity, and creativity. We spent this year fighting for the right to bargain collectively. We fought on picket lines, in our communities, at rallies, protests, forums, and MPP offices. We took our fight to TV, newspapers, radio, and social media. Our efforts and the efforts of our colleagues had a direct impact on negotiations across the country and on the provincial political landscape. Even  with  the  tremendous  pressure  of fighting for our collective bargaining rights and  against  the  imposition  of   Bill  115, we continued to do important work in our communities. We created resources that address social justice issues such as poverty in elementary schools and  celebrated the  life  of  Lincoln Alexander, Canada’s first black Member of Parliament. We continued to work on creating safe and positive  environments for our LGBT teachers and students. We participated in initiatives that  support Aboriginal education, social  justice research, and overseas programs  that  empower  girls  and  women. We continued to work to support and develop  social justice initiatives locally and internationally.  ETFO  also  completed  our brand  new  LEED  Platinum  building  in downtown Toronto. In August, we held our 15th annual meeting, the yearly opportunity to engage in the democratic process of deciding the direction of our organization. Members’ high degree of engagement and enthusiasm was evident in the debates of many important resolutions. Two new members were elected to the provincial executive, Kelly Holley, president, Al- goma Teacher Local, and David Mastin, vice- president, Durham Teacher Local. Welcome to both, and a big thank you to Doug Cook and Ellen Chambers who are stepping down from their positions on the executive. In the coming months, we will continue to prepare and work towards the next round of bargaining, while resolving the issues and grievances resulting from the MOU that are on the table for many locals. While we continue to work on these  issues, we are also committed  to  holding  the  government  to its commitment to establish a committee to examine  the  impact  of  Regulation  274,  a health and safety committee, and a committee to oversee a teacher workload study. This, along with our continued work on the Charter Challenge that will be before the courts next spring, means another busy and challenging year for ETFO. But, as we have demonstrated over the past two years, together we can achieve what we set out to do. This year the Canadian Labour Congress launched a  campaign called Together Fairness Works. This campaign reminds  people that when we stand together for fairness, we get results. Thanks to unions, we now have benefits that were unheard of  before people decided to take action together – minimum wage, statutory holidays, public health insurance, and pensions.  This campaign reminds us that our predecessors struggled for benefits that we now take for granted. As we begin thinking about the next provincial election, we must keep these struggles in mind and work to ensure that we get a government that does not want to regress social and economic policies. If anything can help us thrive in difficult times, it is our solidarity. Being in a union means standing together for a greater good. It means standing together for ourselves and our classrooms, as well as for others in our communities. Together we are working to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live and work, have safe, healthy and constructive work environments and communities. I look forward to meeting this year’s challenges together.

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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.