As we worked on this women’s issue of Voice, I thought a lot about the importance of narrative, the stories we tell about ourselves and our social movements.
The Importance of Equity (From the General Secretary)
In the context of the current political climate, finding ways to work across our differences is more important than ever. That is one of the messages labour leader, community activist, and educator Winnie Ng brought to our February Representative Council. Speaking about the increase in the child poverty rate and the prevalence of precarious work, she concluded by talking about the importance of equity in creating a culture of solidarity across progressive social movements. “Our movement must be grounded in equity, solidarity, and social justice”she said,“and equity is the glue that will strengthen our solidarity.” It is with equity and solidarity in mind that we turn to this moment in ETFO’s history. We are facing a confluence of important events this spring – a new cycle of collective bargaining, and, in fact what might be a whole new bargaining regime for educators with Bill 122; an election that may be called in April or May; and a right-wing agenda on the horizon that threatens not only unions, but all working people and the institutions that support them. In light of these events, staff at ETFO provincial office have been working on strategic plans and initiatives with the goal of enhancing ETFO’s visibility as an equity-seeking, social justice union and an influential leader in the labour movement. In all of our planning, including participation in the Canadian Labour Congress campaign Together Fairness Works, we are seeking to engage the public, to create alliances, and to position ETFO as a knowledgeable, caring advocate for the schools we work in, and for the students and communities we serve. Our priorities as we head into the spring are focusing on our campaign Building Better Schools (buildingbetterschools.ca), mobilizing our members and allies to fight for a healthy, well-funded education system, and getting ready for the next round of collective bargaining. Bill 122, the bill that will create a new collective bargaining regime in the education sector, goes to committee hearings in late February. We are hopeful that following the committee hearings the bill will pass with the amendments ETFO, the other education unions, and CUPE have proposed. If Bill 122 passes, we expect to begin bargaining early. We will be ready to participate fully at the central table, bringing forward the issues that matter to our members. There is always the chance that the bill won’t pass. Should that happen, we still expect to begin bargaining early in the spring, and will serve notice accordingly. Keep your eye on the ETFO website and the collective bargaining eNewsletter. Change is a constant here at ETFO. A number of devoted, passionate, and committed staff members have retired. At the same time, we welcome new staff. Anne Rodrigue is our new second deputy general secretary and Lorraine Stewart becomes our first-ever chief financial officer. Anne has been with ETFO for 12 years as Executive Staff and as coordinator of Professional Services. She has served on many provincial and national committees working in teacher professional learning. She was one of two key ETFO staff members involved with creating an early learning program in Benin. Lorraine Stewart has worked at ETFO since the organization’s inception, and prior to that with a predecessor to ETFO. She has been staff advisor to the Budget Committee and advisor to local treasurers for many years. In addition, she has served as ETFO’s in-house pension expert and representative on the OTF Pension Committee. I look forward to working with both of them in their new roles. We work as a collaborative team at provincial office, ensuring that service to members in all areas is meaningful, of the highest quality, and reflective of our goals as a social justice union.