Photo by Kathryn Gaitens
The summer issue of Voice is always our women’s issue. It is an opportunity to highlight women’s voices, consider the intersections of our struggles and to talk about the value and impact of ETFO’s women’s programs. It is a moment to take stock and consider how far we have come as advocates for equity and social justice, but also how far we still need to go.
This has been a difficult year. We have had to contend with global events that have added to the hardship felt by many vulnerable communities: the devastating Russian invasion of Ukraine, the attacks on women’s reproductive rights in the United States, the incomprehensible mass shootings in Buffalo, Laguna Woods and Uvalde, and all of this while we continue to feel the effects of a global pandemic.
This was yet another unprecedented year for educators and other frontline workers. Another year working through several waves of COVID-19, fighting for enhanced protections for educators and students and advocating for investment in our public schools. We also spent this year organizing for protections and enhancements for some of Ontario’s most vulnerable workers – which in many cases were women who worked without adequate pay or protections on the front lines of the pandemic.
This year we were focused on organizing for the provincial election. ETFO regional organizers worked with locals and members across the province, local political action committees met to create local strategies, locals endorsed candidates and ETFO ran a robust public relations campaign that included television, radio, billboards, social and digital ads. We reached tens of millions of Ontarians with our message about what public schools need. Together we effectively shifted the discourse on public education. This has been reflected not only in the public debate we have seen but in the education platforms of the NDP, Liberal and Green parties. All of them reflect ETFO’s Building Better Schools (BuildingBetterSchools.ca) priorities, including agreement on eliminating EQAO assessments, reducing class sizes and carrying out a review of the way in which public education is funded in this province.
Reviewing and improving the funding formula is an important step towards addressing funding gaps and increasing equity in our public schools.
Writing this the day after the Conservatives won another majority government, it is hard not to feel disheartened. We know that another four years of Ford’s Conservatives will mean struggle for workers, families and communities. It will also mean a very difficult round of bargaining for educators across the province. However, the organizing we have done over the past few years means that our alliances with parents and community groups are strong, and together we will fight for the public education system, public services and investments our schools and communities need. Thank you so much for all of your incredible work supporting your students and your classrooms and organizing for the election this year.
The past three years, from the conclusion of central bargaining straight into the COVID-19 pandemic, have been incredibly challenging. ETFO members, local leaders, the ETFO Executive and staff have worked tirelessly to rise to challenges we were presented with. As we head into another round of bargaining, I know that our organizing together will give us energy and strength.
Please be assured that not only are we working for the best interests of our members, we are also working to ensure that we continue to have one of the best public education systems in the world. Our members deserve that as do our students and their families. It is how we continue to work towards equity and how we centre and elevate the voices and needs of those communities that have been most affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and Conservative cuts.
Women have been on the front lines of this pandemic and we will be on the front lines of the fight for a just recovery. Together we will organize for the rights and well-being of all of our members, for fair contracts and for the supports our students need to succeed.
– Sharon O’Halloran