From the General Secretary: ETFO – An Awesome Federation

Victoria Réaume

By the end of June I will have completed my first school year as the ETFO general secretary. It has been an amazing year.

When I started last September, I knew I would face a steep learning curve; I knew there was much about ETFO I didn’t know. On the other hand, there was much I did know. I have been working with ETFO members and leaders for most of my professional career. I have met with and represented literally hundreds of ETFO members and their local presidents.

What I could not have anticipated was the breadth and depth of the work ETFO, its locals, its leaders, its staff, and its members do.

You just have to read our priorities to get a sense of what we stand for. They are:

•  To protect the collective bargaining rights of all members.

•  To defend publicly funded public education.

•  To serve the needs of the membership.

•  To provide for the professional development of members.

•  To promote social justice in the areas of peace, anti-poverty, non-violence, and equity.

•  To support international assistance and co-operation.

•  To promote the care and protection of the environment.

•  To actively engage members in the Federation.

•  To promote and protect the health and safety of members.

But many unions set priorities. What is truly amazing about ETFO is that it sets priorities and then actually acts on them. ETFO’s programs really do reflect its priorities.

Many of you will have participated in ETFO’s professional learning programs. When we ask members about their connection to the federation, they often report it is through our workshops, courses, and conferences. Our staff and members deliver the kind of professional learning that you, our members, can use every day in your classrooms. Whether it is a Summer Academy course, a Presenters on the Road workshop, or our conference for consultants, you can be confident that the content will be consistently relevant and high quality.

But it isn’t just the professional learning programs that have impressed me. ETFO has made a serious commitment to developing leadership in the federation, in planning for leadership needs now and into the future. All our staff are involved in this. We offer leadership training for members of designated groups, for new members, for present leaders, and for future leaders. Our Union School – a year-long intensive program – is the most impressive program I have seen in a long time.

This past year professional relations staff have been working with local leaders to improve their skills dealing with member issues. This was in direct response to a request from our leaders in the locals.

The work of ETFO is diverse, but what all of it has in common is an unwavering commitment to equity in classrooms, schools, and communities.

I knew before I started that ETFO was powerful. At the Canadian Labour Congress Convention in May, I saw that power first hand. ETFO had a small delegation compared to some unions. We had just over 50 delegates (out of over 4,000) and yet our work made a huge difference. A person of colour, Hassan Yussuff, was elected president of the CLC for the first time ever. Hassan and his team are committed to equity and social justice. ETFO delegates played a big part in getting them elected. Our delegates spoke out, handed out leaflets, and convinced others to support the team. We forged alliances with other unions and shared in the victory. It made me realize what ETFO members can accomplish.

Your federation, our federation, is awesome. I am so proud to be a part of it. Thank you to all of you for the work you do so well every day. Have a wonderful summer!

– Victoria Réaume