December 14, 2016
2016 was a banner year for the Ontario Federation of Labour ! With a new leadership team, new and senior staff, increased engagement of labour councils, unions and activists across Ontario, we’ve been able to do a lot.
Here’s a rundown of what we were able to accomplish together:
- Mobilized for six pre-budget rallies across the province in partnership with the Ontario Health Coalition: Windsor, Thunder Bay, Hamilton, Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie and Ottawa. Thank to Labour Councils in those areas who organized to get people out! OFL Officers divided up the locations and each attended two events.
- OFL President Chris Buckley presented in the pre-budget provincial consultation. We also worked with labour councils and also provided some data to labour councils to present in their cities.
- The OFL helped turn out affiliates to the USW Day of Action in Hamilton on January 30 in support of members at Local 1005 and 8782. OFL President Chris Buckley spoke at the rally.
- Working with the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, the OFL made a complaint to the Ombudsman WSIB ignoring the advice of injured workers’ treating physicians.
- Alongside the Ontario NDP, the OFL advocated for an anti-racism secretariat. Instead the Liberals introduced an anti-racism directorate. Consultations about the directorate took place this fall and we worked with union members across Ontario to champion measures to address systemic racism, tackle precarious work, increase access to unions and much more. This effort was in partnership with the Colour of Poverty.
- This year, we had the largest distribution of our March 8 International Women’s Day poster and pin project since its inception.
- In 2009, the OFL launched it’s ‘Kill a worker, go to jail’ campaign calling for jail time for employers whose criminal negligence results in a worker’s death. On January 11, 2016 Metron Project Manager Vadim Kazenelson was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for criminal negligence in the death of four workers and the severe bodily harm of one other after a fatal scaffolding collapse on December 24, 2009. This was Ontario’s first conviction since the Criminal Code of Canada was amended in response to the 1992 Westray Mine Disaster.
- In March, we launched the Make It Fair campaign, which is the largest multi-union campaign that the federation has organized in years. We’re focussing our efforts on 16 key hubs, organizing through the local labour council: Guelph, Toronto, Oakville, Hamilton, Peel, Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, North Bay, Windsor, Ottawa, Peterborough, Durham and Kingston.
- On April 14, delegates to the OPSEU voted 93.8 per cent in favour of re-affiliating to the OFL, representing a major gain for the labour movement across Ontario.
- With labour councils, the OFL helped mobilize for the April 15 International Day of Action for the Fight for $15 in most of our 16 campaign hubs.
- Throughout the months of April, May and June, we co-organized 15 local all-presidents meetings where local presidents, political action chairs and activists talked about Make It Fair campaign, experiences of precarious work and planned for action!
- During this same time, we organized 38 constituency lobbies, along with webinar training sessions. This was a first for the OFL. Thank you to all those activists who did such a great job!
- On May 4, we received the endorsement of the Make It Fair campaign and our campaign goals by the Ontario NDP, during an OFL briefing for the Ontario NDP caucus.
- On May 31, we supported the Keep Hydro Public rally, outside of the first ever Hydro One AGM, calling for an end to privatization of hydro and public assets.
- Over the early summer and into the fall, the OFL supported the Legal Aid lawyers organizing drive, which in late August, finally won voluntary recognition from Ontario Legal Aid, after a four-year long fight! Legal Aid lawyers won the right to join the union of their choosing – The Society of Energy Professionals, who had supported the group in their lengthy campaign.
- On June 9, the OFL partnered with Toronto Pride and the Toronto International Film Festival to screen the movie ‘Pride’ at Bell Lightbox. Pride tells the story of London LGBTQ activists who work to help miners during the lengthy strike of the British National Union of Mineworkers in 1984, in what would become a group called ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.’ A must see for all trade union activists!
- In late June, we launched our precarious work survey, which we used as a tool to reach nearly 5,000 respondents – both unionized and non-unionized workers – and talk about their experiences and the experiences of their loved ones of precarious work.
- In early September, after a whole lot of work and skilled negotiating, the OFL regained funding for our long-time health and safety project – once called the Occupational Disability Response Team – now called Prevention Link. In addition to the previous resources and training courses, there is a new focus on reaching out to small enterprises and precarious workers! Check it out: preventionlink.ca
- We worked alongside the Fight for $15 and Fairness to organize a mass community-labour Rally for Decent Work at Queen’s Park for October 1, kicking off the Week for Decent Work – October 1-7. Rank and file speakers, activities for kids and live music were just some of the many highlights!
- As part of the week of activities, we trained approximately 100 union activists in how to tell their story and lobby elected officials, skills to be put to use the next day at Queen’s Park!
- We followed it up the next day with a mass lobby at Queen’s Park on October 5. We had more than 60 lobby meetings of politicians from every political party. We also had a question in the house posed by ONDP Leader Andrea Horwath and comments from Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn about the OFL’s participation in the Changing Workplaces Review.
- On October 6, we organized and hosted a highly successful conference on new rights under Bill 132, equipping 250 health and safety and equity activists with important information about the legislative changes.
- On October 28, the OFL women’s committee celebrated women’s history month with the launch of Rise Up! A digital archive of Canadian feminist activism. Check it out here: http://riseupfeministarchive.ca/
- We supported the National Student Day of Action on November 2, reiterating the call for free tuition, a $15 minimum wage regardless of job status and end to the growth of precarious work. OFL Executive VP Ahmad Gaied spoke at the Toronto rally.
- In early November, we partnered with the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups for a two-day WSIB conference, with over 130 people in attendance. This was the 25th anniversary since the founding of ONIWG.
- OFL organized a pledge from Ontario unions to bargain paid leave for domestic violence survivors, and produced a booklet called “Domestic Violence Goes to Work Everyday: A Bargaining Guide,” to assist locals in crafting specific language around domestic and sexual violence leave.
- The day before the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we organized a press conference announcing the union pledge to bargain domestic and sexual violence leave, where survivors of domestic violence told their stories. At the same time we pushed for the passage of ONDP Peggy Sattler’s Bill 26, which would allow survivors of domestic and sexual violence 10 days of job-protected paid leave, on the job training and other supports for survivors.
- Later that day, a delegation of union leaders and advocates met with Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues Tracy MacCharles andMinister of Labour Kevin Flynn to press for paid leave for domestic and sexual violence survivors and the swift passage of Bill 26.
- On December 8, the last day of the legislature, the OFL won guarantees from the Ontario government not to cut proactive health and safety inspectors or inspectors in the changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, brought in as part of Bill 70.
- On December 10, we launched our first training assembly, in partnership with Olivia Chow’s new Institute for Change Leaders, through Ryerson University. The assembly took place in the Peel region, at a community centre in Brampton and brought together a tremendously diverse group of labour and community members around the issue of precarious work. More than 200 people packed into the session where attendees learned the Marshall Ganz method of telling the story of self to inspire political action.
- And, over the course of the year, we hired 9 new staff people, making the OFL the most diverse of any labour organization in the country!
Thank YOU for the role that you play in building our movement and for your actions and contributions over this past year. We know there have been lots of them.
We’re looking forward to getting started again in January 2017. We’re certainly in for an exciting year. See you in 2017!
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