ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: WORKERS STRIKE BACK!!!
The 17th Biennial Convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour began by acknowledging that we were meeting on Indigenous land that had been inhabited by First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples from the beginning. Gratitude was expressed for the opportunity that was bestowed on us as settlers, to be able to live, meet and conduct business and enterprise on this land that the Indigenous people, have for thousands of years held stewardship and taken care of.
The contributions and historical importance of the Indigenous peoples has left an indelible imprint on our lives and we made a collective commitment to make the promise of Truth and Reconciliation real in our communities and bring justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls across the nation.
Our generation has faced some challenging times with socio-economic inequities, a serious cost of living crisis, increasing hate, a looming climate crisis and democracy being threatened at the grassroots.
In order to fight back we need to persevere and have strong faith in our collective abilities. This will not be possible without a vision and a determined approach to fight back. We must join forces together and create an action plan to overcome these obstacles that have been created by the people in power who wish to further deregulate markets, expand unfair trade and investment practises, destabilize workers rights, disrupt progressive taxation and welfare state programs, privatize health care and public services thereby giving the lion’s share to the wealthy.
THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW!
The vision document of the OFL(Ontario Federation of Labour) clearly states and reflects the vision of the IAM :
- Our fights are rooted in working class struggles that are sweeping across the globe
- We must empower the working class to stand up against inequities and injustice
- We are a generation defined by our resilience and our capacity to challenge the status quo, implement changes at the grass root level and build movements that demand and bring forward results.
- We will change the world and infuse, fairness, justice, inclusion and equity into every facet of life. We have to act now!
- Low and middle income families across the country and the globe are fed up with feeling the squeeze as the cost of living soars amid frozen or reduced wages, public services crumbling, education cut backs and health care on the brink of collapse. Compounded with economic inequalities, there is an uprising of fascism, colonialism, racism, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia….the cries across the board is ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!
- The ENOUGH IS ENOUGH campaign aims to tap into the frustration and anger with the status quo and channelize that to create a better future. A future that includes demanding real wage increases, better public education and Health care, groceries that are within everyone’s reach, cheaper gas and basic goods, rent control and affordable housing and corporations, banks and the wealthy few, paying their fare share.
The OFL plea is, “JOIN US AS WE ENVISION A WORLD WHERE EVERYONE IS UPLIFTED”
In order to achieve all of this the OFL came up with an action plan that identified four broad goals which would provide support for struggles underway, especially with regards to strikes and labour disputes. It would also rebuild labour’s capacity to organize and mobilize both union and non-union workers all over Ontario and help them develop into rank-and-file leaders. It would prepare for another “Bill 28 moment,” and lay the foundation for defeating Ford in June 2026, at the same time fighting for an Ontario New Democratic Party where workers from all communities, backgrounds and orientations feel welcome and at home.
Which now brings us to the actual events that took place:
WE SAID GOODBYE TO THE OLD LEADERS AND BROUGHT IN NEW LEADERSHIP AND A NEW OFL
Two new officers and a third was re-elected to form the leadership and guide the OFL for the next term of two years. Calling themselves by the catchy name “Team Ignite” they were elected by the delegates and felicitated at the OFL Convention. Laura Walton from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) was acclaimed as President; Ahmed Gaied from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)was re-elected as Secretary Treasurer and Jackie Taylor from the United Steelworkers was acclaimed as Executive Vice President. The elections were the Highlight of the Convention and the new leadership would take them to the next phase of the journey with the theme ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’.
The opening ceremony was conducted by Krista Maracle, Ethel LaValley and Dan Bowers of the Indigenous Communities.
The IAM and LL1231 sent a host of their delegates to represent the membership from across Ontario. For some of the delegates it was their first time and so they were guided through the process by those that were veterans. There was also a new delegates orientation before official proceedings began. Delegates heard many inspirational speakers and leaders like Andria Babbington, President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, Ausma Malik, Toronto City Councillor, Terry Melvin, International President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress and Natalie Mehra, Executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, who urged the delegates to take back the message to their memberships, to get involved with the labour movement if they want to see significant changes in the way the Ontario government treats Ontarians in the future. Vigorous debates and discussions were conducted whilst the delegates navigated through a multitude of resolutions which would guide them on their onward journey in the Labour movement. The Resolutions become official policy when approved by the majority of delegates.
The Womens and Human Rights forums held on Monday and Tuesday night, saw a large number of IAM delegates in attendance. Elections were held for Labour Councils, Persons with disabilities, First Nations, Métis and Inuit, Womens, Solidarity and Pride (2SLGBTQIA+), Smaller Affiliates, Young Workers and Workers of Colour. The idea behind having the many forums and workshops was to enrich and broaden the awareness of the delegates.
IAM SISTERS IN THE HOUSE FOR THE WOMEN’S CAUCUS.
Pictures from the OFL BLACK AND RACIALIZED WORKERS Election Caucus.
Frank Saptel Communications Representative IAMAW gave an invigorating speech on CLIFF at the WORKERS OF COLOUR forum and encouraged us to use this platform to tell our stories.
IAM LL1231 Delegates with Yvette Blackburn newly elected VP of the OFL BLACK AND RACIALIZED WORKERS.
IAM DISTRICT 78 AND LOCAL LODGE 1231 DELEGATES IN ATTENDANCE AT THE HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM
Human Rights forum : Panelists of the Focus on Palestine workshop
David Chartrand, IAM Canadian GVP who attended the Convention is quoted here saying “The OFL Convention was a great way to show IAM delegates that we are a part of a greater movement. There may be some disagreements, but, at the end of the day, we are all Brothers and Sisters and Siblings and we are all in the same fight. If we want to succeed, we MUST be part of a strong movement fighting for our rights and the rights of all workers!”
David Chartrand IAM Canadian GVP and Ralph Martin Grand Lodge Representative
Some of the impressions of the LL1231 Delegates that attended the Convention:
It was Joshua Tunde’s (Trustee of LL1231) first attendance of the OFL convention, and he says “It’s inspiring to see the diversity of the members attending from all walks of life. I immediately felt I belonged because they stand for the improvement of workers lives. All the speakers referred to the importance of unity- standing up together to collectively use our voices and act. Enough is Enough is the theme of the convention and this is the time for change. The conventions gave recognition and respect to the Indigenous peoples and together we sang the Inspirational Bread and Roses. The Convention serves as a learning opportunity and I learned a lot.”
Joshua Tunde Trustee LL1231
Said Lystra Mohammed Trustee of LL1231 “It was my first time going to the OFL and the atmosphere was enthusiastic and exciting. It was a group of workers who looked like they were ready for the fight. The music every morning had me ready for the day.
The opening ceremony with the traditional Algonquin language prayer was very emotional for me. Also knowing the history of the residential schools in Canada and what Canada had done to the First Nations people, making the aboriginal people lose their cultural and spiritual identity was heartbreaking. It made me realize the forgiveness of this nation of people. Learning that these people are still having to boil water, and that clean water is a fundamental human right, and that the indigenous people are still under a water advisory is shameful.
The passing of Resolutions and the hearing of Pros and Cons’, people talking about it passionately and the process of each one being passed was a great leaning experience, as also was going to the different workshops like, Women’s, Human Rights and Workers of Color. Hearing everyone views and opinion was a truly enlightening experience.
It was moving to hear our very own Secretary Treasurer Liza Thambaiah talk about her experience on emergency resolution on the African Refugee Crisis. Her speech touched my heart and I hope many of the delegates realize what we as a nation can do to improve on this human crisis and the lives of the refugees.
Sister Liza Thambaiah’s impassioned speech on Canada’s African Refugee Crisis
Also very touching was hearing our brother Aaron Miller talk about his own experience on Mental Health Issues bringing awareness of the subject and what we can do as healthcare professionals.”
IAM District 78 Delegate Aaron Miller addressing the convention
Sister Lystra goes on to say, “The March on the streets was invigorating and had me motivated to go on and on, despite it being so cold and windy. I enjoyed every moment of it and every day of the Convention was a learning and new experience for me. Thank you all who made it possible.”
LL1231 Delegates at the Housing Rally in Downtown Toronto
In her report Sister Lystra added, “Slogans that stood out for me.
Fighting back and Striking back together. If we fight together, we can win everything.Are you with us?
Lives are not the cost of doing business.
Dreams without limits.
Keep being the voice of peace, call for an immediate cease fire and release of hostages.”
Marcia Stone Recording Secretary says “Going to the OFL for the first time, the experience was very educational and I am happy I was there to participate in the change of the Resolutions. There were several of Resolutions that stood out to me.
We just have to put the action plan to work. We have to commit and demand the OFL’s 2023 “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH “. Organize and host a series of strategies, discussions among affiliate leadership about how to organize and coordinate its activity in a way that moves the Labour Movement out of defensive struggle and puts it on the offensive against Ford. “
Recording secretary of LL1231 Marcia Stone and Trustee Joshua Tunde
Secretary Treasurer Liza Thambaiah is quoted here saying :
“The 17th Ontario Federation of Labour Convention was held at the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center in the heart of Downtown Toronto. Some of my personal insights and highlights are as follows:
1) The indigenous circle smudging ceremony was very uplifting.
2) There were over 1,000 delegates participating and representing unions from all across Ontario. Several Dignitaries from the Ontario New Democratic Party and guest speakers were also in attendance.
3) The election of a new OFL executive took place and I was grateful to be part of the democratic process. Laura Walton (Second woman President elect), Ahmed Gaied (re-elected for a second term as Secretary/Treasurer) and Jackie Taylor (Vice-President).
4) Guest speaker Terry Melvin from the Coalition of Black Trade Unions gave a resounding and provocative speech. He pointed out that we all belonged to the human race and we should not allow politicians to get us into the trap of divisiveness on issues that we all share. He reiterated that we are all stronger together.
5) There were many heated debates for and against several Committee resolutions and the ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: WORKERS STRICK BACK VISION DOCUMENT.
6) These are some of the resolutions that was carried and should make a great impact on workers and society, Anti-oppression and anti-discrimination training for Ontario Federation Labour and all affiliates, increasing funding support to the Ontario Health Coalition, Community engagement, Community building, Equity, Racial Justice and Real Reconciliation, Develop active bystander intervention training and resources on gender-based violence, funding for the investigation of unmarked graves at residential school, safe drinking water for first nations, combating anti-black racism in the Federal public service ,Canada Health Act, Including black history in the education curriculum, ending exploitation of international students at post-secondary institutions, care for women- pay equity for workers in social services who are mostly racialized women, housing for all, ensuring a low carbon future with more good unionized jobs, Health and safety empowerment, enforce the pay transparency act, 2018. These are just a few, If any LL1231 members are interested in reading the resolutions document please feel free to contact anyone who attended the convention and it will be provided to you.
7) The march by delegates in support of renters against greedy landlords took place from the Sheraton Hotel to Bay Street was powerful in getting the message across.
Solidarity was definitely on display.
8) I was totally honoured to have been able to have the opportunity to cast my ballot for the new OFL black and racialized Committee Vice-President (Yvette Blackburn), Abdi Hagiyusuf and alternate (Elizabeth Ha).
Finally, I am again thankful to all the iamaw delegates for their support in helping me navigate and better understand the inner framework of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Mingling with new and familiar siblings and gaining tremendous support and knowledge along the way was a magnificent experience on my part.
Solidarity not only in words but deeds.”
Lastly LL1231 President Merry St. Barnard in her report said ” It was my first time attending the OFL Convention, and I found it to be an amazing experience with great conversations that led to a profound educational experience. It gives me a better understanding of Canada’s largest provincial labour Federation which represents 54 unions and over one million workers. We went to a couple of caucuses and forums wherein we took part in the elections of some major committees like, Womens, Workers of Colour and Team Ignite to name a few. This year the vision statement was ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Terry Melvin was one of the inspirational speakers at the convention, who set the room on fire with his passionate speech. The Rally on Queen street demonstrated the brotherhood and Unity of the members. We had and awesome closing ceremony conducted by the Indigenous Community. All in all it was an awesome and educational experience, worth every penny.”
Editor’s note : I am hoping that this article will give a comprehensive view of the OFL Convention to all our LL1231 members. Let us glean wisdom from this event and carry it forward to empower each other.
Some pictures of the OFL Convention :