CUPE Ontario wrapped up their 52nd Convention yesterday, and we had two delegates in attendance: Tiffany Balducci and Teresa Gawman. 3 delegates if you count Baby Maddix, who attended the CUPE Daycare, which is truly amazing.
Our President, Tiffany Balducci, is on the CUPE Ontario Executive Board and served as a liaison to the Resolutions Committee as well as helping organize the Young Worker's Caucus. This convention was historic for many reasons, one of which being a constitutional amendment that passed which will restructure the CUPE Ontario executive board. Baby Maddix was recognized on the Saturday of Convention with the other CUPE Babies, his first time on a CUPE stage but most definitely not the last.
Following a year-long formal review, a large majority of delegates voted in favour of “historic change,” as CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn put it, by changing the CUPE Ontario Executive Board to meet the needs of our diverse membership.
The new structure moves from three diversity vice-presidents to six equality representatives and a representative from the Northern Ontario caucus. The equality representatives will be elected in their respective caucuses and will serve as chairs of the equality committees.
The new structure maintains the positions of president, secretary-treasurer, four vice-presidents, six members at large and sector chairs. The majority of positions remain elected by Convention as a whole.
This year’s Sisters in Solidarity Award was presented to Pam Parks of CUPE Local 1999 in Oshawa. Sister Pam, who works at Lakeridge Health, was nominated for her support of social justice, union solidarity and fairness. Her nominees cited her encouragement of new and young workers, which led one of them to join the CUPE Ontario Health & Safety Committee.
Politically active, Sister Pam worked hard on campaigns for NDP candidates Jennifer French and Trish McAuliffe and is very active with the Durham Health Coalition and the Health Accord Campaign. In 1999, she was elected President of Local 1999.
CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn kicked off Convention on Wednesday morning with an electrifying speech that pledged to defend public services and public employees from the austerity agenda, and protect Ontario’s public power from privatization.
“The hydro grid is there because our parents and grandparents bought and paid for it with their taxes. It belongs to all of us,” Hahn told the thousand delegates who packed the Sheraton Centre to hear his speech.
In just a few short weeks, we’ve brought together the Keep Hydro Public Coalition, and are working closely with Andrea Horwath and the NDP to hold Premier Kathleen Wynne and Liberal government to account, he added.
A huge and growing majority of Ontarians oppose the sale, which will end public ownership, oversight and accountability. It will also cost us hundreds of millions in lost revenues and drive up hydro rates. Higher rates will be a direct hit on operating budgets for the services we provide, meaning more layoffs and service cuts in every sector.
We must mobilize across Ontario to fight this sale, as we mobilized in record numbers during the provincial and municipal elections. The strength of our movement was proven in Alberta, where labour helped elect an NDP government.
“If the NDP can be elected to a majority after forty years of Conservatives, running on a progressive platform of raising corporate taxes and rolling back cuts in education, anything is possible,” he said, adding, “We are one election away from an enhanced Canada Pension Plan, from corporations paying their fair share in taxes, from a national child care system, the list goes on and on.”
Brother Hahn also paid tribute to municipal workers and university workers were on picket lines in the past year and striking City of London employees who began a strike last week to defend their collective agreements.
CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennick greeted delegates in dramatic fashion Thursday morning. Holding a copy of our loan agreement, Sister Candace informed delegates that every penny of CUPE Ontario’s debt has been paid off. Then, with a flourish, she tore up the agreement.
“The good news I bring to you is that we did it … together. CUPE Ontario is now debt free,” Sister Candace said to loud applause from the convention floor.
She added that with the debt fully paid off, CUPE Ontario will be able to devote more resources to fighting the austerity agenda.
“For the first time in a while, we have real resources to fight back…we can focus our resources on resisting the Austerity Agenda, to stop the sale of Hydro One and other public assets. We can put boots on the ground where they are needed,” she said.
Continuing the good news, she noted in the past year CUPE Ontario has grown by 2600 members as more locals chose to affiliate.
Reflecting on a year which saw the birth of her son Jackson, Sister Candace closed by telling delegates she looked forward to even more dramatic changes in the coming year.
“I want my child and your children to grow up in a province where all the wealth that we and other workers generate through our labour is put to the common good, not into the hands of profiteers,” she said.
Tom Mulcair, NDP Leader and soon to be Canada’s first New democratic Prime Minister, electrified the CUPE Ontario convention with a rousing address on his NDP team’s plan, with the help of CUPE members, to build a better Canada.
“When I hear CUPE say it’s partners with the NDP, nothing makes me prouder,” said Mulcair, who went on to highlight some of the party’s pledges, such as helping parents with affordable child care.
“For decades we have had promises from Liberal and Conservative governments on childcare, and they have both created the same number of childcare spaces — zero,” said Mulcair. “We are going to create 1 million new child care spaces, at a maximum cost of $15 per day for parents.”
Mulcair made the case that the NDP is the only party that shares CUPE’s values, like the importance of protecting public services and assets. With CUPE’s help, the NDP can defeat the Harper conservatives, he said.
“Let’s make October 19th the day we set this country on the right path,” said Mulcair. “Our team is ready. Let’s get this done, together.”
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