CUPE Ontario Division Annual Convention
From May 29th to June 1st, I had the privilege of attending the 50th annual convention on behalf of our Local, held in Toronto at the Sheraton Centre.
In a change from previous years, convention was called to order first thing Wednesday morning, with a reading of the Equality Statement and greetings to the assembled delegates from reps of the hotel staff’s union. OFL President (and past Ontario Division President) Sid Ryan also spoke to the assembly, followed by the report from current Division President Fred Hahn. In Fred’s speech, he mentioned a quote from Martin Luther King Jr from 1961, warning against ‘right to work’ as an attack on civil rights and unions. Following acceptance of the President’s report, the Resolutions committee presented a number of proposals dealing with Health Care and Equity matters before breaking for lunch. During lunch, some of the delegates joined striking hotel workers at the nearbyInternational Hotel. After lunch, CUPE National President Paul Moist was the next speaker, followed by more resolutions dealing with the School Board and University sectors, then a first look at the Action Plan for the coming year.
Thursday morning began bright and early with a presentation to Trustees and Treasurers from National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury on Bill C-377. He advised us that CUPE would be staying on top of this, and would pass on information to Locals as it became available. Today’s convention began with the report from Division Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennickwho proudly presented a large surplus as a result of better than expected per capita collections and an increase in affiliations to Division. This was followed by the Trustees report and the proposed budget from the Ways & Means committee. Delegates discussed the proposed budget, and it was decided to shift some of the $460,000 surplus out of accelerated loan repayment into campaign support. Before breaking for lunch we also heard a speech from National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury. The lunchtime rally for Thursday was in support of striking elevator engineers. After lunch, delegates heard from guest speaker Sylvia MacAdam, one of the founders of Idle No More, who reminded us that if we do not object to the wrongs being done to us then we are giving ‘silent consent’ to them. After Sylvia’s speech, more resolutions were presented dealing with the Municipal and Social Services sectors. Among these was a proposal that CUPE Ontario lobby CUPE National to increase strike pay from $200 to $300 which was amended to $400. Delegates were greeted by members of COPE343, the Porter Airlines workers who are out on strike for safer working conditions. A collection was taken to support their strike, with both Division and National contributing $10,000, resulting in over $52,000 for their strike fund. The Constitution committee also presented some amendments to add Diversity Vice Presidents for Women, Young Workers and Disabled Workers but these amendments failed to pass. Following the closing of convention for the day, there was a forum for the delegates standing for election to speak and introduce themselves, with 2 speakers for LGBTQ Diversity Vice-President, 7 speakers for 1 Board Member at Large position and 1 speaker for the Trustee position.
Friday was the big day. Before getting to the 50th anniversary celebration, we had the first ballot for the 7 delegates running for the Board Member at Large opening. While ballots were being counted, we saw a clip of Migrant Dreams, a documentary being created by Min Sook Lee about the lives of migrant women working in Canada. Election results were presented, and none of the candidates met the required minimum to be elected, so the lowest count candidate was dropped and a second ballot was declared. There was some confusion, as 2 more of the remaining candidates removed themselves from consideration, leaving 4 to challenge for the position. While second round ballots were being counted, delegates heard from another guest speaker – Michael Harrington of the Chicago Teachers Union. During his speech, he mentioned that the book “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein was a book club title that motivated their current president to become more involved in the fight to preserve services. Three guiding goals – Does it unite us? Does it make us stronger? Does it build our power?
Up next was a video presentation of CUPE’s 50 years in Ontario. Present for the celebration were several of the Division’s past Officers as well as Kealey Cummings, a founding member of CUPE in 1963. Delegates also saw a video message from Judy Darcy, past National President of CUPE, a spoken word performance from poet Greg “Ritalin” Frankson and the live creation of a painting by CUPE member Leo Dias.
Lunch break saw delegates go to a rally in front of the Ministry of Labour. When convention reconvened, delegates welcomed Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath who presented Fred with a certificate honouring the 50th anniversary and encouraged CUPE members to get involved in politics. After some questions for Andrea, delegates were introduced to recent staff retirees then it was back to work on the Action Plan and more resolutions to finish out the day.
The final day of convention began with the arrival of the Youth Camp, children of delegates who attended convention with them, to give a brief report of their activities for the past few days. This was followed by presentation of the changes to the Action Plan, resulting from the discussions and debates of the convention. A further change was suggested, with a narrowly passed vote referring it back to committee. While this was dealt with, a few more general resolutions were put through, followed by the revised Action Plan which was then approved by the convention delegates. Not long after this, it was determined that we had lost quorum, so Fred adjourned the convention with any remaining business being referred to the Division Board.
Convention pictures, video and information can also be found at www.cupe50.ca