Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO is taking further concrete action to tackle systemic racism as part of President Warren (Smokey) Thomas’s commitment to equity and diversity within Ontario’s largest public sector union.
“As a social justice union, equity must be at the heart of everything we do,” said Thomas. “Many organizations in the public and private sectors are dealing with questions of systemic racism, but OPSEU/SEFPO is committed to taking action.”
Thomas pointed out that the union already has a solid track record of action, including a dedicated equity unit and training programs on anti-Black racism for both union staff and members. Thomas said recent media reports about systemic racism haven’t discouraged, but rather encouraged him to do more.
“I welcome criticism because acting to combat racism is not always popular but it’s necessary,” said Thomas. “There is a lot of work left to do and we’re rolling up our sleeves. It’s time for a little less conversation, and a little more action.”
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says that while we are working hard to dismantle anti-Black, and anti-Indigenous racism and to increase the complement of Black, Indigenous and racialized staff at all levels of the organization, there is always room for improvement.
“Tackling racism in general, and anti-Black racism in particular, is more than an organizational objective, it’s fundamental to our core principles as a union; to support inclusion, diversity and respect for all,” said Almeida. “No matter what the cost is, we are committed to investing the time, money and effort into creating meaningful organization change.”
At its upcoming Executive Board Meeting, OPSEU/SEFPO’s leadership team will propose changes to the union’s Constitution that would make anti-Black racism, diversity and inclusion training mandatory for all elected positions within the union. This training is already mandatory for union staff.
“In this day and age, there are no excuses for bigoted behaviour within the union ranks,” said Thomas. “These constitutional changes will ensure that all elected individuals who represent OPSEU/SEFPO are committed to upholding the principles of anti-Black racism. All elected leaders will swear an oath of office to that effect.”
The union also plans to expand its Equity Unit, by hiring more staff to provide support and resources across every region of the province.
“We’re going to arm our staff, elected union representatives and the members of every bargaining team with the training they need to apply an equity lens to the work they do,” said Thomas. “Whether it’s negotiating a collective agreement or identifying racist structures within our own union, we’re here to do the work, and to do better – always.”
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931