“We stood with the students because it was the right thing to do" — OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Toronto (25 Nov. 2019) — The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is calling Thursday’s court victory by post-secondary students over the Ford government a great victory for democracy.
“The students showed solidarity and stood up to a bully,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “OPSEU was proud to stand with the students and support them in their court challenge.”
Judge rules government exceeded legislative authority
An Ontario judge ruled Thursday that the Ford government exceeded its legislative authority by imposing its Student Choice Initiative on students. The policy would have allowed students to opt out of paying for programs that the government deemed “non-essential,” like clubs, campus newspapers and food banks.
OPSEU supported the Canadian Federation of Students, one of the groups that challenged the government in court, with financial support to assist in covering court costs, printing, and assistance in organizing rallies to fight the government.
“We stood with the students because it was the right thing to do,” said Thomas. “This is the kind of unity we must show to push back this government’s destructive policies."
“I said earlier this year that students would lead a revolution against this government, and that is exactly what has happened.”
Students saw restrictions as an attack on democracy
First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says it’s inspiring to see students show such passion and commitment to fight for what they believe in.
“The students correctly saw this as an attack on democracy. They organized support from communities across Ontario and they didn’t back down,” said Almeida.
“I’m so proud of what they’ve done and it gives me faith that our province will be in good hands when these students become tomorrow’s MPPs and cabinet ministers.”
Bill 124 next big fight
Almeida says the next big fight for OPSEU is pushing back Bill 124, the government’s attempt to cap public sector wage increases.
“We can take a brief moment to join with the students to celebrate this victory, but we have lots more work to do,” said Almeida.
“We must rally to defend our constitutional right to free collective bargaining and we must show the same resolve as the students have in winning their fight. And yes, we will show that determination, and we will win.”
Thomas says these kinds of fights against undemocratic bullies are OPSEU’s bread and butter.
“We will always stand for democracy and fairness for working people,” said Thomas. “Then, now and always, that is what OPSEU does.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE