October 2014 President's Report

I am pleased to submit the following report on my Labour Council work of the past month, and on some key issues I wish to bring to your attention.

  • E-13: Less than Two Weeks to Election Day!
  • Municipal Financing
  • OFL Financial Update
  • Living Wage Launch Event
  • Health & Safety Dinner November 20th


E-13: Less than Two Weeks to Election Day!
I was proud of the respectful debate we had among the more than 60 delegates at last month’s Labour Council meeting about endorsing candidates for the October 27th municipal elections. I was even more proud to see us vote overwhelmingly to endorse the 38 candidates endorsed by Better Choices Waterloo Region. I have spent most of my energy in the past month with Lois Iles and Jeff Pelich reaching out to union leaders to encourage them to spread the word to their members about the endorsed candidates. Please help us convince your leaders to find ways to reach your members with this important message! We can help elect progressive people to eight different municipal councils and two school boards with your help.

We have thousands of Better Choices pamphlets printed up, and would like your help in getting them distributed to members of your union. Please take the pamphlets you need with you tonight, and tell us how many you took.

This week, we are organizing a few labour canvasses: opportunities for union activists to work together to reach out to fellow union members and the public to support our endorsed candidates. We will be holding phone canvasses at the Labour Council office October 15th (tomorrow!) and 19th from 6-9pm, and foot canvasses from 2-5pm on October 18th and 25th (Saturdays) in Waterloo and Cambridge. Please join us for one of these events. Contact me, Jeff, or Lois to express interest. Finally, please join us on election night to watch the results come in and celebrate with our endorsed candidates and their volunteers! We have two separate parties planned: at the Beaver and Bulldog in Cambridge, and at the Huether Jazz Room in Waterloo. We’ll be there from 8pm on the 27th: join us!

Municipal Financing
My next community editorial for The Waterloo Region Record will focus on alternative ways of funding municipalities [it has now been published: see http://www.therecord.com/opinion-story/4923688-municipalities-need-access-to-more-revenue-sources/]. You may have noticed how much media focus there is of taxes in this election campaign, and the candidates have responded with promises to keep taxes low. We need to remind municipal politicians – especially our endorsed candidates – that there are other, more progressive ways to raise taxes to fund the important services municipalities deliver. CUPE has produced a great resource on this issue, which you can find at www.cupe.ca/communities. We need municipal leaders who will champion creative tax ideas, and advocate to provincial and federal governments for the power to levy them.

OFL Financial Update
As President of our Labour Council, I sit on the Executive Council of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which meets three or four times per year. We were presented with updated financial statements and an audit of the Federation’s cashflows at our most recent meeting in early October. Though there is some debate over the extent of the issue, the OFL did run a small deficit last year and has some serious cash flow problems. A big issue with the cashflow is the number of Locals that are in arrears with their per capita payments. Out of just over 1,000 Locals affiliated to the OFL, over 800 were at least one month in arrears, and almost 400 were more than three months in arrears. This has a significant impact on the OFL’s day-to-day finances. Please ask your Local’s Treasurer to ensure your Local’s per capita payments to the OFL are kept up-to-date. Since the meeting, I received a letter from the OFL President informing us that the Steelworkers have decided to withhold their dues because of the perceived severity of the situation. This action has forced the Federation to terminate their temporary staff and give layoff notices to permanent staff. We cannot afford to lose the strong voice of the OFL in these times: please talk to the leaders of your union to find the compromises necessary to restore the OFL to sound financial footing.

Living Wage Launch Event
Our Labour Council is one of a handful of founding organizations of an initiative to encourage employers in Waterloo Region to pay a living wage. With a small bit of funding and lots of volunteer work, we have done the detailed calculations to determine the exact amount of the living wage in Waterloo Region, recruited six employers willing to commit to paying it, and planned a public event to launch the initiative. All in just over a year! Tricia Hennessy of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives will speak at the event, and we will present certificates to the first Living Wage employers. Please join us for the event on November 4th from 4-6pm at the Mennonite Central Committee offices at 50 Kent Avenue, Kitchener. Free parking is available and light refreshments will be served. RSVP at www.livingwagewr.org/events/.

Health & Safety Dinner November 20th
Tickets are still available for our annual Health & Safety dinner. The date of this year’s event is Thursday, November 20th, and we will be having it at the Cambridge Newfoundland Club again. This event is a great opportunity for you to thank your Health & Safety activists for their work for your Local: they get a nice dinner and good speakers about the importance of their activism. Please start thinking now about who you might nominate for our annual Health & Safety award: we want to reward activists who contribute to the elimination of hazards and the protection of workers' health and safety. The deadline for award nominations is November 1st. More info on our website at www.wrlc.ca/2014_health_safety_dinner.

Respectfully submitted,

Marc Xuereb
October 14, 2014

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