September 2015 President's Report

I am pleased to submit the following report on my Labour Council work, and on some key issues I wish to bring to your attention. My last written report to the membership was on June 9, so this report covers three months of activities.

  • Labour Day 2015
  • The Labour Council and the Federal Election
  • Changing Workplaces Review / $15 and Fairness Campaign
  • Executive vacancies

Labour Day 2015

We had our largest Labour Day picnic in recent memory yesterday in Waterloo Park. We had over 500 RSVPs on our website, but we surely had several times more people show up, after getting (free) advance promotions from CBC-KW, The Record, and many people who shared our social media posts. Our Facebook event page was viewed over 2,000 times, and the link to it was viewed 13,000 times! Evidently our decision to offer the food for free and to promote it widely long in advance succeeded in attracting huge crowds. The huge numbers presented us with new challenges, as most people waited in long lineups for the food, and we ran out of food before the event ended. We learned many things this year, and we will need to sit down and make some decisions about what to change for next year. Many thanks go to the dozens of volunteers who laboured for long hours to make this year’s event a success!

The Labour Council and the Federal Election

I was very proud of our Labour Council when, at our August membership meeting, we voted unanimously to approve a motion to encourage members of all unions affiliated with the Council to actively support the NDP in this federal election. We have seen that the NDP’s positions on things like the minimum wage, child care, and retirement security echo the issues labour has been fighting for for years in this country. The question then becomes: what can we do to put our motion into action? I am proposing a two-pronged strategy, the details of which I’d like us to discuss at tonight’s meeting: 1) mobilize “NDP-ready” members to volunteer in the campaigns of one of our five NDP candidates in Waterloo Region, and 2) work with our union Locals to engage in member-to-member conversations that build on the CLC’s Time for Change messaging.

Since our August meeting, I have worked to mobilize the first part of that strategy by organizing a phone canvass of all Labour Council supporters in our database to identify NDP supporters and encourage them to participate in a labour canvass we have organized for September 12th and/or to support their candidates in other ways. Five activists participated in the calling last week with me, but we need more calling hours to reach everyone. I managed to persuade Fred Hahn of CUPE Ontario and Sam Hammond of ETFO to participate in the September 12th labour canvass, as well as several Presidents of our affiliate Locals. I also organized to have a strong NDP presence at yesterday’s Labour Day picnic: all five candidates and dozens of their volunteers spoke to hundreds of potential supporters.

The CLC is also providing funding to help Labour Councils reach out to union members using the Better Choice messaging, which is targeted at convincing undecided voters and “soft Conservative” supporters of the problems with Harper’s record based on labour’s four core issues. Our Labour Council Executive decided to recommend to our membership that we supplement the CLC funding by booking a union activist off for two weeks in addition to the weeks funded by the CLC. This person will be able to reach out to union leaders and members and organize ways to mobilize members into action, thus helping implement both prongs of my proposed strategy. We’ll vote on this tonight.

Changing Workplaces Review / $15 and Fairness Campaign

Labour Council activists have taken up the torch of the $15 and Fairness campaign, which is calling for sweeping changes to the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act as a way to address the growing phenomenon of exploitative workplace practices in low-paid, part-time, contract, and temporary jobs. On June 25th, I accompanied four Waterloo Region activists to an official hearing of the Changing Workplaces Review in Guelph. Our presentation focused on the phenomenon of precarious working conditions within unionized jobs, but also endorsed the recommendations of the Workers’ Action Centre and the Ontario Federation of Labour. Our presentation received a warm reception from the Special Advisors, and received very positive media coverage in the Guelph Mercury, the Woolwich Observer, the Waterloo Region Record, and CBC-KW. More details are on our website. Then, at yesterday’s Labour Day picnic, a team of activists filled up dozens of sheets of $15 and Fairness petitions with signatures from the picnic patrons. This is the labour movement at its best!

Executive vacancies

We’ve had a bit of turnover on our Executive lately, as a few people have had to resign to attend to personal issues. Tonight we need to elect a new 1st Vice President, as well as an Executive member at-large. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with how our Executive members have stepped up to help direct our Council and do the work of implementing our campaigns.

Respectfully submitted,

Marc Xuereb
September 8, 2015

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