The Plot Thickens in Internal Labor Battle in Ontario

header_about1Warsaw   Wow, mama, how can this be? I’m stuck in Warsaw with the Toronto blues again! I had noticed there was a readership spike on my blog on Saturday. A Saturday is not a big day for blog readers, friends, and as vitally important as microfinance and poverty is, it was hard for me to believe that people were beating the bush to my blog in anger at the money wasted on that strategy.

A note from my comrade and friend, John Anderson of Toronto ACORN, provided the clue. Seems that I had suddenly become the man that kicked the hornet’s nest, having written about the heated election battle within the Ontario Federation of Labour. I often kid my colleagues at ACORN Canada that when I even mention Canada, it’s like I tied a weight on my blog to the bottom of the sea. Writing about the bigger weights that were likely to drag current president of the OFL, Sid Ryan, down to defeat as various large unions, perhaps with help from the Canadian Labour Congress, lined up to push him underwater, it seems Brother Ryan had used my earlier blog as a diving platform to reveal an unprecedented level of the backstory of politics and intrigue that swirled behind the scenes on this election, and, interestingly, he did so on Facebook, saying essentially he was offering a better look at “the complete picture.”

Friends, I’m just a fly on this wall, not a credentialed voter, who was mainly attracted to Brother Ryan’s story because I had met him after he praised ACORN at our convention banquet in 2013 in Toronto and because the hardball machinations that are the daily fare of labor politics are rarely revealed so starkly as they were by the Toronto Star in their articles about the charges and counter-charges behind this leadership election in the huge Ontario Federation of Labour.

Nonetheless, since Brother Ryan has offered a more “complete picture,” admittedly from his up-close-and-personal perspective, and it gives an even wider lens on the pushing and shoving behind the scenes of hardball, big-time labor politics, I’m going to share it, so live and learn:

While this is a decent account [my blog on Hardball Politics and Hidden Cameras at the Ontario Federation of Labour] of some of the hardball politics at play within the OFL, it is by no means the complete picture. In addition to the 3 unions that tried to starve me out of office (OPSEU, ONA and Local 1 SEIU) by withholding one million dollars a year in union dues beginning 10 weeks after my election in Nov 2009. These three unions were joined in 2014, by 3 International unions USW , UFCW and IAM in a partial dues strike.I say partial because most of their membership did not follow their leaders edicts and continued to pay their dues. The USW leadership said they were prepared to ‘blow up” the OFL in order to get their way. They informed the OFL Executive Board in Sept 2014, their International President in Pittsburg, had approved their tactic of a dues strike against the OFL. Incredously, they said the reason for their dues strike was because they were concerned about the finances of the OFL. Their solution was to make matters worse .

*** note…it was discovered back in 2010, that these 6 union leaders were holding secretive meetings prior to OFL Executive Board meetings in order to plan their disruptive tactics.

In January 2015, a number of them wrote to CLC President Hassan Yussuf and demanded a meeting to discuss OFL finances. Over the remainder of the year several meetings were conducted – under the auspices of the CLC – with some but not all OFL affiliates in attendance and at which the OFL President or other officers were not invited. My own union CUPE Natonal refused to attend these meetings however they also refused to permit CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn an OFL VP from attending.

So, what we were left with was a series of CLC sponsored meetings conducted initially with OPSEU, who are $2.9 million in arrears to the OFL and 3 other union leaders (USW, UFCW and IAM) all who had threatened to blow up the OFL by leaving and who were behind a dues strike in attempts to cripple the OFL. UNIFOR was also in attendance at all of these meetings and later the group was extended but never included the elected leadership of the OFL, despite the fact the agenda was the OFL. OPSEU left the group after a few meeting and told them they will not return to the OFL unless I’m gone as president.

I was informed by the CLC president that this group had decided to place a financial administrator in the OFL office in order to assist with the financial situation by getting those unions on a dues strike to start paying up and to get those unions outside the OFL to come back and begin paying their fair share of union dues.

Chris Buckley was appointed the CLC administrator in May , 2015 and quit in Aug, 2015 to run for president of the OFL. During this period the OFL affiliate arrears rose by 40%. The unions on a dues strike are still not paid up and the unions that left in 2010/2011 are still not paying. As of Aug 2015, they are close to $5 million in arrears.

I was informed in August, by Jerry Dias UNIFOR President, that he no longer supports me because if I run for president and win in November, then the International unions will leave the OFL and OPSEU won’t come back either.

I asked him how could he, and I, for that matter, submit to this type of blackmailing. These tactics, I told him, will destroy the Labour Movement. Give in to the blackmail just once and we all know where that leads us to. There will never be another independent president in a central labour body anywhere in the country once the blackmailers have their way.

Surely, this cannot be the future of the Labour Movement in Ontario or Canada.

Ryan ends with that question, though he writes it as a statement. You suspect he knows the answer already from his point of view.

More troubling to me is that this is how we spent too much of our energy in the labor movement as our numbers decrease globally along with our power and influence, all of which is devastating to our members.

Think about that assignment for many tomorrows.

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