OPSEU solidarity group shows importance of rank-and-file organizing

By Pam Johnson

A new rank-and-file body, OPSEU Solidarity group, was organized to call for OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) to remain affiliated in good standing to the OFL (Ontario Federation of Labour). The group formed after the OPSEU executive board, without consulting the membership, stopped paying dues in 2011 and launched a smear campaign against OFL leader Sid Ryan.

To counter a resolution by the executive board to formally “dis-engage”, a resolution supporting continued affiliation was passed in twelve locals, two area councils (Toronto and London) and the Women’s Committee, and was sent to OPSEU convention held in Toronto in April. Long time activists could not remember a time when any rank-and-file initiative had received such widespread support.

Solidarity group members from Toronto, London and Windsor ran a campaign at convention with “Solidarity” stickers and a leaflet “OPSEU belongs in the OFL” calling for labour solidarity in the face of austerity attacks. The board’s motion to dis-engage did not make it to a vote.

The Solidarity group also promoted the OFL rally which occurred on the final day of convention (Apr 21) and organized buses—provided by Steelworkers and community group ACORN—to take delegates directly from convention to the rally.

Rank-and-filers organizing on their own have often been the key to creating the pressure to push labour leaders reluctant to fight. It is also the training ground for a new activist leadership.

Pam Johnson will join a panel discussion, “Building rank-and-file resistance in labour”–featuring numerous rank-and-file labour activists–at the three-day political conference Marxism 2012. For information and registration visit http://www.marxism2012.com


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