OPSEU/SEFPO applauds the recent guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. We acknowledge that the verdict was newsworthy because it disrupts a continuous pattern of white supremacy persistent in North American criminal justice systems. We agree with U.S. President Joe Biden that “we cannot stop there.” It is way past time that white leaders of Canadian institutions remove our collective knees off the necks of Black, Indigenous and racialized groups.
Since the murder of George Floyd, OPSEU/SEFPO stepped up its efforts to dismantle anti-Black racism beginning with a tele-town hall in July of 2020. We listened to the lived experiences of Black members and staff and escalated our efforts to increase the representation of Black and racialized staff at all levels of the organization. We need to put muscle behind our words. Intentional and bold steps are needed to uproot anti-Black racism from all institutions.
To this end, OPSEU/SEFPO launched a long-term Employment Equity program led by a multi-racial team with many years of anti-racism experience. The Employment Equity Team is facilitating mandatory dismantling anti-Black racism training for OPSEU/SEFPO senior leadership, staff and the Executive Board. As a concrete step forward, we made permanent a number of Black and racialized staff at various levels of the organization to increase representation and remove existing disparities between permanent and temporary positions. These proactive steps were met with resistance from those who prefer to hold on to the status quo and maintain their privilege and power. However, OPSEU/SEFPO remains committed to uprooting white supremacy despite any resistance. This is simply the right thing to do and it is long overdue.
Many of us are haunted by the final words of George Floyd, “I can’t breathe.” OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to step up as a leader among labour unions and stand up to all those resistant to change. We will continue to do this as a Union and as an employer until all members and staff can breathe freely.
The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass reminds us that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” We will not stop demanding until it is done!
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida