Following Legal Aid Ontario lawyers’ vote to join The Society, the lawyers, Society leadership and key allies in the four-year fight for their bargaining rights held a celebration on November 9.
Society President Scott Travers hosted the event and drew attention to the long, winding road The Society navigated to reach this victory. Travers recounted the person by person organizing effort to earn 80% of the lawyers’ support by the spring of 2013, the public events to draw attention to the lawyers’ cause and the myriad ways Legal Aid Ontario and the provincial government avoided recognizing the lawyers’ bargaining rights.
“One lesson that this fight has taught me,” Travers told the 40 attendees, “is that campaigns matter.” “Governments will change their mind but only if we make them.”
Ontario Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Patty Coates brought congratulations from the OFL leadership.
“We are very, very proud to have supported you in form this union,” said Coates. “We know it’s really important. We know it’s part of making it fair for all workers in Ontario.”
John Cartwright, president of the Toronto-York District Labour Council, also congratulated the lawyers and The Society. Cartwright noted the uptick in professional, white collar workers seeking to form unions.
“I am a carpenter – a construction worker. 145 years ago, construction workers decided to form unions so we could work together to build a better future. But in more recent years a much wider range of workers are coming together as union members. They know that’s how to make it fair for workers and to get dignity and respect.”
Travers pledged The Society’s continued support for our allies in the labour movement and getting fairness for all workers. Travers also thanked The Society’s allies in the Legal Aid lawyers campaign, which also included the $15 and Fairness Campaign, the Legal Education and Advocacy Fund, the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the YWCA.
While Legal Aid lawyers are now Society members, Legal Aid articling students are still seeking to have the ballots they cast counted to determine membership in The Society. The articling students voted last May but the process has been delayed by Legal Aid Ontario at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. An OLRB hearing is set for January.