Delegates representing more than one million workers from across Ontario came together in Toronto to elect new leadership for the Ontario Federation of Labour at the organization’s biennial convention.
Chris Buckley, an autoworker that served as Unifor Local 222 president for more than two decades, was acclaimed president. Patty Coates, longtime president of the Barrie and District Labour Council and a member of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, was acclaimed Secretary-Treasurer. Rounding out the principal officers, Ahmad Gaied, a United Food and Commercial Workers’ union activist, was elected Executive Vice President.
Buckley, Coates and Gaied ran on a slate called Fed Forward, which promised to reunite Ontario’s labour movement and rebuild the OFL, which has faced significant financial difficulties in recent years.
The convention also adopted new policies on the most pressing issues facing Ontario workers today. New policies address precarious work and new trade deals that threaten local jobs, provide a detailed plan to confront violence against women, and more. A new policy was also adopted to reform the OFL governance structure in the spirit of rebuilding the OFL and creating a stronger, more accountable organization.
The 1,539 labour leaders attending the OFL convention also benefited from a number of keynote speakers. Among them were Terry Melvin, the president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, a firebrand who inspired delegates to renew their commitment working in solidarity with all workers, regardless of whether they are union or non-union, public sector or private sector. NDP leader Tom Mulcair addressed delegates and spoke about his party’s commitment to protecting labour rights by championing anti-scab legislation and protecting workers’ pensions. Lawyer Dennis Edney, who represented Omar Khadr, spoke to the value of standing up for human rights.
The Society’s 23-person delegation included members from many locals, principal officers and Society staff.