June 27, 2018 marked a historic and exciting moment for us, the Professional Student Services Personnel (PSSP) of District 13, Durham. On that day we said an overwhelming “yes” to OSSTF/FEESO. The PSSP Bargaining Unit of District 13 is comprised of Social Workers, Child and Youth Worker(s), Psychological Services, Speech and Language Therapists, and Interpreters/ Interveners.
I have been asked to write about my personal experience through the process of becoming a union. For me, to be truthful, I would have to say that this has been a long-time coming. For colleagues who know me well, the process of finally coming to the vote in June has been one of learning to exercise patience. Last year one of my very insightful colleagues gave me a coffee mug that reads “PATIENCE”. I did not quite understand the message that was there for me; timing is everything!
No joke, my favorite movie of all time is Norma Rae. If you are too young to know the movie, you can watch it online today. My experience has definitely not even been close to that of Norma Rae, but as a Social Worker, standing up for fairness and the rights of students and families has been a long-term value and belief of mine. To stand up for fairness and rights in the workplace naturally follows. What I have learned over the years, and even more specifically in joining OSSTF/FEESO, is that there is power in the group. No longer do each of us have to stand alone. Where members come together, stand together, and are prepared to work hard together towards the common goals of respect, equity, fairness and safety in our workplace, we will have a say, we will have a voice!
OSSTF/FEESO has been guiding us through the process of organizing and becoming a bargaining unit, and helping us through the creation of our brief for negotiations. We are grateful to Colombe Beauregard and Steven Newstead from OSSTF/FEESO Provincial Office, to District 13 President Lamia Sabbagh, and to all the diligent staff at District 13 for their guidance from day one! Bringing together diverse professional student service personnel has helped us to share, to talk, to plan, and to work together for a common good. It has provided a venue where we are supported and challenged to consider the what we need to continue to provide excellent service to our students and their families in a climate of uncertainty and change.
What I didn’t realize until recently, is that OSSTF/FEESO is not only prepared to help us organize, but to grow. Through the Federation’s leadership training, numerous committees and PD opportunities, we will be provided with resource support to continue to develop as individuals, and to advance as leaders.