For OSSTF/FEESO members, the next two years will be marked with a series of important celebrations. We have just observed the 20-year anniversary of one of the most significant political actions in the history of OSSTF/FEESO and honoured the courage of our educational team, who stood up to the repressive policies of Mike Harris during the political protest of 1997. As well, we are less than a year away from celebrating the 100 years that the OSSTF/FEESO has been in existence.
Add to the list another important birthday, with the Environmental Advisory Work Group marking a full 10 years since its inception. In 2008, a small group of committed OSSTF/FEESO members, representing a cross section of geographic Bargaining Units, came together and started to fulfill their mandate of providing advice and support to our union as we forged a collective path towards a “greener” OSSTF/FEESO.
Besides playing an advisory role for the Provincial Executive, the group has also spearheaded several environmentally supportive tasks, such as establishing an account to fund environmental initiatives, producing numerous reports including Greening our Union and the AMPA Green Suite Manual, and authoring various government submissions. We have joined or advised a variety of other organizations, submitted suggestions to the Annual Action Plan and created reports for AMPA, along with dozens of related motions.
Much of this work has been innovative and ground-breaking, and many of the ideas and suggestions that the Work Group has championed have now become fairly mainstream. As an example, the Mobile Drive apiary was established almost seven years ago, at a time when the crisis facing our bee population was just becoming known. Now, urban hives and bee-friendly activities are widespread among our Districts.
Local Bargaining Units have joined the effort by using one of many financial accounts created because of recommendations from the Work Group. When they use the Environmental Initiatives Account (2065), Climate Change Initiatives (2071), or apply for the funds that OSSTF/FEESO dedicated to ensure that AMPA is carbon-neutral, local leaders can purchase materials to help reduce their ecological footprint at their office or to provide speakers or workshops with the goal of ensuring resources for our members to address climate change and become more environmentally friendly.
In the last decade, OSSTF/FEESO has embraced our responsibilities as stewards of the environment and we have become a leader in the movement to green our union. This work has been enhanced by the creative and innovative actions being pursued in each district across this province with the support and guidance of the Environmental Advisory Work Group.
Together we have come a long way.
/Glen Hodgson is a teacher and is the president of District 4, Near North Teachers and Occasional BUs. He also sits on the Environmental Work Group.