Disrupt and Transform: 2017 CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference

The 2017 CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference was a very special event for the Mississauga Library Workers Union. Over the course of two days, our 2016 strike and the great gains we made for our members were celebrated from the podium again and again. In the same way, the tremendous perseverance and solidarity shown by the Essex County Library Workers — on strike for a stunning eight months — were noted, applauded, cheered, and celebrated, again and again. For the 1989 executive board, it was a joyous event.

The theme of this year’s conference was Disrupt and Transform — which is exactly what our strikes did. They transformed our union, our relationship with our employer, and ourselves.

Library Warriors!

We were welcomed by CUPE Ontario Library Chair Maureen O’Reilly, who is president of Local 4948, Toronto Public Library Workers, and by Chad Goebel, Vice President of Windsor District CUPE Council. Amanda Meloche, President of the Windsor Public Library Workers Union, noted: “It’s not just Essex and Mississauga that have Library Warriors. We’re all Library Warriors!” Very true!

Keynote speaker Desmond Cole began by talking about his love for libraries, and how, when he was growing up, the local library was his second home. He remembers carrying a book bag, and his mother’s rule that he could borrow as many books as fit in the bag; every week the bag would be overflowing. For many conference participants, this was the first time they had heard Desmond speak, and most were entranced. He’s a truly engaging speaker with a powerful message.

Desmond has been instrumental in shining a light on racism in Canada, especially racist policing practices. He said he was touched and very proud that his article in Toronto Life magazine — The Skin I’m In — was featured in our conference book.

Desmond talked about how collective action can have a direct impact — how it changes our lives and our society. Recently Desmond called a ministry office to urge them to stop a deportation. A family was being broken up, and a woman, eight months pregnant, was being forced to risk her health by flying. The ministry representative said to Desmond, “What makes you think you speak for Canadians?” Within minutes, Desmond was on Twitter, reaching out to the community, asking supporters — for whom he does speak — to call the ministry. Result: the woman was not deported. The family remained intact. When we are organized and mobilized, we can disrupt the status quo, and transform the world.
The 1989 Executive Board at the end of the CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference. 

Lori Wightman, head of the Essex County Library Workers, and I, as president of CUPE 1989, each made presentations about our locals’ strikes.

Lori talked about the huge community support their union built, how they faced down the Essex Council, and how the devious, union-busting tactics of the Council will be remembered at election time. It was no surprise, later in the conference, when Lori was elected to the CUPE Ontario Library Workers Committee. I look forward to working with her!

I talked about how we built member engagement, strengthened our labour-management meetings, and took a new approach at the bargaining table. These factors, working together synergistically, paved the way for our successful strike.

I also listed the great gains we made. There are the tangible gains, like bringing our pages from slightly more than minimum wage to $15/hour in one leap and preventing our part-timers from being forced to work every Saturday. And there are many intangible gains, such as the strength and solidarity we built, and the confidence and courage our members gained when they found their voices, stood up, and fought back.

We also screened our awesome strike video! If you’ve never seen it — or if you haven’t seen it in a while — why not watch it now?

Chris Taylor, President of Unifor Local 200, talked about the historic Windsor Ford Strike of 1945, which led directly to the Rand Formula. Chris emphasized — he warned us — about the so-called “Right to Work” legislation that has spread through the United States, leaving depressed wages and increased poverty in its wake.

Representing the members of Locals 1989 and 2974, we were honoured onstage.

If Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservative Party had won the last provincial election, our ability to run our unions could have been destroyed. Hudak was defeated through the mobilization of the Canadian labour movement. Chris’ talk was an excellent reminder that we must always be vigilant. Our rights don’t protect themselves.

Local reports are always a highlight of the conference. Hearing about the struggles and successes of other library unions renews our commitment and bolsters our strength. We are all dealing with the same issues, but our contracts vary widely. By sharing information, we all grow stronger at the bargaining table.

It was my great honour to introduce Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. I recalled Fred’s tireless support during our strike, and how he helped bring the City of Mississauga back to the bargaining table, while still respecting our local’s autonomy and supporting our demands. Fred, I said, is the embodiment of why we call each other brother and sister.

A little library humour — and a great honour.

Fred’s talk was typically moving. He talked about libraries as collectives — people working together to bring our shared, public resources to people who need them. He reminded us of the silver linings of a strike — the bonds it creates, and yes, the fun we had! And he noted that the record number of strikes throughout Ontario in the past year made him proud. That’s how you know Fred is a true unionist.

Fred reminded us that there’s nothing wrong with being aggressive when defending the rights of our members: when you’re on the right side of the question, you are right to keep fighting!

Both Fred and Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario, emphasized the need for solidarity with other striking locals. Right now, workers from a Children’s Aid Society are locked out by their employer, and the members of the Canadian Hearing Society workers’ union are fighting harsh concessions, after being without a contract for four long years. I join Fred and Candace in urging you to support these locals however you can: there’s information here.

At one point during the Conference, members from the Mississauga and Essex County libraries were called on stage to be honoured. In a bit of library humour, Lori Wightman and I were given some gifts, including a Wonder Woman action figure and a play crown. It was very funny — and very touching.

The CUPE 1989 Executive Board thanks our members for giving us the opportunity to attend this excellent conference. We know our union will benefit from it in many ways.

— submitted by Laura Kaminker

Sign the Petition: the OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries

Note: this petition addresses librarians only. We will have a second petition for all library workers later on.

This week, the Toronto Public Library announced plans to open libraries with no staff. Not just no librarians — we’ve seen that in many places — but no staff whatsoever.

This was bad enough, but we were further horrified to see that the Ontario Library Association, a membership-based organization that is supposed to further the interests of libraries and librarians, seems to support this idea. OLA Executive Director actually defended this drastic, regressive measure as “innovative”.

If you are a librarian in Ontario, we hope you will provide feedback to the OLA through this petition: The OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries. Please consider sharing with your own library network.

* * * *

March 23, 2017

Shelagh Paterson
Executive Director
Ontario Library Association
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Ms. Paterson:

We, the undersigned, are public librarians in the province of Ontario and members of the Ontario Library Association (OLA). We are concerned and disturbed by the OLA’s apparent support for current trends in library staffing that are grossly detrimental to our profession and to the public we serve.

The Toronto Public Library has announced plans to open staffless libraries. This is antithetical to the core values of our profession and to our shared vision of what libraries are and should be.

In a Toronto Star article about this development, you are quoted as saying, “we’re very lucky here in Ontario that we have a library culture that is willing to try new things . . . and I would say that sometimes what drives that is budget cuts.”

We are deeply disturbed that, rather than advocating for adequate library funding, the OLA would re-define budget cuts as a driver of innovation.

The Star article also quotes you as saying, “I think you may not actually see the librarian in your visit to the library, but there is a librarian behind the scenes putting it all together and delivering a really excellent service.”

A staffless library can never be “a really excellent service.” Librarians and library staff “behind the scenes” of a building devoid of people are not enough. A truly excellent library service is one in which educated, trained professionals offer a wide range of services that support literacy, lifelong learning, and social engagement, and enable communities to thrive.

The OLA’s mission statement states that the organization enables members to “deliver exemplary library and information services throughout Ontario.” A library without librarians – indeed, a library without library staff of any kind – is not an exemplary library, and is indeed not a service of any kind.

Further, the OLA’s vision of an Ontario where everyone is “free to imagine, learn and discover, and recognize and celebrate library and information services as an essential resource for realizing individual aspirations and developing communities” is exactly the opposite of the current trend towards minimal – and now, nonexistent – staffing. A staffless library privileges members of our community who are affluent, information-rich, and technologically literate, and increases social inequality.

We believe the OLA should unequivocally oppose the staffless library.

We believe the OLA should actively advocate for well funded, fully staffed libraries, and should actively promote the value to the community of librarians and other educated, trained library staff.


The Undersigned Ontario Librarians

Sign here: The OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries.

International Women’s Day: #DayWithoutAWoman on March 8, 2017

On March 8, 2017, women in more than 35 countries around the globe will participate in a women’s strike — a day without a woman.

Work traditionally done by women is often invisible, despite being the backbone of society. Women’s labour is usually undervalued and underpaid, beginning with raising children and keeping families safe, and including picking crops, cleaning, teaching, and taking care of the sick, disabled, and elderly.

These days, thanks to decades of struggle, women in many countries — including, of course, Canada — excel in all professions and in all fields. However, even in our “advanced” country, women still earn less than their male counterparts doing the same job: see, for example, Mind the gap: Work toward closing the gender wage gap (CUPE 2015).

The Women’s Strike on March 8, 2017 seeks to highlight these facts. It also calls attention to sexism and misogyny that are pervasive in our society. The new administration in the United States is not the only problem — it is a symptom of a widespread and dangerous disease.

The ideal situation on March 8 would be “a day without women” — every woman in the world withholding her labour for one day. However, for many women, this is impossible — it would put their livelihoods or their families (or both) at risk.

Organizers are calling for women to participate in one or more of three ways:
1. Wear RED in solidarity
2. Strike from paid and unpaid work
3. Buy nothing, or buy only locally-made products

More reading on the Day Without A Woman:


Black History Month: A. Philip Randolph

CUPE Local 1989 celebrates Black History Month by highlighting the life and work of A. Philip Randolph.

A. Philip Randolph was a labour organizer, a civil rights leader, a journalist, and one of the most influential African-American leaders of the 20th Century.

A. Philip Randolph said: “Freedom is never given. It is won.”

With his friend Chandler Owen, Randolph founded and was co-editor of The Messenger, an African-American socialist magazine.

Randolph is best remembered for establishing (in 1925) and leading the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African-American labour union. The union — which was active in both the US and Canada — represented nearly 10,000 Black men and women who worked for railroads.

The men and women in the union worked as porters and maids for the Pullman Company’s luxury overnight trains. They worked very long hours for little pay, with no job security. Half their wages would be spent on food and lodging while on the job. They even paid for their own (mandatory) uniforms, and relied mainly on tips for income.

These men were not even allowed the dignity of their own names — all Pullman Porters were called “George,” after owner George Pullman.

A book about the Pullman Porters is called “My name’s not George.

Randolph and the Brotherhood faced opposition on all fronts — from other unions, from the Black community, and of course from their employer.

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) reflected the racism and discrimination that was the norm in the US at that time, so there was much opposition to accepting the Brotherhood as part of the broader labour movement.

Many African-Americans viewed the Pullman workers as elite and well-off — after all, they had steady employment. At the same time, many middle-class Blacks viewed union organizers as trouble-makers who would give their a community a bad name.

The Pullman Company tried everything to keep the workers from organizing, including a smear campaign against Randolph himself.

But the Brotherhood persisted. In 1937, after more than 10 years of struggle, the Pullman Company finally signed a collective agreement with the Brotherhood.

A. Philip Randolph was one of the principal organizers of the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom.

In the 1940s, Randolph was the driving force behind ending discrimination in government defense factories and in desegregating the armed forces. Both of these milestones occurred decades before the civil rights movement was even recognized by the mainstream United States.

Randolph was also a principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington at which Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

A. Philip Randolph knew that without economic justice, there can be no freedom. He spent his life fighting for workers, and he made a real difference.

Happy New Year from CUPE Local 1989

It’s been a huge two years for our union! Since the beginning of 2015, the Mississauga Library Workers have:
– engaged in a conversation about the future of our union,
– voted to separate from a composite local,
– applied for and been granted a new charter,
– written new bylaws,
– passed our first annual budget,
– found a physical space and created a union hall,
– completed our first audit,
– negotiated a new contract with no concessions,
– waged a successful strike, and best of all,
– brought home a new collective agreement with significant gains that we are very proud.

We couldn’t have done it without the strong solidarity our members feel for each other, the steadfast support of the labour community, and the support of the residents of Mississauga who rely on the services we provide.

Even as we look ahead with hope and optimism, we know that our successes stand out against a precarious landscape. Working people in communities across Canada are struggling, often at the brink of homelessness or fully in poverty’s grip.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has an excellent visual snapshot of what Ontarians faced in 2016, a story told in 10 infographics. The persistent gender wage gap, the grossly inadequate minimum wage, and the near absence of affordable housing, show us that Ontario has a lot of work to do.



CUPE 1989 is proud to be part of the struggle for fairness, good jobs, and quality public services. Wishing you a Happy New Year full of strength and solidarity — and great public libraries.

Essex Library Workers and Peel Children’s Aid Society Workers Need Your Support

For information on how to donate, please scroll down.

This week, members of CUPE Local 1989, Mississauga Library Workers, joined members of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, and other members of CUPE, OPSEU, ETFO — and probably others I’ve forgotten — from Burlington, Hamilton, London, North Bay, Oshawa, Ottawa, and Woodstock on a road trip to Kingsville, Ontario.

We brought a bus full of love, solidarity, and donations to the Essex County Library Workers, who have been on strike for six months.


We had a spirited and emotional rally and a short picket line walk, and we promised the Essex Library Warriors that they are not forgotten.

We were thrilled and very proud of our members’ generosity. TPLWU held a food drive by branch. They collected so much food, it took 45 minutes to load the boxes into the bus!


As you know, our sisters and brothers in Essex County have been on strike for six months, and no resolution is in sight. It’s a very difficult situation, and the winter weather isn’t going to help. If your family makes end-of-year or holiday donations, please remember the Essex Library Workers this year.

CUPE 4914, Children’s Aid Society Workers, are also in a very difficult position. Their employer has hired scabs, offering exorbitant wages with all expenses paid. If you’re a taxpayer in Peel, that’s how your taxes are being wasted.


Click here to send a message to Wynne and Coteau.

Sonia Yung, president of Local 4914, made this appeal.

November 24, 2016 Dear Family, Friends and Allies As many of you may be aware we CUPE 4914, representing 435 Frontline, administrative and support staff have been on strike since September 18, 2016.

While our resolve remains strong, the financial burden of an eleven-week strike has created hardship for our membership. Some of our members are facing eviction notices, some have had to withdraw their children from daycare due to inability to pay fees, some have been unable to purchase required medication for themselves and or their children, while others are struggling to purchase groceries and or purchase gas for their vehicles to make it to the picket line.

And so we sacrifice our pride, and ask that you consider extending whatever support you can.

You can donate in the following ways.

Donations to Essex Library Workers

Cheques made out to CUPE Local 2974, sent to:
CUPE Local 2974
3200 Deziel Drive – Unit 414
Windsor, ON N8W 5K8

Food Bank:
CUPE Regional Office
3200 Deziel Drive – Unit 414
Monday-Friday, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm, 1:00 – 4:00 pm
39 Wilson Avenue
Town of Essex
Thursdays, 12:00 – 3:00 pm

Donations to Children’s Aid Society Workers

Cheques made out to CUPE Local 4914, sent to:
CUPE National Rep Bonnie Wong
CUPE Regional Office
25 Watline Avenue – Suite 202
Mississauga, ON L4Z 2Z1

Food Bank:
Strike Headquarters
19 John Street
Brampton, ON
Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Get on the bus! Rally and donation drive to support CUPE 2974

CUPE Local 2974 Essex County Library Workers Picket Line Visit and Holiday Gift Drive

Essex County Library Workers have been on strike almost six months. Let’s show these courageous Library Warriors they are not forgotten. Reserve a seat on the bus for our solidarity rally and gift drive.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pick up #1 – 6:30 am – 40 Orchard View Blvd, Toronto

Pick up # 2 – 7:30 am – 2600 Edenhurst Drive, Mississauga

Pick up #3 – 8:30 am – QEW/Guelph Line Carpool Lot, 3073 N Service Road, Burlington

12:00 pm drop off at 40 Main Street West, Kingsville, ON

1:30 pm leave Kingsville for return trip

If possible, please bring any of the following:
– Non-perishable food items
– Gift cards for gas, groceries, or other area stores (Canadian Tire, Homesense, Chapters, etc.)
– Personal care and household products
– New items that are appropriate for gifts (scarves, mittens, games, toys)
Note: please leave any gifts unwrapped.

To reserve a seat on the bus, email Laura Kaminker at president@cupe1989.org. Please note how many seats you will need and what bus stop you will use.

If you don’t need a ride and want to meet us at the rally, sign up here on Facebook.

Ten Reasons You Should Donate to the Essex County Library Workers This Holiday Season!

Ten Reasons You Should Donate to the Essex County Library Workers, CUPE Local 2974, This Holiday Season!

1. They’ve been on strike more than 140 days!

2. They are library workers! Their community needs them!

3. They are CUPE members, union members, standing strong!

4. They are fighting off a sick-leave program that is grossly unfair.

5. Municipal governments all over Canada are watching — waiting for them to crack. The more help they receive, the longer they can hold out.

6. It’s easy to do. Purchase gift card, mail to Local 2974 Library Workers, 414-3200 Deziel Drive, Windsor, ON N8W 5A5. Done!

7. We can show them they are not forgotten.

8. A little goes a long way. No amount is too small. Gas or supermarket gift cards are very welcome.

9. Doesn’t it feel good to help others? Get that warm and fuzzy “I did something good” feeling.

10. We can help their families have a good holiday, despite the strike.

October 1 Rally for Decent Work


What are you doing this Saturday? Some of the CUPE 1989 Library Warriors will be heading to Queen’s Park to call on the Government of Ontario to MAKE IT FAIR.

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act is woefully outdated and leaves most workers without protection. Knowing this, employers are able to exploit us, especially the most vulnerable workers like newcomers and those from racialized communities. Changes in the ESA are coming, and we want to make sure workers are at the table.

Join us on Saturday, October 1, as we raise our collective voice to demand:
– a $15/hour minimum wage,
– mandatory paid sick leave,
– respect at work,
– humane scheduling,
– and laws that protect everyone.

Union and nonunion, students and educators, full-time and part-time, young workers and experienced — we all have a stake in this. And we are #StrongerTogether!

For information on buses or to join an event, see the Make It Fair website. Hope to see you there.