Canadian Teachers Union controversy

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Jan 13 15:39:10 MST 2003

News Release

Teacher's Union Acting Like Tories in Removal of Unit President

For Immediate Release Friday, December 13, 2002

Toronto - Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) officials
are using a spurious internal "judicial process" to remove the
democratically elected president of the largest substitute teachers'
bargaining unit in Ontario. OSSTF leaders have also directly interfered
with the operation of the unit, have evicted the unit from their building,
and have directed the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to refuse to
remit the bargaining unit's funds as required under the collective agreement.

In an unprecedented move, the Appeal Committee of OSSTF issued a ruling
dated December 10, 2002 to force substitute teacher bargaining unit
president Barry Weisleder out of office for thirty-two months, commencing
January 1, 2003. A defender of substitute teachers' rights and an outspoken
critic of right wing policies of the Harris/Eves government, Weisleder was
re-elected president to another two year term in June 2002, despite a
rigorous smear campaign initiated by political opponents determined to turn
back the progressive gains that substitute teachers have earned.

In its nearly eighty-year history, OSSTF has never removed a bargaining
unit president or any elected official from office. In this instance, an 18
month suspension issued initially by the OSSTF Judicial Council, was
increased to 32 months by the Appeal Committee -- another unprecedented
act. No reason was given for the harsher penalty. So far, the OSSTF has
spent a fortune on the internal judicial process to remove Weisleder, while
denying him access to democratically mandated local funds to wage a legal
defense of the bargaining unit and of his position as its president.

OSSTF official policy favours the disappearance of the part-time teacher
bargaining units by merger into the full-time teacher units province-wide.
Weisleder is a prominent opponent of that policy.

"The combined actions of the disciplinary bodies have the appearance of a
political purge against a prominent critic of the OSSTF establishment",
said Brian Shell, human rights advocate, labour lawyer and counsel to Mr.

"What is astounding is that I am being removed from office through a
stacked, internal "judicial process" -- without any suggestion of financial
mismanagement, misappropriation of funds, neglect of duties, or abuse of
Toronto substitute teachers' trust and confidence." said Weisleder. "I have
been convicted of failing to meet an undefined "standard of conduct" as
president, based on allegations brought by my political opponents. In
effect, OSSTF is defeating the members' right to choose their leader. That
is the essence of a dictatorial regime."

Weisleder said, "If the members didn't approve of my leadership, I wouldn't
have been re-elected. This injustice cannot be tolerated in a free society.
I support my union, and everyone who knows me, knows that I am a strong and
committed union advocate. But we cannot sit in silence while union leaders
oppress dissidents. Nor can we be critical of the Tories for imposing their
will on large school boards, and then proceed to quash local democracy
inside OSSTF."

Brian Shell of Shell Jacobs Lawyers told a news conference on Friday
morning, December 13, "Mr. Weisleder will seek a court injunction to
restore him to union office in January 2003, and seek a trial to stop and
reverse the attack on the rights of members to choose their own leaders. We
are also proceeding before the Ontario Labour Relations Board to redress
violations of Ontario's Labour Relations Act by the OSSTF and the Toronto
District School Board. Unions are democratic institutions and it is
critical to protect union democracy."


For further information, contact Barry Weisleder at (416) 588-9090 or (416)
535-8779, or Reanna Deosaran of Shell Jacobs Lawyers at (416) - 539-0226
ext 203.


OSSTF and Substitute Teachers

OSSTF has close to 50,000 members in Ontario, including teachers,
substitute teachers, education assistants, social workers, attendance
counselors, school secretaries, and caretakers. There are approximately
5,000 substitute teachers represented by OSSTF, of which nearly 1,500 work
for the Toronto District School Board. Barry Weisleder organized the first
union for substitute teachers at a large Canadian school board in 1982,
under the auspices of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
He led a strike in October 1990 which won a contract that set the standard
for substitute teacher collective agreements since then. Bill 160,
amendments to the Ontario Education Act in 1997, legislated the OPSEU
secondary school substitute teachers into OSSTF. There was no vote of the
members affected. Mr. Weisleder was elected as the first president of the
Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit of OSSTF shortly after the act
of amalgamation that created the Toronto District School Board in 1998. He
has been re-elected president of the unit in each subsequent election,
including on June 5, 2002.

Weisleder and his supporters faced a slate of opposing candidates for the
unit executive in June. But Weisleder's team won the vote for all fourteen
executive positions handily. OSSTF provincial officials ran the June
election. Weisleder's opponents, led by former OSSTF president Liz Barkley,
a retired teacher, tried to influence the election by laying numerous
frivolous charges against Weisleder. They pursued the charges at OSSTF
Judicial Council after losing the election. The charges for which Weisleder
was convicted include, among other things, failing to hold an executive
meeting during the month of January when no such meeting had been held in
years, as well as correcting minutes of meetings and using sarcasm.

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