Toronto - OPSEU 512 Strike Update From CUPE 3903 Flying Squad

Tuesday, December 16, 2003.

Today, the CUPE 3903 Flying Squad joined the striking workers of OPSEU Local 512. This bargaining unit is composed of social workers, translators and other service providers who work for the Centre for Spanish Speaking People. We were shocked to hear their stories about their situation. The unit, composed primarily of women workers, are facing between a 30-45% wage cut, a substantial slashing of their benefits and a shortening of their hours of work. They have been out on the line for over three weeks and expect to be there throughout the holidays.

Their story is alarming. Originally at the founding of the centre they worked as a collective without any hierarchical structures and unionized very early on in their operations. However, some years ago a "more traditional management model" was imposed on them. The first "administrator" unilaterally changed the title of her position to an "executive director". The director held this position for some time until three months ago when Eduardo Garay was hired on as the new executive. He came in with a new cutthroat, macho, "fiscally responsible", neo-liberal style of management. He began making it known amongst the workers that he planned to slash their wages. One of his informal proposals to the workers was that he could replace them with volunteers who could be recruited through workfare policies. Eduardo Garay also has the distinguished honor of being a male chauvinist, who fraternizes the workers and reputably uses his position to harass women who the centre services. He is also not allowed to contact his former wife and children because he had physically abused them. Eduardo is paid $60,000 for this full-time position, while also working in an equivalent full-time position at Future Watch.

These workers refuse to take the pay cut, which they realize will necessarily lead to even further aggression by management. This organization is very important to them because it plays a vital role in their community. They work primarily with Latin Americans who have recently migrated to Ontario. They provide court services, translation, housing support, immigration counseling, advocacy, anti-racism advocacy (especially racial profiling by the police), AIDS activism, run a women's program, and numerous other services for their community. They are extremely dedicated and courageous people who over the years have put in far more time to this organization than they have been compensated for. They are dedicated to keeping this centre up and running, but will not let this happen out of their already thin wallets. They demand that the fiscal irresponsibility of the executive and board of directors (which includes shady real estate ventures) be fixed by other means.

Today the weather was tolerable, but it has been extremely cold recently and it will continue to be so for the duration of their actions. Their picket line is on the busy corner of Wilson & Jane Streets, which is noisy and windy. They have a small strike fund and could use some donations. Also, as a small group of workers, their line could use the moral boast of acts of solidarity. Today they were extremely generous with us as we participated with them. They shared their cookies, lunch, and gave us plenty of juice. Our presence really gave them a moral boast and we laughed the entire time we were on the line with them.

However, their line has already diminished because one of their sisters is on maternity leave, while three of the others have to leave regularly to perform bargaining work. This leaves them with a small group of picketers standing on a grand street corner. They really need help in order to keep their spirits up, especially since they will probably take this strike through the holiday season.

How can we help?

Join them on the picket line (2141 Jane Street between 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday).

Donations would be greatly appreciated

CALL their misogynist, sweet talking boss: Eduardo Garay (416) 533-8545 ext.
128 or email him hjdceduardogar@hotmail.com

Plus, the board members:
Monica Riutort email: monica.riutort@utoronto.ca or phone (416) 658-5102
& Jaqueline Bittancourt (416) 658-5102
Gabriela Behar (416) 874-3432
Xavier Navarrete (416) 787-3270

In solidarity,
Greg Bird and Sonya Scott