On behalf of 290,000 CUPE members in the province, CUPE Ontario extends its warmest congratulations and steadfast solidarity to the newly elected leaders of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL): President Laura Walton, Secretary-Treasurer Ahmad Gaied, and Executive Vice-President Jackie Taylor.

Our affiliation to the OFL commits CUPE members’ collective support to this strong team as it begins to transform the Ontario labour movement into an even more powerful force for all working people in our province.

We also wish to express our gratitude to outgoing OFL president Patty Coates and executive vice-president Janice Folk-Dawson. They guided the OFL through some of the most challenging times we’ve lived through in our movement, and they helped to revitalize the OFL with their vision and commitment to a better and more equal future for workers.

Now a new team will continue this mission:

Laura Walton needs no introduction to CUPE Ontario members, or indeed to most Ontarians. As president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), she led 55,000 CUPE education workers in a province-wide walkout last year, in response to some of the most undemocratic and anti-worker legislation ever seen by the people of Ontario – the Ford Conservatives’ Bill 28. The courage and deep organizing among education workers united Ontario’s and even the country’s labour movement and compelled an anti-worker Conversative government to repeal Bill 28 with lightening speed. This mattered for CUPE education workers, and it mattered for all working people: it defended the fundamental right to strike and the right of working people to organize, as protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Ahmad Gaied will continue to serve the OFL as its secretary-treasurer, bringing continuity to the new leadership team as well as a passion for community engagement, activism and social justice. His experience as an activist in the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union laid the foundation for him to become, in 2019, the youngest officer ever elected to the OFL. There he has continued to support grassroots initiatives that reach both union and non-union workers. As a Muslim and racialized worker, Ahmad is committed to serving his communities, particularly youth and equity-deserving communities.

Jackie Taylor, a member of the United Steelworkers (USW) union and activist with USW Women of Steel, is well known throughout the labour movement for championing outreach to members, union education and worker empowerment. As a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Jackie has linked her union and the OFL with the wider struggles of workers around the world. As executive vice-president, she will advance the activism of women and racialized workers throughout Ontario by advocating for workers inside and outside the union movement.

CUPE Ontario anticipates an exciting, hopeful and positive era under the OFL’s news leadership. Building workers’ capacity and workers’ power will be crucial in defeating Doug Ford’s Conservatives. But we know this goal can’t be achieved through electoral politics alone. Rather, it must come from strong groups of organized and mobilized workers who understand the issues at stake, as well as their own power to effect change.

We know that Laura, Ahmad and Jackie are the team to lead the OFL, to bring unions and communities together to build power and help Ontario workers achieve the kind of future we all deserve.