Media Release - September 21, 2022

COPE Local 527, representing Education Support Staff with Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), is deeply concerned with the recent media coverage regarding an incident which occurred at RA Riddell school.

Our Educational Assistants work with some of the most vulnerable students, and are some of the most dedicated, compassionate and caring staff with HWDSB. Educational Assistants are assigned to a school, and support multiple students, under the direction of the classroom teacher and school administrator.

The supervision and safety of students is the responsibility of the Education Team as a whole, and the care and wellbeing of students is the first priority of all staff concerned.

Our schools are underfunded, and understaffed. Students with special needs are often without the 1:1 support they require, often receiving highly limited Educational Assistant support as a result. This is a safety concern for all students, for staff, and the accountability must fall to the HWDSB and the Ministry of Education to provide and allocate appropriate funding to support the needs of these most vulnerable of students. Unions across this Province have been advocating for adequate funding, and staffing, to ensure the safety of both students and staff. The Ministry and the HWDSB are fully aware of the crisis within our classrooms. This recent incident is one of several recent incidents across the HWDSB, and is not a reflection on the staff, but is a result of the understaffing within our school system.

Recent statements and information released by the media do not necessarily represent facts, and the slanderous statements towards the Educational Assistants involved must not continue unaddressed. The lack of facts and equitable voices in media is misleading and does a huge disservice to the student population of HWDSB and further endangers the educational staff, who are the ones on the frontlines.

We appreciate the seriousness of this incident; we fully support our members and the work they do daily to support our most vulnerable students and stand by them as they continue to provide frontline support despite obstacles and challenges.

Susan Lucek, President COPE Local 527

Linda Kowalski, Vice President, COPE Local 527




The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union is seeking a permanent full-time Benefits Representative.

The Benefits Representative works with union members in collaboration with their Labour Relations Specialist to help them navigate their benefits claims. Applicants should have demonstrated experience in, and an extensive knowledge of unions and labour relations, WSIB, Health and Safety mechanisms to assist and support the union’s capacity to ensure member benefits are effectively delivered. The Benefits Representative must be prepared to travel and work anywhere in Ontario.

Job responsibilities include:

  1. Membership Service: Advocating for Cope members with disabilities, in the following areas, STD/LTD claims and appeals, WSIB claims and appeals, EI- sickness claims and appeals, CPP-D applications and appeals, retirement disability pensions applications and appeals, acting as a resource in the accommodation and return to work processes.
  2. Representation, and other legal matters: knowledge of law of contracts, employment law, insurance law, human rights legislation and policies, labour law, WSIB legislation and policies, Ontarians with disabilities legislation, occupational health and safety legislation etc. Capable of and experienced recommending grievances pursuant to collective agreement language, legislation, law of general practice etc. and being a party to the grievance and arbitration process.
  3. Case Preparation and Administration: Capable of and experienced preparing concise, detailed written summary reviews (WSIB, STD/LTD, CPP-D denials etc.), as well as detailed written appeal submissions. Experienced interpreting the applicable legislation, arbitration decisions, court decisions, WSIB tribunal decisions, human rights Tribunal decisions etc.
  4. Resource to the Locals and COPE Ontario Staff: Experience and the ability to provide education and training regarding Occupational Health & Safety, disability advocacy, disability and the duty to accommodate, return to work, etc.
  5. External Liaison: The Benefits Representative is a liaison between the Locals, Employers and the Benefits Plan Service Providers and other affiliated groups. Experience and the ability to prepare written appeal submissions in multiple jurisdictions, i.e., Ontario, and other provinces where we have members.
  6. Research & Investigation: Capable of research, legal and medical. Understanding of medical terminology. Capable of and experienced managing multiple claims, multiple objectives, multiple deadlines. Experience and the ability to write coherent and concise detailed appeal submissions applying legal principles and governing policies pursuant to matter being appealed etc.
  7. This job may require the employee to travel to different parts of the province, and to work evenings and the occasional weekend as required and agreed to.
  8. The position is located at the COPE Ontario Toronto office. The office space available is sometimes shared.

Be Part of Reconciliation on Orange Shirt Day

Be Part of Reconciliation on Orange Shirt Day

 Whether you have it off from work or not, September 30 is an important day for all Canadians as we come to terms with the racist policy of cultural genocide practiced against Indigenous      peoples.

Officially, it’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. But it has come to be known as Orange Shirt Day, a name that comes from a survivor of one of the residential schools that                  Indigenous children were forced to attend after being removed from their families, in many cases against their parents’ wishes.

Her grandmother gave Phyllis Webstad, a member of the Stsweccem’c Xgat’tem First Nation in BC, an orange shirt to wear on her first day at residential school. But Phyllis was stripped of her clothes, including the orange shirt, which was never returned to her.

September 30 has been declared a holiday for workers covered by the Canada Labour Code. Workers governed by Ontario law may also be entitled to the day off if their collective agreement contains language such as “other holidays as may be declared by local, provincial or federal governments.”

If you have questions about the entitlement under your collective agreement, please contact your COPE local or COPE Ontario Labour Relations Specialist.

Hopefully, the Government of Ontario will soon do the right thing and add National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to the list of statutory holidays provided to all workers under the Employment Standards Act.

But in the meantime, we can all be part of reconciliation.

Wear your orange shirt on September 30!

Many First Nations, municipalities and community organizations will be holding events on September 30 (day or evening) or on the days just before and after. Probably there will be events happening near you. With your presence, you, too, can be part of reconciliation.

Labour Day - Reflection on Labor Notes Conference

There's an old labour adage that says when we fight, we win. 

I attended the Labor Notes conference in Chicago in June where I had a chance to hear from some of the greats on the frontlines of the fight for workers rights. Chris Smalls, from the Amazon Labor Union, Michelle Eisen from Starbucks Workers United, Nolan Tabb from the John Deere strike,  Stacy Davis Gates  from the Chicago Teachers Union and Sean O’Brien from the Teamsters. All workers who are taking the fight to corporate bosses to demand fair deals for workers and communities. Hearing about the gains that workers are making in the US, the adage began to feel true.

But in one of the workshops, in the context of teaching us how to march on the boss, an instructor commented that it isn't true that we always win when we fight. For every big labour victory we've seen in the past two years, there are a dozen losses. For too many workers, even in unionized workplaces, it's been the case that employers have taken advantage of the pandemic to attack workers and our hard-earned rights – just like they’ve done through many crises in the past.

So what should we make of the claim that when we fight we win? What does it mean for us in 2022, as pandemic restrictions have eased and as bosses turn their attention fully to their usual business of maximizing profits and exploiting workers?

I have two ideas that I'd like to share. Firstly, sometimes we don't win on the first try. But even when we launch a campaign to improve the lives of workers and we lose, we still lay the groundwork to win in the future. Losing campaigns still educate workers and the public about our causes. They shift the Overton window so that when we are ready to fight again, the idea that once seemed so inconceivable suddenly begins to be achievable. Working people have done this again and again throughout the history of organized labour. This is how we won the eight-hour workday, the vote for women and racialized communities, health and safety standards, pensions, healthcare and even the right to form unions. None of these campaigns were won on the first try. Many took lifetimes of struggle. But each fight laid the groundwork for a future day when workers would win.

Secondly, every time we launch a campaign and join in solidarity with fellow workers, we grow the labour movement. New activists find their voices when we fight for their causes. Those new activists go on to be the leaders of our movement. Nolan Tabb was a worker on the assembly line at John Deere until the strike in 2021, when he encountered the progressive ideas and tactics at Unite All Workers for Democracy, a leftist movement within the UAW. Michelle Eisen was a theatre artist, filling her income gaps at Starbucks, until workplace injustice at Starbucks led her to join the fight for workers rights. With the support of a broad coalition of labour activists (including COPE Local 343 members!) Michelle and her coworkers won the first ever organizing drive at a Starbucks in Buffalo.

Just about every attendee at Labor Notes, whether they are panelists or first timers, has a similar story of how they were inspired, brought into the movement and mentored by other workers who were willing to fight to better the lives of working class people.

So, I think it is true that when we fight, we win. Sometimes the wins are obvious, like at John Deere and Starbucks and Amazon. And sometimes those wins look like losses for a little while. But every time we fight for justice for the working class we welcome new leaders into our movement and make gains that set us up for the next win.

And we have so many urgently important wins still in front of us – justice for migrant workers, pharmacare for all, protecting and expanding abortion access, improving our collapsing healthcare system, better wages, safer working conditions, adequate sick leave, four-day work weeks, justice for gig workers, equity for BIPOC and LGBTQ2SI+ workers and communities, and the list goes on.

As we prepare to march in solidarity this Labour Day, many of us for the first time in three years, be proud to stand in the tradition of so many unionists and activists who have gone before. And celebrate each victory as we grow our movement, build capacity and lay the groundwork for a fair tomorrow.


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