(WINDSOR, ON) – Legal Aid Ontario employees in southwestern Ontario, working out of six locations in Essex-Lambton-Kent, have voted to join Ontario’s Public Service Employees Union. Kareen Marshall, chair of OPSEU’s Community Agencies Division, said the union’s organizing drive was welcomed by workers.
“It didn’t take long to get enough cards signed to call a vote,” Marshall said. “So we were pleased, but not surprised, by the very favourable result. These workers knew they needed representation, and they knew that OPSEU would do the best job.”
The union reported that there were a number of reasons for the workers at the district offices to approve unionization. These included a desire for greater fairness, increased transparency and, what the union termed as, “the security of having terms and conditions of employment that cannot be changed unilaterally, and having a voice to raise and address issues collectively, rather than individually.”
Marshall claimed the common denominator among the workers was to have a voice in the workplace.
“They had had enough of one-way conversations with the employer,“ she said. “OPSEU will give them that voice; one the employer can no longer simply disregard.”
Workers who are now OPSEU members work in offices in Windsor, Sarnia, and Chatham and hold positions such as legal aid workers and district triage officers. They will join some 250 LAO workers already represented by OPSEU.
“The essence of unionization is empowerment,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, the OPSEU president. In his view, the workers were seeking a strong, collective voice.
LAO is an independent, but publicly funded, non-profit outift providing low-income individuals with legal aid services. The office helps almost 4,000 disadvantaged people from 76 clinics every day. Management at LAO has not yet issued a statement on the unionization.