1995: Our Local is Established
The founding meeting of OPSEU Local 270 took place on Nov. 30th, 1995, in the Mills room of the St. Catharines Public Library. About 180 employees of the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), who had recently relocated from MTO Downsview (Local 542) to the new St. Catharines MTO Head Office, decided to form this new Local.
Dan McKnight, a Senior Policy Analyst with the MTO Environmental Office, was elected as the founding President of OPSEU Local 270. The first action of the Local was to make a donation to charity (i.e. the Niagara Housing Help Centre), to help the less fortunate in society deal with the impact of the Harris government’s cuts to public services.
1996: The First Strike & Second Relocation Wave
In February 1996, Local 270 members faced the challenge of the province-wide Ontario Public Service strike. Although Local 270 was new, and had very limited financial resources, strong Local leadership helped members pull together and overcome the adversity of being on strike for the first time.
- Significant accomplishments during the strike included the following:
- $ 11,000.00 was raised for members in financial hardship.
- The Daily Striker”, a strike newsletter was created to provide important strike information to picketers. It won OPSEU’s Newsletter Award for best strike communications.
- Strike breakers were voted out of the Local as “members in bad standing”.
Following the success of “the Daily Striker” during the strike, Local 270 launched “Info 270″ as a quarterly newsletter. This Local newsletter continues to be published, and has won many OPSEU Newsletter awards for writing and design.
In the fall of 1996, the second wave of relocating MTO employees arrived in St. Catharines. This brought the total number of Local 270 members up to approximately 400. Local By-laws were established to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of Local administration.
In December 1996, the Local had recovered enough financially from the strike to start a tradition of having an annual festive season get-together. President Dan McKnight felt this event was very important as it provided an opportunity for members to come together as one big family. A festive season contribution to a local charity was also started as part of this annual event.
1997: Fighting Back Against Job Cuts
The next major challenge faced by the Local was to oppose the Harris government’s massive lay-off of civil servants. Clearly, it was very unfair to relocate employees to St. Catharines and then lay them off. A local “fight back” committee was formed and planned a strategy of lobbying against the cuts. The “fight back” campaign began under President Dan McKNight and continued under the Local’s second president, Judith Marion. Both Dan and Judith met with local political leaders including Niagara MPP’s. In response to this lobbying, Jim Bradley, MPP for St. Catharines asked a question in the Ontario Legislature to then Transportation Minister Al Palladini, that put pressure on the government to consider alternatives to lay-offs (e.g. promote vacancy management, early retirements, voluntary exits, etc.). This political pressure helped to significantly reduce the impact of the cuts at MTO St. Catharines. Although some members were re-deployed, and some took early retirement, none of our members were laid off.
In late March of 1997, Judith Marion, a Cartographer in MTO’s Surveys & Design (now Geomatics) Office, was elected as the second President of Local 270. During her term in office she became involved in many activities beyond the Local. Judith was active in the St. Catharines and District Labour Council, the Peter Kormos (NDP MPP for Welland) re-election team, and campaigned for a position on OPSEU’s Executive Board.
1998 & 1999: Serving the Needs of the Membership
- During this time, Local 270 had successes in the following areas:
- An Anti-Stress Campaign was launched. As part of this campaign members were given stress balls to help reduce stress in the workplace.
- Summer social events were organized (e.g. Members attended St. Catharines Stompers baseball games)
- Local 270′s newsletter, “Info 270 Express”, continued to win OPSEU Newsletter Awards.
2000: Changes in Leadership
In 2000, President Judith Marion was on secondment with OPSEU Head Office in Toronto. Ian Morrison, Shared Services Bureau (SSB) Accounting, acted as President in her absence. At the end of 2000, Judith accepted a permanent position with OPSEU Head Office.
2001 – 2002: Our Local Grows, and Overcomes Another Strike
In 2001, members elected Mahendra Thaleshvar, a Procurement Consultant with SSB, as the fourth President of Local 270. He quickly got the Local organized and ready for OPS bargaining. Seeing the many successes of Local 270, members of Local 209 (i.e. MTO employees at the Driver Examination Centre on Bunting Road and the Truck Inspection Station in Vineland) decided to join Local 270.
In March 2002, Local 270 was again impacted by an OPS strike. President Mahendra Thaleshvar, with the assistance of other members of the Local Executive, was able to establish effective Strike Pay and Picket Duty committees. This ensured effective picketing of the MTO St. Catharines building for the duration of the two-month strike. Mahendra was also able to work effectively with the Executive of OPSEU Locals 211 and 212, who were also picketing at the MTO Building.
- Significant Local accomplishments during this second strike included the following:
- Financial hardship support was provided to those in difficult financial situations.
- The “Daily Striker” news bulletin was revived and won OPSEU Newsletter Awards for “Best Strike Communications” and “Best Cartoon”.
- Picket line morale was boosted by various social activities such as rallies, and meals provided on a daily basis.
- St. Catharines City Council passed a resolution encouraging a quick end to the strike.
- Free parking was provided by the City for picketers.
- Positive local media coverage.
- Local business support of picketers.
2003: Building a Powerful Local
In the Spring of 2003, Dan McKnight was elected as President. His goal is to help build a more powerful local.
As Local 270 has now grown to include all MTO staff in Niagara, a high priority was placed on improving the effectiveness of our communications. On March 17th 2003, Local 270 launched a web site as an alternate means of informing members about the Local’s many activities. This site (www.opseu270.org) has been such a success that it won OPSEU’s award for “Best Local Website” at the Fall 2003 OPSEU Editor’s Awards ceremony.
In the fall of 2003, Local 270 took a lead role in supporting OPSEU’s provincial election strategy in Niagara. Dan McKnight organized OPSEU’s Niagara phone bank to inform members about this strategy. At our Sept. 17th, 2003 membership meeting, our Local decided to make significant donations of time and money to support candidates. All three of the Niagara candidates our Local supported were elected as MPPs. This new government now presents a great opportunity to work together to help rebuild public services.
2004 – 2005: Supporting Our Members
In 2004 and 2005, Local 270 organized the very successful “Keep Our Jobs in Niagara” campaign. This was our reaction to Management Board Secretariat’s plans to eliminate all Ontario Shared Services (OSS) jobs in Niagara. OSS staff perform accounting, payroll, and purchasing duties. Our campaign received excellent media coverage, and support from local political and community groups. As a result of our persistent efforts, OSS staff were eventually offered alternative employment. This campaign not only achieved positive results for our members, but also built very strong relationships with our political representatives.
2006: Further Growth
Early in 2006, Local 270 expanded to include all MTO staff from Burlington to the U.S. border in Niagara. President Dan McKnight was re-elected to a third term and thus became the longest serving President of Local 270. On April 1st, 2006, several members of local 270 we re-organized into the Ministry of Government Services (MGS) as part of an OPS-wide rationalization. Thus Local 270 became a composite local.