The other day, I received one of my favourite e-mails of the year from my local: it’s time to put our names forward for the election of our delegation to the ETFO annual meeting!
If you aren’t familiar with the annual meeting, it’s an annual event where ETFO members from across the province gather in Toronto to do union business. We hear reports from committees and the general secretary; move, debate, and vote on resolutions, which can change the direction of the union or compel the union to take action; debate and pass the budget; vote for who will represent us on the Provincial Executive.
That sounds boring, doesn’t it? Except it ISN’T. It’s exciting getting to hear passionate, knowledgeable voices from around the province. You hear perspectives from a wide range of ETFO members whose voices you may not have heard otherwise. You’re confronted with ideas and issues that you may never have considered before. You also have a chance to get up and speak your truth on topics that matter to you.
Coming from a small town, I didn’t have a sheltered upbringing at home, but overall, my experience in Ontario was very… limited. Homogenous. White. Cis-het. Christian. I’ve spent most of my adult life unlearning a lot of the attitudes, stereotypes, and completely incorrect teachings I was exposed to growing up. The ETFO annual meeting has proven to be a truly incredible place to learn from people whose voices I didn’t hear growing up – both through the people who get to speak and through the people who aren’t represented on the floor.
I don’t want to suggest that the event is a purely joyful, wonderful experience. There are moments every year where I am frustrated, angry, fired up, disappointed. There’s an imbalance on the floor when it comes to who speaks, how Robert’s Rules are used, who’s in the room. I’ve heard some things that make me shake with anger. I’ve heard some things that break my heart. I’ve seen voices be silenced by louder, more privileged voices who know how to leverage the system in their favour.
Ultimately, that’s why I think it’s so important that more people become aware of what the meeting is, why it’s a valuable opportunity, and why we need some fresh new voices there. I’m admittedly a regular, having gone several times – and yet, when I’m there, I feel like I’m still a newbie. There are people there who have been to the meeting for twice as many years as I’ve been a teacher.
It’s time. It’s time for some different voices to be heard.
Does any of this sound exciting to you? Interesting? Worth checking out? Then you should put your name forward to be considered for your local delegation! (If SOME of this sounds interesting but you’d rather not have voting rights and want a different role, there is also a wide range of volunteer opportunities that you can seek for the annual meeting. I have never done any of them, so I can’t speak to them, but many people from my local have attended in various capacities and speak highly of that side of the experience as well!)
Every local has a slightly different process for electing delegates to the annual meeting. In mine, we put our names forward in February and hold an election at a general meeting. We set aside specific spots for new delegates and another set of spots for delegates from designated groups (racialized members, women, 2SLGBTQ+). We bring more delegates than we can have on the floor so that we can rotate throughout the day.
If you don’t know what the process is in your local, I urge you to contact your steward or someone in your local and find out how delegates are elected. Maybe you’ll go and decide it isn’t for you – but maybe you’ll go and find out that you love it.
If you do wind up there, you’re always welcome to drop me a line. I LOVE helping new delegates with the ins and outs of the meeting, and I’m always ready to chat with fellow educators.