Ahmad Gaied, Laura Walton and Jackie Taylor standing together in a park
(From left to right) Ahmad Gaied, Laura Walton and Jackie Taylor Credit: Laura Walton Credit: Laura Walton

A team of labour leaders dubbing themselves ‘Team Ignite’ have announced they are seeking to become new executive officers of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) when the  organization holds their upcoming elections this November.

At the top of the ticket is Laura Walton. Currently president of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OBSCU), Walton is seeking to become OFL president in November and spoke with rabble about her vision for labour in Ontario.

“I’m always going to be an education worker and a worker first,” Walton said in an interview with rabble.ca. “The one thing I recognized is that when education workers needed the labour movement, the labour movement was there for us.” 

In November of 2022, Walton and OSBCU led a dramatic fight for better wages and working conditions against the government of Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford.

LISTEN: Laura Walton on Needs No Introduction

At that time, Ford violated the right of unionized workers to negotiate with their employer by forcing a contract on them with Bill 28.

But in the face of a massive public outcry and pressure from OSBCU and its parent union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, Ford backed down and returned to the negotiating table with Walton and her negotiating team.

“This started because Ford didn’t want to pay workers, the lowest paid education workers in the province, a living wage,” Walton said at the time. She added Bill 28 was an attempt to legislate her members into poverty. “You showed Ontario that you can stand up to a bully, look him in the eye and tell him ‘hell no, not today.’”

READ MORE: Ford blinks in face of union solidarity

Walton said that she wanted to bring that same energy if she is elected president of the OFL.

“I think we’re at this point right now in the labour movement where you can see workers, whether they’re unionized or non unionized, they are seeking out better. And it’s gonna require some organizing, and it’s gonna require planning,” she said. “I think I’ve shown that I’m capable of putting together and leading a team that can do just that.”

An important lesson Walton says she learned from her experience last November was to be transparent, communicative, and to view workers as holistic beings.

Leading as a team

Walton is running on a ticket alongside two other veteran Ontario labour leaders, including Ahmad Gaied who is running alongside Walton to be re-elected as the OFL’s secretary-treasurer, and Jackie Taylor, a United Steelworkers (USW) member and Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) activist who is running for the position of executive vice-president.

The slate has already secured the key endorsement of Ontario’s largest public sector union, CUPE Ontario.

“CUPE Ontario is proud to endorse Team Ignite as the next Ontario Federation of Labour Leadership team,” reads a statement from CUPE Ontario. “Putting their team forward with the full support of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and the United Steelworkers (USW), the three candidates plan to ignite the labour movement to organize, build, and win gains for workers across Canada’s largest and richest province.”

Walton said that as president she would put workers first.

“I really believe in workers first. I put myself as a worker first,” she said. “And I believe that when we send our workers in the fight, when we truly listen to what workers need and we empower workers to use their voice, we are capable of overcoming anything.”

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Nick Seebruch

Nick Seebruch has been the editor of rabble.ca since April 2022. He believes that fearless independent journalism is key for the survival of a healthy democracy. An OCNA award-winning journalist, for...