TORONTO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Educational assistant Laura Walton, grocery store clerk Ahmad Gaied, and union educator and community worker Jackie Taylor announced, on Thursday, that they are running to be the next executive officers of the one-million-member Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).
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.
“In warehouses, coffee shops, schools, buses, factories, stores, hospitals, airports, child cares, construction sites, offices, newsrooms, restaurants, underground mines, and workplaces everywhere, workers are ready to fight for ourselves, our families, and our communities,” said Laura Walton, a resident of Belleville and president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) who is running to be president of the OFL. “When we organize, we build movements that win – and that’s what’s next for Ontario workers.”
“I believe in a strong and united labour movement,” said Ahmad Gaied, current secretary-treasurer of the OFL. “From my earliest days as a frontline grocery store worker, I’ve seen firsthand what workers can do to improve our lives when we join together and make our unions strong. Our work is valuable, and I know we can use our collective power to make working and living in Ontario better for everyone.”
“I am committed to working with OFL affiliates to organize and take action on issues that matter to workers,” said Jackie Taylor, USW member and Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) activist who is the candidate for OFL executive vice-president. “The ability to join a union, negotiate good contracts that improve their wages, benefits, pensions, job security, health and safety, and overall better working conditions – workers deserve nothing less. That’s what makes decent jobs. With united backing from frontline workers and union leaders throughout the province, I know that, together, we can win.”
The election will take place during the OFL’s 17th biennial convention in November. Biographies of the candidates are available in the backgrounder below.
Candidate for OFL President
Laura Walton has served as the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) since 2019. In addition to her role with OSBCU, Laura also serves on the CUPE Ontario Executive Board.
With a firm belief in the equalizing power of inclusive public education, Laura led her 55,000 coworkers across Ontario to withdraw their labour for two days in November 2022 in protest of the Ford government using the notwithstanding clause to ram through legislation that imposed a contract on CUPE education workers.
Frontline workers, a united labour movement, and overwhelming community support compelled a Conservative majority in the provincial legislature to repeal its anti-worker Bill 28 in record time. The lowest-paid education workers ultimately resisted concessions and negotiated a $1 per hour pay increase each year for four years after a decade of legislated wage erosion.
Laura is proud of her rural roots growing up in Belleville where she worked in radio and marketing and supported children with special needs as an educational assistant. Previously she served as president of CUPE Local 1022 which represents the education workers of Hastings and Prince Edward County District School Board.
Candidate for OFL Secretary-Treasurer
Ahmad Gaied is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), Canada’s largest provincial labour federation. He was elected to the position at the OFL Power of Many 15th Biennial Convention in 2019.
Ahmad was first elected to the OFL executive at the OFL’s biennial Convention in November 2015. At the age of 33, he was the youngest officer ever to be elected at the Ontario Federation of Labour. Ahmad is also a Worker of Colour and a proud member of the Muslim community in Toronto.
He is an ardent supporter of grassroots and worker-led initiatives to assist organizing non-union workers so that they can benefit from union representation.
A long-time activist and community advocate, Ahmad began his trade union activism as a chief steward at his No Frills store in 2003 and rose through the ranks to the position of Member Engagement Representative for UFCW Canada Local 1000A.
Within his union, Ahmad has also served as a certified member of the Joint Health and Safety Committee, and was elected to UFCW Canada’s Toronto Divisional Board for both Loblaw and No Frills units, representing retail workers across the GTA. He is also a frequent instructor and facilitator on labour rights issues and has led numerous initiatives on engaging young workers.
In addition to his labour union activism, Ahmad is a dedicated community advocate. He currently volunteers with multiple not-for-profit, non-partisan community organizations to help increase civic engagement. Ahmad is also Vice-President of the Ontario NDP’s Scarborough – Rouge Park provincial riding association, and he has worked extensively as an NDP voter contact organizer in the GTA and throughout the country — most notably in the 2015 Alberta election that led to a sweeping NDP victory.
As well, Ahmad has worked as Employment Insurance (EI) worker representative and referee before the role of EI referee was abolished by the Harper Conservative government.
Ahmad self-identifies as Canadian, Libyan, Arab, and African. He speaks both English and Arabic, which he uses to build bridges within the community.
As part of the new generation of workers who are facing the most precarious labour market in our country’s history, Ahmad is committed to mobilizing youth and equity-seeking workers to stop Ontario’s race to the bottom.
Candidate for OFL Executive Vice-President
Jackie became a member of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9042 in 2016, working at Labour Community Services of Peel in partnership with the Peel Region Labour Council. In her role as head of the agency’s labour advocacy program, she delivered workshops focused on mental health, led fundraising efforts and activities aimed at building healthy relationships with unions, workers and their communities.
Between 2003 and 2016, Jackie steadily rose through the ranks in her local union. Her early union activism included advocating for fellow members and ensuring they received fair and equal treatment on the job. Jackie went on to serve on Steelworkers’ pay equity and bargaining committees, helping the union achieve meaningful gains at the bargaining table, to the benefit of all members.
Additionally, Jackie is a longtime activist on USW Women of Steel committees, working with Women of Steel across Canada and the U.S. Together, they’ve organized to strengthen women’s rights in the workplace and advance women’s activism within the union. As the current USW District 6 Education Co-ordinator, Jackie supports the Steelworkers’ member-to-member education program through facilitation, course development and outreach to members across Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
Jackie is equally committed to labour activism outside her union, serving on the OFL Workers of Colour Committee (2003-2016), the OFL Human Rights Committee (2018-present) and as an active member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU).
The principles that guide Jackie’s activism stem from her passion to connect with union members, amplify their voices and be their advocate at a societal and political level. In a rapidly-changing society, education and communication are crucial in our workplaces and in our communities.
Jackie is committed to continuing the work and mission of the OFL and its affiliates and to a united labour movement, especially on the political front. She believes the OFL and its affiliates have the tools to empower working people to take action on the issues that matter to them: the ability to join a union and to negotiate good contracts that improve their wages, benefits, pensions, job security, workplace health and safety and overall working conditions, to provide decent jobs for all.