Anti-racism officer with teacher union in Mississauga, Brampton resigns in WFH dispute

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Published August 17, 2021 at 1:32 am

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Weeks before the start of the school year, the union local that represents public high school teachers in Mississauga and Brampton has lost one of the anti-racism educators who was hired on in 2020 amid Black Lives Matter protests.

In a Twitter thread on Monday, Brampton teacher Judy McKeown wrote that she is unable to continue in her position as the dismantling anti-Black racism training officer for Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation District 19. McKeown explained that both her local and provincial bodies denied a request from her doctor to allow her to teach remotely during the 2021-22 school year.

Last summer, OSSTF District 19’s membership voted 94.8 per cent in favour of adding three new officers, all racialized. The initiative was part of an effort to increase inclusion and representation in their membership and the Peel District School Board. Over half of the students in PDSB are racialized.

“The request (to work from home) was denied and cosigned by (the) provincial (body) before any paperwork was even seen,” McKeown stated. “So despite all that I have accomplished and contributed in (seven and a half) months, completely from home, I have to follow medical advice and walk away from work that is important to me and members I have had the pleasure to work with this year.”

McKeown, who took her position on Nov. 18, 2020, added that the union’s decision seemed linked with PDSB’s policy that all secondary school teachers must work in school. The option of being online-only is only available to students

“Since the (Peel public) board isn’t offering an online school this year, the union will not offer any provision for me to work from home,” she said. “It is odd to me that the union is following the direction of the employer rather than even attempting to advocate for my health and well-being. I mean, I am still a dues-paying member.”

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