The 2010-2011 school year was the first year for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) to implement the governments new Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program (FDELKP). Our board hired approximately 45 Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs), Designated Early Childhood Educators (DECEs) when working for a school board, to work collaboratively with a teacher in the kindergarten classrooms throughout the boards selected schools, implementing the governments new draft version of the kindergarten curriculum.
HWDSB DECEs voted to join with ETFO in the summer of 2010 and that was the beginning of our relationship with a union for many of our DECEs. The first meeting for the DECEs with the union representatives was to elect our executive. After several training sessions at provincial office our executive then had to establish a collective bargaining committee. This committee needed to build our first collective agreement proposal and begin negotiations with the board. This was all new and exciting for our members. These experiences were all new to the committee members and the abundance of information seemed overwhelming at times but was so worth it in the end. This collective bargaining process carried throughout the year until we reached an agreement with the board in February of 2011.
The following year we developed our locals constitution and roles and responsibilities for executive members. Some of the executive members participated in opportunities to learn more about unionism and how to build a stronger executive to meet the members needs by attending training and workshops at the provincial office. Each consecutive year our local has grown substantially with the new hires the board made for the expansion of the Full Day Kindergarten programs throughout our school board. Currently our local has full-time and occasional DECE members.
In December of 2012, the DECEs of HWDSB participated in their first one day strike in opposition of Bill 115 as they stood alongside their fellow ETFO members at the picket lines. This was a new and scary time for DECEs as this was new for many members and they were unsure of what the outcome would be. However we stood in solidarity with all ETFO members as we believed our voices needed to be heard for fairness and human rights to STOP what the government and boards wanted to accomplish.
Currently our executive and our local members have been attending many ETFO provincial workshops such as Visions, Collective Bargaining, Unions School, Women’s Programs and Leadership Workshops to enhance and gain knowledge about our union and how to increase member engagement within our local. This year our local had two executive members attend Union School who then created our locals webpage and developed a social committee to increase member involvement. The first social committee event was a success as it brought out members that hadn’t been involved with their union socially or politically. In the future we hope to see more member involvement within our local and provincially as our local will continue to initiate and invest in member engagement opportunities.