By Lincoln DePradine
John Cartwright, the long-serving Toronto & York Region Labour Council president who is retiring, is confident that his successor will do an excellent job.
Jamaican-born Andrea Babbington will being sworn in on June 3 as the council’s new president.
“She’s a fierce warrior for working people,’’ said Cartwright who has been working with Babbington since 2004.
“I think that Andrea will bring a whole, fresh energy into the labour movement as it struggles for a just recovery from COVID. People have to rise up and take back a kind of sense of dignity at work when COVID is over. She will bring a really focused energy to the work.’’
Babbington is the first Black woman elected to serve as president of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, which has a membership of more than 220,000.
Babbington “believes in her soul that working people, no matter where we’ve come from – and we’ve come from 190 plus countries here – deserve to be respected; deserve to have dignity at work; and deserve to make a decent living that they can raise a family,’’ Cartwright said.
“She would fight to the ends of the earth when people are disrespected. When global companies treat people less than fairly, Andrea is the first one into that fight.’’
Babbington says she’s “deeply honoured’’ to be the Labour Council’s new president.
“I look forward to building on my predecessor’s legacy and harnessing the power of intersectionality to boldly propel the organization into a sustainable post-pandemic future,’’ she said, while speaking at the 2021 Bromley Lloyd Armstrong Awards’ ceremony.
The annual event, named after the late Jamaican-Canadian Bromley Armstrong, was organized by the executive committee of the Labour Council, in partnership with the United Way Toronto and York Region and Labour Community Services.
Armstrong, a well-known labour and human rights activist, died in 2018 at 92.
This year’s awardees – recognized for challenging racism and for “excellence in equity, inclusion and human rights’’ – included Ivan Dawns of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (District Council 46); Liu Guo of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union (Local 594); and Chris Campbell, equity and diversity representative of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario.
SEIU Healthcare, which represents more than 60,000 healthcare workers in Ontario, also received an award; and another was presented posthumously to the family of the late Megan Whitfield, a former president of the Toronto Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
“The legacy of activists like Bromley Armstrong has demonstrated how important it is to keep fighting for a better future and they have provided us with a pathway to do so,’’ Larry Rosseau, executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said in an address at the awards’ ceremony had as its the theme, “In the Spirit of Bromley: Poised for Change’’.
Babbington congratulated the awardees for their contribution “to the growing pursuit of social justice’’.
As her organization’s new president, Babbington said she’s looking forward to “listening, learning and championing the mandate set out by the Labour Council. And, I firmly commit to strengthening our voices and actions as boldly as Bromley did’’.
Cartwright, who received a “recognition of service award”, said a major focus of his attention in retirement is volunteering as national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.
The organization comprises more 150,000 supporters across Canada “who work for social justice and for a Canada that we can all be proud of’’, Cartwright said. “We are dedicated to defending public programs and ensuring climate justice is part of the future of this country as well’’.