New Labour Council President settling in setting priorities

The new President of the Sault District Labour Council (SSMDLC) has stacks of stuff on her desk to sort through and organize before she can dig into her new role in earnest.

But Tara Maszczakiewicz is looking forward to all of it.

“It’s a really new role. It’s a lot to learn,” says Maszczakiewicz. “I really appreciate that our affiliates in the labour council have been incredibly supportive during this transition process. I imagine it’s going to take me a little longer to really understand the full scope of the work that needs to be done on my part.”

A registered social worker with Algoma Family Services, the 53-year-old Maszczakiewicz follows Michele McCleave-Kennedy, who stepped down as President March 26 after serving in that capacity the past 14 years.

Maszczakiewicz will continue as Regional Vice-President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Region 6 (Sault, Sudbury, Timmins, North Bay). She was re-elected in April.

A graduate of St. Mary’s University where she earned her degree in Sociology Maszczakiewicz followed up her undergrad with a Masters in Family Counselling from Nova Southeastern. She also holds a certification in Criminology.

She moved to the Sault from Nova Scotia 33 years ago and raised her family here. She was part of a group that organized Algoma Family Services with OPSEU/SEFPO in 2013. After becoming President of Local 684, she became keenly interested in labour relations and became part of the SSMDL. 

“I really appreciated the work that they do in supporting us as union members,” says Maszczakiewicz, during a Friday interview at OPSEU’s Great Northern Road offices.

Labour councils, she says, serve to promote workers and and promote workers’ concerns and also support workers in their various unions.

“If you can imagine every union is like its own family.” says Maszczakiewicz. “So we all have our own concerns, issues, strengths and interests. The Labour Council is here to support those interests. It’s under the auspices of the Canadian Labour Congress. The idea is we all come together because together we’re stronger. We identify the issues and we work on them together.”

While in the process of settling in, Maszczakiewicz has identified a top priority for her first year.

“One of the chief things that we’re going to be working with the Canadian Labour Congress on, is an Injured Workers Association in Sault Ste. Marie,” says Maszczakiewicz. “We had one, and it has gone by the wayside. So we really want to engage injured workers and bring up the (Association) again, and start to make sure that we’re reaching out to our injured workers.” 

Developing a strategic plan for the SSMDLC is also a high priority, said Maszczakiewicz.

McCleave-Kennedy is confident SSMDLC affiliates made a solid selection in Maszczakiewicz for their new President.

“Tara has been on the Labour Council for many years,” McCleave-Kennedy says. “She comes from a strong public service union and has been an executive board member for years. Her strength, advocacy and energy will continue to highlight the profile of unions in our area raising union profiles in our community, while collaborating with community groups and coordinating with other Labour councils across the province.” 

Maszczakiewicz says her presidency begins at a time where there is definite momentum for local labour unions but says there will be challenges, too.

“The positive thing is, union members are getting really engaged,” she says. “We have union members coming out that maybe hadn’t come out before. They’re understanding that their voices matter and that it’s important for us to work together. So that’s been a great thing to see over the last two years.

Also, we’re using a lot more labour issues coming to the forefront and that means we need to be out working to support our affiliates a lot more than maybe we had been asked to in the past.”

Maszczakiewicz is asked to look ahead and what mark she would like to leave when her term is complete.

“I think we always want to leave something better than when we started,” says Maszczakiewicz. “I see that with the previous President. She left us in a good financial situation – well, she hasn’t left really, she’s still on the executive – but we have more affiliates. We’re growing stronger. I’d like to continue that work and make sure that we’re bringing in more affiliates, like our trades, so we can also work together and have a stronger workers community in Algoma.”

Meantime, McCleave-Kennedy is staying on the SSMDLC Executive as Labour Day chair for another two year term. She also sits as the SSMDLC Labour rep on the United Way and is still Ontario Federation of Labour VP representing Northern Labour Councils through 2025. 

“I will have more time to work on Health and safety for my own union and collectively with the Ontario Federation of Labour,” McCleave-Kenndy says. “I will still be advocating across the province for better working conditions for all workers. Our collective voices raise the floor for all workers. We will continue to push the province for solutions to keep public services public. We will push for changes to the Ontario Health and Safety Act to protect workers in education, health care, public and private sector jobs that have seen violence and mental health rise substantially in the last 10 years.”

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