Toronto – November 21, 2023 – At the 17th biennial convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) on Tuesday, educational assistant Laura Walton, grocery store clerk Ahmad Gaied, and community worker Jackie Taylor were elected to be the next executive officers of Canada’s largest labour federation starting January 1, 2024.
Running together as Team Ignite, these members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and the United Steelworkers (USW) respectively received a strong mandate to conduct the renewed energy of the labour movement to organize workers, build workers’ power, and win a better future for workers and all residents of the country’s most wealthy province.
“Ontarians are facing intersecting crises of high prices, a lack of affordable housing, an escalating climate emergency, health care privatization, democracy-threatening misinformation, and a corrupt provincial government enriching millionaire developers at the expense of the majority of Ontarians who are struggling every day,” said Laura Walton, president-elect of the OFL. “Workers are ready to meet this moment with positive solutions and building a movement with the resolve to win. It’s time for a better standard of living for the people whose work is responsible for record profits – especially racialized and young workers who have been told, for too long, their only choice is to accept low-wage jobs and worse working conditions than the last generation.”
“Workers’ unions – united through our federation – are well-resourced and prepared to fight for higher wages, no more workers killed on the job, and defined benefit pensions for all,” said re-elected OFL secretary-treasurer Ahmad Gaied. “I started working in one of billionaire Galen Weston’s super-profitable grocery stores when I was 17. My coworkers and I are tired of rich posers like Doug Ford and Pierre Poilievre who spew hatred and disinformation because they know that the more people learn about what they actually stand for, the less anyone is willing to vote for them. I’m proud to be part of a team that’s heard the call for a new focus on political education so workers can be organized not just in our workplaces, but at the ballot box and in the halls of power too.”
“The wave of strikes across Ontario is continuing, and that’s a good thing,” said Jackie Taylor, the OFL’s next executive vice-president. “Workers are joining unions in record numbers because we understand our value and refuse to accept low pay, long hours, no pensions, and overall disrespect from illegitimately rich owners who do no real work for their wealth. Change comes through struggle. Frontline workers are leading the way and I’m humbled to help my co-workers across Ontario channel their power – and use it to win the changes they need and deserve.”
This will be Walton and Taylor’s first term as president and executive vice-president. Gaied has been re-elected to serve a third two-year term as secretary-treasurer.
Founded in 1957, the OFL has grown to represent over one million Ontario workers belonging to more than 1,500 locals from 54 affiliated unions, making it Canada’s largest labour federation.
Biographies of the newly-elected and re-elected OFL executive officers are in the backgrounder below.
Laura Walton – OFL President-elect
Laura Walton is the president-elect of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).
Laura 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.
Ahmad Gaied – OFL Secretary-Treasurer
Ahmad Gaied is the secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL). He was first elected to the position at the federation’s 15th biennial convention in 2019.
Ahmad joined the OFL executive at the OFL’s 2015 biennial convention as executive vice-president. At the age of 33, he was the youngest ever OFL executive officer to be elected. Ahmad is also a racialized worker 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.
Jackie Taylor – OFL Executive Vice-President-elect
Jackie Taylor is the incoming vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).
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 United States. 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 coordinator, 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.