When lifelong Windsorite Joel Bentley watched his community being torn apart by a mayor and city council determined to attack workers, he could have gotten mad. Instead, the 35-year-old CUPE National Representative got nomination papers and a vision to heal Windsor’s social fabric.
Bentley has thrown his hat into the race for Windsor’s Ward 1, vying to unseat incumbent Drew Dilkens.
“I really want people to have an honest conversation about a lot of topics where we haven’t gotten a chance to have one,” said Bentley.
Since 2005, Bentley has worked as a national representative servicing several locals at the University of Windsor, some municipal employees at the Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society, as well as some social service and childcare locals.
Prior to becoming a national representative, he was the president of CUPE Local 1001, representing groundskeepers, maintenance, custodial, housekeeping and food services employees at the University of Windsor, his alma mater.
Ironically, as a young part-time food service worker in the early 1990s, Bentley was opposed to unionization and didn’t sign a card when organizers approached him.
“I voted against the union when the certification vote was held,” he chuckled.
However, he quickly observed the many positive ways that unions benefit both their members and the community and he became both a supporter and an activist.
“Unions serve a vital role in the workplace, and they serve just as vital a role in the community,” said Bentley. This is something he hopes to demonstrate by his actions during this municipal campaign.
In recent years, the community of Windsor has been hit by hard times. A border city whose fortunes have always been tied to the automotive industry, Windsor has the highest unemployment rate in Canada. Bentley and many other Windsorites have watched in horror as Mayor Eddie Francis and members of council used the economic crisis to drive a wedge between workers and the community, culminating in a bitter strike between the City and its inside and outside workers, represented by CUPE Locals 543 and 82.
“The Mayor and his supporters did a very good job of dividing the community. We need to have a thoughtful person who is willing to be engaged with the whole community,” said Bentley.
“One of the problems I keep seeing is that there seems to be a ‘one solution’ mindset promoted by the Mayor and his supporters on council. I think we need to be open to other solutions and we need to have those honest conversations,” he added.
Among the ideas Bentley is taking to the doorstep is advocating for new funding models for municipalities.
“The funding formula we have is broke right now. We need to get an appropriate model for funding that isn’t so dependent on the property tax. Municipal funding is stuck in the 1960s and 1970s, and we need 21st century funding models,” he said.
Bentley is also pledging to improve parks and community centres in the neighbourhood, as well as addressing overcrowding issues, particularly at Bellewood Public School.
He lives with his wife and their three children, aged six, four and two.
How you can help
Without a supporting team a successful election likely won’t happen. Any offer of help to a candidate you support is welcome, so volunteer to work on a candidate’s campaign. That can include door-to-door campaigning; phone bank assistance; talking to your work colleagues about supporting the candidate; reminding your colleagues, family and friends to cast their ballot on election day; or having a sign on your lawn or window. Finally, any financial contribution (from an individual CUPE member) to a candidate’s campaign is appreciated.
Make sure you vote on October 25!
Political Action Profiles