Education Workers and Teachers Create New Ways and Means to Defend Their Just Claims

Windsor action in support of education workers, November 19, 2022

Rallies were held again on Saturday, November 19 to show support for CUPE education workers and their demands. Called by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), the rallies brought together education workers and people from all walks of life at the offices of targeted members of the Ontario Legislature. Meanwhile, in case the strike were to continue, school boards responded in different ways. Some boards said their schools would go online once a strike began, while others modified schedules to reduce time at school. In some, students with special needs had been told not to come to school in the event of a strike while those who do not have special needs should go to school. Chaos reigned for lack of an authority which upholds standards which provide a structure in which everyone is equal and their needs are met based on modern definitions of what it means to be human. Even basic standards are cast aside as school boards scrambled to respond to a situation where they cannot predict what will happen.

Education unions are faced with new situations as a result of the developments of the technical and scientific revolution which have introduced online learning and the like. But the teachers and parents are proposing ways which uphold principles of workers' solidarity, such as opposing the use of virtual learning to achieve what is in reality having teachers cross picket lines. Teachers have also been discussing how to deal with union claims that unless they are in a legal strike position workers cannot respect picket lines of their fellow workers. Under obsolete labour law which governments no longer even respect, but unions are told they must, all the unions can legally tell their members is that they will grieve unfair practices but that members must comply first.

Dundas Square Toronto, November 19, 2022

In other words, those associated with the work of education workers should be limited by labour law when they know that by the time any grievance is settled it will be moot. Labour law renders them powerless to lend effective support to the education workers' just cause under the present conditions when governments no longer uphold the aim of the labour law or the methods it provided to establish labour peace in exchange for providing wages and working conditions as required by the material conditions. Teachers are in no mood to compromise with governments which have openly broken all the arrangements from the post-war period. They are finding ways and means to collectively affirm their right to conscience and decide what is good for them and favours students, besides their own health and professionalism. Many have taken the stand to deliberately not have their own kids log on to virtual. There are open calls to encourage parents to let their children's teachers know that the children will not log on to virtual as a political stand against what the government is doing.

In addition, since the government invoked the notwithstanding clause and CUPE refused to buckle under the government dictate, teachers across the province have been discussing ways and means to defend their interests. The education unions were saying that teachers could not join CUPE's protests as they were not in a legal strike position. While they were informed that labour laws and union protocols only permit them to show support for the education workers on their own time with signs or by showing up at picket lines, activists from Ontario Education Workers United, a Facebook group formed three years ago during the last strike, made an appeal for fundraising to provide grocery funds for CUPE workers if their protests continued. In three days, the GoFundMe campaign raised $150,000. This is significant considering that traditionally the unions themselves will donate money to striking workers on behalf of the educators. In this case it was the rank and file educators who took up doing it themselves in an organized manner in response to being told they couldn't really do much.

Solidarity actions in Sarnia, November 19, 2022

CUPE officially accepted the campaign as well, making it clear that it was appreciated and legitimate. This was in addition to the BC Teachers' Federation announcing a $1 million dollar donation to CUPE's strike fund. The Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation (OSSTF) also gave $150,000. The initiative of the grassroots educators to say that if we can't walk out with CUPE then we should financially support them as a way of making it everyone's fight was a great success. Also, in some local schools teachers launched a collection after CUPE's two day protest appealing to all the staff to ensure that CUPE workers alone did not have to bear the burden of fighting for everyone's rights when they lost two days pay.

This is a fight for the rights of all and we should all financially support it to show we stand as one. Renewal Update is informed that at one school $1,400 was raised in two days with everyone from the lowest paid workers and even members of the administration contributing. Renewal Update could see that across the province only those who are loathe to do anything which is not approved by either the government or the union do not join such actions. Nonetheless, there is a definite consciousness emerging that workers cannot be hamstrung by waiting for others to tell them what to do. By working out their aim, and uniting in action to carry them out, such actions are meeting with success.

As things unfold what is clear is that teachers and education workers are more clearly identifying that given the government does not negotiate and is intent on violating their rights and the rights of all, they have to operate beyond the limitations of what is permitted under labour law to be effective in making the claims that they must. It is a political matter which requires a political response because governments have broken all previous arrangements and understandings which formed a social contract. Today, there is nothing pro-social about what governments of police powers are doing. This is a political problem which all are called upon to resolve in their favour.

This article was published in
Number 4 - November 21, 2022

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