February 19, 2020

All Out to Support Ontario Province-Wide
Strike of Education Workers

Make Your Mark on the Province-Wide Strike of Education Workers!
Wear Red on Friday!

The Fight of Educators for Their Working Conditions Has Established a New Standard - Enver Villamizar
The Challenges Ahead - Mira Katz
Ontario Day of Action in Solidarity with Striking Teachers - Students Say No
Windsor Community Forum on E-Learning

For Your Information
• Ontario Education Unions Speak Out at Pre-Budget Consultations

All Out to Support Ontario Province-Wide Strike of Education Workers

Make Your Mark on the Province-Wide Strike of Education Workers! Wear Red on Friday!

On Friday, February 21, nearly 200,000 Ontario teachers and education workers across 72 school boards and nearly 5,000 schools will carry out a joint action to say No! to the government's attempts to dictate measures that attack their working conditions, which are students' learning conditions. The teachers and education workers will engage in a one-day walkout across Ontario. They are all members of the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF).

The Ford government has lost the battle for public opinion in its attempts to attack all social programs by targeting education workers. It is nonetheless preparing to release a budget that it hopes to use in a new effort to bolster its claim that it must take funds from social programs and use them to pay the rich in the form of debt and deficit repayments and new transportation infrastructure. It is once again repeating the self-serving view that education is a cost and that only by limiting increases in wages can even the existing standards in education be maintained, never mind improved, which is what is required.

In November 2019 the government passed Bill 124, Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act to try to dictate parameters for the negotiations with all public sector workers in the form of a one per cent limit on new compensation. This is an attack on all working people as the government is trying to paint those who create the value through their work as a cost and a drain on the economy that must be attacked through legislation, while the entire public purse is put at the disposal of paying the rich.

In 2018-19 the Ontario government paid out $12.4 billion to the moneylenders in the form of interest alone on the provincial debt. Instead of developing public revenue and recouping from the rich the value created by public services which they consume, the Ford government has instead set out to attack the workers and the youth. In this respect, the joint actions of educators are in fact expressing the conscience of the working class of Ontario that they are not a cost but those who create the value in the economy and have a right to decide how it is used.

All working people in the province, irrespective of whether they work in education or not, are called on to put their mark on February 21 in defence of the rights of teachers and education workers. This will express the conscience of Ontarians in defence of the right to education and the right of working people to have a say over the direction of the economy and in particular the public services and social programs we all depend on. Wear red on Friday, February 21 wherever you are as a way to join in this fight for your empowerment! Join the picket lines if you can, and show that the working people of Ontario stand as one!

Education Is a Right!
Workers Are Not a Cost of Production!
Who Decides? We Decide!
Empower Yourself Now!

(Photos: WF, Megan Simon)

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The Fight of Educators for Their Working Conditions Has Established a New Standard

Presidents of the four Ontario education unions hold joint press conference following Education Minister Stephen Lecce's  speech at the Canadian Club, February 12, 2020.

The joint February 21 walkout called by four Ontario education unions is the result of education workers steadfastly overcoming the attempts to divide their ranks. Since 2012, when the Ontario Liberal government led by Dalton McGuinty deliberately set out to use one union against the others, a very open split was created among the leaderships of the various education unions. This approach has been used by successive governments to get one of the unions in education to agree to a general framework for a province-wide collective agreement that it can then impose on the others, despite the different working conditions and realities that exist across the province and across school boards.

The Wynne Liberal government then imposed provincial bargaining that further exacerbated the situation by legislating the elimination of much local decision-making over negotiations. The combination of the divide-and-rule methods and the elimination of local decision-making was aimed at eliminating the ability of the mass of teachers and education workers across the province to express their determination to improve the education system rather than accept its deterioration in the name of maintaining the status quo.

Since 2012, but even more so since March 2019, concerted efforts have been made at the grassroots level to overcome the divisions on the basis that education is a right and that irrespective of which board one works at or which job class one holds, educators are one in defence of the right to education and their right to decide their wages and working conditions. This has included the call to elect a teacher as an independent candidate as a way to speak for yourself and empower yourself now, the formation of joint organizing groups on social media where all educators, irrespective of union affiliation, can join and inform one another about what is taking place and plan actions together. It has also included the establishment of forms of media such as the Education is a Right podcast in which educators across unions discuss together the problems in education and what can be done to solve them.

This ongoing work at the grassroots level resulted in new standards of unity once the strikes of education workers began in October 2019 with the Canadian Union of Public Employees' (CUPE) work-to-rule actions. Despite CUPE being the first to sign a contract with the government, which the government hoped could be used to show that workers accept its dictated one percent limit on new compensation, this did not divide educators. In fact, it re-affirmed the need for united actions. During the CUPE negotiations educators began to see each other's actions as their own and expressed this in many ways such as school staff wearing the same colours across unions, giving cards, food and other gifts to make it clear that everyone was in the same fight.

Once rotating strikes of the unions representing teachers and education workers began, this was elevated to new levels. What started as rotating strikes of each union have become almost daily strikes of the mass of education workers who see each other's actions as their own. Examples abound from across the province of the unity in the workplace amongst members of all unions. When one union was out on a rotating strike, those not out joined their lines, bringing food and other support at lunch time or before and after school to show that they are united. In some cases when strikes of different unions took place on the same day, picket lines have been merged and infrastructure such as tents and sound systems shared. In one example, to show support for their striking support staff, all other staff and administration at a school pooled donations to "adopt" their striking colleagues for the day, matching the strike pay they received from their union. These actions express the sentiment of education workers that this is one fight and that they will not be divided. In sum, what is taking place on February 21 is a reflection of what teachers and educators have wanted, especially since 2012, which is a united front to affirm the rights of all education workers.

Irrespective of what may happen now in the negotiations, a new standard has been established that will not be forgotten and bodes well for the future. It is this unity in action that the ruling class fears most. It will no doubt double down now to try and impose new divisions or, failing that, use force in the form of back-to-work legislation. Regardless of what the government tries, this unity in action has set a new standard and will guide education workers into the difficult battles ahead.

Education workers picket Education Minister Lecce's speech to the Canadian Club, Toronto, February 12, 2020.

(Photos: OSSTF, ETFO, K. MacMahon, cathymai, D. Murton)

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The Challenges Ahead

The ruling class in Ontario continuously seeks to create conditions to criminalize the teachers and education workers by blaming them for the problems parents and students encounter with the education system. It also tries to break the unity in action of Ontario teachers and education workers. Like its stand towards the Indigenous peoples' firm No! to others deciding what happens on their lands, the ruling class will not permit any power other than its own to assert its right to decide what happens in favour of private interests. When faced with political differences and a united opposition of the people, it resorts to threats and dictate rather than negotiations and political solutions that could harmonize the individual and collective interests in a manner that provides a path forward.

A recent editorial in the National Post entitled "Time to End Teachers' Right to Strike" directly called for the Ontario government to eliminate educators' right to strike through legislation. The article expresses the frustration of the ruling class with teachers and education workers who refuse to accept attacks on their working conditions that they have firmly established are students' learning conditions:

"Every government of any stripe over the past 30 years has suffered their censure for allegedly failing to appreciate, accommodate and compensate their members to the degree they feel is their due. Liberal, Conservative, New Democrat, no matter, it's always the same: some issue arises that union bosses condemn as an insult to their profession, an attack on students and a mortal threat to the future of education."

Instead of recognizing that they must invest in public education on an ongoing and constant basis and recoup these investments from the rich who benefit, the ruling class cannot fathom why, despite trying to divide and rule over teachers and educator workers and their unions, they will not willingly submit to the neo-liberal program of cutting and restructuring education to pay the rich through privatization and other schemes.

The article then resorts to slanders, insinuating that educators are sheep being forced to follow the dictates of "union bosses" for fear of retribution:

"Teachers themselves may be dedicated professionals with deep concern for students and respect for learning, but they have long since ceded contract authority to their unions. Requests to authorize walkouts over whatever issue is currently deemed intolerable are overwhelmingly approved. Those who may hold personal doubts know better than to challenge the powers that be."

This comes at the same time as the Ontario government used its majority to try and eliminate university and college student unions because it felt they were led by "crazy Marxists." The ruling class cannot fathom that the teachers and education workers themselves are in fact the ones who have fought to ensure that their unions do not accept the degradation of their working conditions or secret deals that divide the movement as a whole. This was the case in 2014, for example, when the Ontario Liberals imposed contracts on education workers through legislation then got one of the education union presidents to run as their candidate in a by-election after cutting a deal with the government that was said to be "the best that could be done" under the circumstances. The union's own members went out of their way to ensure that the president was held to account along with the entire Liberal minority government that was propped up by the Progressive Conservatives at the time, bringing it to its knees in that by-election.

The fact that calls are being given to eliminate the right to strike of education workers clearly shows that the ruling class does not want to negotiate and has not learned from its mistakes. Instead, it wants the Ford government to be the instrument of making dictate permanent by eliminating the right to strike. This must be firmly opposed by all working people by standing with educators in their strike actions to show that anything other than a negotiated resolution will not be accepted.

(Photos: WF, OSSTF, ETT)

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Ontario Day of Action in Solidarity
with Striking Teachers

For the past couple of months, teachers and education staff across the province have been taking action against the budget cuts made by Ford's government. As students, we have seen our teachers and education staff brave the cold and make all of our voices heard through resilient rallying and collective action. Despite the job actions taken, negotiations have still yet to be made, and Stephen Lecce, the Provincial Minister of Education, has yet to even show up to the bargaining table. We have seen and felt the effects of these cuts and can no longer be complacent in the fight for our education.

That's why this Friday, February 21, we will be having a province-wide Day of Action to unify us as students and stand in solidarity with our teachers and education staff striking. The team at Students Say No has created an Organizer's Guide [click here] for you all to learn about what action you can take in your community and how we can make a huge impact this Friday! Make sure to register your school in our Registration Form [click here] so we can keep track of all the student actions taking place on this day.

As students, we HAVE to stand up for our education, for our teachers and staff, for our futures and for each other. We can no longer stand by while the government attempts to strip away quality public education. So this Friday, get your friends together and FIGHT BACK! Dance, make art, chant and refuse to back down! Let's get organized!

#studentssayno #cutshurtkids #prioritizeeducation #nocutstoeducation

For more information, click here.

Students participate in OSSTF rotating strike day and AEFO province-wide strike,
February 13, 2020.

(Photos: Students Say No!, J. Lynn, Marc K-B)

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Windsor Community Forum on E-Learning

Community Forum on E-Learning
Saturday, February 29 -- 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator
1501 Howard Avenue, Windsor

Teachers for Global Awareness -- Social Justice Forum and Education is a Right Podcast are hosting a panel discussion on the Ontario government's plan to make taking E-learning courses a mandatory requirement for graduation from secondary school. The keynote address, "The Impossible Promise of e-Learning," will be given by Beyhan Farhadi, Ph.D., whose research examined the relationship between e-Learning & educational inequality in the Toronto District School Board. Panelists will include a student, an e-learning teacher, Michigan educator and more. 

Click to enlarge

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For Your Information

Ontario Education Unions Speak Out at
Pre-Budget Consultations

Ontario education unions participated in the Ontario 2020 pre-budget consultations to speak out against the seriousness of cuts to public education funding being implemented over the next few years, which, if not reversed, will seriously impact the quality of education in Ontario. They rejected government misrepresentation of the province's finances and spoke of the negative impact cuts to funding of social programs are having, not just for education, but for the most vulnerable across the board.

Below are extracts from submissions by three education unions to Ontario's 2020 pre-budget consultations:

Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF)

OSSTF represents more than 60,000 members, including teachers and over 15,000 education workers including educational assistants, child and youth workers, early childhood educators, psychologists, secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant support personnel, and many others employed in Ontario's elementary and secondary English and French language schools, as well as the university sector.

The introduction to the OSSTF brief points out:

"The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released a report on September 26, 2019, detailing the alarming fact that the projected growth in Ministry of Education spending was well below education cost drivers (school-age population and inflation) over the next four years. This means that compared to the 2018-2019 school year, despite an overall increase in funding available to school boards, there will be significantly less per pupil funding, compared to previous years, to provide a high quality education to the growing population. In fact, according to the government memo (2019: B14), per pupil funding is already down $54 per student in the first year of a multi-year plan of significant cuts."

"Beyond education" the OSSTF points out that "overall program spending in Ontario is already dead last in Canada" and adds that "the FAO calculated that program spending will be cut a further 10 per cent over the next five years to pay for tax cuts that have yet to be announced. At the same time, the Ontario government collects the lowest total revenue per person. This combination is placing a severe strain on programs in Ontario and will no doubt have a negative impact on education outcomes for students, in turn weakening Ontario's workforce and, ultimately, our economy."[1]

Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

ETFO has approximately 76,000 members, 73 per cent of whom are teachers, 26 per cent occasional teachers and the remainder are professional support or educational support personnel, designated early childhood educators, etc.

In its brief submitted on January 23, EFTO said the government has relied on a narrative of inflated deficits to justify deep cuts to public spending and called out the government's claim that the provincial deficit inherited from the previous government stood at $15 billion (subsequently revised to $14.5 billion).[2], The reality is that Ontario spends less per-capita on public programs than any other province or territory in Canada. Furthermore, the FAO review of provincial finances found the provincial deficit for 2018-19 was closer to $7.4 billion, roughly half of what the government claimed.

EFTO also stated that "the government has chosen to demonize educators and the organizations that represent them, and trample on their right to free and fair collective bargaining guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The unilateral imposition of limits to compensation introduced outside of the collective bargaining process by the adoption of Bill 124, has shown Ontarians that the government does not respect the rights of workers, and that it is not interested in good faith negotiations."

Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA)

OECTA represents 45,000 teachers employed by Ontario's English Catholic school boards. They teach on a full-time, part-time, or occasional basis in elementary and secondary schools, or in continuing education programs.

OECTA pointedly stated in its brief that the government is "misleading Ontarians by wildly inflating the provincial deficit." OECTA stated: "The hallmarks of the government's approach -- fiscal austerity, haphazard decision making, and false or misleading statements to the public -- have been nowhere more apparent than in education."

"The government regularly claims it has made a $700 million investment in education this year," OECTA states. "But nearly $690 million of this is for the so-called attrition protection fund, which is a short-term solution meant to mask the loss of teaching positions that would result from the government's planned class size increases and mandatory e-learning regime over the next four years, until the next election [...]"

"The truth is that the core per-pupil funding grant for elementary and secondary education has been cut by more the $600 million. In addition, funding for programs and supports for vulnerable students has been cut by $230 million [...]"

"It is simply not possible to reduce spending in education, health, social services, and other areas without negatively affecting the well-being of individuals and families [...] While we recognize the government's ideological preferences, we will continue to point out that their mandate and responsibility is to ensure the long-term health and prosperity of all Ontarians."[3]


1. OSSTF brief

2. ETFO brief

3. OECTA brief

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