Opening Statement



Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Guest Blog: OSSTF's Pre + Post Election Strategy?

Or: How I Learned to Stop Caring and Love the Dance a Treatise on the OSSTF’s Pre and Post-Election Strategy.



‘Tis the season to be in the garden. And while I was out stomping about in the triple mix, my mind began to focus on provincial politics and the politicians that cover Ontario with a deep layer of manure every time the polling stations escape the storage lockers. Then I started to dance on that pile of crapulence. Indulge for a moment the metaphor.... If you wanted to cut some rug at the local dance hall, you would hope that the gender(s) that sexually interest(s) you would be in attendance.

Now, in the name of expediency I will sacrifice inclusivity and explain it as though yours truly is the fellow at the dance den. If I show up and survey a crowd of potential dance-mates and see a tsunami of testosterone (to wit - a sausage-fest), I would have a few strategies to consider. I could leave the party and head for a more estrogenic environment or I could wait and see if the ladies are just late or I could close my eyes and pretend that the guys are gals. My strategy? I would probably leave. What I could not do is change the circumstances. They simply are not in my control.

The OSSTF and all the teacher unions are in a similar pickle. They showed up for a dance and couldn’t find a partner. But unlike me, they stuck around. In fact, they staked out a corner of the club and started grooving to their own rhythm. And if you have ever seen it played out, you know that guy quickly becomes the awkward dude that kind of freaks you out but still manages to mildly amuse. Here’s why our not-so-guilty feet have got no rhythm. (In the three strategic areas in which the unions shamefully boast a vacant dance card).



The Election Strategy

Stated simply and directly, an election strategy requires viable options. Any labour organization’s election strategy must be built around the notion of being king-makers. All the backroom group-think in the world cannot escape the simple truth that the election is the moment to cement your dance partner for the next four years and to accumulate some governing party promissory notes. Whether it be propping up the opposition, or giving a political party previously unattainable legislative legitimacy -it’s about making friendly kings and indebted queens. However, in Ontario, the music has stopped and all the dance partners went home with somebody else. The OSSTF speaks of intelligent, astute, and flexible political strategy. While in the same breath saying we have to avoid Hudak’s anti-labour tea-toddling tomfoolery.

Well, surprise, that means we are endorsing the Liberal party. If the Liberals are the only party that can challenge the PC’s then our stated goal of defeating Hudak means that we are supporting Wynne. Forever. All this while Bill 115 still resides in short term memory for most of us. And the OSSTF has the gall to suggest that we are going to teach the Liberals a lesson because we are not “officially endorsing them.



As it turns out, nobody wanted to dance with Tim!

Whether officially or not, we have endorsed the Liberals in this election. We didn’t have any choice, and the Ontario Liberal Party knows it. In fact, they knew it when they introduced Bill 115. They knew that when it came down to it, the teacher unions (and Labour in general) would not only not support Hudak, but that they would need to do everything they could to avoid a PC government - and out of necessity come back to the Liberals. Believe this, the McWynnties knew they could sell us out and we would still have to vote for them.

I guess we’re not really King-makers after all. It’s akin to bringing a special someone to the dance party, buying her a dress, a couple of drinks, some flowers and then discovering her astride of the guy in the Ralph Lauren shirt and penny loafers when you return from the restroom. And then when she comes over to you - you buy her another drink. But you think you’re winning because you absolutely, one hundred percent for sure, are not sending her a birthday card, although when the time comes, you will buy her a cake. The Liberals know we have no choice but to support them - what strategy? Election strategy requires more than one potential dance partner. We cannot pretend otherwise. If we can’t be legitimate king or queen makers then we must move onto a different dance floor.



Who will Kathleen's union dance partners be?

The Negotiations

There’s a break in the beat when you notice a nearby hottie, you make eye contact, smile, maintain eye contact and begin the approach. When you arrive you can feel the pheromones as urges build, then, as though on cue, the music resumes. One problem - you expected to tango, but the music and your partner - are ready to rave. You’re painfully out of step and your hottie sashays over to another. The rose drops from your mouth and you realize you are the dinosaur on the dance floor. Negotiations by definition require two willing partners who share an understanding regarding the rules of the process.

But in the case of Ontario’s Education Sector and the Government of Ontario - the government indulges in the Lambada, the groin tangling forbidden shimmy, while we are Dosey D’ohing our way through a square dance. Here’s how the beats will drop. We strike - they legislate us back to work after they save a week or two of salary. Or we rotate strikes - they lock us out and legislate us back to work after some savings accrue. Or we withdraw extracurriculars - they consider merit pay or making extras mandatory. Different dances. To be clear, I fully support significant labour kick back in the form of strikes or withdrawal of extracurriculars, but the tune has changed and the power of these moves is somewhat muted.

And then there’s the elephant on the dance floor. Does our membership really have the stomach for a long labour battle? About 40 years ago teachers walked. Left the classroom and hit the tundra-fied sidewalks for over eight weeks. They sacrificed pay, stood in the cold, and ultimately made a huge difference. During the Bill 115 labour dispute, many teachers were reluctant to pull their clubs or teams. Something has changed. If you want to play old school labour tactics in a new world political system, you had better be certain the membership will join in your conga line. But right now, I am not sure that’s the case. It’s time to educate the membership, to listen to the membership, to engage and motivate the membership.



The teachers post election contract dance: no laughing matter!!!

The Post-Election strategy.

So you’ve recently broken up with somebody special. Let’s not pretty it up, they dumped you, the day before Valentine’s, for your best friend. And you show up at the dance club only to see him or her grinding away on said former bestie. Do you run away? HELL NO. Living well is the best revenge. Get the best looking person you can find (I don’t care if it’s your cousin) and dance the night away, in full view of your gone, but not forgotten, former dance partner. And do things with them, again in full view, that you never did with your ex.

In a world where the OSSTF can no longer play king maker, cannot effectively execute a traditional negotiations strategy, it’s time to shake the money maker with some new dance partners. The parents. The students. The media. The neighbours. And the middle class. The parents want a partner who protects their children from the corporatization and politicization of education. Ma and Pa Ontario want to believe that teachers are the vanguard of education and that we will protect their interests as well as ours. They need to understand the issues, and right now most parents don’t.

 We’re educators; let’s educate. High school students have an underestimated understanding of the issues and are acutely aware of the challenges facing them when it comes to financing post-secondary education. Never mind the increasing and unrelenting stresses they face in high school. And how did O.A.C./grade 13 disappear without a public education campaign from the OSSTF? I am not suggesting that we politicize the classroom, rather that we should engage student groups. They are sympathetic and will partner with us.



Square dancing anyone?

The media needs to cover a compelling counterpunch. One of the reasons they don’t cover our side of the story is because (no offence intended) teachers are painfully bland. We don’t give them sound bites or colourful imagery and nobody wants to dance to boring, obscure tunes about charter rights or teachers struggling to make ends meet during their summers of leisure. When you’re standing just off the dance floor, your eyes are usually drawn to the sexiest of revelers. Teachers need to sexy up their arguments. The media couldn’t care less about who is on the moral high ground; they care about whoever is the most interesting to cover.

Our neighbours, and the middle class in general, need to understand that teachers are the canaries in the coal mine. No, I shouldn’t mix metaphors, so...we’re the go-go dancers. And if the go-go dancers can be eliminated there is no reason to believe that the music won’t stop suddenly one day. And the middle class will become a quaint memory (like my actual dance club days). While that may be a dramatic statement, I sense a growing agitation amongst the middle class as our financial challenges mount. The OSSTF needs to tap into and unify that agitation, in the unionist, and the non-unionist, middle class. It’s there - teachers need to lead the charge. Rather than taking the lead, our union leadership seems to be awkwardly holding on to a by-gone era. The OSSTF was founded just as the roaring twenties were taking hold. Sadly, we remain the flapper in a room full of rappers.

You can follow Rob Scott on Twitter @robbiescotty

Rob Scott June 2014 



Teacher Free Speech Archive: Rob's guest blog on the OSSTF MOU is available @ Here!

Also in the archives: Robs guest blog on OSSTF-ing up negotiations @ Here!

Further related archives 2011-14 are available below this main blog column for your perusal!

COMMENTS?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said Rob. As an OSSTF rep I was amazed at the lack of forward thinking and openness to new ideas and strategies. The same old will not do this time. You are correct in stating the membership is not ready for another year of "sanctions" and potentially striking. Look at BC. While they are getting the message out re: class composition and the court ruling they are looking at Oct before being legislated back to work. Then what? 4 months no pay and nothing has changed. When the public sentiment is " fire them all" or "let them rot" we have an image problem that requires OSSTF to counter. Lets hear some responses from people who have a clue about media campaigns and use my dues wisely!

A fed up OSSTF member

P.S. If you think the gov't doesn't have a counter for rotating strikes you need to pull your head out of the sand folks.

Anonymous said...

ETFO has used a whole new approach with negotiations this time. Sam Hammond's only comment in the summer was that we must avoid job action at all cost. He also mentioned that both sides would not be negotiating through the media. Yet, Wynne announced that there was no new $ for teachers. Same old, same old. The Liberals set the tone for negotiations before they even start. ETFO has said nothing in response. There has been no transparency as to what we are asking for in negotiations. That is very different from the past where our wants were laid out. Something has gone awry with our unions and their leaders. The new philosophy of divulging little I guess keeps everyone quiet. Out of sight, out of mind. Seeing what is happening in BC is a bad omen for Ontario teachers. Thankfully, this will be my 30th and last year.

Skinny Dipper said...

When I heard Sam Hammond give his welcoming speech for Kathleen Wynne at the ETFO annual meeting, I was getting worried. While it is nice to be polite to one's guests, I got the feeling that Sam Hammond was approaching the level of chumminess with Kathleen Wynne. In this round of negotiations, I am not sure if Mr. Hammond will be fighting for ETFO's teacher-members or for a future position in Kathleen Wynne's educational bureaucracy.

I do worry that Sam Hammond will make teachers think that we are fighting an illusive battle. He may try the same strategies as last time such as withdrawing extra-curricular activities, avoiding staff meetings, working only during school hours, and having one-day strikes. He will not seek a full strike should talks fail to bring a successful contract.

Sam Hammond knows that he cannot ask the government for more than 0%. He also knows that if he can't get more than 0 for his teacher-members, he will be challenged for the leadership by none other than David Clegg. Sam Hammond needs an out. That is a government appointment. He and Kathleen Wynne will dance a tango. There may be a one-day strike. Heck, Andrea Horwath may give a speech and then go back hiding in the "girls" washroom again. There will be an agreement that entrenches the status quo, but Sam will make it sound like the teachers got something. Eventually, Sam will get appointed by Kathleen Wynne for a government position. The current ETFO leadership may appoint another person to act as president in order to keep out David Clegg in the long run.

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