How to grow mushrooms? Don't let this be you!
It is horrific that OECTAs once well respected union principles were subverted so decisively at this weekend's 2015 AGM! These are especially dark times for those of us who fought so hard during the Harris Years. We dreamed of a strong representative Catholic teacher union for all of our members -not just some! We had hoped for better! Alas, for now, it is not to be!
Instead, we see a particularly hideous and repulsive casebook study. It demonstrates how to manufacture consent for a new and very powerful union partisan elite. It was a long time coming. It's strangle hold on the OECTA levers of power has been consolidated and is now complete!
Since 2012, OECTA has been deeply involved in the decidedly un-union act of "concession bargaining". However, now the executive decision making and control is firmly in the hands of a ruling un-elected "expert elite". They are propped up by a minion executive. A compromised COP. Add a new, "mushroom head" AGM largely kept in the dark and fed shit.
The final stages of this OECTA power coup d'etat are now complete! OECTA has severed the final links of transparency, accountability and representation with it's rank and file grass root members. The grass roots have been neutralized and neutered. They are now only around to pay the bills for fat cat union fee increases. Improve their terms of employment. Vieing for special consideration in OECTA's contract talks as they march into the Orwellian years ahead!
In George Orwell's "Animal Farm", all the animal workers were equal, only some more so than others. Even the casual observer of the politics at OECTA AGM 2015 will wince at the heavy handed tactics used to grab more power for the struggling pro MOU forces! Did delegates sell out their union principles to get on the anointed "more equal" side? To therefore make sure a Jarvis-O'Dwyer-Hawkins triad finally won the day? It was not a pretty sight!
Pro MOU'er and 1st VP incumbent Ann Hawkins only narrowly defeated former OECTA TSU President and MOU opponent Rene Jansen to become the next provincial president, by a vote of 330 to 311. True the final tally shows that OECTA was very much a house divided, between those units who are "onside" with the new ruling elite, and those who are not. But no matter! Ann won. There is little to suggest that the fight for the greater balance of power with the remaining positions on the provincial executive was to be fought and won on an even playing field!
Regretfully, delegates learnt Saturday that 4 of the opposition candidates had resigned from the election race. An absurd, imposed OECTA "Cone of Silence" stops us from learning the reasons why! Maybe because the resignations were announced at the February COP meeting? Was that, like most COP meetings, held "in camera"? If so, the reasons are "off the record" and can't be shared! Bizarre! [Here]
There is the "letter of the law". Then there's the "spirit of the law". That's a blatant, subversion of justice that prevails on a technicality, with the very democratic nature of the election process and authority of the AGM assembly at stake! Instead of an election, the remaining candidates were all acclaimed, showing what a ridiculous clown show the OECTA Provincial election process has become!
Could that the same COP meeting also have approved an un-elected Personnel Committee decision to renew the top dog general secretary contract? Even though, following the usual process, it had been voted down by the duly elected OECTA provincial executive? Since the proceedings were "in camera" nobody could say "boo" without the fear of lost membership rights and privileges. So we might never know!
Does that seem to much like a coup d' etat? As such unlikely to happen at the OECTA we once thought we knew and loved so well? Well, the OECTA expert elite executive and secretariat chess piece are now all firmly in place, with a decidedly pro 2012 MOU slant, for the current provincial Collective Bargaining talks! The next task then becomes manufacturing consent to consolidate it's authority despite what is otherwise a very suspicious power grab at best!
The process began in earnest with great fanfare when Minister of Education [MOE] Liz Sandals arrived for her visit to the assembly! Delegates were invited to be a part of a greater cause against a familiar union demon, which the new power elite could now use to bring the membership back within the fold. The delegates were told to be dead silent for her arrival and speech. They then joined in a rousing chorus of that old union chestnut "Solidarity Forever" as she left. The excited delegates must've felt very empowered as a part of something bigger, with our expert elite now very conveniently leading the way!
Regretfully, memories are far too short. My Teacher Free Speech Archive from March to July 2012 can help recall that the same MOE protest ploy was used at the March 2012 AGM. [Here] Where did it lead? In late June, President O'Dwyer, now the Contract Services Officer on the current OECTA provincial negotiating team [Here], denied OSSTF and ETFO's claim that a "secret deal" was imminent. [Yes][No] Then surprise! On July 5th, the OECTA MOU was ratified by OECTA provincial on the members behalf, in our absence, after we had all ready left for our summer holidays! [Here]
Might OECTA members rest assured that they are guaranteed a vote on the next MOU deal as OECTA provincial is so proud to point out? Is that any reassurance for OSSTF, ETFO and CUPE that more OECTA caution and reason will prevail? After the awful MOU debacle emboldened the OLP to rashly force the August 2012 Bill 115 OECTA "Road map" upon them? [Here] Regardless of how power drunk OECTA got last round on the heady promises at the bottom of their OLP "red kool aid" wine glass?
All are highly unlikely for a number of reasons. Let's consider what has happened with the quite reasonable internal dissent over the unfair and uneven representation resulting from the 2012 MOU. The archive is rife with examples of OECTA's efforts to manufacture consent by isolating, and making scary examples of those who don't go along with the status quo! They were invariably crushed with extreme prejudice by OECTA even without its new virtually unlimited powers. As the December 2013 Teacher Free Speech News Archive shows, OECTA did not hesitate diabolically using Bill 115 against it's own members to prevent them from having their complaints heard by the OLRB! [Here] [Halton] [Sudbury] [Metro 7]
Doubt not; it's still open season on OECTA dissidents! We can again look in the archive for many examples of OECTA manufacturing consent to isolate, and set negative examples of those who don't go along with the status quo! Check out the November 2013 "Ask Angelo" questions [Here] [Here] and Feb 2014 Canadian Civil Liberty letter blogs. [Here] They concern "dismissed" former Halton Elementary President and MOU dissident Richard "Bad Boy" Brock who publicly spoke out against the contract for lack of fair representation when his members needs were being repeatedly ignored! [Here] [Here]
How was an appointed Discipline Committee ever allowed to remove a duly elected union president? [Here] Why have we never learnt the answers to the many letters and questions? [Here] [Here] Why was everything but the kitchen sink thrown at Richard afterwards by provincial? Even though it had nothing to do with his case? Is it related to the gag order silencing him from now pursuing or discussing the matter further?
Unfortunately, nothing has changed! Even as OECTA's coup d'etat unfolded this weekend, Twitter was rife with frustrated and disenfranchised OECTA members who feel they can't get their concerns otherwise properly addressed. Membership fees continue to be readily used to issue "cease and desist orders" to shut them up. Reporters are sniffing around, so far unsuccessfully, trying to get victim statements about the increasingly dictatorial like actions, behaviour and the prevailing OECTA "Culture of Fear" [Here]. None of it is very encouraging if the goal is still truly justice for all members! Far from it!
It would be very foolish to think that the new OECTA tiger has changed stripes! The OECTA AGM 2015 backdrop for manufacturing consent, beside the recycled MOE "Solidarity Forever" strategy, was the initial contract offer. [Here] A realistic appraisal is that it shows quite clearly OECTA is willing to allow the Liberal government to consolidate the bargaining concessions from 2012 as the new status quo. Not status quo plus, as was OECTA's CB mantra in years past. Provincial bargaining also trumps local, another now forgotten key OECTA CB tenet. Lost sick days? Gratuities? The appetite for the good fight has once again seemingly given way to a Vichy mentality of co-option and appeasement! [Vichy] Possibly secret side deals too? Or whatever table scraps the OLP will toss OECTA's way?
OECTA wasted no time at AGM 2015 pursuing it's manufacturing consent agenda for the new power elite! No motions were passed on the first day of the assembly. What was the real order of business? Outgoing President James Ryan speech encouraged the delegates to become "OECTA activists" in defining the struggle against OCSTA's particularly vile and nasty initial contract proposal [Here]. Leave it to the Catholic trustees for a vile, loathsome and odious, first class devil of an offer to rally the troops. For them, the 2012 MOU is but a start, to building further upon, with the MOE's tacit, strategic support, for now anyway. Although nobody at OECTA would want that of course, especially James, it provides a handy tool for jump starting, rallying and continuing the teacher protest for many many months to come! Was it any coincidence that offer was distributed to the members first in a separate letter?
In contrast, OECTA's initial offer is a big improvement over the trustees', though not the 2012 OECTA MOU which it little challenges. Will the members now rally around OECTA Provincial, defacto ratifying the original much despised 2012 MOU bargaining concessions with their proud, newly granted FTE contract vote [Here!]? Instead of the less palatable offered by the trustees? Complete the unfinished business of 2012? Give the Liberals what they wanted on a platter; happily, signed, sealed, and delivered in but another ongoing and unseemly comprimise of union principles? With a thankful membership, reunited in a struggle against the less palatable trustee offer? A fight that they might win?
Set ones standards low enough, and who knows, anything is possible! The irony is truly frightening! Also consider this: Speak out? Don't join the fight? Then are you arguably helping the boards? Or the MOE? Choose your devil! It's ripe for vacuous statements like the MOE "Solidarity Forever" visit strategy.
Most members will find it hard to argue or resist! If so? Demonize too! Any pressing and persistant dissent? Continue to stomp out! Gag! Silence! And keep following the formula for growing mushrooms too: keep them in the dark information wise! Keep feeding them BS!
We retirees are relatively lucky despite our dashed OECTA hopes and dreams. Our gratuities were grandfathered. Cashed in without depreciation through inflation. We can still remember the lost sick days, benefits, working conditions and salary gains we fought so hard for with our blood sweat and tears. We remember a meaningful, active and direct hands on grass root struggle. Our open forum discussions on the early "Education Network of Ontario" [ENO] teacher "intranet". Information readily exchanged and shared, a hallmark of our vital, representative teacher union movement. Rather than our union manufacturing consent to pad the wallets and save the sorry ass of our new OECTA expert elite.
Much of the basic respect I had for our teacher unions has now been lost. From here on in, I suspect there will be a new but not a better way of doing business, no thank you. Our new teachers will have to someday rise to fight the good fight too, all over again, for themselves if they want what we once had. They won't be able to ride our coattails for very much longer.
I, for my part, am happy with my Chomsky and Che. Will perhaps also add a refresher on 1984 and Brave New World to my retirement night time, cottage country or beach reading list. Despite or perhaps because of my reservations with the new status quo, I plan to continue my Teacher Free Speech archives and blog site in your service for as long as I have readers. Looking for new ways to explore manufacturing dis-consent as a counterweight via the new electronic media. And I will continue to believe that we can and should participate more meaningfully in a member orientated teacher union movement, with free and open information, not this manipulative crap that most unfortunately passes for informed leadership and union involvement today.
PSST! OSSTF + ETFO readers: This blog is heavy on criticism of OECTA but I'll bet your affiliates have bought into a lot of the same BS too. It will be very interesting to read and post your initial contract proposals too. And see how your unions proceed from here!
Why you need a teacher union @ Here!
Teacher Free Speech and Grass Root Renewal @ There!
OECTA: None Dare Call It Betrayal @ There!
Guest Blog: An OECTA Member Bill of Rights @ There!
Guest Blog: OECTA Disenfranchised Teacher Petition @ There!
OECTA Neo Real: The 2012 MOU @ There!
OECTA Coup D'Etat @ There!
Democracy in our Unions: Electronic Voting? @ Here!