Our teacher unions: Back to the Grassroots!
What a week! On April 25th, the ubiquitous Toronto Sun caused much online surprise and concern among local Toronto OECTA members with it's "news" claim that the Catholic schools would be going on strike as early as May 10th! That, of course, is the date when ETFO will be in a strike position instead. No matter, the Toronto Sun story served to stir up a slew of nasty teacher bashing, as can be seen in the Comments section below the "news" story @ Sun
Fortunately, OECTA President James Ryan has since clarified the incorrect date to put the local membership better at ease. As recent news reports and this week's Provincial Bargaining Update state:
There have been reports from the media concerning a May 10th strike action date. Be advised this is for ETFO members, not OECTA members. Further, strike actions in Durham and Sudbury are OSSTF job actions.
OECTA is not yet in a strike position and it is our intent to return to the bargaining table in an attempt to resolve outstanding issues before moving to some form of job sanction.
President James Ryan has clearly stated that the earliest a Catholic Teachers strike could happen is mid to late June, but strategically this is not a good time frame. As reported during rallies, the fall is a more realistic time frame.
It's reassuring to see President James Ryan jump promptly into the fray! Disturbing memories of the surprise 2012 OECTA MOU [Link], reached by the hauntingly similar negotiating CB team still at the helm of current talks with the province, continue to cast long shadows of doubt over leadership of the Catholic teachers' union.
OECTA 2012 President + Current Contract Services' Kevin O'Dwyer
The recent alarm is quite understandable. Consider that OECTA members received news of the July 5th 2012 OECTA MOU through the media, rather than their union. And then only after the teachers had already left school for the summer holidays with OECTA reassurances [Link], despite claims by OSSTF and ETFO to the contrary [Link], that any such deal was not pending.
True, it's a small step. And James will be gone at the end of June. Still it's something. With OECTA, we still often measure progress in very small steps, sometimes more like 1 forward and 2 back, but I rest my case.
OSSTF Magnificent 7: 2 all ready on strike + 5 more still to go!
Jame's statement also raises some other broader concerns! There's the seeming happenstance of OECTA not be in a strike position, as James asserts, until mid June, with a fall strike date actually being more to their advantage. OSSTF's "Magnificent 7" strike strategy [Link] is currently about to be extended to school board number 3 as early as next Monday in Peel region, and ETFO will be in a position to walk by May 10th. Defacto, it seems OECTA teachers will once again, like in 2012-13, be staying put in class while their colleagues in the public schools are hitting the picket lines this spring!
Perhaps OECTA's last minute strike reinforcements might prove incisive in finally pushing the teacher strikes "over the top" to victory, but at what interim cost to our public school colleagues whom will be all ready out on the pavement? Theoretically, it could be advantageous for our teacher unions to jointly stage a multi layered, 3 affiliate, strike strategy. However, unconfirmed rumours persist that neither OSSTF nor ETFO attended this years OECTA AGM. We might suspect why tradition was broken, for any number of reasons, none too complimentary.
Think about it: Is it conceivable that solidarity among the affiliates could be that sufficiently tight, after all which happened last time with the OECTA Road Map? Are OSSTF and ETFO so especially enamoured with OECTA that they would now willingly cut them such slack, while their own members meanwhile suffer? Let's not be absurd! If so, than you've got some serious union housekeeping to do too!
Meanwhile in Sudbury this week ...
There were some bright, inspiring cases this week of the OECTA membership getting up off their butts at the local grassroot level to show their own solidarity with the other affiliates. OECTA Sudbury Elementary, under President Kent MacNeill provides a case in point, though one suspects there will soon be many other examples. The unit's unwavering, good old school "tried and true" union leadership, demonstrated concrete local solidarity by personally joining their public school counterparts on the picket lines outside school hours in Sudbury.
Hopefully other local OECTA units across the province will soon also demonstrate similar OECTA solidarity and leadership locally where it otherwise, in the short turn, seems so sadly lacking and incredulous. We certainly look forward to learning more about these efforts here on my all affiliate teacher free speech blog! At the grassroot level, teacher solidarity can still hold strong to tie and unite, despite our differences, between affiliates and especially with the rather controversial OECTA provincial leadership.
ETFO Rocks: Solidarity 4 Ever!
Reader comments on this teacher free speech site have recently suggested another very good idea; that the OECTA Provincial Executive should also be willing to take a strike pay cut along with the membership when the Catholic school strikes eventually roll around. As teachers, we know that we best lead by example. Would OECTASE also be willing to demonstrate a very real example of concrete, teacher union leadership?
How about at OSSTF and ETFO? The members currently seem strongly united and confident that they are being well lead. But when strike "push comes to shove", a "big guy" strike pay cut could be reassuring too! No head should be too big, nor any wallet too small, when all involved are a part of the cause.
Nothing is more disheartening, from a grassroot teacher perspective, than getting plummeted on the front lines while those on high, who are trusted to lead, commiserate in word but not deed by their own most everyday, basic example! And that's despite whatever other possible strengths and virtues they might have! What better demonstration of commitment and solidarity with you is there than for each of our teacher union executives, CB teams and secretariats to also take a strike pay cut too, just like the rest of the rank and file members in the trenches below?
OECTA General Secretariat Marshall Jarvis
It seems Ontario's teachers are in for the long haul. Our very unsettling 2012-13 teacher strike debacle saw varying degrees of unrest and, to put it mildly, less than enthusiastic outcomes for all three of the affiliate memberships. President Ryan's recent statement confirms what many of us have long suspected; that the current strike situation will quite likely drag on into this fall. Realistically speaking, if the MOE and trustee "management" intransigence, belligerence and seeming indifference are any indication, the strikes could even last a lot longer than that. Also, the chances of a successful outcome are quite unclear!
Will all three Ontario teacher unions, OSSTF, ETFO and OECTA stick together this time around? Will the leadership and Secretariat themselves actually "walk the talk" that's being heard about sacrifice, service and commitment from them for the "common good" on the front lines?
Now, more than ever, their actions must speak louder than words! Now's the time to ask your teacher union executives and secretariat: will you too take a pay cut for the duration of the teacher strikes just like you are requiring from your teacher members who are paying the bills?
I'm sure we all await their response with bated breath: I'd bet the answers will be very interesting indeed!
My blog on Free Speech and Grass Root Renewal is Here.
Guest Blog: An OECTA Member Bill of Rights @ There!
Why you need a teacher union @ Here!
On OECTA: Manufacturing Consent @ There!
Walking the Talk: Our teacher unions need to lead by example @ Here!
Your DIY Teacher Free Speech 2015 Contract Guide @ There!