We are all ETFO + CUPE!
On Saturday September 26, grass root teacher activists from ETFO OECTA and OSSTF, with our CUPE education support workers, held a "do it yourself" indie rally out front of the provincial parliament at Queen's Park Toronto. We marched under the banner that "The Crown Can't Divide Us!". Afterwards, we formed a defacto "Central Table", well actually a couple of pub tables. Fortunately, we managed to solve all our collective union problems during the latest round of contract talks. Unfortunately it won't be binding.
Beating the war drums!
Regretfully, the original and official ETFO and CUPE organized mass rally that was scheduled, needed to be cancelled about a week or so ago. Our numbers were reduced into the dozens, rather than the thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of protesters attending our collective, all affiliate Queens Park protests of year's past. Enough buses weren't available to transport all of the concerned teachers and workers who would've liked to come! Unfortunately, they were already booked for the US papal visit! No matter, this was democracy too, at it's most basic, activist, hands on, dissident level.
The rally "Central Table" and .....
Usually, the Ontario teacher union movement has held at least one all affiliate, mass solidarity rally at Queen's Park, when so much is at stake. One would've thought that would be the case with the recent round of government and trustee orchestrated teacher bashing and demands for contract strips. Few of us would argue that the Neo Liberal Wynne government hasn't stepped up to fill the shoes of the province's Neo Conservatives vis a vis Mike Harris, Ernie Eves, Tim Hudak and their ilk. Sadly such collective "leadership" did not materialize, at least from our provincial union leaders during the current attacks and OECTA/OSSTF negotiations.
More of the rally "Central Table"!
However, I am happy to report that "solidarity forever" is still alive and well at the grass roots level, when it came to walking the walk rather than just talking the talk, at least at the Queen's Park rally on Saturday. ETFO was well represented by the activist wing of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto [ETT]. Their teachers seemed confident and charged, with a notable sense of self efficacy, that their union would still fight to see their protests through to a fair deal. The OSSTF and OECTA dissidents, on the other hand, were unwilling to allow their own unions' collaboration with the Wynne Neo Libs to keep them from rallying in solidarity with ETFO and CUPE in their troubled contract talks, as push comes to shove.
Still fighting the good fight!
None present seemed to think it was such a great idea to take the 1.5% in table crumbs that were offered and run, as often seems so en vogue this year! It was great to meet teacher free speech guest blogger Peter Hasek still beating the protest drum, among others including Wendy Goodes, and Tim Heffernan. Our retired teachers were agreed that the current status quo does not represent the strong, member orientated union movement we fought so long and hard to build throughout our teacher activist careers. Our REWT protesters, like the rest of us, know that we will all need to think outside the box about what is to be done as the post mortum begins!
Saying what needs to be said ....
My special thanks to those of you who sent their regrets because you were unable to attend the Queens Park rally on such short notice, and without the proper transportation arrangements. However, our teacher free speech grass roots are widespread across the province and between our different affiliates, whatever else our union "powers that be" might or might not be prepared to do, so that the Crown doesn't divide and conquer the teacher union movement. One hopes you can find your own ways at the local level to also show your solidarity support for our ETFO and CUPE colleagues, and continue to speak out using the growing tide of teacher social media tweets, blogs and websites in the difficult, ongoing struggle ahead!