Opening Statement



Tuesday, 3 November 2015

One Provincial Teacher Union?



CONSIDER THIS:

How can we create one province wide teacher and educational support worker union here in Ontario?

While the Wynne government decides how to repair it's flawed, new CB Act [2015] after the latest teacher contract debacle, the province's teachers and education workers certainly have their work cut out for them too! Each of the unions; AEFO, CUPE, ETFO, OECTA and OSSTF included, need to stop merely protecting their own turf and inner cliques. We need now more than ever, to consider the bigger picture together as one!

Divided, and self serving, the different unions have proved largely unable to co-ordinate with any convincing degree of teacher solidarity between affiliates, a credible and effective offensive against the bullying, bashing and questionable OLP deal making frenzy of the past 14 months. 

Our union movement cannot continue to be so disorganized and susceptible to such divide and conquer tactics! It's time to begin, as grass root members from all the different affiliates, a discussion that unfortunately in many cases our plutocrats at provincial will not want to hear! 

Perhaps you have all ready heard the growing buzz about the need for one big province wide teacher union on the social media? Lots of us have! Sometimes, warning letters and threats of disciplinary action have even all ready been issued for those in a leadership position, however minor, accused of engaging in public discussion of the topic. If anyone at "head office" is overreacting that much, then they must be afraid. But of what and for whom? 

Fortunately, your individual teacher free speech comments can be posted anonymously on this blogsite. I don't suspect there are any easy answers for how we could create such a province wide union or what it will look like! However, if anybody would like to share your ideas, for respectful discussion purposes, there's a handy dandy "Comments" section below this blog. Please feel free!

Let me begin with three suppositions, as some basic food for thought:



A STRENGTH TO BUILD ON:

Strength in Numbers: Acting together in solidarity as one provincial union, we could better negotiate and take job actions from a position of strength. We'd benefit as a more powerful, collective force; a united front against the aggressive provincial government scenarios we increasingly face. Be they Rae Dayish NDP, Neo Con Harrisite or Neo Lib Wynne, all of them have been bad news for us; our profession, our students and our schools! The OLP "austerity" agenda, to put it simply, is just more subtle, then the "Common Sense Revolution" or even the "Social Contract". The recent "ultimatum" and it's aftermath shows that we are just in too much danger not to rally our forces! Better late than never!

A THREAT TO AVOID:

Plutocracy: Many of our affiliates are increasingly run by a centralized, executive elite. Often, they are unelected officials yielding most of the resources, calling much of the shots. Could one big province wide union end up remodelling this institutional behaviour into a monolithic behemoth that is even more cut off and unresponsive to it's grass root members? 

We need not be scared off! New ideas require new ways of thinking and rebuilding, such that to paraphrase good ol' Buckminister Fuller, we need to create a new model that makes the old one obsolete. How do we set up a new province wide teacher union that is both more democratic and accountable, and with greater possibilities for direct involvement by the membership? Where and how to begin? No easy task!



NON BARGAINING:

Granted, the "Catholic issue" will be touchy for supporters and opponents of the publicly funded denominational system alike. I am going to suggest that these and other "particular issues" reflecting the great diversity of teachers, students and schools in our province could be accommodated as a separate part of the individual "political" rather than the greater collective "bargaining" units within each board across the province, until the bigger issue of separate school funding is later sorted out, one way or another, due to the urgency of our task. I might be a bit of a dreamer here, but hopefully I'm not the only one, as how to do that will certainly require a lot more reflection too!

So. If interested, please feel free to add your thoughts below:

COMMENTS?

7 comments:

Angelo Ippolito said...

I do not think that one big union is better. It would put even more power in the hands of the government to force their agenda.

What we need is to build or rebuild the local power in the process. Strong and courageous democratic debate is essential if local members issues are to be addressed effectively. This should be encouraged and supported. Differing opinions should always be respected and considered. Confidential sessions should only be used when absolutely necessary and should be rare.

We need to find a way to ensure that the best interests of the members are always the guiding force in all we do. The lack of this may be real or simply perceived. However, it is very important that the confidence of individual members in the process be evident and sought.

I am not ready to support the elimination of competing affiliates. Competition is good. Cooperation is also good.

At the heart of all affiliates there are great guiding principals. Maybe these need to be strengthened so that individual members have more say. That should go a long way to alleviate concerns, may they be real or perceived.

I do agree that centralization can be very problematic. The question to be answered is how do we strengthen local power and not how do we centralize even more.

Truth is like a lion. You do not have to defend it. What you need to do is set it free and it will defend itself. ( Paraphrased from St. Augustin. ) People of good will should never be afraid of the truth. People of good will should always be ready to deal with the truth. Justice, peace, courage, freedom of speech, solidarity, and honesty must exist together, at the same time, to always do the best we can for all our members. I am not prepared to say where we are on the road to achieve this but if we can make these six things the understood goals of everything we do,:we will always do the best we can for all our members. A high order it is but it can be done because all our affiliates are full of many, many people of good will.

I believe in the guiding principals of OECTA . I believe in the supreme power of the AGM and the Handbook that contains the decisions the AGM have supported.

I hope this can start an open debate. I am sure there are ideas better than mine out there. Members need to put those ideas in writing with their names attached. Anonymous posts are normally not considered. It all starts with courageous debate.

Yours,

Angelo Ippolito
angelo4you@gmail.com

David Chiarelli said...

Thank you Angelo for this food for thought! Your input is always much appreciated and respected! DTC

Angelo Ippolito said...

Thanks David,

We must be wary of the " boat has left the harbour argument". It may be difficult but boats can always be turned around.

We must also be wary of, "This is the best we can do." and the, "We have no choice." arguments. The minute we accept these, we can never improve and makes us not consider choices.

Finally we must never think that we know better what is best for the members than they do.

Teachers are knowledgeable and committed. We need not fear their thoughts.

By always putting the members interest before our own, all can be achieved. I have great hope.

Angelo Ippolito
angelo4you@gmail.com

Phil said...

This discussion is long overdue! A unified and strong teacher's union can best advocate for its members and at the same time a strong public education system. As an active Union member for many years in OECTA I was aware that denominational issues prevented the union (association) from fairly representing all its members, although it had a moral imperative at least to provide "fair representation". The government has been able to exploit the divisions and competitions among the OTF members to break Union solidarity and the need to struggle for a common cause.

It is natural for groups to evolve into fiefdoms, and that is when a radical reorganization is needed. The unions all have developed highly paid bureaucracies, that function with the corporate mentality shared by school boards.

Cesar Chavez himself as founder and president of the UFW took the same salary as workers in the grape fields. He explained that once union officials try to emulate the oppressors by taking corporate levels salaries, they begin to think differently and in their hearts there is a shift away from solidarity. It is obvious that the corporate control of teacher's unions has not benefitted its members. Grievances and arbitrations are settled as political trade offs by officers who wine and dine with the opposition.

A real shake up is needed for the good of public education and all its workers.

Anonymous said...

I bow to your experience but I feel that the unions (especially OECTA) have left the dock and the members are stuck on shore without much hope of rescue. It seems a very one-sided exercise this business of givers and takers. The members give and the unions taketh away. Many members feel they are not being represented and question the use of their dues. They also question the lack of transparency and the stifling of any semblance of constructive critique, let alone overt questioning.

David Chiarelli said...

Teacher free speech is often unwelcome in our unions, which are supposed to represent well educated professionals. The rule by technical elites is somerning out of Chomsky. No, I think there are a lot of issues for concern for grassroot democracy. I could go on and on but don't want to monopolize.

While folks should use their names I know that at least one affiliate DOES threaten and discipline those who don't toe the party line, so I am going to continue to allow readers to post anonymously so long as one doesn't abuse it.

David Chiarelli said...

Dear HCE Anon!

Before retirement, I worked with both your past and present presidents in various capacities at AGM and so on. I know they are both fine people who got stuck dealing with some pretty awful circumstances. I don't doubt OECTA's problems are deep and profound.

Still I'm not sure how your Comment fits in here instead of, let's say, under News y Views. That is except to note I'm sure there are those who would prefer to be with any affiliate other yours since the OECTA 2012 MOU, hence my note to you here.

Thanks!

David C

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