Posts tagged ‘Labour movement’

February 20, 2013

Video: Bob Peterson on teaching and social justice

Published 31 Jan 2013 by BCTFvids

February 8, 2013

Redford government floats risky scheme to impose contract on teachers

By David J. Climenhaga | Published February 6, 2013 by
Trapped in a no-deficit, no-tax-increase cage of its own devising, with few ideas and a budget looming on March 7, the government of Premier Alison Redford has floated the idea of using legislation to impose a salary cap on Alberta’s teachers.Education Minister Jeff Johnson has been shopping this brainstorm around to the province’s school boards to see who salutes and who heaves rotten tomatoes.

Needless to say, the Alberta Teachers Association was not impressed. ATA President Carol Henderson expressed shock and dismay at what Johnson’s been saying, warning that even running the idea up the flagpole puts the government’s relationship with the province’s teachers at risk.

The same kind of thing has been tried in both British Columbia and Ontario, she noted, and the results have hardly been auspicious.

In this, Henderson got it right. A certain amount of disdain for the collective bargaining process is normal nowadays among unionized professionals like teachers. But getting between them and a raise they both expect and believe they deserve is an entirely different matter.

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January 29, 2013

Teachers’ Charter rights T-shirts deemed too ‘political’ for Prince Rupert classrooms

Superintendent rules fundamental rights enshrined in Charter create improper attire

By Mike Hager | Published January 28, 2013 by The Vancouver Sun

After Yertle the Turtle’s battle cry for equality was infamously deemed too political for the classroom last year, the Prince Rupert school district has now banned several teachers from wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Charter.

Three teachers were told to remove or cover black shirts Monday amid a provincewide “dark day for education” organized by British Columbia’s teachers’ union to mark the 11th anniversary of Bills 27 and 28, which stripped their rights to bargain class size and composition.

“It’s unfair,” said Joanna Larson, president of the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union. “They’re stripping teachers from their rights in engaging students — it just seems to be a very top-down directive that doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose.

“There is nothing that kids need to be sheltered from with this shirt.”

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January 13, 2013

Lessons in Social Justice Unionism: An Interview with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis

By Jody Sokolower | Published in Volume 27 No.2 – Winter 2012-2013 of Rethinking Schools

Four years ago, Karen Lewis was a chemistry teacher, one of eight Chicago teachers who formed the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) to fight school closings (see “A Cauldron of Opposition in Duncan’s Hometown: Rank-and-File Teachers Score Huge Victory”). This September, as president of a transformed, democratic Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), she led the 30,000-member union in a successful strike in the city that has been a launch pad for the neoliberal education strategy. The collective and collaborative nature of the teachers’ union, and the breadth of parental, student, and community support for the strike, make understanding the CTU’s perspective and strategy critical for all of us interested in social justice unionism.

Jody Sokolower for RS: Set the scene for us: What were the issues that led to the Chicago teachers’ strike this fall?

Karen Lewis: The strike was a result of 15 to 25 years of anger about being blamed for conditions that are beyond our control. That’s part of it. The other part was a clear rebuke to the mayor and his friends about the top-down “reform” agenda and how it absolutely does not address the needs in the schools.

As soon as Rahm Emanuel [President Obama’s former chief of staff] came to town to run for mayor, he had as his education advisor the head of a charter school network, Juan Rangel. We knew from the very beginning this was going to be an ugly, bitter fight. Once Emanuel won the primary, before the general election, he was already heavily dabbling in Springfield and insisting that we not have the right to strike. Working hand in hand with Jonah Edelman from what I call “Stand on Children” [Stand for Children], he tried to raise the bar so high that we would have our right to strike theoretically, but wouldn’t have it in reality. They got legislation passed that meant we need 75 percent of our entire membership—not our voting membership—to authorize a strike.

Our membership was incensed; this was a law carved out just for Chicago. My response was: “Brothers and sisters, if we don’t have 75 percent of our members in favor of a strike, we shouldn’t strike. A strike is not something you do lightly.” Then we spent more than a year talking to members about the contract, getting them involved in the contract fight, getting their wishes and desires as part of the proposal that we presented to the board.

Once he was elected, Emanuel was so enamored of a longer school day that last year—in the middle of our contract—he went directly to schools to ask them to take a waiver and do the longer school day with no additional compensation, trying to bribe principals with $150,000 per school and teachers with free iPads. We had to go to the Education Labor Relations Board to enjoin them from doing that. Emanuel got 13 waivers before we clamped that down. That’s what happens when you have people running the school system who come from the business world. They think they can do whatever they want and do not understand how to deal with labor.

While parents liked the longer day, they also thought we should be compensated for it. They didn’t like the idea of forcing people to work longer without being paid for it. Parents are very clear about if you work, you get paid.

And the entire time, we were having conversations with our parents about what would make school better; we always had a different vision of what school should look like. We said, “You have the right to a longer day, but let’s make it a better day, because if you’re only elongating the day we have, everyone’s just going to get tired. There’s no evidence that a longer day in itself is better.” Parents wanted art, music, PE, world languages. They wanted classes that were not just reading and math all day long.

The parents understood that the mayor was bullying us. Parents also understood that we were being blamed and attacked for stuff that had nothing to do with how we managed our schools. They were clear about that. We have overwhelming support from parents whose children actually go to Chicago public schools. Sometimes when they do polls and ask parents, those parents don’t have kids in the schools.

Emanuel also took away the 4 percent raise that was already in our contract. What he really wanted was for us to open up the contract and go on strike last year so he could have imposed the longer school day. But we were adamant: We have a contract, we expect you to follow that contract.

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January 12, 2013

New Teachers’ Union Movement in the Making

By the editors of Rethinking Schools | Published in Volume 27 No.2 – Winter 2012-2013

The seven-day Chicago teacher strike last September was historic. It showed the importance of teachers using their collective power to demand that all children get the education they deserve. It demonstrated the necessity of an alliance among teachers and parents and community organizations. It exposed the bipartisan corporate “reform” agenda promoted by key sections of the Democratic and Republican parties.

It also signaled that a new teachers’ union movement is in the making.

In short, it was a wake-up call to anyone concerned with the future of public schools. (See our interview with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis)

The Chicago strike was a landmark, but it was not the first sign of a new activism. In the spring of 2011 many leaders and rank-and-file activists from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) traveled north to support the Wisconsin teacher uprising. Following on the inspiring events of Arab Spring, tens of thousands of Wisconsin teachers, public employees, and supporters surprised the nation with weeks of massive protests in the state capital. The chants of “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” ultimately echoed off the capitol building in Madison to the streets of Chicago.

In both struggles, teachers and their allies defended public education. They stood against a pro-corporate, pro-privatization agenda. They stood against the scapegoating of teachers and the vilification of their unions. They stood their ground audaciously, refusing to compromise away their rights or their principles.

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January 11, 2013

Teachers of Garfield High School in Seattle Say No to Standardized Tests!

By Diane Ravitch | Published January 10, 2013  by Diane Ravitch’s blog

By unanimous vote, the entire faculty at Garfield High School in Seattle voted not to administer the MAP test of reading and mathematics.

This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the faculty of an entire school refused to give mandated tests.

The action of the Garfield High School faculty could have national ramifications because it shows other teachers that there is strength in unity and that they do not have to endure unethical demands with passivity and resignation.

For their courage, their integrity, and their intelligence, I add the faculty of Garfield High School to the honor roll as champions of public education.

The teachers agreed that the tests are a waste of time and money. Students don’t take them seriously because they don’t count toward their grades. But teachers will be evaluated based on the results of these tests that students don’t take seriously. Even the organization that created the tests say they should not be used for teacher evaluation, but the district requires them anyway.

I hope that the example set by Garfield High School will resonate in school districts across the United States and around the world. High-stakes testing is bad for students, bad for teachers, and bad for education.

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January 8, 2013

A tool to rebuild our teachers’ unions

By Brian Chidester | Published January 4th 2013 by

“WHAT IS the alternative to this divisive and failed framework? Clearly, teachers’ unions need to adopt a broader outlook, taking up not simply contract issues, but also questions of racism and poverty. This model is what many activists refer to as “social justice unionism,” and it has gained a growing audience in the past several years. Weiner, however, goes beyond this model, advocating for “social movement unionism” as the alternative that can lead teachers in the struggle.

She explains:

I use the term “social movement” union rather than ‘social justice’ union…because I think “social movement” union addresses the need for unions’ internal transformation, especially the need for union democracy. Social movement unionism gets at the relationship between the union’s organization and its vision of social justice.

Democracy–real democracy from below–is the common thread in “social movement unionism” that ties the union not just to social movements, but to a vision for the transformation of itself, of the public schools and of the entire society.”

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December 21, 2012

The teachers’ dispute and the war on wages

By Thomas Walkom | Published December 19, 2012 by The Toronto Star

The one-day teachers’ strikes are coming to an end. What’s next?

For teachers, the new year will almost certainly include government-imposed contracts and the suspension of their right to strike for 24 months.

For other public sector workers, this is their likely future as well. The Liberal government didn’t have time to eliminate their bargaining rights before Premier Dalton McGuinty abruptly prorogued the Legislature this fall.

But barring an ideological conversion of Biblical proportions, whoever replaces McGuinty is likely to follow his lead.

For unionized workers who are not employed by government, the attack on public sector unions is a moment of truth.

When Bob Rae’s New Democratic Party government overrode collective agreements in 1993, many private sector unions — including the Steelworkers and my union, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers — broke with their public sector counterparts to support the NDP regime.

The essence of their argument would be familiar today: private sector workers had already suffered from what was, at the time, the biggest recession since the 1930s; therefore, public sector workers had to sacrifice as well.

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December 12, 2012

Ontario teachers and students step up the fight against austerity and Bill 115

By Jesse McLaren | Published December 7, 2012 by

On Monday, Ontario teachers will start rolling walkouts across the province against the draconian Bill 115, the “Putting Students First Act.” But the best way to put students first is to support teachers against the Liberal government’s anti-democratic austerity agenda.


 The Ontario Liberals claimed Bill 115, passed in September, was necessary in order to balance a budget during the economic crisis. But this is after McGuinty wasted billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts. While the 1 per cent has been bailed out, the 99 per cent are facing cuts — from imposing a pay freeze on teachers, denying universal childcare to parents and continually raising tuition for students.

Students have been at the heart of the fight against the Liberal’s austerity agenda, including occupying the office of Glen Murray, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. As Cindy Brownlee, Director of Education and Equity for the Student Association of George Brown College said last April, “As a single mother nearing the end of my studies in early childhood education. I’ve joined today’s occupation to demand that the Ontario government reverse their decision to increase tuition fees next fall.”

In addition, students are not abstract or frozen-in-time. As one writer put it, “Today’s high-school student without sports is tomorrow’s college student racking up debt and next week’s angry, unemployed or precarious worker.”

Teachers are putting students first by resisting the austerity agenda that is undermining their futures.

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December 11, 2012

Kill Bill 115: Where is the Ontario labour movement going?

by Doug Nesbitt | Published December 7, 2012 by

In the coming week, Ontario’s teachers, education workers and students will be turning up the heat on the Liberal minority government and Bill 115, which imposes a concessionary bargaining agenda on teachers unions and the school boards, and allows the cabinet to change tentative agreements and stop strikes without even legislative oversight.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has given notice that it will begin a series of one-day district-wide strikes in every public school board district before Christmas, beginning Monday December 10 in the Avon-Maitland and North East Districts. This will affect small Ontario towns and regions surrounding Stratford, Timmins, Kirkland Lake, and Kapuskasing.

On the same day, the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation (OSSTF) will be implementing what is by far its most coordinated work-to-rule campaign. All volunteer activities and extracurriculars will end, and teachers will show up 15 minutes before classes start and leave 15 minutes after classes end. This latter work-to-rule action is based on the 1990 Education Act, Regulation 298, Section 3.7 and Section 20(d).

And, for the first time since late September, a series of high school walkouts are being planned for Monday in York Region, London, and elsewhere. This will be the second wave of walkouts since late September when over thirty high schools and even elementary schools witnessed student actions against Bill 115.

The Journey to December 10
The road to ETFO’s strike action and OSSTF’s province-wide work-to-rule has been a long, complicated one. Passed in September, Bill 115 has predictably prolonged, complicated and escalated the labour conflict in Ontario, whereas free collective bargaining may have mitigated the effects and probability of labour conflict altogether. However, the unpopular Liberal minority government is committed to saving $2 billion in labour costs to reduce a $15 billion deficit (after reducing corporate taxes from 14 to 11.5 since 2009). The Liberals are now embroiled in a leadership contest after Dalton McGuinty decided to abandon what looks like a sinking ship and prorogue the legislature at the same time.

The weakness of the government is only matched by the disunity and confusion of the teachers unions. Back in July, OECTA’s leadership signed a concession-laden Memorandum of Understanding with the Ontario government without consultation or ratification from the membership. OSSTF, ETFO and CUPE rightfully denounced the OECTA leadership and the MOU. The government then used the MOU as a framework for the concessions imposed on all other teachers and education workers through Bill 115, even though the school boards, not the government, bargains with the unions. Even the associations representing all of Ontario’s school boards protested Bill 115’s interference in collective bargaining.

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December 2, 2012

Democratic to the CORE

The Chicago Teachers Union’s secret to success? The rank and file are in control.

BY Micah Uetricht and Jasson Perez | Published November 30, 2012 by In These Times

During September’s Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike, local and national media rushed to frame the fight as a clash of oversized personalities: the stubborn, foul-mouthed Mayor Rahm Emanuel against the brash chemistry-teacher-turned-union president Karen Lewis. Even progressive media hyped Lewis as the driver of the union’s victory, praising her personal toughness as more than a match for Emanuel. It was classic “Great Man” historicism, tracing the strike’s origins to leaders’ personal traits.

Few accounts mentioned the constituencies behind these leaders. For Emanuel, this includes anti-union charter-school advocates, who donated $12 million toward his election. In Lewis’ case, it was the dictates of her 30,000 members. Indeed, the CTU is one of the most vibrantly democratic union locals in the United States.

Since a 2010 upheaval within the CTU, rank-and-file teachers have made up the union’s leadership, and members make many of its day-to-day decisions. Public actions are typically planned and executed by members themselves, not paid staff. And the CTU took the incredible step of extending its September strike an extra two days to ensure members had a chance to examine and debate the proposed contract.

As Lewis puts it, “We put the power into the hands of the rank and file, where it belongs.”

In recent decades, as the American labor movement has declined in membership and power, several unions have undergone a sea change, with new leaders proposing bold visions for how to revitalize labor. But rarely have those visions been as closely tied to a commitment to member-led democracy as in the CTU.

Shifts in leadership

Unlike many unions, in which officials cling to power for decades, the CTU has a long history of leadership turnover. Even when leaders did not run the union democratically, the CTU’s structure allowed for reform caucuses to develop. The United Progressive Caucus (UPC), which was rooted in racial justice caucuses in the 1970s but failed to push back against corporate education reform, held power for three decades. Proactive Chicago Teachers (PACT), a reform caucus pledging to recapture a past union militancy, briefly unseated the UPC in 2001—the same year current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan became CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), pushing an agenda of closing public schools and opening charters.

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October 14, 2012

Video: Letter to Arne Duncan – Two Teachers and a Microphone

September 30, 2012

5 Biggest Lies About America’s Public Schools — Debunked

By Kristin Rawls | Published October 1, 2012 by Alternet

Here’s the truth behind 5 of the most destructive myths about public education.

October 1, 2012 |

Just weeks into the 2012-2013 school year education issues are already playing a starring role in the national conversation about America’s future. Because it’s an election year, the presidential candidates have been busy pretending there are many substantial distinctions between them on education policy (actually, the differences are arguably minimal). Meanwhile, the striking Chicago Teachers Union helped thrust teachers unions into the national spotlight, with union-buster Democrat Mayor Rahm Emanuel reminding us that, these days, Republicans and Democrats frequently converge on both education policy and laborunfriendliness.

Since pundits and politicians often engage in education rhetoric that obscures what’s really going on, here are five corrections to some of the more egregious claims you may have recently heard.

Lie #1: Unions are undermining the quality of education in America.

Teachers unions have gotten a bad rap in recent years, but as education professor Paul Thomas of Furman University tells AlterNet, “The anti-union message…has no basis in evidence.” In fact, Furman points out, “Union states tend to correlate with higher test scores.” As a 2010 study conducted by Albert Shanker Fellow Matthew Di Carlo found, “[T]he states in which there are no teachers covered under binding agreements score lower [on standardized assessment tests] than the states that have them… If anything, it seems that the presence of teacher contracts in a state has a positive effect on achievement” – by as much as three to five points in reading and math at varying grade levels.

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September 19, 2012

Chicago Teachers Union’s Karen Lewis: Deal Ending Strike a Victory for Education

Published 19 Sep 2012 by

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September 19, 2012

Chicago Teachers: We Won So Much More Than a Contract

Published by Teachers for Social Justice

In this strike, so much more was won than a contract. After 17 punishing years of corporate, neoliberal policies, Chicago teachers stood up, and they stood up for the whole country. This courageous strike was born of a new kind of teacher unionism – democratic, activist, allied with parents, and fighting not only for fair compensation but for a richer, more humane and just education. What has been accomplished in Chicago in the last few weeks has reverberated nationally. It powerfully demonstrated an alternative to business unionism and the whole corporate education agenda. There are new solidarities, forged on picket lines, among teachers and between teachers and students, parents, and community members. Through this strike, teachers have emerged as activists and organizers, and there is a deeper consciousness about the system we are confronting. We have felt a new sense of our power to shift the education agenda. These gains are deeper and more enduring than any contract provisions. We are so much stronger due to the strength and unity of the CTU and the outpouring of public support.

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