A way back in September of 2012 I wrote a BLOG called, AN ESSAY ON THE CURRENT CRISIS IN EDUCATION: “DON’T PAUSE, WHY NOT REWIND AND GO FASTFORWARD.”
(Scroll to the bottom of this link: https://jimbobalouie.wordpress.com/essays-on-education/ for that BLOG)
In that essay I stated this:
“Teacher unions are at the precipice. I am urging you to tread lightly and softly as you go forward with your strategic plans, remembering that this is a struggle between adults and that students should never be caught in the middle. I believe a work to rule protest will be a “lose-lose” situation if it includes denying volunteer activities for students.”
What I advocated for was a change in course, the evolution of a new paradigm and innovative methods that reflect the realities of the times.
“These battles should be fought locally through board negotiations and public relations, team-building and public consensus building province wide, all of which will pay political dividends at election time. New and creative strategies need be developed that recognize the dynamics of this cyber-quick communication world we live in; the economics brought about by recession, and in the end, common sense.
We need grassroots’ parents and the general public with us, not against us. We need a truer understanding of the value of a teacher and good teaching. Positive kids, positive parents and positive schools will create a tsunami of support for positive teachers in the schools.”
I introduced the concept of the Teacher Manager and how a change in viewpoint could bring about a different focus on the role and responsibilities inherent in teaching.
But, alas, no one took that suggestion and we find ourselves once again mired in continuing conflict. ETFO’s battle now is being fought on many fronts and may no longer be winnable. You have government legislating away your rights and demeaning you, you have the public and parents outraged, you have teacher bashers dominating the media, you have two Boards of Education taking you to the ORLB publically slagging your union’s tactics, you’ve already lost two huge battles at the OLRB and you have a Court battle looming. The rank and file are spread so thin that every front is one big push away from retreat. The whole situation is starting to resemble a “house of cards” – teetering to yet tumble.
I ask you, “Where are the victories? Where is the progress? What IS the end game?
And, the worst part of all is that I see teachers on media sites, on bulletin boards and the like, trying to defend the profession against some of the most vicious attacks imaginable. Too many of their responses feed into the frenzy and actually do little more than confirm the complaints from these public sources. I admire their passion but often their words throw gas on the fires of retribution, and that is very sad indeed.
I also see teacher friends downhearted and depressed, starting to second guess their choice of profession. These people are all excellent teachers who value kids, value education and put their heart and soul into their job. That is so very sad, to me! It is also unconscionable.
This is like a ship without a rudder, sailing willy-nilly, in a storm of enormous proportions. In my view, there is no strong hand on the till. It is sink or swim with little or no margin for error. As the magnet on our fridge door proclaims, “The flogging will continue until morale improves!”
Indeed, each and every day the flogging DOES continue and frontline teachers are taking the brunt of the lashes. This whole situation is like death by a thousand cuts.
But, why is that?
Union walks away from table. Government threatens with Bill 115. Government terms imposed. Democracy goes in the toilet. A LOSS
Locals attempt to negotiate with boards but parameters of 115 prevent any possible progress. A LOSS
One day walkouts incite negative reactions. Teacher bashing reaches new highs creating new lows in morale. A Loss
December OLRB decision goes against OSSTF. (More on this later) A LOSS
Withdrawing voluntary involvements creates a huge increase in rhetoric and brings teacher bashing, media whining and negativity to an all-time high. Parents and students alienated and caught in the crossfire. School morale plummets. Teacher’s spirits fall in the dumpster. A LOSS
30 000 protest at the Liberal Convention –Kathleen Wynn states the imposed contracts won’t be changed but there might be dialogue. Talk is cheap. A LOSS
Two school boards take ETFO to the Ontario Labour Relations Board calling withdrawal of EC’s a strike action. If they win this case all bets are off for EC’s going forward. This could be a HUGE LOSS.
And so, the ball keeps rolling, gathering steam as it heads to certain destruction. So far, this round of non-negotiation has been a total and complete no-win situation.
If you are losing every battle wouldn’t that suggest that soon you are about to lose the war? Wouldn’t a regrouping, a rearming and a refocus be in order before the white flag inevitably goes up? Maybe there are other means toward reaching your end? Perhaps unions need to, as I keep saying, “REWIND AND GO FASTFORWARD.”
Folks, there are no guarantees that the Supreme Court battle can be won. Rank and File.ca had this to say about these court battles.
“While ETFO and OSSTF job action other than work-to-rule appears to be screeching to a halt, the court challenge against Bill 115 will continue. As has been pointed out before, this challenge could take many years. In such circumstances, Martin Luther King Jr.’s observation “justice too long delayed is justice denied” rings true. BC teachers affected by anti-democratic Liberal legislation in 2002 had to wait eight years until the legislation itself was thrown out by the courts only to have the government return with similar anti-union legislation against teachers in March 2012.” http://rankandfile.ca/?p=582
Furthermore, the article goes on to give evidence of past battles and how they might affect the current struggle. The consequences of these notions might scare you, if not at least give you pause to think about where your leaders are “leading” you.
Rankandfile.ca directs its readers to this well-written, highly-readable article by former long-time Osgoode Hall law professor Harry Glasbeek who examined how Ontario’s teachers succeeded in the courts against attempts by the Tory government of Premier Mike Harris to have the illegal strike stopped by injunctions. Glasbeek draws two very important conclusions that are particularly relevant today:
1.The legal victory by teachers against Harris’s attempt at injunctions was limited and highly influenced by specific circumstances and events.
2.“the architecture of the law does not lend itself to building a movement for political action by workers and their unions” Class War: Ontario Teachers and the Courts: Harry J. Glasbeek: Osgood Hall Law Journal, Vol.37, No.4 (1999)
The more interesting opinions to read are those written by Bernard Fishbein, Chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board in his ruling against OSSTF’s complaint this past December (2012). There is a lot of “stuff” in this ruling (35 pages worth) that might just scare the beejeebies out of you.
Yes, this is the guy who ruled the political action walkout in January was illegal and now is considering whether the withdrawal of EC’s is, in fact, STRIKE ACTION.
Here’s just one such statement in Fishbein’s OSSTF Ruling that should make you think twice about where all of this protest and litigation is heading. If you take the time to read the entire decision you may get a better sense for where we are headed.
52. Even if I leave aside the legislative aspect of the Government conduct – and the Putting Students First Act is the legislative response that the Government stated from the outset to a failure to reach MOUs or framework agreements in the PDT process – there is no dispute that the Government’s conduct was also part of its fiscal policy and educational policy. The Government not only wished to control how much of its resources were to be allocated but also how those resources would be allocated. Not only does the Province under the constitution have plenary power to enact laws in relation to education (see OECTA v. Ontario (Attorney General),  1 S.C.R. 470) but as the earlier quote from Brant Haldimand-Norfolk District School Board, supra, demonstrates, for over the last ten years, as the effect of the Government (and no longer the district school boards) being the primary funder of public education permeated through the system, Government policies and desired outcomes have impacted on many items previously the subject (primarily if not solely) of local collective bargaining. That does not make this any less governmental policy action. A fundamental aspect of democratic government is still the right (if not obligation) of Government to establish budgets and set fiscal priorities and to determine how to allocate scarce government resources.
Lose this current OLRB battle and it will be three strikes and you are out at the OLRB.
X- Political Action, X- OSSTF Complaint and X- EC’s as Strike Action.
And, the losses mount.
Do you think you can handle two more years of this stress and consternation? Do you really think the Federations are beating a dead horse?
Should we not first REWIND (Bring the Federation into the New Millenium), and then and only then, GO FASTFORWARD (Applying methods and practices that work)?
Maybe there is a better way?
I concluded that September 2012 Essay with these words.
Teacher unions over the years have got teacher wages, benefits and conditions to the pinnacle. Many good strategies worked to get us to that point. But now, the fight is not about contract gains it is about contract strips. That is why new approaches and new strategic plans are necessary. It is time to rethink and revamp the role of the Teacher Federations.
That is why the focus of union efforts should be to celebrate teaching and education and demonstrate that teachers are “worthy” of these so called “perks”. The public and politicians are too focused on the “WHAT WE GET” not on the “WHAT WE GIVE” as educators.
This still rings true for me. What we give must be highly valued if we are to defend political attacks. Otherwise, it will be business as usual as governments trample rights and teacher bashers remain the choir the politicians preach to.
I also challenge you to ask your Federations how much money they have spent on lawyers, negative advertising and political action organization, compared to what they have spent on celebrating excellence in teaching and building positive consensus in the school community.
If you don’t feel like digesting the 35 pages in the OSSTF OLRB ruling here’s the summary they provide with all the legalese.
– Parties – Prima Facie motion – Unfair Labour Practice – OLRB
OSSTF brought a complaint against the Crown and Ministers of the Crown (including in their personal capacities) concerning the government issuance of a document for use at the Provincial Discussion Table (PDT), setting out the collective agreement results the government wished in the educational sector, including wage and grid freezes and changes to the ability to bank and cash out sick leave credits on retirement – The complaint alleged that the government’s actions in making public statements with respect to its PDT positions constituted a failure to bargain in good faith and other breaches of the Act – The government took the position that the Crown was not bound by the Act (Crown immunity), the issues were not justiciable, and there was no prima facie case – The Board closely followed an earlier decision in Ontario (Premier) and dismissed the complaint pursuant to s. 4(2) of the Act, finding the Act does not bind the Crown and there was no point to any evidentiary hearing – Again following Ontario (Premier), the Board did not find the government’s role in the PDT process and in its efforts to build consensus or secure acquiescence on its political agenda to be a justiciable issue – Finally, the facts as alleged did not make out a case: the Crown was not the employer; the district school boards were – Nor was there anything pled to form the basis to conclude that the Crown was acting at the behest of the district school boards (assuming this to be possible given Crown immunity) – Application dismissed
AND FROM THE OSSTF Ruling:
That does not make this any less governmental policy action. A fundamental aspect of democratic government is still the right (if not obligation) of Government to establish budgets and set fiscal priorities and to determine how to allocate scarce government resources.
The most intelligent and detailed debate I’ve found on these issues can be found at Anne Kidder’s People for Education Website. Really insightful thinking can be found there. The debate is smart and constructive. (35 pages worth of comments from educators and the like) Take a look at: