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AFT convention approves special order of business in support of British Columbia teachers

Among the more than half dozen special orders of business passed by the American Federation of Teachers convention in Los Angeles was one supporting the British Columbia Teachers, who are facing a reactionary attack from their provincial government. The teachers have been on strike for more than a month across the province, and as a result of the AFT action will be receiving additional support from the USA.

B.C. teachers on the picket line after the provincial government defies court orders on contract enforcement. In Canada the unions have contracts with the provincial governments.The AFT action joins the AFT with dozens of unions from outside B.C. that have now pledged solidarity with the striking B.C. teachers. The teachers were forced out on strike after their provincial government refused to honor collective bargaining agreements despite even court orders that the government follow the law in respect to the public schools. One key part of the fight is class size reduction, which the teachers won a decade ago in a previous strike that, among other things, inspired the new leadership group within the Chicago Teachers Union.



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July 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

By: John Kugler

ACTION MEETING TODAY

Only black woman electrician teaching black youth to get good paying Union Jobs was fired by CPS last week. Action meeting -- Tuesday July 15, 2014 8458 S. Green, 5:30 pm

Latisha Kindred, 33, an electrician who teaches at Simeon Career Academy high school on the South Side, said it’s even harder to excel in the construction industry when you are a Black woman.

http://chicagodefender.com/2008/10/21/trade-program-teaches-mentors-in-management/

September 2, 2014 at 10:19 PM

By: Neal Resnikoff

British Columbia Teachers' Strike

September 2, 2014

Vol. 2 No. 14 BC Worker

BC Teachers’ Strike

Wrecking of Public Education Is the Wrecking of the Modern Nation-State

CALENDAR OF EVENTS

BC Teachers’ Strike

• Wrecking of Public Education Is the Wrecking of the Modern Nation-State

• All Out to Support Teachers! Education Is a Right! - Barbara Biley

• Clark Government Responsible for Continuation of Strike

• Support from Across Canada and Around the World

• Parents and Students Deliver Petition to Legislature

• Open Letter: Premier Clark, Negotiate with Teachers

BC Teachers’ Strike

Wrecking of Public Education Is the Wrecking of the Modern Nation-State

BC Teachers mass picket in New Westminister, August 26, 2014 (G. Bullard)

The BC neo-liberal government has incessantly attacked public education for over ten years. The disinvestment in public education has led to well documented deterioration of the working conditions of teachers and the learning conditions of students.

To their great credit, the BC teachers organized into the BC Teachers' Federation have been in the forefront of resistance to this wrecking of public education and the nation. They have waged strikes and other struggles in defence of their rights and public education. They have used their collective funds to challenge BC Liberal government legislation denying teachers' right to bargain working conditions including class size and composition. The Supreme Court upheld teachers' rights and struck down the BC neo-liberal anti-education legislation but the BC government refuses to recognize the rulings and invest the public money necessary to improve the working conditions of teachers and learning conditions of students. In pursuing the court cases and defeating the continuous appeals of the government to the positive verdicts of the courts, teachers were forced to spend all their reserve funds and are now left without any strike pay.

The wrecking of public education is a sign of the decay and rot that has set in with the coming to power of neo-liberalism. Public education is one of the founding elements of the Canadian modern nation. The value teachers and other education workers create is embedded within their students and transferred when they work into the service or good they produce. Education value raises the standard of living of all within society. To attack and depress this value and allow companies to refuse to realize (pay for) it creates a dangerous situation of more intense and longer economic crises and a general collapse of the living and working conditions of the people.

The BC neo-liberal government has taken a position that the economy can continue without increased investments in public education and without recognizing the rights of teachers to wages commensurate with their work and to a say and control over their working conditions and learning conditions of their students. The retrogressive political stand of BC Liberals stems in part from neo-liberal globalization and the desire of the rich to protect and entrench monopoly right and class privilege.

The BC Liberals are diverting public money from social programs to infrastructure, subsidies and other pay-the-rich schemes serving the global monopolies. They refuse to ensure that the education value embedded in publicly-educated workers must be realized by those companies that employ them. Together with the Harper dictatorship, they are pursuing the theft of educated workers from other countries without realizing the education value contained within those workers. For education in BC, they promote private education for those sections of the people that can afford to pay leaving, society bereft of the broad high level of education and culture necessary for a modern nation to function.

BC and Canadian neo-liberalism finds allegiance within Anglo-U.S. imperialism and its striving to dominate the world. The BC and Canadian nation-state exists only in name for neo-liberals whose practical politics effectively wreck the nation, such as the wrecking of manufacturing and public education in favour of monopoly right and global imperialist predatory wars and theft.

If allowed to continue, the future under neo-liberal rule will mean the continuing destruction of the nation-state and its foundation including public education, and greater attacks on the rights of all. It will lead to solidified class privilege, endless wars to protect and expand Anglo-U.S. imperialism and a refusal to renew democracy to empower the people thus concentrating power in the hands of a ruling executive unaccountable to the people.

The struggle of BC's public educators is a major front in the resistance to neo-liberal wrecking of the nation-state and Canada's complete absorption within Anglo-U.S. imperialism. To defend themselves and the future of their children the working people and all others who have a stake in BC must do all they can to ensure the neo-liberal government loses this fight against teachers and public education.

The Teachers' Fight Can Be Won! It Must Be Won for the Sake of All!

All Out to Defeat the Government Attack on Teachers

and the Wrecking of Public Education and the Nation-State!

Public Right Yes! Monopoly Right No!

All Out to Support Teachers! Education Is a Right!

- Barbara Biley -

Teachers picket in Kamloops, BC, August 23, 2014. (T. Friedeman)

BC teachers, represented by the British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF) are standing firm in their fight for smaller classes, better support for students, and a salary increase commensurate with teachers' important contribution to society.

The right to decide one's living and working conditions is a fundamental right. In the case of teachers, their fight to defend their working conditions is a fight for students' learning conditions. The BC Supreme Court has found both the government's 2002 Bill 28 and 2012 Bill 22 to be unconstitutional. The Court ordered the government to restore class size and composition standards and to negotiate those provisions with the teachers' union. The government continues to defy the Court, and teachers and students' rights.

The demands to improve public education or at least prevent its deterioration, which require increased investments, clash with the pay-the-rich agenda of the Clark government. Instead of recognizing the rights of both teachers and students and the responsibility to defend and strengthen public education, the government is following its own privatization agenda to wreck public education and depress the terms of employment with teachers. Teachers' rights and their defence of public education are a direct challenge to Clark's anti-social agenda. People should stand as one in defence of the rights of teachers and public education.

With the new school year upon us, teachers, parents, students and their allies all across the province are stepping up actions and speaking out to denounce the Clark government and defend the teachers and public education. BC Worker congratulates all those who are refusing to submit in the face of the refusal of the government to bargain with the teachers. Because the people of BC are clear that striking teachers are the ones defending public education and the public interest, popular support is holding strong.

Two parents' groups presented a petition at the BC Legislature to NDP Education Critic Rob Fleming on August 25. The petition with over 11,000 signatures demands Clark negotiate with the teachers. The Premier and Minister of Education refused to acknowledge it. To sign the petition, click here.

Now is the time to step up the struggle and go all out to demand that the government negotiate a mediated settlement and stop prolonging the strike. Teachers have set up picket lines with the support of CUPE education workers, parents and students, and are asking everyone to join them on the line. People can also call and email Premier Christy Clark, Education Minister Peter Fassbender and other government members to insist that they negotiate in good faith and restore and increase government investment in public education. Also, contact local school trustees and write letters to the local newspapers. Urge friends and neighbours to do the same. Information about planned actions by teachers and parents can be found on the BCTF website: www.bctf.ca.

Let us together keep up the pressure in defence of teachers' rights and public education!

Teachers rally, Vancouver, June 19, 2014.

Clark Government Responsible for

Continuation of Strike

BC teachers have been on strike since mid June. Throughout the summer teachers have continued pickets, rallies and lobbying MLAs and school boards across the province. Parents and students have been active in support of the teachers as well, with the biggest action being the presentation of a petition to the Legislature on August 25 bearing more than 11,000 names, calling on the government to increase funding for education and meet the legitimate demands of the teachers for improved working conditions for themselves which are improved learning conditions for students. School boards and individual trustees have written to Clark, Fassbender and negotiators for the BC Public Schools Employers' Association (BCPSEA) urging the government to reach a negotiated settlement with the teachers, to support the BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) call for mediation, and to increase funding for public education.

Efforts of the government to paint BC teachers as unreasonable, greedy and self-serving have essentially back-fired. The "argument" that all the other public sector workers have "agreed" to government-dictated contracts of five years with 5.5 per cent wage increases, as if that somehow proved that the teachers' demands are illegitimate and undeserving of support, has failed to win public support or break the resolve of the teachers. The government's offer to pay parents $40 per day per student effective the first day of school in September rather than investing in the public education system itself has been received with contempt and condemnation. Individual teachers and parents, when interviewed by the media and asked about the difficulties they face personally as a result of the strike, more often than not respond that their chief concern is not their personal difficulties, which are considerable, but the need to solve the problem of the government taking responsibility to adequately fund public education. The justness of the teachers' demands and their courage and determination to stand up for their rights and the rights of their students and the utter intransigence of the Clark government has resulted in a public opinion that more and more sees the aim of the BC government as the destruction and not the defence of public education.

On August 14 the BCTF and the BCPSEA issued a joint statement on bargaining which said that early in the summer the parties had met for exploratory discussions with Mr. Justice Stephen Kelleher, followed by continued discussions between BCTF President Jim Iker and government-appointed chief negotiator for BCPSEA, Peter Cameron which resulted in a meeting of the two bargaining teams on August 8 at which the two sides agreed to request the assistance of mediator Vince Ready. Mr. Ready met separately with the parties on August 13. According to the joint statement, Ready agreed to "monitor the situation, and to resume exploratory talks or commence full mediation when he believes it will be productive." The last sentence of the joint statement reads "The parties agreed that they will not engage in public discussion pending further discussions with Mr. Ready."

In what has become routine for government Ministers, Minister of Education Peter Fassbender, just days after the joint statement was issued, launched a $350,000 government website to "inform parents" about strike-related issues, which includes the bargaining positions of the BCPSEA and details of the "$40.00/day" scheme, and gave interviews to various media regarding the strike, all the while claiming to be respecting the media blackout! Is this an attempt to sabotage negotiations and mediation? On August 21 BCTF President Jim Iker issued a public statement saying, "Education Minister Peter Fassbender's recent media tour is a clear contravention of a media blackout that the BCTF, BCPSEA, and government agreed to when Vince Ready first engaged in the bargaining process" and called on the Minister "to honour the media blackout and instruct BCPSEA to immediately begin intensive medication with the assistance of Vince Ready. The BCTF bargaining team is ready at any moment to begin this important work. Teachers hope the government is finally ready to compromise to get a negotiated settlement."

Every attempt of the government to rule by decree, defy the courts and impose working conditions on teachers that are unacceptable to them and harmful to students, has so far not succeeded. Over the course of the summer teachers, students, parents, grandparents and school trustees from every corner of BC have spoken out in support of the basic stand of the teachers that the government must increase investment in public education. British Columbians consider education to be a right and a social responsibility that the government must guarantee and recognize that the demand of the teachers that the government must negotiate class size and composition is a fight to defend the rights of all.

There is no longer any pretense of government as "neutral" or "arms-length." Defending public education in BC means stepping up the pressure to force the government to negotiate with the teachers and increase funding for public education.

Support from Across Canada and Around the World

The Chicago Teachers' Union delivers a letter of solidarity with the BC teachers to the

Canadian Consulate-General in their city, June 20, 2014. (BCTF)

The attempts of the BC government to financially cripple the BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and create public opinion against them have been met with increasing support for the teachers' union from within BC, across Canada and internationally. The BCTF website, www.bctf.ca, has links to dozens of messages of support, including financial support, from teachers and other unions and organizations throughout Canada.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) sent $1 million to support BCTF. Many individual ETFO locals also sent financial contributions along with their messages of support. ETFO President Sam Hammond, in his letter of June 19 says, "ETFO is standing behind the BCTF in its twelve-year fight against a government that refuses to respect decisions of the BC Supreme Court regarding stripping provisions from teacher contracts and refuses to address pressing classroom issues through the bargaining process.... The issues that BCTF is fighting for -- smaller classes, more specialist teachers to support student learning, and a fair salary -- are also priorities for Ontario teachers and other education workers. It's vitally important to support our BC colleagues in their efforts against a government that continues to underfund public education and fails to respect and support its teachers."

Letters of support and financial support have also been received from teachers' unions, other labour and education organizations in Ontario and Quebec, Saskatchewan, Chicago, Washington, Mexico, Namibia, Brazil, England, Peru, Panama, South Africa, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Bolivia. Education International, the global union federation representing teachers around the world, sent messages of support to the teachers of BC from teachers in more than 60 countries. Every day the list of messages increases.

Teachers rally outside of Canadian Embassy in Mexico City, June 20, 2014. (N. Knickerbocker)

Since June, and especially at the beginning of August after the government's $40/day bribe to parents, which served only to indicate that the government had no intention of bargaining with the teachers and providing adequate funding for public education, over 30 letters were sent from individual school boards or individual trustees to Premier Christy Clark, Education Minister Peter Fassbender, BC Public Schools Employers' Association (BCPSEA) negotiators and BCTF President Jim Iker. All the letters urged an end to the disruption in public education and most called on the government to increase funding for public education and to negotiate in good faith with the teachers.

A joint July 10 letter to Premier Clark and BCPSEA CEO Mike Roberts from School District 28 in Quesnel, its school board and CUPE Local 4990 states, "Out of respect for the BC public education system, the BCTF and BCPSEA need to ensure the following actions are completed as soon as possible: Immediately return to effective negotiations with a mediator, and negotiate continuously until resolution is reached, acknowledge a meaningful wage increase for teachers, fully funded by government, create and negotiate a new compromise on class size and composition; one which is not bound by dated formulas, but rather a real commitment to classroom support."

In a July 14 open letter to Minister Fassbender and Premier Clark published in the Surrey newspaper The Leader, school trustee Laurie Larsen says: "I ask you as a parent in the community, and as a trustee to not only earnestly try to meet and negotiate with the BCTF and I am asking the same from the BCTF, but to consider the effects that years of underfunding of the education system has caused and to remedy this. As requested in a previous email, visiting a classroom for a full day would give you a first-hand look at how classroom size and composition affects the classroom and the job teachers and staff deal with everyday. Actually sitting in a classroom for a full day would give you a very accurate picture of what teachers, staff, CUPE, administration and students have to deal with. The board has done the very best we can to alleviate some pressures but more funding is needed to give Surrey students the schools and services they deserve."

The trustees of School District 61, Greater Victoria, said in a letter dated August 7 to Fassbender: "The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance and your government as a whole appear to have completely lost focus on the issues at hand, firstly supporting public education, and, secondly, negotiating a collective agreement with the British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF). Our Board has repeatedly called on your government to properly fund and resource public education. We along with other Boards and the British Columbia School Trustees' Association (BCSTA) have urged your government to focus on finding solutions to this bargaining impasse. We have called for mediation, and a renewed focus on finding a solution.... This announcement [the $40.00 per day for child care] does damage to an already damaged relationship between the parties, it undermines public education and further it signals to parents and students that the government is planning for continuing uncertainty and confusion in the K-12 public education system."

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Parents and Students Deliver Petition to Legislature

Petition to protect public education delivered to the Legislature, August 25, 2014. (M. Wright)

The following petition, initiated by Protect Public Education Now (PPEN), an organization started by parents, and the Facebook group "Support for BC Teachers" was delivered to the BC Legislature by parents and students on August 25. When Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender did not respond to a request to receive the petition it was delivered instead to NDP Education Critic Rob Fleming. The petition has more than 11,000 signatures.

***

Dear Premier Clark,

In light of the current labour dispute between the provincial government and the BC Teachers' Federation, we -- as citizens and parents -- respectfully call upon you to reopen negotiations with the BCTF with an offer that goes a substantial distance to meeting their contract terms, particularly those concerning the request for a $225 million fund which will hire new teachers and deal with class size and composition issues.

Teachers are at the front-line, educating future citizens who will ensure our province continues to be an economically healthy, democratic and compassionate society. Teachers deserve our respect, as well as compensation and benefits commensurate with the importance of their role in shaping future generations.

The value of a strong education is priceless, and we urge you to make resources available that will enable the government to substantially address BCTF contract proposals -- and ultimately, to meet the needs of our learners.

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