10.18.2005

solidarity

An anonymous (of course) commenter chastised me for not blogging about the Iraqi constitution, as if I'm some kind of international news service, or as if somehow the existence of that piece of paper should change my opinion about anything.

One story I have been following with great interest is the teachers' strike in British Columbia. I'm thrilled to see the teachers standing together in support of their right to collective bargaining, despite court orders and whatever else the government can throw at them. The strike is technically "illegal" - because the provincial legislature passed a new law declaring it so.

I've read some letters in the Globe And Mail whining about "what message does it send the children when teachers break the law?" - and some terrific letters in response, reminding us that there are many kinds of lessons. If our highest value is obedience to the law, we'll need to remove some heroic names from our history books: Gandhi, King, Mandela, Tubman, Chavez, to name a few. Laws, after all, are made by humans. They are often unjust.

There are other lessons, too - about justice, solidarity, and the value of work. And about hypocrisy. Do we really value education, or just pay lip-service to that ideal?

Yesterday on "The National," we saw footage of a tremendous rally and sympathy strike; thousands of BC unionized workers walked off their jobs to attend. That's the power of a unionized work force.

A young male teacher said, "I've never been a part of anything this big before." That feeling - of being a part of something larger and more important than oneself - is incredible. Fighting for something side by side with people all striving for the same goal is a rare joy.

I wish there was something I could from here to support the striking teachers; I'm at least due for a letter to the editor.

13 comments:

James said...

If Mr. Anonymous wants blogging about the Iraq constitution referrendum, there's lots about, and much of it not in his favour. Consider the latest news from Iraq:

Iraq's election commission announced Monday that officials were investigating "unusually high" numbers of "yes" votes in about a dozen provinces during Iraq's landmark referendum on a new constitution, raising questions about irregularities in the balloting.

Word of the review came as Sunni Arab leaders repeated accusations of fraud after initial reports from the provinces suggested the constitution had passed. Among the Sunni allegations are that police took ballot boxes from heavily "no" districts, and that some "yes" areas had more votes than registered voters.


Other problems include provinces returning more "yes" votes than registered voters, and provinces compeltely dominated by populations known to oppose the draft constitution still voting for them (sort of like Jewish neighbourhoods in Florida voting for Pat Buchanan).

And this after they tweaked the rules to make defeat of the draft constitution almost impossible even with fair voting.

James said...

(Meant to include this with the previous)

I wish there was something I could from here to support the striking teachers; I'm at least due for a letter to the editor.

My mother was a high school teacher, and one of the most useful things people can do to support them is to simply be supportive. If you see people whining about how cushy life is for teachers, correct them. If you see people whining about unions and strikes, ask them how they like their weekends off and 40-hour workweek, and point out that without the work of unions over the past century or more, we'd all still be living in a Dickensian labour nightmare.

The most important help you can give teachers is to help people realize that the teachers have a valid argument.

L-girl said...

Ah yes. My mother was a grade-school teacher. My father was a union organizer and representative, mostly for textile workers. Later in his career, he represented the teaching staff of the City Univeristy of New York.

The most important help you can give teachers is to help people realize that the teachers have a valid argument.

Good point.

If you see people whining about unions and strikes, ask them how they like their weekends off and 40-hour workweek,

One of my favorite labour slogans is "Unions - the people who brought you the weekend".

Thanks for the additional info on Iraq, too.

Liam J said...

I hate to say it, but I oppose the strike. Not because I disagree with the teachers aims, but because I think that in the long run it will hurt their cause more than help. There is no doubt that the provincial government in BC is demagogic and must be stopped, but this strike is entrenching both sides, and shoring up Gordon Campbel.

While I agree civil disobedience works in some cases, I'm afraid that in this instance it is ultimately doomed to failure. The union movement in anada has been gutted over the last 30 years through a combination of anti union government policies, and arrogance on the part of the union movement itself.

If the teachers truly want to succeed, they have to take a longer term outlook and keep working at the grass roots to bring down Campbell. Much like the right wing has done over the last 30 years, the left needs to continue creating an echo chamber to bring their point of view to more people.

L-girl said...

Not because I disagree with the teachers aims, but because I think that in the long run it will hurt their cause more than help. . . .

While I agree civil disobedience works in some cases, I'm afraid that in this instance it is ultimately doomed to failure.


You make good points, Liam J. I'm not looking at the strike from the point of view of what will work for the teachers. I don't have enough information and perspective to analyze that, and if union membership feels this is the way to go, all I can say is more power to them.

But as you say, any action can end up hurting more than helping. It remains to be seen whether or not that will happen in this case.

Expat Traveler said...

I'm here in Vancouver and am seeing it all. Yes there is overwhelming support and the Victoria presence was amazing even on a very rainy day in fact!!!

The only quobbles I have is about the kids not being in school. I tutor those kids and they seem to think they don't need to keep learning while school is out. The little ones don't understand this at all. I just feel really bad for parents who are waisting away all of their vacation just to have day care for kids. I'd bring mine to work for sure...

I just hope the strike gets kids back into school on monday!

L-girl said...

Yes there is overwhelming support and the Victoria presence was amazing even on a very rainy day in fact!!!

Yeah! That was so cool to see.

The only quobbles I have is about the kids not being in school.

Well, when you think about the big picture, nothing's going to happen to those kids from being out of school for a few weeks. In the long run they'll learn (or not learn) all the same stuff, just not on the exact same schedule.

It's definitely hard on parents. But then, strikes are nothing if they don't inconvenience somebody.

Mitch said...

Like Liam, I am against the teacher's strike. I support the goals of the teachers', to a degree. The minute it starts to threaten my livelyhood because my union decides to "support" an illegal action, I have a problem. Frankly, its hard for me to accept losing a day's worth of pay to support something that is illegal. Lawsuits have come about from less.

Additionally, in BC, the Union's are heavily militant and anything resembling free speech is strongly discouraged within the union. For example, I would be UNABLE to express my opinion to my union representatives without being blacklisted as a dissenting union member, thereby threatening future employment promotions.

I have friends who are teachers, and from what they have said, it is no different in the Teacher's Union. One friend, who teaches special needs, has told me that the union is the problem in terms of protecting teachers and workers who have stolen from the school and the special needs students.

Suffice to say, I'm not too happy about the current state of things, and I do support the government in this one; they've stated publicly that they will return to the bargaining table the minute the illegal strike is over, but the teacher's union is trying to fight last year's election once again.

L-girl said...

anything resembling free speech is strongly discouraged within the union

This is all too common, in all human organizations - religions, governments, boardrooms, classrooms, fraternities, clubs, etc. Too bad these general undemocratic tendencies are so often used as a complaint against unions, as if it's peculiar to them.

L-girl said...

they've stated publicly that they will return to the bargaining table the minute the illegal strike is over

Are you sure? From what I've read, they've only stated that *they won't negotiate while the strike is going on* - which is not the same thing.

Wrye said...

Also, since the government is not prepared to bargain over wages or working conditions, what is there to bargain about?

The deeper narrative here, of course, is that Teachers Unions and successive BC Governments have been at loggerheads for decades. The Campbell government is particularly adept at maneuvering the BCTU into various public relations traps and reaping maximum political points from the backlash. In this case, they've offered the teachers nothing and refused all attempts at arbitration. Too much to get into here, but suffice to say, this is just the latest act in a show that's been going on for quite some time. Campbell, unfortunately for him, has made a name for himself as a vindictive idealogue, so the BCTU has more support than they might normally.

Wrye said...

Mr. Anonymous forgot to mention the deplorable lack of blogging about possible EU expansion into Turkey, the existence of Gamma-Ray Bursters and their implications for mass extinctions, and Japan's attempts to break up the postal banking system, all of which are at least as important. And that's not even mentioning the appalling lack of equal time for cat-blogging.

You're falling down, Anonymous. Get your head in the game.

L-girl said...

LOL :-)

And thanks for the BCTU backgrounder.