Simpleton, British Columbia lyrics and chords.
We aren’t on strike because we’re losing or we’ve lost. We’re on strike because we still might win.
Simpleton, British Columbia lyrics and chords.
We aren’t on strike because we’re losing or we’ve lost. We’re on strike because we still might win.
As we get toward the end of our first week on the picket line, I wanted to take the opportunity to invite the discussion of how we might share ideas to maximize our efforts in what could be a crucial week of negotiations between teachers and the government.
I realize that some of you may not be enthused about the prospect of being pilloried in a sandwich sign while you’re asked to pace in front of your job site for a few hours every day, and know that not everyone is the sort of extravert that is able to jump into these sorts of things easily, even when they agree with the cause. But I would point out that the purpose we are serving on the picket line is twofold:
*cough* despite not coming off two years’ of zeros as teachers are.
To these two purposes, I would argue that our attention while on strike is much better utilized if we focus on the second of these two goals. In most industries, a union withholding its labour penalized the owners financially as capital is prevented from moving and thus accumulating value. To most employers, this financial pressure can create an immediate effect; we saw this in action when the truckers’ union at the Port of Vancouver went on strike earlier this year, effectively shutting down a major port of trade, and were granted a deal in less than a week. But as the withholding of our labour actually saves the government millions of dollars a week, we can see that merely closing our work site created minimal (in fact opposite) leverage for our union in its negotiations. If we stick to this course of action, the government would have little incentive to not let the strike drag on until October until we’re broke enough to accept a deal that would negate all of the work, sacrifice and difficult choices we have made to get us to this point.
What matters, it seems to me, and could help us greatly in our cause as our walkout goes into a second week before summer vacation takes the public eye away from our negotiations, is the raising of public support for our struggle for a fair deal in this round of bargaining. Part of the way we do this is by positively representing ourselves and our intentions while on the line. How we interact with traffic, pedestrians and other working people in our communities goes a long way in establishing a public perception of our union and its efforts that many of us have long-wished was more a part of the face of the BCTF. For better or worse, while we are ‘on the line’ in front of our schools, we are who our neighbours are seeing as the union they keep hearing about on the news these days. They could drive by and see a bunch of folks socializing in lawn chairs with their signs propped up against the tent-les; or they could see an enthusiastic team of teachers actively courting their support and solidarity.
By all means, take some time to get warmed up. Bring a lawn chair to rest your feet or back, and catch up with your colleagues. Play a guitar. But each shift should be making a concerted effort to connect with the people driving and walking through our neighbourhood. You’d be surprised the effect of an engaging smile and a wave from a passing stranger, let alone fifteen.
Eye contact creates empathy and respect between people, even when they disagree. Pour on the kindness to those with stern glances, birds or words. Reasonable people can disagree, and these interactions allow people to take a stance on the issue of our negotiations. For my part I can say that in our weeks on the picket so far, these have been many, many more honks, waves, thumbs-ups, solidarity-fists, and smiles than there have been their negative counterparts. And as the government continues to stonewall progress on a labour-disruption that – for the moment – impacts every corner of the province, the imbalance has only grown. This groundswell of support is our only means of influencing government’s posture at the bargaining table, and we should actively continue to court it across our lines this week.
To this end I compel you to demonstrate resolve to stand together as a school against an imposed contract that would not only perpetuate the injustices of the past, but would further degrade the conditions of our province’s schools.
Not everyone feels as passionately as I do, perhaps, and I think that’s fine. A union is intended to be an expression of democracy, and the differences in our opinions make us stronger, not weaker. But at the moment we are on strike, the result of just such a democratic expression of the membership, even if you voted (or would have preferred to vote) no. If you are disconcerted by the hope of having ‘gone out,’ I would further add that the duration, not to mention the end results, of our current job action could depend on us maximizing our efforts to engage the public while out picketing.
If you are unconvinced, try driving by a school with a handful of teachers picketing from lawn chairs. Then drive by Charles Best as their entire staff is marching the length of Como Lake Avenue with their signs asking the province for A Fair Deal. Drive by Gleneagle during any shift many of our recall teachers are out there, and I would bet that it becomes a little harder to dismiss our union as an unreasonable party to an eternal gridlock in BC education.
Our energy line has pioneered a few new picket moves this week, and will be exploring more original material next week. Mike and others have supplied new and creative signs for our zone on Landsdowne. And there is talk of a ‘costume’ day on the line next week.
As the kids in my neighbourhood keep asking me in their scrawled hop-scotch courts marking the days of their newfound summer vacation, to boot: why don’t we have any sidewalk chalk out there?
We aren’t on strike because we’ve lost or are losing. We’re on strike because we still might win. But what there’s left for us to win might have to be won this week.
So let’s make it count.
See you out there,
Melanie Stokes is a colleague of mine who forwarded me this letter that she submitted to the Vancouver Sun to share here.
As teachers are now in their second week of full job action, it may be important to consider the reasons why this situation is happening now. Over the last thirty years, society has undergone great changes and the role of education has expanded accordingly. The time has come for us to decide if we are able or want to support education with all the expectations of what it must deliver.
Thirty years ago, classes were often larger but were mostly a homogenous group of kids. Schools had clear expectations about discipline and students were streamed according to academic ability. Curriculum was focussed on basic literacy and numeracy skills and going into the work place rather than university was the norm after graduation. Students with special needs were segregated. Schools were not expected to deliver individual education plans; neither were teachers required to meet all the learning needs of all the children in their classes. Teachers taught the whole class as a group and did their best to provide accelerated materials to the bright kids, and get the slower learners caught up. That was pretty much it. No one felt it necessary to feed children breakfast because they were too hungry to learn or had to learn how to deal with autistic, Downs Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, Oppositional Disorder students or large groups of children who spoke no English at all.
Over the last thirty years, education has been given the job of trying to fix all the problems of an increasingly complex society. Teachers took it in their stride, believing that they could, and would be able to make positive changes for the children in their care. They embraced the idea of integration for special needs students and never considered that at some point, the funding to for teacher support would be reduced to the point where classroom management would become almost impossible. They have accepted children in their classes who have no idea how to function in a group setting, how to speak or comprehend English, children from poor, dysfunctional families with no social or financial resouces, refugee children from war torn countries with resulting psychological problems, learners with a myriad of challenges that teachers are expected to address.
Teachers did and still do go about their jobs every day believing they can make a positive impact on the social, emotional, and acedemic growth of the children in their care. Despite the rhetoric of government and union, this fight is about the value of education and what we, as a society deem important. Do we want a return to the “one size fits all” education practice of the past, or do we wish to continue with the education system we have grown to expect? If so, then we should be prepared to pay for it.
Schools of today are successful because of the efforts of those who work within them. If there is no will or not enough money to support educators to do the job we demand of them, then we should go back to the old school system and stop expecting teachers, principals, and support staff to do more and more for our children with unrealistic funding and less and less support.
If a good education for all children is considered important, and it should be, then let’s stop the erosion of services and demand that our government provide the necessary financial support to keep the education we expect for our children.
Every myth ever conjured about teachers by child or adult is suddenly used to twist together a bizarre caricature. The image of teacher is transformed into that of an immoral, greedy, freakish demon which needs to be put in its place for the good of the children. To that end, the Government is inevitably called upon to exorcise the beast and the demon teacher is legislated back to work.
I have managed to survive two rounds of demonization and legislated exorcism in my career and I figure I am destined to survive another but In the meantime, lets take a look at some of the myths society uses to shape their concept of ‘teacher’ in both good times and bad.
Myth #1: Teachers never leave the school.
I think everyone at some point in their young grade school lives, figured their teachers never left the school. I still remember standing dumbfounded when I saw my grade 1 teacher out and about in the community one Saturday. I still remember asking “Mom! Why is Mrs. MacDonald out of the school?
Myth #2: Those who can’t do, teach
I would say this is the most famous and perhaps most resilient myth out there about teachers but ultimately it is a falsehood.
In my 18 years a teacher I have worked with a former olympic athlete, a CFL lineman, a world-class marathoner, lawyers, a fire fighter, a former military officer, a professional dancer, a touring musician, authors and a myriad of other talented and wonderful people who have come to teaching for any number of reasons.
What is perhaps more inspirational are those who went straight into teaching because THAT is what they wanted to do more than anything else in this world. It is these teachers that are the foundation of our school system and to speak ill of them is tantamount to speaking ill of Gandhi, God or Gershwin.
Myth #3: Teachers are not as well-educated as people in other professions.
Let me just start with this. What a load of stinky horse manure.
90% of the teachers I work with have Masters degrees. Of that 90% most have 3 degrees. A number of teachers I have worked with over the years have had PhD’s and one of my colleagues is finishing up a PhD from Oxford. So if you think this myth to be true… You might want to reassess your definition of education.
Myth #4: Teachers don’t have children of their own.
Even as a Sr. High School teacher I get looks of amazement or an audible “Ew gross!”, when students learn I have children of my own. It is as if there is this belief that teachers take and oath of celibacy or are surgically sterilized as part of some ritualistic initiation into the teaching profession.
Honest, many of us have children and we know what it is like on both sides of the playground fence.
See #Thisismystrikepay for further evidence that we procreate.
Myth #5: Teachers don’t care about kids!
Lets just stop and think about that for a second… Yah you are right. That one is just an outright stupid myth.
Myth #6: Teachers don’t understand how difficult job action is on families
Refer to myth #4
Myth #7: A good teacher can be effective regardless of circumstance.
This myth is a favourite amongst those who are looking to ‘reform’ the education and justify cutting teacher wages, taking away teacher benefits or changing conditions of employment. They say things like “If we had better teachers, our school system wouldn’t be in decline” or “The reason Finland has such a GREAT education system is that they have better teachers”
On the surface it is easy to get on board with this myth and say “YAH! If only we had better teachers!” and as flattering as it is to have people thinking that teachers are capable of overcoming massive class sizes, lack of resources, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, family discord, eating disorders, physical abuse, hunger, medical conditions, bad parenting, learning disabilities… All without any help. It isn’t going to happen.
As fantastic of a teacher as I think I am, there are just some kids I cannot help within the confines of a classroom without the proper supports in place outside of the classroom.
Myth #8: Teachers are not as good as they use to be.
Let’s be honest. Teaching back in the day was a piece of cake. There was nowhere near the complexities in the classrooms of the past that we see in our classrooms today.
If you grew up in Canada and are over 40, your school experience was more than likely very WASP’Y. There was no diversity of any kind when I was a kid. There was no such thing as ESL and if there was, it wasn’t in my school. Learning disabled kids went to a “special school” or they dropped out. Bad kids were eventually kicked out. The curriculum was simple and straight forward. There was no special adaptations or deadline extensions. All anyone needed to do in order to pass was to be present, polite and have a pulse. Life and teaching was simple back in the day, today not so much.
Myth #9: Teachers don’t care about taxpayers!
Lets see… Last I recall, I get a whack of money taken off my pay cheque just like everyone else in this world and it is called income tax. I guess that makes me a tax payer just like everyone else.
Of course we care about the tax payer because you and I are getting hammered to death with rising fees and rates to compensate for the corporate tax cuts the Government handed out when they came to power. This whole mess we have before us today is because of taxes and the lack or misappropriation of said taxes.
Myth #10: Teachers get paid through the summer.
One of the very first conversations I ever had about the teaching profession after I graduated was based on this myth. No I do not get paid during summer. I get paid over 10 months, September through June. Some teachers choose to have their pay distributed over a 12 month period so they have some income over summer but we get paid for a 10 month period.
Myth #11: Teachers can collect unemployment benefits over the summer.
There was a time way back before I was a teacher that this nice little perk was true (in some jurisdictions). Today however, if you have a job to return to in September (Continuing Contract), you cannot collect UI.
If you have a Temporary Contact and do not have a job to return to in September you can collect Unemployment benefits and the tax payer is funding your summer. The irony here is that the Province would like to be able to run the education system as if all teachers were temporary teachers. This would end up costing Tax Payers far more than what the current system does because the Province would be on the hook for paying 40,000 teachers during the school year and paying unemployment benefits for 40,000 teachers over the summer months as well.
Myth #12: Teachers qualify for a full pension after five years.
This fallacy comes from the way a teacher’s pension is calculated. Even my family seems to think this is a truth. “Boy must be nice to qualify for a full pension already!” Is the usual summer time backyard barbecue refrain.
Teachers qualify for a full pension after reaching a factor of 90. (Years of Teaching + Age = 90). This qualifies you for a full pension and your income is based on the income of your best five years.
Myth #13: The teachers pension pays you 100% of working income and all their health benefits for as long as they live.
Don’t I wish! If a teacher reaches factor 90 they can collect 70% of their working income during their retirement years. Health benefits are not paid once the teacher reaches 65.
Myth #14: As a tax payer, I am paying for every last cent of a teacher’s retirement.
I could see how people would be annoyed by a teacher’s retirement package if this were true but the teachers’ pension is 80% fully funded. This means that 12 billion dollars worth of investments, managed through a joint trusteeship between the BCTF and the Provincial Government generate enough revenue to cover 80% of the payouts to retired teachers.
The remaining 20% is funded jointly between tax payers and teachers but the ultimate goal is to make the teachers pension entirely self funding so absolutely nothing comes out of the tax payers pocket. In fact it would be in the taxpayers best interest to ensure this pension fund does become self funding rather than seeing it dismantled.
Myth #15: Teachers can’t be fired.
Well I hate to break it to you but since I have been teaching, I have seen a number of teachers dismissed and it didn’t really seem all that difficult to send them packing. If the union was standing in the way, it acted as more of a door mat than an obstacle
What people don’t seem to understand is that there is a process for dismissing teachers and this process is there to protect everyone involved. Contrary to popular belief, to have a system that allows teachers to be fired on a whim is neither ethical or practical and can result in more harm being done than good.
There you go. 15 common myths about teachers that are just a bunch of bunk. So next time you are talking to the demon in your child’s classroom, remember their horns and devilish red skin are probably made up of myths.
The slow grading economic attrition of the working class in BC is closing in on a breaking point. When the BC Liberals came into power in 2001 they promised sunshine and roses for everyone through tax cuts and bountiful work. Their campaign slogan may as well have been “Vote for us and you will be oozing money in no time!” but alas that promise never came to fruition and now the arrival date of our sunshine and roses has been pushed to some unspecified date beyond 2017.
Since the BC Liberal landslide over the BC NDP – 13 years 17 days ago (and counting), I can honestly say I do not know a single working class family that is better off today than they were on that momentous day. In fact most are worse off and falling deeper down a rabbit hole of debt and despair. The promises made in the 2001 haven’t come close to their billing and the working class families I run with, are having to cope with a stark decline in their standard of living.
How people are dealing with the economic abyss the BC Liberals have created varies. Some people I know have left or are leaving the province, others have downsized living spaces but most of the changes people face fall into the grin, bear and cut costs category. The one car family is coming back into vogue (not necessarily a bad thing); Families are dialling back on extra curricular activities for their children; Vacations are spent close to home; dining out is not as frequent… Essentially the middle class lifestyle in British Columbia is drying up.
So why is this a big deal you may ask? People cutting back on the consumerism of the past 30 years is a good thing and I agree! The problem here is that all this fiscal restraint isn’t part of any kind of back to basics, common sense economic movement. It is the direct result of BC Liberal’s piss poor economic policy which is actively eroding the spending power of BC’s working class.
You would think that someone who has been gainfully employed since 2001, shouldn’t have to cut back on their child’s extra curricular activities or worse, leave the province because they simply can’t afford to fork out any more after tax income but this is what is happening.
Clark has always been a bit of a miser, especially when it comes to the Public Service but recently she has spoken repeatedly about the need to keep wages low for other British Columbians as well. Clark doesn’t seem to understand that in order to have a healthy economy and a healthy community, people need to have money to spend on things other than their mortgage, utility bills and groceries.
“Clark said she’s concerned raising the minimum wage from its current $10.25 an hour could hurt job creation, even though Sinclair has said it isn’t enough for people to make ends meet.” - Vancouver Province, March 2014
“The premier is predicting B.C.’s liquefied natural gas industry will soon be competing for labour with Alberta’s oil patch and Saskatchewan’s potash industry, and says she’s concerned about rising wages.” - Canada.com, March 2014
“We can’t build an industry in our province or in this country if we see wages, if we see huge wage inflation.” - Vancouver Province, March 2014
To prop up her rhetoric, Christy Clark ensured she would be able to utilize Temporary Foreign Workers in an effort to keep wages low as she moves ahead with her LNG plans in Northern British Columbia.
OTTAWA — B.C.’s natural resources sector, including the budding liquefied natural gas industry, was declared to be in Canada’s strategic interests Monday as part of a non-binding federal-provincial deal that includes a commitment to encourage the active use of the Temporary Foreign Worker program. - Vancouver Sun, March 2014
Now I am not saying run away wages are a necessarily a good thing but the reality is, British Columbians need to be able to make a wage that reflects the cost of living in this Province. If wages are going to continue be actively suppressed by government, the only people that will remain in this province will be the wealthy and legions of temporary foreign workers
Downloading of costs
The other element of the income attrition workers in BC are experiencing is the downloading of costs onto the public. When the BC Liberals were voted in back in 2001 they promised the lowest personal tax rates in Canada and to the delight of many British Columbians they delivered. What the BC Liberals replaced taxation with however, is the never-ending increase of fees that tap the remaining after tax income from workers wallets.
From the outset, Christy Clark has been systematically dismantling BC’s public education system and downloading cost of educating our children to the parents.
As much as people love to side with the government and malign teachers, what seems to be forgotten is that the public education system is the education system of the working class. For most, it is the only means by which to affordably educate our children. Because of chronic underfunding over the past 13 years, School Districts have been forced to cut back on funding for programs and services for children of working class families.
What school districts then have to do is download the cost of what is no longer funded, directly to parents. Course fees, supply fees, band fees, lab fees, sports fees… Even the cost of critically important services such as psycho educational testing has been downloaded to parents. If you want your child tested in a timely manner, you have to fork out the money for a private assessment because these services have been cut to the point where kids are on waiting lists for a year or more before they are seen by an educational psychologist.
The BC Liberals will tell parents that there is plenty of money to go around. “it is just a matter of schools being more efficient, accountable and innovative to make their funding go further” but the reality is that the BC Liberals have intentionally downloaded the cost of educating working class children, directly onto their working class parents.
Fee & Rate Increases
Since 2001 there have been a slew of other costs that working British Columbians have had to bare and all of them together more than make up for any tax break the BC Liberals have handed out since their election
BC Hydro - 36% rate increase since 2001 – 2013 and an additional 26% increase through 2016
MSP Premiums - 85% increase since 2001 costing the average family an additional $736 a year for the average working class family
BC Ferries - 70% increase on major routes and 80% increase on minor routes since 2001
ICBC - 27.6% increase in basic vehicle insurance since 2001 ranking BC as the 2nd highest in Canada for Automobile Insurance
University Tuition - 100% increase in tuition to British Columbia’s post secondary institutions since 2001.
Cost of Running the BC Legislature - 94% increase to keep our MLA’s plump and satisfied while screwing over the BC public
How long the BC Liberals figure they can keep up this pattern of holding down wages while downloading costs to the good people of BC is anyone’s guess. Perhaps my biggest concern is that there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. Christy doesn’t seem to have any plan to improve the standard of living for the workers of BC beyond her new pet project, Liquid Natural Gas. Even if all of Christy’s LNG plans do go through I am not sure we can afford another 13 years and 17 days (and counting) of BC Liberal Rule.