All progressive people and groups, especially trade union members and organizations, should be on our feet at picket lines and massive rallies supporting the British Columbia teachers’ strike to win back protections for the quality education of our children.
Growing class sizes and slashed special needs services mean that all students face increased obstacles to learning right inside their classrooms. Vulnerable students with special needs, who should benefit from eliminated staff positions and other resources, suffer even more. Teachers are fighting to defend them.
Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government illegally stripped negotiated language on class size and composition out of teachers’ contracts over a decade ago. Despite two BC Supreme Court rulings declaring this unconstitutional, Christy Clark’s Liberal government refuses to reinstate the language, alleging that it would be too costly. That cost, not teachers’ reasonable salary demands, stalls a settlement in the current dispute.
But there’s plenty of money available for oil and gas pipelines, coal mining and export expansion, fracking, a liquefied natural gas industry, and the Site C Dam. Help for our children is too expensive, but billion-dollar subsidies are available to fossil fuels, the richest industry in history—and one that accelerates climate change and its multiplying disasters.
What a coincidence that teachers have been among the most vocal unions in opposing pipelines and other fossil fuel projects. Some have also included oil spills, climate change and fossil fuels in class work, because it is their job to teach youth to think critically about issues crucial to their futures.
Really, it’s no coincidence that teachers and Victoria disagree on many important questions. The BC Teachers Federation is currently on the front line of the struggle against the international, neo-liberal agenda, which targets public education along with public healthcare and most other social spending, while promoting unbridled fossil fuel extraction and most other environmentally damaging profit-taking.
In recent days in Vancouver serious, passionate gatherings have opposed tar sands pipelines, attacks on medicare, and the growing suppression of the right to dissent. In addition to large rallies backing teachers, people have met to support the Hupacasath First Nation’s court case against an anti-democratic trade agreement.
All of these “concerns” and many more are, in fact, battlegrounds. Corporate profiteers have created them as part of their neo-liberal strategy to destroy all political, legal, and institutional roadblocks to maximizing profits, but also to quash any effective opposition voices or groups (trade unions chief among them).
And they go even further by seeking to disintegrate any belief that social solidarity—taking care of each other, sharing costs to improve our collective lives—should be the basis of our society, rather than the dog-eat-dog, everyone-for-himself vision that makes it easier to squeeze profits from disconnected individuals.
Teachers stand for social solidarity, for quality education, for decent lives and vibrant communities, for a future based on eco-sanity. They are embroiled in this war, which we don’t want but cannot ignore. Stand with them on picket lines in your neighbourhood, in huge support rallies wherever they are. If they lose, we all lose.
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Read background to the BC teachers’ strike in the following feature on Rank and File.ca: BC teachers’ struggle: A reader.