Letter from an Ontario Teacher – “Workers Have Rights Because They are Human”

Letter to the Editor

I am a teacher who works with students with special needs. Our teaching environment is abysmal. Not only has the school building been affected by years of underfunding, but also we teachers literally have to provide the students with books and materials to work with out of our own pockets for which the government condescendingly gives us 15 percent of what we spend back as a tax credit that we have to apply for.

After two years of COVID and being understaffed, everyone is on edge. The climate in the schools, of anxiety and violence, has gone up various notches as all students, not just those with special needs, are left to fend for themselves. Many students with special needs and their families are at their wit’s end and we teachers and education workers are supposed to keep them together. It is a human tragedy that is so needless. Clearly, it is not the working people who control the purse strings nor make the decisions that affect their lives.

So, I congratulate the leadership of CUPE-OSBCU for its strong position of principle in this fight against a bully government who thought it could hit at the most vulnerable sections of the education workers. Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, represented us well and the unions, representing all sections of the Ontario and Canadian working class, stood as one. Most significant I think is the underlying point made by the fact that education workers called off their political protest but did not bargain away their right to strike. It hones in on what is crucial, which is that rights are not privileges and they cannot be given or taken away. This is the crux of the matter: that the workers have rights because they are human, not because they exist or do not exist in the Charter. Governments can write legislation bestowing or depriving the people of their rights, but they cannot get away with it. The struggle continues because the right to wages and working conditions according to what education workers and teachers say they need is still being fought.