Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Have I got a germ of an idea for a piece of longer fiction! I don't want to delve too deeply (and too greedily--hee hee!) into it here, but I'll comment a little here and there once I get going. Yeah, I know. This is all a little cryptic, but things aren't much clearer to me at this point. As I said, it's only a germ of an idea.

Speaking of ideas, the Ontario Conservative Party has come up with the flesh-eating disease (oh, that's a heavy-handed metaphor!) of all ideas. An idea that, if implemented, will erode Ontario labour laws.

The Conservatives are talking about prohibiting teachers' strikes. This is one of their campaign promises.

As the daughter of two union members, I understand the value of the labour movement and the right of a union to strike. Since the mid-nineteenth century, organized labour has played a vital role in the prevention of exploitation of workers. Unfortunately, Carlylian/Dickensian employers are too few: I believe that the majority of companies would exploit their employees if given the chance (Exhibit A: sweatshops; Exhibit B: "The Economics of Empire: Notes on the Washington Consensus" by William Finnegan [Harper's May 2003]) The cessation of labour/the discontinuation of service thus becomes a unions strongest bargaining tool.

My family lived through one strike and survived the threat of several others. We've survived a teachers' strike and Work-to-Rule. Yes, the strikes necessitated belt-tightening and rearranging; yes, that was inconvenient. But that is precisely why a strike works.

No one wants service interruptions--not the general public, not the employers and--least of all--not the employees. The threat of a strike forces parties to the bargaining table. It forces a resolution.

Without the right to strike, unions lose a great deal of their bargaining power. Grievances have little chance of being satisfactorily addressed.

What is most concerning, though, is that the Conservatives are suggesting the removal of a group non-essential service (yes, education is necessary, but human lives are not threatened if it is removed; there is a world of difference between what a teacher does and what paramedics, doctors and nurses do) providers' right to strike. This, folks, could very well be precedent-setting. If the teachers are not allowed to strike then what's to stop auto workers and public employees from being stripped of their right to strike?!

A right, as my friend Ryan aptly noted this evening, is self-evident (unlike a privilege). A right is what empowers one; it gives one strength, security. To block one from exercising a right is dehumanizing.

Though I find the suggestion of removing teachers' unions' right to strike in itself repugnant, I'm not too concerned about its being implemented. A sure-fire way to keep yourselves from being re-elected is to piss-off the unions. When you threaten OECTA (Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association), the OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation) and the like, you threaten every union. Unions generally stick together. An attack on one is an attack on them all.

The Conservatives don't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of being re-elected. But, then again, Ernie Eves is the devil (how else do you explain his thinking that he can get away with flouting democracy by presenting the budget outside of Provincial Parliament?!) He may surprise me yet.

Oh, the hypocrisy of it all!

According to the Conservative campaign promises regarding education, while the Tories intend to, "pass legislation making it illegal for teachers (and other school employees) to strike or stage work-to-rule campaigns," they like to think that they are supporting teachers by offering teaching awards, scholarships (for teachers who wish to upgrade their skills) and further unannounced teaching evaluations!

Support, my ass!

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