Yesterday was a historic moment that saw CUPE’s 55,000 education members in Ontario, ably and inspirationally represented by their President Laura Walton, achieve a victory that seemed impossible a week ago.
These brave workers, the vast majority of whom are women, put everything on the line to fight for all of us and our rights against a conservative government that was contemptuous of working people and intent on keeping workers poor and powerless.
Their courage and unwavering dedication to the protection of children and the public education system left Doug Ford no choice but to repeal Bill 28 and return to the bargaining table.
This is important. If the conservatives had succeeded in using the constitution’s ‘notwithstanding’ clause to force a contract on CUPE members, free collective bargaining would have been virtually over in Canada. Other provinces, in particular those with conservative governments, would have done the same anytime workers disagreed with an employer’s wage offer. Having defeated Doug Ford’s attempt to quash our rights, other governments will think twice before trying that tactic again.
The victory is momentous, we should be proud of it, and enjoy it. But is not the end of our struggle. In Ontario, our members must now press the conservatives for a fair and decent contract. And in the rest of the country, we need to build on this success.
This recognition is especially important here in Alberta. The rallying slogan of the strike in Ontario was ‘$39,000.00 is Not Enough.’ There is no doubt it isn’t, but it is $12,000 more than the average education worker makes in Alberta. Our K-12 members have not seen a wage increase in eight years.
Instead of addressing this shameful situation in Alberta schools, our premier encourages disunity in our country, offers no relief for inflation and peddles ridiculous and dangerous conspiracy theories.
We don’t have to put up with this any longer. We know that worker power is real, the people are with us and change is coming.
I promise you I will work with everything I have to make things better for our members and the people of Alberta.
In times of trouble and set back Tommy Douglas’ words; ‘Courage friends; tis not too late to build a better world’ have given me hope. In this time of victory, they are also with me and have never been more true.
Our members, our union and our movement are building that better world right this minute and I am so happy and proud to be with you while we do it.
All the very best and Solidarity Forever!
President, CUPE Alberta