Dear Teachers’ Union

Please don’t take this away from us…

So I know your choices are supposed to impact the government; and I understand you want to have your voices heard, and they are. But you’re being heard by all the wrong people. The people who are hearing you are the students. You cancelled our extra-curricular activities to get a rise out of the government. But it isn’t working as much as you’d like. Cancelling prom, and school assemblies and other groups and clubs doesn’t do you or us any good.

I have read and I understand Bill 115. Unlike a lot of students at my school I have read it, and I understand why you are upset, but I also understand why the government has done this. The government is just trying to protect Ontario, they don’t want our province/cities going bankrupt like Stockton, San Bernardino, Central Falls, Jefferson County, Harrisburg, Boise County, Idaho, Michigan, Allen Park and many other cities in the US have filed for bankruptcy, some have been denied and some accepted. Do you want us to go bankrupt too? And there are other unions that are getting money cuts, and pay freezes and other things too, they just aren’t making a big deal about it. In the last week the doctors (silently) signed a contract for a pay cut. My father works for Staples and he never got the choice to store up his sick days like teachers have. It was unfair to the rest of the county for the government to give the teachers that extra. So really, it’s only fair that you can’t store them up anymore. They are not being taken away from you, you can still use them, you just can’t cash them in for cash until you retire.

Now, as for the argument on whether you are getting a right stripped from you. “Rights not reduced – (6)  Nothing in this Act or in a regulation or order in council made under this Act shall be interpreted or applied so as to reduce a right or entitlement under the Human Rights Code.” Taken directly from Bill 115. I know it may seem like a right is being taken away, but really it’s not. The only reason you can’t protest longer than a day is to protect us (students). If the teachers union decides to have a strike for two weeks (especially this close to exams) that means that students get two weeks less time with their teachers to understand what is happening in the exam. A lot of students would fail class if this were to happen. So many of us would fall behind, and most likely fail our exams.

Teachers have told me since I was a kid, “You can do anything, you just need to put your mind to it. The right group of friends and you can get anywhere you want to…” We have looked up to our teachers since we were kids. When you go into high school you’re told by older students that you should join at least one club. And so we do. My friend and I joined tech crew. Honestly, I thought I’d hate it, but I have been in it for a year and a half, and it has changed who I am. Being in tech crew I have gotten to meet so many fabulous speakers and people. Some of my friendships have gotten so much stronger. Tech crew is now a way I define myself. I know that a lot of other students define themselves by their groups.

David, Fiona, Becca, and Rachel

So a lot of other students at my school hate being at school and learning and everything, but the reason they aren’t failing is because of their teams, if their grades drop too much they will be kicked out of the team or club. A lot more students will flunk out if our extra-curriculars’ are taken away. So many teachers at my school care so much about us, but if kids started flunking they would take it on themselves. Do you (the teachers union) want that hurt on your back? Do you want to see kids who have done so good in school until now fail and flunk out of school? I sure wouldn’t want that on my back.

Grade 12’s of this year won’t get a prom, they won’t get that awesome experience of growing up. That is not fair at all, they have worked so hard to get through four years of high school, Prom is a way of saying, “You made it! Celebrate now before it gets harder!” We want to enjoy high school, make it bearable. Being in a club or on a sports team makes it a little easier to bear all the weight of school. This fight isn’t worth losing students over. Is it?

People always tell me, “The choices you make today will affect you in the future.” I have learned that, it seems the teachers’ union hasn’t. If you did, we would still have our clubs, because you would know that this isn’t going to end up well. So please give us back our clubs. Because if you don’t you are tearing a part of us away. You’re erasing a part of our being.

Thank you for your time and your consideration, I hope you make the right choice for our future.

Grace Rosien – Eastwood Collegiate Institute (ECI)

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13 Responses to “Dear Teachers’ Union”

  1. Alex says:

    Hello Grace,

    I was procrastinating, and I saw this so… HEY.
    I do see your points, this whole situation is pretty bogus. Having said that, extra curriculars were something that the teachers did voluntarily, giving up their own time to indulge our interests. Now that they’ve taken it away, we get all upset and we complain. Prom included, it’s not as such a right as it is a privilege, and they can do whatever they want with it. If you convince 15 random adults to chaperon a dance for graduating students in a public hall and call it prom, go ahead; no one can stop you.

    I’m not against you, I’m just saying that it’s something we can’t just expect. However, I agree with you 100% on the tech crew area; I would not be where I am today without it, film club included. I have earned over $1,300 doing shows, using skills and connections I gained from tech crew. It is a very underrated club, but hey. Makes us feel exclusive ;)

    On another note, I miss you and the rest of the crew (or the group of students that used to be the crew) and I hope you’re all up and running within this school year.


    P.S. Kind of surprised you have a blog. But I respect it. :)

    • Grace says:

      Hey Alex, thanks for your feedback! :) You’re right, it’s not a right, but the teachers don’t want to stop doing it. It’s the teachers union that said they can’t do it.
      You’re a great example of this. Tech crew has changed so many of our lives. I am so much different than I would have been if I never joined it. We miss you too Alex, you were an awesome tech leader! And you changed who I am too. :)

  2. Jim Tigwell says:

    Hi Grace,
    I appreciate the position you’re in, and I don’t think anyone would rather have students in school than teachers. But you do need to read Bill 115 a little closer. Section 13 (6) does say that nothing in the act shall be applied in a way that violates the human rights code. But section 14 says the Labour Board can’t inquire as to whether an application is against the human rights code. Neither can independent arbitrators. Section 15 expands that to include inquiries by the Labour board about any order of the act, as well as excluding an procedure in the courts.

    This is, in essence a law that says that the government is above the law. It’s more than a pay freeze, it’s a precedent that completely guts the collective bargaining process. It puts the Ontario government in a position to dictate working conditions for teachers, as well as putting them in a position to enact a similar law against any other union.

    I know it’s the students who are hit the hardest, but the fact of the matter is that self-determination and collective bargaining are things worth standing up for.

    • Grace says:

      I understand that it’s more than a pay freeze. But tell me this, if there was no law saying the teachers can’t protest longer than a day, would this protest still be happening?
      If it would, that would mean that (us) high school students would lose very precious time with our teachers. A lot of us students would either fail, or lose a lot of marks. I would be in that group of failing students most likely.
      It’s to protect students, I understand you feel a right is being taken away, but if this weren’t the case, us students would lose a right to learn and have an education.
      And it is protecting the government and the union. “The board shall not lock out an employee and an employee of the board who is represented by the employee bargaining agent shall not strike…” So it’s protecting both groups.
      But I do understand your frustration… :)

      • Jim Tigwell says:

        It’s late, and I may be curt. The answer to your hypothetical is yes. Bill 115 gives the Education Minister unprecedented power in the guise of protecting students (who are mentioned only three times in the bill, two of those in the preamble). Given that students are not at any particular risk, this is much like insisting that you be allowed to own a bazooka to get rid of the ant in your kitchen. The bazooka will almost certainly work, but it’ll take most of your kitchen with it, and there are lots of easier ways to accomplish the task.

        It’s true that if the protest went on past a day, there would be a cost. This does not, however, deprive you of your right to an education, nor does it disrespect it. During summer vacation, you are also deprived of contact with teachers, ensuring an ill-prepared student populace and a rude awakening in the fall, but it isn’t an affront to your right to an education. The same could be said of March break.

        Ontario students are in no danger of losing their education, though they may lose a few weeks of schooling. If that’s a concern, I recommend speaking with your teachers about what you could read up on during the strike to make sure that you return prepared to do even better in your courses. I imagine they’d be delighted to tell you, and doing so doesn’t go against the union’s restrictions on extracurricular activities.

        Extracurricular activities which, by the way, are voluntary. the hours your teachers put into organizing and supervising them are unpaid, in addition to the unpaid hours they spend grading assignments at home. You’re absolutely right that being involved is important, but what the union has mandated isn’t “Cancel clubs to hurt students” but “Stop working for free”. It sucks, and it interferes with your education, but not your right to it.

        The quote you cited, from section 5.4, does the opposite of protecting both groups. It strips them of a key option in collective bargaining, the ability to walk away. This affects the boards minimally, because it’s not often in their best interests to lock out the teachers. But by stripping the teachers of the power to strike, they are required by law to show up to work regardless of whether there’s a contract in place. While they’re prisoners of their job, under section 9.1.i and 9.1.ii, the Lieutenant Governor is empowered to dictate the terms of their contract and, as per sections 14 and 15, there is absolutely no recourse. There are no limits contained in those clauses. he could mandate that all teachers have to wear clown noses and play monopoly at lunch. There’s nothing in there about ensuring quality of life, except for the section in 13.6 which, as I pointed out, is voided by section 14.

        Imagine working at a job for four months, and finding out they want to renegotiate and extend your contract. But they want you to keep working while the contract is renegotiated. And it’s not really a negotiation, because the government, who you don’t work for, dictates the terms of your contract. You’ll work for what they say you’ll work for, or you can suck it up and quit. What part of that is collective bargaining? These are the functions of Bill 115.

        A strike is going to be hard on students, but believe me when I tell you that having no teachers for a few weeks is a great deal better than having teachers who don’t want to be there for months, or even years. On top of that, quality of education is highly correlated with the quality of life of the teachers. The top-rated nations in the World are Finland and South Korea, neither of which command vast amounts of wealth, but one thing they have in common is that they maintain very competitive wages and benefits for teachers. This attracts better people to the job, and each system encourages them to do the best for students. You can find the same kind of correlation in the differences between public and private education here in Canada.

        In short, a teacher’s strike doesn’t infringe on your right to an education, and while students may fail because of missing a few weeks of school, that isn’t something that’s ultimately up to the teachers either. the passage you’ve cited does the opposite of what you claim, and you have yet to address the incredibly sweeping legal precedent bill 115 sets which essentially allows it to castrate both the union and the board’s ability to negotiate.

        • Grace says:

          I understand that you may think it doesn’t take a right of education away from students… but for this I am going to have to disagree. Summer is planned and so is March break, and Winter break. They are planned therefore not being taken away. A few weeks of school away will majorly impact students. It would be extremely hard to catch up in a lot of classes, even students who are doing fairly well. We obviously have different opinions on Bill 115. That’s ok.
          The government is not allowed to lock out teachers and that protects the teachers from losing a job.
          There are many unions that have gotten pay cuts throughout the past years.
          It is to protect our country. To keep us safe from losing everything we call home. No other union has a option to stock up sick days. How is that fair to anyone else? And that the teachers are making a big fuss about it just makes them look bad.
          A lot of the teachers at my school do not even want to be doing any kind of strike. They are fine with what the Bill says.
          A difference in opinion is only expected in a debate like this. :) And I thank you very much for your opinion.
          Thank you again and sharing with me your thoughts and feelings.

          • Jim Tigwell says:

            It doesn’t deprive students of their right to an education though, any more than being forced to skip a meal deprives them of the right to food. Even if they go a whole day or two without eating, their right to food is intact. As soon as food can be obtained, it’s theirs. The ETFO and OSSTF are not conspiring to dismantle the education system, though it’s function will be impaired for a bit. Students are free to take correspondence courses at Lutherwood, or at St. Louis in downtown Kitchener. Armed troops will not drag them away to jail for attempting to learn things. Even if their grades are drastically affected, students aren’t being denied the right to an education, merely the easiest way to get one for a few weeks.

            On the whole, I’m not sure I’m tracking your argument. You’re making a lot of statements, but they don’t seem to fit together. Let me address them quickly.

            1. We have different opinions about Bill 115.
            This is true, but we knew that from the outset. the facts of the matter though, speak to its sweeping precedent and incredible circumvention of all legal means of recourse in sections 14 and 15, which you still haven’t addressed. Why is it permissible to have a law that gives the government limitless power over a private negotiation, that specifically rules out any oversight or appeal?

            2. The government is not allowed to lock out the teachers.
            The government never was. Teachers don’t work for the government, they work for the school boards. The negotiation is between the unions and the school boards. The government actually has no power to intervene until Bill 115 passes. It’s making a law that says it can interfere in private negotiations.

            3. There are many unions who have taken pay cuts in the past.
            True, but irrelevant. There are many doctors who have used leeches in the past to treat the flu, but it doesn’t follow from that that leeches treat the flu, only that many doctors have used them. Contemporary circumstances and knowledge are different.

            4. It is to protect our country.
            Non sequitur. It isn’t clear how a provincial bill would protect our country, nor that everything we call home is in danger of being lost. No one is dismantling the education system.

            5. No other union has the option to stock up sick days.
            No other profession is expected to do prep work even on the days they are sick. I think we can both agree that no other profession is like teaching. Special responsibilities warrant special consideration.

            6. A lot of teachers at my school don’t want to strike.
            I imagine no teacher wants to strike. It means taking time off without pay, standing out in the cold, and worrying about the future. Strikes are a last resort for a good reason.

            7. Many of my teachers don’t have a problem with Bill 115.
            It doesn’t follow from this that there are no problems with it, however. To use a topical example, many citizens of the US don’t have a problem with their current gun control laws, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything wrong with them.

            There’s a distinction between voicing an opinion and putting forth an argument. In your post, you made an argument that the terms contained in Bill 115 were reasonable, and that students would be drastically affected by a strike. Because of these, teachers ought not to strike. I have answered in turn, arguing that, over the course of the 13-18 years of a student’s education, a few weeks does not constitute the violation of a right, and that the implications of bill 115 propose sweeping legislative changes. The lawyers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association agree.

            Your next step is to support your original position or some more moderate one with distinct points which relate to the core argument. Consider addressing the legal opinions in Bill 115, especially those concerned with sections 9, 14, and 15. Consider drawing an analogy that demonstrates a similar case where being deprived of even several months of a public education has been ruled to be a violation of the right to an education.

            It’s anecdotal, but speaking as someone who failed the seventh grade, endured a teacher’s strike of my own in the ninth, and who was thrown out of high school no less than three times, a couple of weeks isn’t going to make or break anybody, and the legislative precedent is highly dubious and scary.

  3. Karen Lynn says:

    If the government was really doing this to save money, they would not have spent $1.3 billion on moving power plants, they would collect the $2 billion in unpaid corporate taxes, and they would take responsibility for the $4 billion wasted on the ORNGE scandal and the $1 billion wasted on e-health by being the first ones to cut their OWN benefits, salary, and severance packages (which are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for each MPP who has been there at least 4yrs). All of this waste amounts to over $8 billion, over half of their $14.4 billion deficit, and far more than the savings they say they are getting out of education (and they actually won’t save anything in the long run…… if you do your research on how they calculate the sick bank into their deficit, you will learn that the numbers are all hypothetical and depend on teachers all taking all 20 sick days —- which never happens. So they are causing all of this hassle when they actually won’t end up saving any money — do the math). The fact that corporations have $2 billion worth of unpaid corporate taxes and the government has already decided to write off $1.3 billion because they think it would take too much time and be too difficult to collect should tell you something about their priorities and also how serious they actually view the deficit problems. That they are willing to take money from the education system, and do so by by-passing the very institutions that are put in place as a part of our democracy to provide accountability for government (Human Rights Code, courts, Labour Relations Board), rather than go after money they are OWED from corporations that have annually, billions of dollars worth of profit, should be of concern to all Ontario citizens. If this is not injustice worth fighting for, then I don’t know what is.

    • Grace says:

      Thanks for sharing your opinion! But I don’t share it. I really appreciate that we can talk about this without arguing. Thank you so much for visiting me here and sharing your thoughts. :)
      I think we can both agree we want this to end and have teachers back happy and in classrooms.

  4. David & Nancy Brown says:

    I just read Gracie’s Blog. This is the most well written artical/editorial that I have seen and is far superior anything I’ve seen in the Record or anywhere else. Congratulations. I guess Nancy and I could say that we are proud that we know Gracie. She should offer that to the Record.

  5. Julia Rosien says:

    I was proud when you wrote this blog but as I’ve watched you answer some very challenging questions from your readers, I’m even more proud. I love that you have respected everyone enough to engage in discussion with them, even when there’s a disagreement.

    I might be your mom (and incredibly bias) but I agree with David. You are a thoughtful, intelligent young women with much to contribute to this world. And I’m glad that you’re using your words to share your ideas. I’m also incredibly grateful to be on this journey and watch you blossom.

    The world has no idea the energy you’re about to unleash on it. You go girl!

    Love, your mom…

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