With the college faculty strike in its second week, a massive rally took over Toronto’s Bay Street on Wednesday outside the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. Strikers came out in force to call on the province to send college bosses back to the bargaining table with instructions to negotiate a fair agreement.
More than 3000 college faculty and friends carried picket signs and waved union flags to the beat of a samba band, dancing and chanting, “Same work, same pay!” Socialist Hip Hop artist Mohammed Ali contributed his inspiring rap.
Local coffee shops had line-ups out the door starting at 7:30 a.m., and spirits were high as colleagues from across the province greeted each other.
“The College Employer Council is on the wrong side of history,” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said. “We don’t want a Walmart model of education. It’s not good for students, and it’s not good for faculty. Contract faculty should not be forced to work for the kind of wages and working conditions that our students come to college to avoid!”
College faculty have the full support of the union’s 130,000 members – and the union’s strike fund, he added.
News media were out in force for the event.
College faculty bargaining team chair JP Hornick climbed onto the back of the pickup truck and gave an impassioned description of why college faculty are on strike. “This is a historic moment,” she said. “This is the first time 12,000 faculty are on strike to support our contract faculty.”
Hornick said the College Employer Council’s contract offer would have meant faculty who retired would not be replaced. It would have created a new category of temporary full-time workers who would be hired without restriction.
“They may try to force an offer on you that includes these concessions,” Hornick told strikers. “What are you going to say to that offer?” The hundreds gathered yelled a resounding “NO!”
Two contract faculty shared their stories of years and years of trying to get permanent work. Pam Frache from the $15 and Fairness campaign said faculty’s fight for decent jobs with livable wages is where the fight against precarious work needs to happen.
John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, called on all unions to support the strikers to ensure access to good jobs.
Rally emcee RM Kennedy, chair of the OPSEU CAAT-Academic Division, called on all strikers and supporters to call their MPPs to urge them to use their influence to help re-start bargaining.