The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Ontario Education Workers Strike!

Nov 7, 2022

Hours after the provincial government passed a law making a strike illegal and unilaterally imposing a contract, 55,000 school employees voted to strike across Ontario.

The union represents school employees of many support types, including school secretaries, custodians, and cafeteria workers. The strike has shut down schools across Ontario.

On Thursday, after talks ended with no deal reached, the Ontario government passed a law imposing contracts on all 55,000 CUPE members and banning them from striking. Workers voted to walk out anyway. The union says the walkout will last until the law is repealed.

School employees represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) picketed at politicians’ offices starting Friday. Members of other unions, including the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, joined the pickets. About 8,000 workers from other unions have walked off their jobs in support.

CUPE workers are protesting proposed wage increases of less than 2.5%, when they are seeking increases of 11.5%. Currently, its workers make on average $39,000 a year, and are generally the lowest paid workers in Ontario schools. And, of course, inflation is much higher than 2.5%!

Strikers are potentially facing fines of up to $4000 per day of the strike; the union itself may be fined up to $500,000 per day.

But so far, these strikers and their union recognize that the only solution is to use their power where it is—shutting down the schools where they work and forcing the employer to deal with them.

So far, the striking workers have the support of parents. One said, “I think education workers deserve a living wage.” Another said, “I’m struggling, but I am one hundred percent in favor of the strike. I am willing to do whatever it takes to handle these short-term setbacks for our family in order to safeguard the long-term stability of the people around me and the society that I live in.”

The union says it will pay any fines imposed—but why should they? The law and fines are an obvious attack on the workers and their union.

The president of the CUPE Ontario, Fred Hahn, said workers “have the right to protest for their rights, to demand something better from a government that is sitting on a $2.1-billion surplus, a government refusing to actually invest in our schools.”

These workers have taken the necessary first step and have done so in the face of attacks from the State and its police force. Only a united working-class offensive can win.