On Dec. 18, CUPE 4400 member Bruno Petraglia was removed from his position on his union’s bargaining support committee for opposing scabbing against the OSSTF strike. We share his statement here.
Today I was removed from my union position for opposing scabs.
I was removed from Toronto Education Workers / Local 4400 Bargaining Support Committee because I wrote a post criticizing a directive, sent out by my leadership, advising Local 4400 members to cross Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) picket lines.
On December 3rd, my CUPE Local 4400 President sent out an email to the membership about the 1-day strike of OSSTF highschool teachers. In that email he said that his executive “does not endorse illegal job action” and that Local 4400 members (including education workers at highschools) must cross the picket lines to obey the law:
“If you are assigned the work of OSSTF Members, you should contact the Union to file a grievance, but you should not refuse those duties.”
I was shocked to read this email which breaks the time honored tradition of the labour movement that respects picket lines no matter what the law says. Therefore, I have no regrets as to my response calling this unjust policy out, you can read it here: https://www.facebook.com/bruno.petraglia.3/posts/10157892946689772
After my post on Facebook, my executive sent me an email requesting that I delete the post. After I had refused to take down the post, the executive at my local had a meeting about dealing with me. The end result was to remove me from the Bargaining Support Committee.
Despite being removed from my position, I find it more concerning that this policy that endorses scabbing is still in place. Why is my union actively calling to break picket lines of teachers fighting against Doug Ford’s unjust cuts to education? CUPE has a “me-too” clause on teacher pay, so OSSTF members are literally fighting for us to get better wages and for better conditions for our kids. Why should we respect laws that are meant to break and divide us in the labour movement? Laura Spencer Walton, a sectoral leader in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the President of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU) even called on us in a speech to respect the picket lines at last month’s Ontario Federation of Labour Convention!
It’s not a ridiculous thing to respect picket lines. Our brothers and sisters in CUPE British Columbia respected picket lines of the BC Teachers Federation in 2014, and BC teachers in turn respected CUPE lines just a month ago. This is what real solidarity looks like. This is what we mean when we sing solidarity forever.
The right for teachers to strike was not always “legal”; it was only in 1973 when 80,000 Ontario teachers went on an illegal strike that they won collective bargaining rights. They broke an unjust law that attacked the workers. This is the tradition of our movement. It is now all too common for unions to encourage their members to cross picket lines and break solidarity in the name of “legality”.
Since the 1970s, Unions have prided themselves on anti-scabbing education for members. Sadly, this education has not been applied in practice. Some of our union leaders are obsessed with the law. But behind every law there is an interest. Liberal and Conservative governments, who are intent on defending the legal rights of corporations and the wealthy elite, create these laws.
Doug Ford, Stephen Lecce and the Conservative government is banking on dividing workers to defeat the teachers. Therefore, I want to call on all workers in the labour movement to reject policies that promote scabbing in their unions. At a time when Ontario teachers are in a heated struggle against an austerity driven Conservative government and a federal Liberal government that has used back-to-work legislation, we must reject laws that are designed to break working class people.
It is time that we resurrect the militant, fighting traditions of the past so everybody knows there is no greater crime than crossing a picket line. I can tell you right now, that I will fight tooth and nail to make sure my Local respects the picket lines of teachers. I call on others in the labour movement to unite around the OSSTF and the other teachers’ unions against the Ford government.
Bruno Petraglia CUPE4400 Steward