October 1, 2012

Students -- support the teachers!


Statement by the Young Communist League (Ontario)

It is time for Ontario high school and elementary students to rise up in support of teachers. The working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions of students. Already, students are organizing walk-outs across Ontario against the McGuinty Liberal provincial government’s Bill 115.

Together, we can stop Bill 115!

If we don’t join together and push back, the consequences for teachers and students alike will be dire. If we unite, students can help protect democracy, defend workers’ fundamental rights – and force the government to repeal Bill 115.

Students first

A students-first agenda, in a nutshell, calls for quality education: public and accessible.

Education is not a business opportunity to make profit. It is the right of the youth, and a keystone in securing our future.  Another vital necessity for quality education is the right of teachers to form, participate in, and be represented by their labour unions.

The McGuinty government has taken away teachers’ right to strike, an unquestionably unfair and illegal decision. The YCL believes this is a class-based decision in favour of business owners and the ruling class.

Research has proven that there is little question of whether or not teachers need a strong union. Meanwhile, history tells us that unions have been the champions of workers' rights for centuries - not the capitalists. The rights to be part of a union and to strike are fundamental rights of democracy, and are enshrined in Canadian law.  Bill 115 is anti-teacher, anti-union, and therefore anti-student - and anti-working people.

The teachers are on the frontlines of the struggle to maintain workers’ rights, as the Liberals are now eyeing introducing similar anti-democratic legislation for the rest of the public sector. If we, as students, can help drive back this attack, we can help ensure jobs, union rights, and living standards are maintained for our generation.

The Big Lie

The McGuinty government has already put an abrupt end to most of our fieldtrips and electives, removing more and more creative and stimulating elements from the school year with each cut to education.  When the government took away the teachers’ right to strike, they knew exactly what would happen. Don’t get suckered into the government’s attempt to place all the blame on the teachers. It is the McGuinty Liberals who have forced teachers to stop helping our clubs and sports.   Remember that teachers are not paid for extracurricular activities.

Teachers are quite possibly the antithesis of greediness. They work for every penny of their wage and then some. Still, they are denied necessities such as sick days. You cannot have quality education if your teacher is ill. You cannot have a quality education with teachers living in poverty or scrambling to pay the bills.

We believe that all wages, including student minimum wages, need to go up -- not down. Over the past twenty years, the Ontario economy has grown immensely but our wages have stagnated.

You cannot have quality education if schools are underfunded, the buildings are in shambles, and students have to share crumbling, out-of-date textbooks.

The government is telling everyone a big lie. They are saying that there is no money, and that there is no alternative to Bill 115.  Limiting the debate to “paying for All-Day Kindergarten”, or “reducing the deficit” on the backs of teachers holds little weight when we examine the facts.

Ontario is a province with tremendous natural wealth, a surplus of the super-rich, and many giant corporations and banks.  Canadian corporations are currently sitting on $526 billion of unused money in their balance sheets. Canada’s five largest banks have all raked in record profits in 2011. Also, corporations still benefit from one of the lowest tax rates in the world right here in Ontario.  In the shadow of this concentrated wealth stand our hospitals, transit system, and schools. All of which remain underfunded and neglected. Who created the crisis in education? It wasn’t the teachers or the students – it was government policies that pay no serious regard to people’s needs, only corporate greed.

Our future?

With the ‘toxic twins’ of rising living costs and rising tuition fees, it is preposterous to expect that most working class youth, after high school, would be able to achieve the post-secondary education they need and desire without hurtling into debt. This situation is a reality for hundreds of thousands of students.

Even when factoring in inflation, tuition fees in Ontario have increased by 370% in the last six years and are the highest in Canada. On average, students graduate $37,000 in debt after a four-year degree. There is now a 13% difference between university applications from wealthy and poor families in Ontario.

 Big struggle

Teachers are under attack because of an economic crisis that they did not create. The financial crisis and recession were not caused by teachers, nor was it caused by workers or students. The blame lies in the hands of the capitalist system.

If we didn’t make this crisis, we shouldn’t have to pay for it. If we let this pass, our generation will suffer, likely sooner rather than later.  Big corporations are laying-off workers, and governments like the Ontario McGunity Liberals are helping the big businesses, not the people, with their tax cuts and bailouts.

Meanwhile, in the streets of Québec, university, college and high school students organized a massive protest against tuition increases last spring. They were joined by unions and working people in a struggle for several months. Anti-democratic laws made the student strike effectively illegal.  It was a hard fight, but the pressure has worked.  Last week, the newly elected government canceled the fee increases and repealed the anti-democratic legislation! This shows clearly that divided we fall, but united we find victory! Now is the time to create such action in our own province and beyond. Let Québec be our inspiration!

Time to act

When injustice becomes the law, resistance becomes a duty.

The teachers are bravely fighting back against Bill 115. Many students are joining them. Students are setting aside their differences because they see that now is the time to rise up. If Bill 115 is stopped, we will be stronger and the struggle for fundamental change will continue. Organizing a walkout can be done quickly and successfully using social media, word of mouth, defiance, courage and unity. Convince your friends. Convince your class. March through the halls and into the streets!

You can suspend one student, but you cannot suspend hundreds.

Get involved!

The Young Communist League is fighting against the attacks on democracy and civil rights and for a Charter of Youth Rights that defends the rights of students and youth to employment, democracy, culture and leisure, full equality, free education, and other rights. We think the biggest problem facing the country, and indeed the entire world, is a capitalist system that puts profits before people. The YCL says it is time to get rid of capitalism and build something better – a system that defends peace, working people, the environment and democracy. We call that socialism! If you agree with this, join us and get involved!

YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE (ONTARIO) 290A Danforth Avenue, Toronto M4K-1N6  www.ycl-ljc.ca  |  ycl_ljc@ycl--ljc.ca  |  facebook.com/YCL.LJC | www.rebelyouth-magazine.blogspot.com

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