June 19, 2014

YCL Vancouver: Complete Solidarity With BC Teachers!

Statement from the Young Communist League-Vancouver, June 5, 2014

 There has been a troubling current in the student movement's response to the current labour dispute between the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) and the BC Liberal government, most obvious in the June 4th "BC Student Walkout for Students." Many students view themselves as caught in middle of a battle between equally powerful and dangerous camps, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth! In every set of collective bargaining talks between the BCTF and the government since the Liberals took power in 2001, the government has been the aggressor and has made it their explicit mission to curtail and even destroy teachers' bargaining rights.

            Earlier this year their actions were ruled unconstitutional by the BC Supreme Court (and not only in the case of teachers: the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against BC legislation restricting the collective bargaining rights of health care workers in 2007!), and the government is at it again this time around. The fundamental goal of the government and its right wing agenda is to privatize the education system and to privatize health care. In Coquitlam alone, 632 teachers are getting layoff notices. One of the intentions of this act is to initiate bigger classroom sizes with fewer resources.

            Additionally, nearly 200 schools have been shut down as a result of government cuts in education. Therefore, students have fewer schools in their neighbourhood, fewer teachers and fewer resources to help with their education. Students that require more needs and more resources for learning are especially hurt by the cuts because there are fewer resources for them to use and fewer educators in departments for students who require more assistance. BC has been targeted more than any other province in Canada.

This means that it is harder for children to learn and harder for parents to ensure quality education for every student in this province. While those with money can afford top notch private education, the majority of families cannot provide that for their children. Meanwhile, the government is still providing funding for private schools while cutting funding for public education. For these reasons, education is becoming less accessible for the people of British Columbia. These cuts are not just an attack on teachers but a direct attack on students who need their teachers for an education. The problem stems more than just decreased wages but taking away the rights of the workers all over Canada, particularly in British Columbia.

            It is clear that this is not just about "balancing the budget", or whatever other excuses the government has parroted out ‑ it is about attacking public sector workers and obliterating their rights to organize and fight for better working conditions! But what does this mean for students?

            In capitalist economies, education has two basic functions. The first is the one we're most familiar with: the accumulation of different kinds of knowledge that will help us navigate the social worlds that we inhabit. The second, however, is the more important objective. The education system is designed to invest youth, in the form of skills and knowledge, with the social capital necessary for developing our labour‑power and entering the workforce. The capitalist mode of production, the same basic framework that all of us work under, creates value, and thus wealth, by extracting labour‑power (the time and energy that a worker puts into her work) from the worker and embodying it in the commodity that is being produced.

            This commodity can be steel at a foundry, t‑shirts at a factory, or even the relationships and knowledge offered by a teacher in a classroom. The most important thing is that no matter what commodity is produced, the owners have to pay their workers less than what the workers have produced so as to turn a profit. In Marxist terms, this is called exploitation.

            All workers under capitalism are exploited. In order for workers to fight this exploitation and make better lives for themselves, all workers must band together in solidarity. As students, you may not have jobs yet, but you are still an essential element in the cycle of capitalist production and reproduction. Soon enough, you will be waged workers. Recognize the common situation that you find yourselves in and take a stand with teachers now. There is strength in numbers! Only together can we create a more just and equitable world!

Young Communist League‑Vancouver, YCL_BC@outlook.com

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