Teachers’ Union Must Remember Our Children Aren’t Bargaining Chips

By Jason Menard

My daughter is not a bargaining chip.

I admire teachers. I think they have one of the toughest, most-thankless jobs in the world. I think that most of them are good people, trying to do their best while their hands are tied in red tape.

I also know that if teachers decide to withhold extracurricular services to students as part of their protest of Tuesday’s provincial legislative manoeuvers, then they’ll lose any and all sympathy and support that they might have received from me — and, likely, from many other parents just like me.

This is your fight, not my daughter’s.

As a 10-year old in elementary school, she should be getting the best that teachers have to offer each and every day; not having her activities undermined thanks to politics and union tactics.

“It’s not work to rule,” some will say; “It’s our only way to protest the changes,” others may lament.

And it’s simply not true. What it is, is the easiest way to get your point across by hurting the smallest and most vulnerable targets. It negotiation by bullying – and parents don’t appreciate it.

Unions show so little creativity when it comes to presenting their side of the story. Instead of engaging the populace and getting parents to support their cause through education and discussion, they prefer to inconvenience the very people with whom they should be working.

Walkoffs, pickets, and protests seem to be the extent of most unions’ handbooks, despite the fact that they’re all counter-productive. For example, a picket lines impeding traffic? That will never galvanize my support in your direction – instead, it makes me think that you believe your beliefs, desires, and goals are far more important than mine. Acting in a way that shows you believe that you have the right to negatively impact my life makes me feel like a pawn in your little game. You’re raising awareness, sure, but not awareness of your cause, but rather awareness of your arrogance.

There’s one simple question that unions must answer: why make me a pawn when I should be a partner?

The same holds true for the teachers. I understand the services being withdrawn are voluntary in nature, but they’ve also become an expected part of the job. And while parents appreciate these services, our children love them and have grown to count on them.

Teachers know what they’re getting in to when they sign up. They know that some things won’t be compensated, but they do them because they want what’s best for our kids. At least, that’s what I want to believe, but when our children are used as living, breathing picket signs, then I realize that it’s nothing more than a façade.

In large part, I don’t blame the teachers. They have been led down this path by a union leadership that relies on stale, aggressive techniques that don’t work in today’s market. We have more access to information than ever before, so we’re more aware of the ins and outs of the negotiations. It’s not a he-said, she-said scenario – most parents are well-versed on both sides’ stances. And it’s not a given that all taxpayers are 100 per cent behind the teachers.

And that’s why it’s more important than ever to be creative when it comes to courting supporters. Use the power of social networking to share your message and galvanize support. Have parents flood their MPP’s office with letters from their children, explaining how valuable our students are. Or set up a “million-parent march,” where teachers, parents, and students can walk together in solidarity and show the provincial government that we’re on the same side. Just do something other than literally take candy from our babies.

I don’t even think most teachers are on board with this tactic. As I said, I honestly believe that most teachers have our children’s best interests at heart. They know this tactic is wrong, but they have been strong-armed by a union leadership devoid of any creativity into taking this route today.

By using our children as pawns, the union is risking losing what support we as parents may offer. They’re playing a dangerous game and by using outdated tactics, the only thing they’re ensuring is that everyone – especially the most innocent players of all, our children – will lose.

After all, teachers know better than anyone that nobody likes a bully.

2 thoughts on “Teachers’ Union Must Remember Our Children Aren’t Bargaining Chips

  1. Jarod

    Jason, I respect your well thought out comments on this issue. Too often people on blogs use anger and name-calling but you have clearly tried to present your case calmly. One thing I would like to add to the mix of this conversation is the idea that teachers DO have the best interests of students in mind by standing up for democracy. You are absolutely right that it pains us to give up coaching. Sports and music are the places where we actually connect with the students as people. We believe that we will be the villains in the short term but if we are successful in keeping the government in check then the democratic rights of all people (and especially our students) will improve. Do you want your daughter to grow up in a place where the government has complete control over workers rights?

    Much respect.


    1. Jay Menard Post author

      Jarod, I appreciate your comments and your reasoned response. You’re right, I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a society where government has complete control over workers’ rights. However, I think work-to-rule and striking should be an absolute last resort. The next union I see that goes on an aggressive public-relations campaign designed to solicit public support will be the first. Too often, strikes and withholding services are the first and second choice (often third, fourth, and fifth). It creates a needlessly polarised environment amongst the very people that teachers should be turning to for support. That’s my point. I don’t deny the teachers’ rights to take the action they did; I just wish they had exhausted other options before that point.




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