The four unions representing all of Ontario’s public and Catholic schools are on strike today, and nearly 30,000 educators have gathered at Queen’s Park to protest in solidarity with one another.
The four unions announced intentions to engage in a provincewide strike last week, and nearly 200,000 teachers and education workers across 72 school boards are doing just that today — affecting almost 5,000 schools across the province in protest of the PC government’s cuts to education.
This is the first time since 1997 that teachers and education workers from Ontario’s main education affiliates are all out of their classrooms on the same day, according to a statement from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
And while smaller protests can be found across the province, Queen’s Park is a sight like no other as teachers clad in red hats and holding clever signs march in unity.
Videos posted online show teachers chanting, dancing and smiling as they protest at the legislature, and many are pointing out the “massively positive energy.”
Right now at Queen’s Park. Massively positive energy as teachers come together to defend public education @ETFOeducators @OSSTFtoronto @osstf @OECTAProv @AEFO_ON_CA #StandUpForPublicEducation#ReverseTheCuts #cutshurtkids pic.twitter.com/atlhKbFdN9— Rima Berns-McGown (@beyrima) February 21, 2020
Social media users are also commenting on the impressively huge turnout.
Incredible turnout of education workers at Queen’s Park today. First simultaneous strike of four teachers’ unions in over 20 years. Stop the cuts! #nocutstoeducation #ontedstrike #onpoli pic.twitter.com/J7olVhmh3L— Greg Denton (@gsdenton) February 21, 2020
Due to the massive crowds, Queen’s Park Crescent is closed to cars and one resident says it takes about 45 minutes to walk around the building.
Even Tim Hortons is overflowing with teachers.
The leaders of all four teachers’ unions are also on site at Queen’s Park, and they held a joint news conference before the march began.
So very proud to walk the picket line this morning at Queen’s Park with 30,000 educators, parents, families, supporters, and these three amazing leaders! @osstf @OECTAProv @otffeo @ETFOeducators #EducatorsUnited #ETFO #ReverseTheCuts pic.twitter.com/2CVn1ZCZUG— Sam Hammond (@etfopresident) February 21, 2020
Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), said the purpose of today’s job action is to demonstrate unity among education works and force the government back to the bargaining table, according to the CBC.
“We understand what’s at stake, and it’s not about today, it’s not about tomorrow — it’s about the future and making sure that this Ford government understand exactly what the consequences of their actions will be if they don’t stop on this path,” he said.
#OSSTF represents many education workers who provide frontline services for students, inc. mental health supports & 1-on-1 help. The @fordnation cuts to education = losing many of these vital supports. We stand in #solidarity against these cuts. #ontedstrike #NoCutsToEducation pic.twitter.com/q121gAJxSP— Harvey Bischof (@HarveyBischof) February 21, 2020
All four unions have been without a contract for several months now and job action has been consistent.
Teachers are fighting against bigger class sizes, mandatory e-learning, diminished supports and fewer course options for the province’s students.
All the teachers’ unions are also asking for about two per cent in annual salary increases, but the province has remained firm in its offering of one per cent.