Community members picket downtown high school in support of teachers

Protesters stopped cars filing into the parking lot at John A. Macdonald Secondary School in downtown Hamilton on Wednesday morning.
Protesters picket in front of entrances to the parking lot at Sir. John A. Macdonald Secondary School on Wednesday. The group of about 30 community members was demonstrating in support of Ontario's public secondary school teachers. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Protesters stopped cars filing into the parking lot at John A. Macdonald Secondary School in downtown Hamilton on Wednesday morning.

About 30 community members held signs and handed out pamphlets to drivers. The demonstrators were rallying in support of Ontario’s public secondary teachers in their ongoing conflict with the provincial government.

"I’m here to support the teachers in their struggle against the back-to-work legislation, the general crackdown on the labour movement and collective bargaining," Campbell Young, one of the protestors, told CBC Hamilton.

The protestors did not gather on behalf of a union or an organized advocacy group, he said.

"It’s people coming out of their own volition and free will as workers," said Young, who is a non-unionized social service worker, but used to belong to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

The rally, which was monitored by police, created a minor snarl at the intersection of Bay and Cannon. Motorists trying to enter the parking had to wait in line, some for more than 15 minutes.

"I just think it’s really unsafe with the parking lot being blocked, especially on Cannon Street on a rush hour morning," said Kim Isaacs, who dropped off her daughter at the school at around 8:40 a.m.

"I back the teachers because my father was always a big union man," she said. "Unfortunately, it is affecting the students and I hope something would happen soon."

"It doesn't really affect me," said Tom Keopapant, a teacher at the school, who waited in a line of cars on Cannon Street to be able to park.

"I have an appointment with students inside, and I'll tell them this is why I'm late."

Other teachers waiting to park were visibly frustrated, but declined to be interviewed.

The OSSTF had planned hold a one-day teacher walkout on Wednesday, but cancelled the strike after the Ontario Labour Relations Board deemed that a similar action organized by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario would be illegal.

The unions are protesting the McGuinty government's move to impose contracts on tens of thousands of public school teachers, powers afforded to the province by the controversial BIll 115.

Chantal Mancini, president of OSSTF's district 21 teacher bargaining unit, said she was pleasantly surprised to learn about the rally.

"What the government has done affects all Ontarians, so I think other folks are starting to see that," she said.

"This is what needs to happen."