Teachers protest Bill 115 in the streets of Hamilton
Hamilton teachers took to the streets of the city Saturday morning to protest Bill 115 and try to draw awareness to their cause.
Around 200 people showed up, with representatives from CUPE, the United Steel Workers Union, Food Not Bombs, the Firefighter's local 288 and school board trustees there alongside Hamilton teachers. The group met at city hall around 10 a.m. and marched down Main Street shortly after.
"I think we're in for the fight of our lives," said Mary Long, the president of the Hamilton and District Labour Council.
Hamilton's elementary school teachers announced Friday morning they are taking part in a one-day strike on Monday to protest Bill 115.
The teachers say the legislation — which will impose new contracts on most of the province's teachers in January — takes away their bargaining rights, reduces benefits and freezes wages.
The job action will shut down all 95 public elementary schools in Hamilton and affect around 31,000 students.
Lisa Hammond, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth unit of the ETFO, urged workers everywhere to stand up to governments over bargaining conflicts.
"If you live in this country, this is your struggle," Hammond said. "It's going to become very intense for all of us very soon."
She stressed that under new legislation, female workers could struggle intensely without union support. Eighty per cent of ETFO workers are women, she said.
Every speaker at the protest said that for them, this conflict is not about money.
"This is not about how much I take home or you take home," Hammond said.
The governing Liberals have the power to end the teacher's strikes, but Premier Dalton McGuinty has said they won't intervene unless the walkouts go beyond one day.
When speaking with reporters earlier this week, the premier said that if the teachers cannot reach an agreement with the government, they should resolve their differences in court.
"They say they want to take us to court, so why don't we leave this matter to court, then?" McGuinty said.
"Why do we have to involve our students in this? I just don't think we do and nor do I think we should."
The premier has argued that with Ontario facing a $14.4-billion deficit, the province can't afford pay hikes for teachers. The union has said teachers are not striking over pay, but in protest of Bill 115 itself and its implications for workers.
On Friday, Education Minister Laurel Broten called the strikes "an incredibly disappointing development" that puts teachers, students and their families in the middle of the union's dispute with the government.
To see photos from Saturday's protest, visit the CBC Hamilton Facebook page here.
With files from the Canadian Press