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BC teachers weigh arguments for walkout against Bill 22

British Columbia teachers at their annual general meeting are considering possible responses to Bill 22, and some are arguing for a full-scale walkout, regardless of the bill's threatened fines.

A leaflet titled WALK OUT is being widely circulated on Twitter and other social media. Its introduction:

Teachers and students in BC face the most aggressive and draconian attacks in more than a generation. The attack simultaneously tears away our democratic rights, eliminates out status as a profession, returns us to a master-servnt employment relationship with administrators and school boards, and sets public education in BC straight down the 'shock doctrine' path of the United States. We must respond with a strategy that can defeat Bill 22. We at the AGM must give to members the opportunity to vote on an effective strategy to defend themselves, their students, and their profession. That strategy is to walk out until (1) there is a genuine negotiation, mediation, or arbitration process (i.e., no Bill 22) and (2) any fines are dropped.

The leaflet goes on to deal with arguments about Bill 22 and previous legal battles the BCTF has waged with provincial governments. On the issue of the fines stipulated against the BCTF and individual teachers, the leaflet says:

We are not paying any fines! One of our two conditions to return to work is that the government drops any and all fines.

Each of us is afraid of the threat of fines. That is precisely Christy Clark's strategy - to paralyze us with fear. We will not let this government rule us with fear.

The leaflet also argues:

We are a democratic organization. If a majority votes for a walkout, we expect the whole organization to respect that decision. We have always stood together in the past in such circumstances. A few teachers will cross the lines because they are the people who always do. Some will consider crossing, and may cross, at first because of the fear of fines. But if they do cross, deeply conflicted, when they see their friends and colleagues on the line, those teachers will realize where they belong.

The leaflet asserts that the public is strongly in favour of the teachers, and support is likely to grow:

In the past, public support for teachers has increased with a full walkout. This happened during our 2005 walkout. Right now, there are 100,000s of public sector workers facing more zeros from this government in their soon to be negotiated contracts. They will not support us if we take a symbolic stand. They will support us if we walk out for real improvements and for a just process in negotiations.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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