EDMONTON - Unionized workers from around the province are being encouraged to actively support the Alberta Teachers Association and its members in the likely event of a teachers strike.
In a letter sent to more than 250 local union presidents today, AFL president Les Steel urged the labour movement to throw its weight behind the teachers in their fight for smaller classrooms and better pay.
"The ATA is doing everything in its power to win a fair settlement for its members," wrote Steel. "But the reality is (they) will have a hard time winning this struggle on their own - they will also need strong support from the public and their allies in the labour movement."
Steel says that the teachers deserve support because they are fighting to protect and improve a public education system that is being compromised by chronic under-funding.
"We think it's wrong that our young people are being packed into classrooms like sardines," says Steel. "We think it's wrong that parents and students are being forced to hold fund-raisers to fill the holes left by provincial under-funding. And we think it's wrong that the provincial government is doing so little to attract and retain high quality teachers."
"(That's why) we think the teachers deserve support in their fight - because they are fighting to build a public education system that better serves the needs of students and communities across the province."
In addition to concerns about protecting quality education in Alberta, Steel says that working people should support the teachers to protest the inflexible approach to labour relations adopted by the government.
"If the provincial government is able to & force an unsatisfactory settlement on (the teachers), it will send a message to all employers that it pays to be inflexible at the bargaining table," writes Steel. "We simply cannot allow this to happen - we need to stand together with the teachers and show employers that the legitimate concerns of workers cannot simply be swept aside."
Steel says that members of the public can demonstrate support for the teachers by writing letters to their local papers and calling their MLA, the Education Minister or the Premier. They can even bring hot food to the teachers on what are sure to be chilly picket lines, says Steel.
"In short, do everything you can to make it clear that the public sides with the teachers," concludes Steel. "It's the only way that we can win this fight - and ensure that Albertans have the kind of high-quality public education system that they deserve."
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President @ 780-483-3021(wk) / 780-499-4135 (cell)
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ 780-483-3021