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Don’t let the teachers fight alone

OCTOBER 8, 1997 – On October 17, Windsor Ontario will become the eighth Ontario city to be shut by a one-day general strike in the “Days of Action” campaign against the province’s Tories.

If it is anything like the general strike in North Bay on September 26, it will again display the deep anger and willingness to fight in the Ontario workers’ movement.

On Friday September 26 in North Bay, many workplaces were shut down by picket lines and an estimated 3,000 demonstrated at Memorial Gardens. On Saturday between 15,000 and 20,000, including 180 busloads of protesters, marched through the streets against Harris, easily the biggest protest ever seen in the city.[1]

Coming immediately after the Tories had backed down on Bill 136, demonstrators had a sense that the Tories could be forced to back down. This fuelled the confidence that they could be defeated on Bill 160.


Any speaker at the rallies who talked militantly received enthusiastic applause, particularly to the idea of a province-wide general strike. And more than being just militant, there was a strong sense of solidarity, that we are all in this together.

Workers wanted to ensure that the teachers weren’t left to fight alone. There is a danger though, that they will be left in just such a situation.

Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) president Gord Wilson was quoted in Toronto weekly NOW Magazine of October 2-8 saying: “The deal as I understand it, is that with the exception of the essential workers, the municipal and health-care sectors would go down (on strike) if the teachers went out.”[2]

But following the Tories release of the details of their amendments to Bill 136, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario president Sid Ryan said support for the teachers would only include a commitment to not cross their picket lines.[3]

But most CUPE members aren’t even in the public schools.

The Tories want to isolate and crush the teachers. Not mounting solidarity strikes in support of the teachers would be a huge blow to the entire labour movement and everyone who hates the Tories.

As Gord Wilson went on to say in the NOW article, “we’re all in this together, or we’re all out together.”[4] We need to hold our union leaders to that sentiment.

The momentum from the Windsor general strike must be used to build real solidarity with the teachers.

© 1997 Paul Kellogg. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.


[1] A reporter for NOW Magazine put the crowd at 35,000 – probably an over-estimation (Carl Warren, “Hanging with Mike’s Pals,” NOW Magazine (Toronto), October 2, 1997.)

[2] Glenn Wheeler, “A Taste of Victory in North Bay,” NOW Magazine (Toronto), October 2, 1997, 18.

[3] Peter Edwards, “CUPE Vows Support for Teacher Strike,” Toronto Star, September 26, 1997.

[4] Wheeler, “A Taste of Victory in North Bay,” 18.

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