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Teachers and the Fight for 15

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Members of the Fair Wage Coalition protest low wages at McDonald's on April 15th, 2016. (photo: David Etherington)
Members of the Fair Wage Coalition protest low wages at McDonald's on April 15th, 2016. (photo: David Etherington)

By Ben Sichel

Three public school teachers wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star last week on their support for the Fight for 15 and Fairness campaign.

The campaign centres on raising the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour and securing basic benefits like paid sick days for all workers.

The teachers (Kate Curtis, Jason Kunin and Seth Bernstein) drew connections between the challenges they see some kids facing in their classrooms and the precarious, low-wage work available to those kids’ family members.

We know as teachers that kids from poorer homes are more likely to struggle in school. It makes sense: those kids often deal with problems associated with poverty like food insecurity, uncertain living situations, increased stress and fewer opportunities for extra help or enrichment activities.

Hollywood tells us (and many teachers internalize) that the way to fix this is for charismatic super-teachers to parachute into poor neighbourhoods and teach the kids to grit their teeth and pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

There’s nothing wrong with striving to be a great teacher, of course; but we also shouldn’t see poverty as something inevitable.

Canada is one of the most unequal countries for children (among wealthy countries), ranking 26th out of 35 countries with no improvement in the last 10 years, according to a new UN study.

Here in Nova Scotia about 1 in 5 kids lives in poverty. We’re also currently the province with the highest rate of food insecurity in Canada.

Kids are poor because their parents are poor. If we want to help our kids succeed, we can advocate for strong policies to eradicate poverty, like raising minimum wages to an amount people can live on.

Our unions can be a great vehicle for this kind of work. In Ontarioand BC, teacher unions have joined with the rest of the labour movement in calls to raise the minimum wage to $15.

Nova Scotia’s Fair Wage Coalition participated in the national Fight for 15 day of action last Friday. Let’s get our province’s teachers on board too.
This piece was also published at No Need to Raise Your Hand, a blog on education and related issues. 

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