Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem-soul rain September 18, 2014

Filed under: Commentary,Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:34 am
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It’s grey and misty out

like our future

Vote yes?

Vote no?

Rain on our

hopes.

.

.

.

(This is actually about the BC Teachers’ ratification vote, but since Scotland is also in the midst of its independence vote, I dedicate it to the Scots as well!)

 

poem- learning from history September 10, 2014

Filed under: anecdotes,Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 6:21 pm
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She has a history

of running down unionists

With gleeful righteousness

she watched them bounce

off the hood of the car

back in the 80s.

Last dispute,

this sweet little old lady

offered the strikers

a most unlady-like

finger.

This dispute,

she has stared

down the road with

patent disregard.

Workers should work.

Today,

she waved enthusiastically,

and a victory dance

was held on the picket line.

One more newly informed person

waking up.

.

.

.

True story

 

commentary- BC government extortion & Orwellian life September 7, 2014

I am not a political person.

I voted conservative most of my life.  I have never canvassed for a political party.  I have never held any union position, even  something as innocuous as shop steward.

I write a daily blog of POETRY, not political commentary.

I believe in a ‘live and let live’ attitude about most things, but I have voted every election since I was old enough.  I take my responsibility as a citizen very seriously.  I try to be educated about my opinions.  I seek information from those who know what’s going on.  I don’t trust the news to tell me the whole truth.  I am living in an Orwellian world these days where politicians and some news stories are making declarations completely opposite to what I know is true.  Because I am a BC teacher, I live in an alternate reality to the one the government describes.

Calling a black cat white does not change the fact that it is a black cat!

Here’s what I know.

After then Minister of Education Christy Clark ripped up contracts with BC teachers in 2002, I watched money leak out of our schools.  We haven’t been able to replace text books. Our rooms don’t get cleaned thoroughly because custodial time is the bare minimum.  I’ve seen libraries closed, until to be  full time a librarian must work at 3+ schools. I’ve seen arts education cut.  I’ve seen learning disabled kids unable to be diagnosed because there isn’t funding for it.  I’ve seen needy kids partnered with kids who have a designation so that a Education assistant can help several of them together when they each need one on one help.  I’ve seen buildings and equipment falling into disrepair.  I’ve seen copying budgets run out months before the end of the year.  I’ve seen teachers feed kids.  I’ve seen parents and local corporations donate food to kids who would otherwise not have breakfast or lunch.  I’ve spent a fortune on supplies for my class room- supplies that I can not deduct from my taxes like other professionals can.

The BC Liberal government announces that they’ve ‘increased funding to school districts’ and on paper that’s true, except they’ve also required districts to pay millions of dollars from their budgets, for things that the government previously funded separately.  Money that used to go to students now pays for earthquake proofing and the like.  Hydro has gone up.  Gas has gone up.  But the allowance to pay for them hasn’t.

During the strike the government announced that teachers are demanding triple the benefits of any other group.  Such doublespeak!  They don’t tell the public that what they call ‘benefits’ in that statement refers to ‘everything that isn’t wages’.  In other words, things like class size and composition funding, support staff like teacher assistants, and non-enrolling teachers like librarians and counsellors. These are not benefits!   Those are properly staffed and funded schools!  Does a doctor call his nurse, receptionist, and stethoscope ‘benefits’?   The public, of course, imagines ‘benefits’ are simply extended health and dental and so believes the government lie that teachers are greedy.

We’re not.  We’ve taken YEARS of zero, zero, zero on wage increases.  At 2.3% inflation, we’ve been losing money every year.  Our current offer is also less than inflation.  We’re not unreasonable.  Our extended health benefits are not even slightly out of line with other public sector groups.  All those contracts are available on line if you want to investigate.

Think about it.  Would you give up thousands in wages to stand on a picket line in the rain for a few hundred dollars worth of benefits?

We wouldn’t either.

This is so much bigger than that.  The government is trying to distract you with sound bytes.  The only folks after unlimited massages are the government as they massage the truth.  Their misrepresentations and bald faced lies definitely seem unlimited!

One thing is holding up the settlement:

Twice the BC Supreme Court has ruled that the BC Liberal government bargained in bad faith when they ripped up the contract in 2002.  They were ordered to pay a settlement and court costs.  They don’t want to.  They’d prefer to spend millions of our tax dollars appealing the judgement.  Honestly, they did not expect to still be in power by the time this worked its way through the courts, so they were sure it’d be another government’s problem.  They were wrong.  Here it is, and (God help us) they’re still in power.  They don’t want to pay the settlement they’ve been ordered to pay twice. That is the infamous clause E80 that the BCTF will not accept.

Imagine for a moment:

Thieves break into your home and steal, let’s just say, 2 billion dollars.

You know who they are.

You take them to court.

The court says, “Give back that money, and pay him the court costs!”

(Imagine a box full of money that belongs to you, just sitting there in front of the judge).

The thieves say, “Ha! Can’t make me!” and appeal.

They lose again.  The court says “Give him his money!”

They appeal again.

Your money is still sitting in that box.  You don’t have it yet, but the final judgement is close.  You need that money.  It’s expensive taking rich thieves to court.  Your house needs some work done, because while you’ve been busy with court, the thieves have been sneaking by to break your windows, dig up your flower beds, and scrawl graffiti about how greedy you are across your front door.

The thieves know that the next time, the judge is going to say the same thing that’s been said before.  So they say, “We’ll make you a deal. It’s very generous!  We’ll take this box and give you $75 million in exchange!”

What would you say?

I would say, “Let the courts decide.”  

And I would actually MEAN “let the courts decide,’ unlike Mr. Fassbender.

.

The BCTF requested binding arbitration because contrary to what Fassbender says in his media moments, this government does not want to negotiate.  What they call ‘negotiation’ is really extortion.  They want that upcoming court settlement nullified and they are willing to leave teachers on the picket line until it happens.  Rumour has it, “Let them starve!” was heard to be the plan.  They will tell the public they want to ‘negotiate’ and that they want to ‘let the courts decide’ but those terms mean very different things to this government.  It’s Orwellian double speak of the first order.  The BC Liberal government is holding your kids hostage because they don’t want to face the consequences of their violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.

Think about that.

Justice Griffin in her decision last February pointed to the government that you can’t claim to be negotiating if one side refuses to move.  Nothing has changed.  This government is still bargaining in bad faith.

The BC government seems to have an agenda to destroy public education.  They’re holding the kids of this province hostage by refusing an impartial arbitrator to settle the deal.  They know that an arbitrator will be objective, and that will not go well for them.  An arbitrator will see through their doublespeak.

You should care about this.  When a government thinks that it is above the law, and that it is immune from respecting the citizens’ basic rights, no one is safe.  The middle class is at risk.  Democracy is at risk.  BC public education is at risk.

This sounds ridiculous.  But think.

When the government orders MLAs to close their office doors,  because it’s dangerous to speak to the public, what is it afraid of?  When MLAs are ordered not to speak to constituents about education issues,  is the leadership afraid that if individual MLAs hear the other side of the story, they will disagree with what leadership is ordering them to do?  Their JOB is to listen to you!  They are paid (starting wage!) $101,859 to listen to constituents.  One hundred thousand dollars!  And they are not listening.  (Let’s deduct 10% a day because they’re not doing their jobs, shall we?  cough)

Write your MLA.  Write Premier Clark.  Write Minister Fassbender.

Demand that they settle this strike by accepting neutral arbitration.

If you don’t?

Well.  I’ll be Nostradamus for a moment:

If the government doesn’t accept arbitration, I predict that sometime around September 23rd,  an announcement will be made that the teachers are so intransigent that it is impossible to work with them and that the government is saving the day by bringing in a whole new system.

One that further widens the gulf between rich and poor communities.

One that destroys the middle class.

One that will change life as you know it.

You should be afraid.

.

Do something to stop it!  Demand the government accept binding arbitration!

.

PS.

Another literary reference is probably appropriate here.  Have you read Dicken’s Bleak House?   There are some unfortunate similarities to that story, as well.

PS2

The BCTF is not a ‘whipped organization’ like the BC Liberals.  We are free to meet with whomever we like.  We are free to voice our own opinions.  This commentary is my opinion as a BC teacher, and a BCTF member.  The BCTF does not hire professional unionists to govern our union.  We are all teachers.  We don’t hire ‘image consultants’ for our leader (that is probably obvious). 😉  Our leadership learn to serve by serving.  This may be a disadvantage against professional union-busters hired by government, but it means we are genuine, caring professionals, not slick polished shells with dubious motives.

I receive no compensation for this blog.  (Any ads you see pay Wordpress).

Paid Liberal  social media trolls are not welcome to comment here.  Seekers of truth are invited to do so.

 

And just because this is so stinking depressing, I suggest you now go read this poem:

http://www.shawnbird.com/poem-pudding-on-the-premier

 

Here is a really great blog post explaining the issue of class size and composition:

http://30daysofautism.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/i-am-a-greedy-teacher-bctf-bced/

 Here is a lawyer’s explanation of E80 and why the BCTF is right to demand it be removed prior to binding arbitration:

http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2014/09/09/e80-what-lawyer-joel-bakan-has-to-say/

 

poem-smoke September 1, 2014

You are smoke

You wind your lies

Through the crowds

Til they are choking and gasping

Then you fade away and

blame the sick

that they are ill.

.

.

.

Just in case you’re tired of my Teachers’ Strike posts, here’s one that, while I know is about the strike and the misrepresentations of government spin doctors, at least it seems as if it could be about a variety of situations. 🙂

 

Response to Maclean’s magazine op-ed re: teachers’ strike August 29, 2014

The following is a response written by Tobey Steeves to a Maclean’s magazine article about the BC teacher’s strike.   It was posted on http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/b-c-teachers-strike-readers-respond-to-macleans-editorial/Since I can’t link just to his comment, I’m pasting it here, because it is a very informative explanation for those who don’t understand why BC teachers are striking.

(Reprinted with permission of Tobey Steeves.  Twitter: @symphily)

………………………………………………..

In an unattributed op-ed published on Aug. 12, Maclean’s frames the current bargaining impasse between B.C.’s teachers and the B.C. government as a “perpetual clash over salaries and education funding” (B.C. Uses Shrewd Negotiating Tactic in Teachers’ Strike). Setting a stage for readers, the editorial states that:

Little has changed to smooth things over in the past three years. In April, the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) began an escalating series of job actions. Teachers first refused to supervise students outside of class time, or to communicate with administrators. Rotating strikes followed, closing every school in the province one day per week. Finally, a province-wide walkout in June shuttered all schools two weeks early. Forcing an abrupt end to the school year has long been the ultimate weapon in any teachers’ union arsenal.

Left unaddressed in this framing is the fact that teachers in B.C. are attempting to bargain with a government that broke laws to cut services for kids. B.C.’s Supreme Court has twice ruled that the B.C. Liberals used illegal bargaining tactics to strip contracts with teachers and health care workers. The International Labour Organization has ruled a handful of times against the B.C. Liberals—declaring multiple pieces of legislation illegal under international agreements. In other words, the United Nations agency that looks over labour standards and advocates on behalf of justice for workers and decent work for all has positioned B.C.’s ruling government as flouting international treaties to push its political agenda.

Admittedly, the B.C. Liberals have chosen to appeal their most recent loss at the B.C. Supreme Court, arguing that it would be too expensive for them to implement the Court’s ruling: placing money and profit above laws, and kids’ needs. To fight this appeal, the B.C. Liberals have hired a high-priced “legal superstar,” “an expensive, top-drawer corporate lawyer.” That is, instead of investing funds and resources in serving public education, the B.C. Liberals are investing funds and resources in fighting to uphold (illegal) cuts to services for kids.

Meanwhile, during this round of bargaining, the B.C. Liberals have tabled more concessions for teachers and cuts to services. For instance, there has been a refusal to address the student-to-educator ratio in B.C., currently the worst in Canada. Similarly, there’s been a refusal to address operating grants per student—currently the lowest in Canada. The B.C. Liberals have also denied the impacts of cuts to learning specialists and rejected the need for meaningful intervention to improve classroom composition. In other words, while classrooms across B.C. are getting more complex—more students who don’t speak English at home, more students with special needs, and more poverty—the B.C. Liberals would rather spend money and resources to legitimize further cuts to kids’ access to learning specialists than spend money on providing kids with access to learning specialists.

Also left unmentioned in Maclean’s framing is the fact that before the teachers escalated their job action, teachers struggled to broker an agreement for more than a year before the B.C. Liberals locked them out and cut their pay by 10 per cent. Then, under direction of the Labour Relations Board of B.C., teachers were “directed” to be off-site 45 minutes before and after school, and were “directed” to avoid using any school facilities and to avoid helping students during lunch and breaks.

However, Maclean’s op-ed does mention that the B.C. Liberals plan to pay some parents $40 a day to offset the costs of child care, should the teachers’ strike go unresolved by the start of the 2014-15 school year. Only students under the age of 13 will be eligible, parents will need to register online, and payments won’t go out until October—at the earliest. Limited access to child care and students over the age of 13, apparently, aren’t much of a concern. The program will reportedly cost the government around $12 million a day—to keep schools closed and kids at home. Alternatively, some parents may use the $40 subsidy toward tuition and fees at private schools. In effect, the $40-a-day plan is akin to school vouchers, and is best understood within the context of a privatization agenda and a broader push to attack and diminish public education. (See, for example, “Public Education in British Columbia: The Rise of the Shock Doctrine or Kindling for a Shock-Proof Otherwise?”)

Notwithstanding, Maclean’s op-ed encourages the re-direction of “savings from public sector strikes to taxpayers’ pockets,” and insists that:

The most productive and fruitful negotiations are those in which both parties have equivalent power and face similar risks. Compensating taxpayers for their losses from savings generated by a strike balances out the power in public sector labour talks and gives everyone a reason to settle. That seems like $40 a day well spent.

It takes a special genius to view the current bargaining impasse in B.C. as one in which teachers are inordinately advantaged. And there is no warrant for casting a government that has shown a willingness to let politics trump laws—and kids’ needs—as facing “similar risks” as teachers who have lost thousands of dollars in pay fighting for more equitable access to public education in B.C.

Malcolm X said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Maclean’s anonymous op-ed ought be seen in this light, and recognized as a push for an anti-democratic policy agenda regarding labour negotiations. From this vantage, it seems like reading unattributed op-eds in Maclean’s may be something other than time well spent.

Tobey Steeves, a concerned citizen and public school teacher in Vancouver

 

poem- fight for rights #Iwillholdtheline

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:31 pm
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I will fight for what’s right.

I will demand my government obeys the law.

I will fight for what’s right.

I will stand in defence of contracts illegally torn.

I will fight for what’s right.

I will not blink when it threatens

I will fight for what’s right.

I will shout about injustice and lies

I will fight for what’s right.

I will shame them before the world.

I will fight for what’s right.

I will hold the line.

.

.

Our British Columbia government illegally tore up our contracts in 2002 when our current premier was Minister of Education.  We have fought for the last 12 years against this injustice.  Two provincial Supreme Court decisions ruled against the government, stating that they violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The decision demanded the government reimburse us for what they took away.  As well, the United Nation’s International Labour Organization ruled against their flouting of treaties and international agreements.  We are on strike because a government that acts illegally must be held to account.

The most recent Supreme Court ruling was in February, 2014.  You can read the ruling here.  You will see constant references to how the government bargained in bad faith, provoked strikes, and acted illegally.  They are still behaving the same way, so we are fighting to preserve fair bargaining for all working people, because if they destroy us, they will destroy every union in the province.   You should care about this.  You should care a lot.

 

 

poem- Oh Christy July 5, 2014

Oh Christy,

who was the teacher

who provoked you?

Who was the teacher

who shredded your confidence,

made you feel powerless,

alone,

stupid?

.

Who?

.

For surely somewhere,

you sustained a deep hurt

that is still a festering wound,

that causes you to lash out

like an injured dog,

irrationally,

deflecting your pain with today’s power.

Some time ago,

there was a hurt,

that we are paying for.

.

Christy,

A counselor

would be cheaper.

.

.

.

It’s just a theory.  But it would explain a lot.

 

 
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