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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 5, March 2006

Affiliation: Standing together

by Jinny Sims

After the AGM, likely in late April, members will be asked to vote on the BCTF continuing its affiliation with the BC Federation of Labour and with the national labour body, the Canadian Labour Congress. We have been members for the three-year trial period and now must make our decision whether or not to stay in the labour movement. I wrote an article in the Jan./Feb. issue of Teacher, explaining why I think it is important that we remain in the BC Federation of Labour. I want to explain here what the Executive Committee is recommending to the AGM regarding that vote.

The 2005 AGM overwhelmingly passed a motion recommending to members that we continue our membership in the BC Federation of Labour. The motion reads:

"That the 2005 Annual General Meeting of the BC Teachers’ Federation recommend to members that the BC Teachers’ Federation affiliate with the Canadian Labour Congress effective July 1, 2006, and thereby continue an ongoing affiliation with the BC Federation of Labour."

The recent Winter Representative Assembly (Jan. 27–28, 2006) adopted a plan to inform members in preparation for a vote later this spring.

The Executive Committee is recommending to the AGM that the cost of affiliation be financed by an increase in the general operating membership fee of 0.03% or about $18 (tax deductible) per year. This amount covers all the costs of affiliating with the CLC, the BCFed, and where locals choose to join local labour councils. It changes our existing procedures that had locals assuming half the cost of affiliation with the BCFed and all of the local labour council costs. The Executive Committee felt the best way to deal with this issue was to let members know exactly what the direct costs of affiliation are and to urge them to support affiliation. For less than $2 per member per month, we will be part of the ongoing work of the labour movement working in a broad coalition to improve the rights and welfare of teachers and other working people while being involved at the community, provincial, and federal levels to seek a better and more just society.

In addressing the role of the BCTF within the labour movement, the Executive Committee is recommending the following statement on the labour movement to the AGM:

The BCTF is a "union of professionals." We are a union because we collectively represent our members in bargaining and enforcing a collective agreement that determines the terms and conditions of our employment. As professionals we have broad latitude within which to exercise our expertise and autonomy in our working lives. As working people who work for a salary set through bargaining, we share a common experience with other trade unionists in both the public and the private sector. We not only share common experiences, we have common values and often share common goals about the type of society we collectively hope to achieve. It is only right that we should be part of the organized labour movement in this province and this country. That means affiliation with the BC Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress. Through these affiliations, we are also able to join and participate in local labour councils.

The labour movement has always had a credo, which the BCTF strongly endorses—what we desire for ourselves, we desire for all. The Federation’s affiliation with the BC Federation of Labour/CLC is based in the belief that the labour movement must take a leadership role in building a just, equitable, and sustainable world. It is the collective strength of working people, working together through the labour movement under the leadership of the BCFed and the CLC that will move us closer toward realizing economic improvement and social progress in this country. Through participation in the BC Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress, the BCTF is:

  1. working toward economic improvement and social progress for all citizens of BC and Canada.
  2. working to ensure that the labour movement always represents the collective best interests of all working people through its policies and public advocacy.
  3. seeking ways and means for the labour movement to enhance its collective strength by acting collectively and in solidarity with the interests of all of its members.
  4. advocating for changes within the structures and processes of the labour movement that will democratize decision making and enhance broader participation of trade unionists.
  5. developing strategies within the BCTF that enhance greater awareness and participation of BCTF locals and members in the work of the labour movement.
  6. seeking the support of working people to strengthen the public education system.

The BCTF has an important role in advocating for these positions with other unions within the BCFed and the CLC.

Jinny Sims is the BCTF president.

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