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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 1, September 2005

The importance of local reps

by Cheryle Sosnowski

I have taught for 24 years and have worked for the Nanaimo Teacher’s Association for 20 of those years. When I started teaching there was no BCTF union of professionals. We had no protection against unscrupulous administrators or school boards. Teachers had no union protection or seniority to help gain or regain jobs. After losing my teaching position in 1982 due to the political whims of the Social Credit government, I decided that I would do everything in my power to gain some rights, so that this type of draconian legislation would not affect other teachers the way it affected me.

In 1982, after losing my position through no fault of my own, I decided to work for the Nanaimo Teachers’ Association in anyway I could. I became the vice president of the Nanaimo substitute organization, where we attempted to gain some rights for substitutes. Of course as substitutes we had no legal rights and could not get any seniority in order to get a job. I then realized that I had to further my fight. So I applied to become the local association representative (LAR) for Nanaimo.

My first representative assembly made me aware of how hard teachers work for the profession they believe in, and how democratic they are. How anyone can say that the BCTF is undemocratic is totally ridiculous to me. Go to an RA and watch how passionately teachers believe in furthering public education and teacher’s rights. Teachers made motions, debated motions, passed, and defeated motions for two days. As a new teacher and a new rep I was totally awed by the whole process. Needless to say it took me a couple of RAs to actually get up the courage to stand in front of a mike and voice my opinion.

I would definitely encourage all teachers to experience a rep assembly. I believe that the LAR’S job is the most important job in the BCTF. It is the LAR who reports back to the local and then takes the local’s concerns back to the BCTF Executive. The BCTF is a strong union because teachers believe that all children have the right to a good education system, and that teachers deserve to be treated as professionals. So I would encourage all teachers to make their own commitment to the BCTF and take your turn at one of the most rewarding jobs there are, by becoming a LAR for your association.

Cheryle Sosnowski teaches at Fairview Elementary School, Nanaimo.

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