It’s about the kids.
That was the message Friday in Bowmanville as striking members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and their supporters picketed outside the office of Durham MPP Todd McCarthy.
Hundreds of people gathered to walk alongside the CUPE workers, including teachers, students, parents, and nurses. People driving by blasted their horns blasted, waved their arms, and cheered to show their support.
“It’s amazing. Haven’t heard a negative thing all day. It’s been all support out here,” said Mellisa Montgomery, a custodian with the Durham District School Board.
Montgomery said there is more to this strike than wages.
“We are striking for the children. It’s not for more money,” she said.
Jenn Kollarik, a local educational assistant said people need to stop being forced out of their jobs due to low wages, or there will be no one left to support the children.
“Our work gives us purpose,” she said. “It’s a calling. It’s a way for us to serve our community and make the next generation better. It will be your custodian, a secretary, an EA.”
Many people shared that view, including Michelle Kimmerly, a local supply secretary, who was also out walking the line.
“We are doing it because we love this job,” she said. “We’re doing it because we love the children.”
Allison Ng, a local teacher on maternity leave, walked in support of the strike. She said she wanted to support her colleagues because they are an integral part of the school.
“Even in my own classroom, CUPE members, I would not be able to function as a teacher without them,” she said.
Ng said a number of teachers wanted to be there as well but were technically working, so she was there to show extra support.
The provincial government enacted Bill 28 last week which imposed contracts on 55,000 CUPE members and prevents them from striking.
The Progressive Conservatives invoked the notwithstanding clause to protect against a constitutional challenge of this law, another reason Montgomery said she was out there.
“Part of why we are out here today is to set a precedence for other unions now with the Ford government using the notwithstanding clause,” she said. “We are out here to say, no, we won’t take the bullying from the government.”
The provincial government said it had no choice but to pass the legislation to keep children in school, after the pandemic interrupted learning over the past two years.
Strikers and their supporters are unsure about what will happen on Monday.