Sunday, June 12, 2011

Can one video make a difference?

Saskatchewan Teachers have been without a contract since August 30, 2010. Negotiations have been going on longer than that. We've taught almost a whole school year without it being settled. After years of settling for little to no increase in our wages, this spring, teachers voted 95% in favour of taking job action to help settle their contract.

You see, our province is experiencing rapid growth and unprecedented wealth. They are constantly promoting the fact that our province is booming. Is it not time to pay back the workers who took a hit in the 1990s when the province was not doing so well by rewarding them with fair wages and recognition of an increased cost of living in our province?  What are Saskatchewan's Teachers asking for? They are asking for our province to pay them what they are worth. They want to be recognized for their valuable contributions to our communities. They want to ensure future generations enter the teaching profession because it will be a rewarding career and a wise financial decision. For more information on the contract negotiations, please visit the STF website: Saskatchewan Teachers Federation

On May 5th, 2011, teachers across the province walked off the job for the first time in 78 years. Job action like this had never been seen on a province-wide level by teachers. Teachers participated in study sessions, rallies and discussions. They finished the day feeling unified and determined to reach a fair deal with the School Board Association. The following day, teachers were invited back to the bargaining table.

Unfortunately, talks broke down not long after they started, and a second round of sanctions days were announced for May 25th and 26th. In preparation for these two days, the Regina Public School Teachers Association decided to organize a rally and march from the Provincial Legislature to downtown Regina. We wanted to invite other teachers from across the province to join us so we decided to make a video invitation and post it on You Tube. But how can one little video make a difference?

We expected teachers from Regina Public and perhaps Regina Catholic and Prairie Valley School Divisions to join us. As word spread, through the power of social media, our little video got thousands of hits.You see, during the month of May, Saskatchewan's teachers had been signing up for Twitter and had been connecting on Facebook. New networks and alliances were being formed and the video was shared and re-tweeted hundreds of times. By the time the rally and march took place, our the little video had been seen more than 3,000 times. You only have to listen to RPSTA President, Pat Maze's remarks at the rally to understand the enthusiasm and excitement generated by the video and the cause:

As a result of this video, the May 26th rally and march was one of the biggest demonstrations in our province's recent history. (Regina Leader Post) The police working during the march estimated the crowd of teachers and supporters to be approximately 4,000 people. This showed the provincial government that teachers were unified and strong in their resolve to obtain a fair contract. Thousands of people showing up on the government's doorstep took them by surprise. (Regina Leader Post)

I made a short video to document May 26th's events and posted it on the RPSTA's YouTube Channel. I encourage everyone to check out our channel and to subscribe. Even after this contract is eventually resolved, we hope to post more videos celebrating and demonstrating the importance of teaching as a profession. You never know what one little video and the power of social media can do to affect your profession.