TOWHEY: Unions speak for themselves, not you

Thousands of teachers, students and union leaders gathered on the front lawn at Queen's Park to protest the Ford government's education cuts on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)

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Listen to any public sector union boss and they’ll tell you they’re on your side.

Teachers strike for better schools. Nurses strike for better health care. Cop unions want to improve public safety. Even doctors’ associations fight for you.

Not so fast.

Once again, Ontario’s education sector unions are jockeying for position in advance of the school year. Who will strike when?

Support workers are ready to walk out on Day One of the school year. High school teachers are going to wait a few weeks. Elementary teachers will work through September.

Beyond that, who knows.

Alberta’s union representing 180,000 teachers, nurses and government workers is suing Jason Kenney’s government over Bill 9. Will they take job action if they don’t win in court?

As the federal election draws near, Unifor president Jerry Dias has promised to keep spending his members’ dues to create Andrew Scheer’s “worst nightmare.”

The school support workers union boss argued in the pages of the Toronto Sun on Friday that if they strike, it will be to “protect your child’s right to a high-quality, well-supported and well-rounded education.” Not for more money, gosh, no.

No doubt, Dias is waging war against the Conservative Party (and many of his own members) to protect your right to a quality job at a livable wage. Certainly not for his own political gain. Heavens, no.

Jerry Dias, the national president for Unifor, the national union representing auto workers, addresses a rally within view of General Motors headquarters, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Windsor, Ont. Workers were protesting the closing of the Oshawa assembly plant, (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

No union president will ever admit it’s about money. It’s always about kids. About transit riders. About you. They’re fighting for you.

Bollocks.

It’s not about you. It’s never about you. It’s always about them.

In fairness, I imagine that’s a hard sell in a TV ad: “Help us force government to raise your taxes and pay us more than you earn, for less work than you do, and boost our already gold-plated benefits plan — the likes of which you can’t even imagine. Operators are standing by.”

The truth isn’t going to win your support. So, it’s about your kids. Your cat. Your life. They’re the only ones protecting your child’s education. Your mother’s health. Except, they’re not.

I’m not suggesting teachers don’t love their students. Or nurses don’t care for their patients. Or cops don’t put their lives on the line for you. Of course they do. They chose those careers for a reason. They’re good people.

But let’s get real. Unions exist to improve the wages, benefits and working conditions of their dues-paying members. That’s all. And that’s fine. Nothing wrong with it.

The person responsible for delivering high-quality, well-supported, well-rounded education in Ontario isn’t a union leader — it’s the minister of education. You may love him or hate him. You may be happy or angry with what he’s doing and how he does it. But he’s the one being paid to speak for you.

In other provinces it’s other governments. Elected by you. Paid by you. Responsible, good or bad, to you. The police chief is responsible for your safety, not the president of the police union. It’s never a union leader.

The union leader does not get paid to speak for you, no matter what she says. She gets paid to speak for her members and to fight for their interests. Not yours.

As the rhetoric heats up on the election and labour fronts, we’d all do well to remember that.

mtowhey@postmedia.com

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