CUPE Job Action and Strike – My Thoughts

This is one of those times where I have a fairly strong opinion on something that is happening, so I figured I had to write about it.

In one word, the job action being required by the CUPE members is outrageous.

Before you pick up pitch forks or raise me on your shoulders, I need to explain.

My wife was an Educational Assistant for seven years and in that time she had her clothing ripped, was bitten, her phone broken, came home with multiple bruises, endlessly verbally assaulted and so much more. During the summers, she was laid off, unpaid and told to apply for Employment Insurance through the government. She loved making a difference, but knew that with the salary she was earning, it would be near impossible for her to afford her own place. She lived with her mother while an EA until moving in with me.

My brother-in-law is a custodian. He cleans up vomit, tampons, and so much more. During the summers, he often works normal shifts cleaning up after interest groups using the school space, or preparing it for the next year of classrooms. His work is often very physically demanding. When I first met him, he was on various shifts, sometimes working overnight to help prepare the school for another day. He cares about his job and wants to perform well. He was so passionate that he actually convinced my other brother-in-law to hunt for an opportunity to do the same job.

So when they, as a collective, speak up to say that they need more funding for more staff or resources, I take notice as they are doing work that most of us would never want to do.

The average salary in Canada in 2017 was $51,000 per year according to Workopolis, and in a Global News article from 2017, it states that median salary in 2015 was $70,336.

So how much do CUPE members typically make?

According to GlassDoor, Educational Assistants make between $49,00 and $53,000 in Toronto and Neuvoo puts the median Educational Assistant salary in Ontario at $41,184 per year. I should note that my wife didn’t make this much while working as an EA, even after seven years in the position.

I’ve seen a massive number of people pointing to custodians and saying that mall custodians make less than school custodians, so school custodians are just greedy.

According to GlassDoor, school janitorial staff makes between $57,000 and $61,000 in Toronto, and Neuvoo puts the median school custodian salary in Ontario at just $39,839 per year.

For what they do, I don’t feel like these salaries are outrageous in any way. I think there should be a path for all full-time workers to earn a median salary once they have some experience under their belt and any organization not making that path available to their employees is exploiting them.

If you are earning less than these salaries, you might think it unfair that they are earning more than you, but I think that you are looking at it incorrectly. You should be fighting for higher wages for yourself, not trying to tear down the wages of others.

Do I think it is fair that custodians in other roles make even less? No. Do I think it is fair that most full-time people don’t earn a pension or have benefits? No. But that doesn’t mean you should fight to make sure anyone else doesn’t have those things. I appreciate that it means a heavier tax base, and I agree that there are some spending efficiencies that need to take place in our educational system, but fighting against CUPE isn’t the right move.

So what did I mean by outrageous when I started this post? It is outrageous that their resource funding got cut. It is outrageous that the government is not providing the budget to replace these key people. It is outrageous that they have to go so far to get their voices heard, and it is outrageous that they aren’t getting everyone’s support!

Support CUPE and pressure your local MPP to act!

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