The schedule was to walk 20 hours a week, generally four hours a day but sometimes eight for one or two.
The first week walking on the picket line for most of the teachers was tough. For starters, sometimes the weather would get close to or below zero. Also, walking for four hours, sometimes in a circle blocking cars can cause dizziness and tired legs, as well as sleepy arms when constantly holding up picket signs. “The first week, my wife actually laughed at me because she thought it was funny that my shins hurt after the day,” said Jeremiah Seiden, a design professor.
All teachers asked said walking was easier as time went on, like starting a workout and getting accustomed to it after the first few days. Deb Tsagris, a psychology teacher, said on the first day of the strike, “I like walking, so [I’m enjoying] it. I’ve been feeling energized.”
“As a sedentary person and out of shape, the first couple days were a little sore but [I] got used to it quick,” said Bryan Jordan, a teacher who just became a full-time teacher at DC after 11 years of part-time.
Marni Thornton of Music Business and Management, who spent most of the protest at George Brown College, found the protesting aspect stayed difficult. “It was hard all the way through,” she said. “Not doing your affiliate purpose each day was difficult but then we found or personally I found the purpose became standing up for what we think is right and that became extremely important because bargaining wasn’t happening the way it was supposed to be.”
The payment for the strikers was only $50-$200 a week, and during the fourth week an increase to a maximum of $300 a week, according to OPSEU. When asked how the teachers compensated for the lower wage, many saw the strike coming and were prepared. It was easier on Jordan’s salary than others because he didn’t have many living expenses. Others like Wraight and Seiden had been saving up for the strike, saying for a long time it was due to happen. Seiden even called the strike “a long time coming”.
The teachers were allowed to take required breaks from the line, being allowed to go indoors whenever they needed and had snacks and coffee machines with them.
The best thing about the strike for most of the teachers was being able to meet their acquaintances and protesting partners. “It’s more of the whole process of being on the lines and the sort of bonds that form, especially the sort of connections you develop are really the most notable things about it,” said Jordan. Being alongside other teachers 20 hours a week can make those connections and friendships.
“I was glad to get back just to see the kids,” said Wraight. “[But] the fight’s still on. We’re still kind of on strike.”
“I was pretty frustrated to not get paid and then have to come back and pick up where I was left off and then have to deal with a handful of angry students as well,” said Amit Maraj, a teacher who started at DC last August. “Wasn’t the most pleasing experience in the world but I know we got through it right.”
“I’m glad the strike is over, but the movement is not over,” said Seiden. “[I hope] we see the industry start to listen more and say, ‘Hey, this is not the way to treat people who are coming to work for us.’ I hope that movement continues”.
Jordan says the teachers the most agitated about the time lost were the Nursing teachers. “They have such incredibly strict schedules,” he said. “I’ve seen them map literally 1,000 different things that the nursing students have to learn, so those classes, they don’t have that sort of give that my GNEDs do. They lose a couple of weeks, [and] it really really hurts those students, and their ability to practice in the field.”
However, despite some students deciding to get a refund on their tuition, the semester continued, the message was brought, and thousands of teachers across Ontario learned what it’s like to strike.
“This college needed a strike,” said Wraight, “because strikes are a great team builder, and we needed that. I feel that it did. It was very successful that way.”