BC Labour Heritage Centre and Collective Bargaining Rights for Teachers

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The B.C. Labour Heritage Centre preserves documents and presents the rich history of working people in British Columbia. This afternoon, together with the New Westminster Teachers Union, the B.C. Labour Heritage Centre will unveil a bronze plaque, the fifth in a series that documents milestones in the achievement of full collective bargaining rights for B.C. teachers.

On February 14, 1921, teachers in New Westminster announced that they would not be reporting for work the following Monday unless the school board agreed to meet and negotiate an incremental pay grid. The board refused and defended their right to unilaterally determine wages. The school board threatened to fire teachers unless they returned to work.

After one week, striking teachers remained strong. Pressure from parents, businesses and the public convinced the school board to negotiate. In the end, they agreed to binding arbitration if a negotiated settlement couldn’t be reached. The following year, when the school board was up for re-election, a majority of trustees sympathetic to teachers were elected.

Strengthened by the support of teachers locals across B.C. and Canada, the five-day walkout of 1921 led to more salary increases in the ensuing years. As well, the school board agreed to recognize the association as a legitimate bargaining agent for teachers in the district. Eighty-four remarkable teachers had taken an important stand.

Please join us in congratulating the B.C. Labour Heritage Centre, the New Westminster Teachers Union and the B.C. Retired Teachers Association in today’s celebration.