The war has begun.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has openly begun its campaign to represent all the early childhood educators (ECEs) who are being hired by school boards for the full-day kindergarten / Early Learning Program. It even has a glizty new website, youreceunion.ca, to woo ECEs and perhaps even school boards over to organizing through ETFO. President Sam Hammond has a video and the member newsletter referred to the federation targeting not only public English-language elementary schools where its teacher members are, but also Catholic schools and boards.
Is ETFO hunting for dollars? The ECEs to be hired over the next four to five years for full-day kindergarten in schools represent a lot of new dues-paying members for any union. Given ETFO is already battling declining enrolment among its traditional membership, is wooing the ECEs part of some monetary strategy?
Given what ETFO had to say about ECEs — rather what they had to say about more kindergarten teachers — during the post-Pascal report to government program structure decision time frame about ECEs, this is a surprising tack for the federation. See examples here, here, here and here.
If I was an ECE, I would have some trust issues reconciling past statements from this particular federation with the current love-in for my dues. Particularly a federation that is trying to tell me they understand classroom issues and supposedly understand ECE issues.
I'm sure ETFO is also facing a huge uphill battle on this with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. CUPE already represents the vast majority of unionized public-sector ECEs across Canada. I'm also aware of several situations where CUPE is already representing ECEs who work for school boards. CUPE has just as much, if not more, experience in bargaining with school boards than ETFO, given CUPE locals for all kinds of positions exist in virtually every publicly funded school board in Ontario — public and Catholic. The creation of the district boards and other 1998 changes also didn't change CUPE as it did change public elementary teachers' federations. CUPE definitely has a lot more experience with ECE workplace issues than ETFO could ever dream to have given the thousands of ECEs they already represent.
Certainly if I was a newly hired ECE at a school board, I probably already worked in the childcare sector, likely for a public-sector or non-profit. If my old job was unionized, chances are it was with CUPE.
So which organizing drive and membership card would I be willing to sign when two are thrust in my direction? CUPE? ETFO?