Wednesday, February 1, 2012

photo essay: Feb1 student day of action

On February 1, students across the country took to the streets for a day of action, organized by the Canadian Federation of Students.

In Toronto, thousands of students from multiple campuses converged at the University of Toronto, marched through downtown and rallied at Queen's Park.

Students are facing skyrocketing tuition and massive levels of debt. 
On top of chronic education cutbacks and underfunding, students are being made to pay for the economic crisis they did not create. But as they chanted, "they say cut back, we say fight back", and "education is a right, we will not give up the fight."

In Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty campaigned on a promise to reduce tuition fees by 30%, but this only applies to a fraction of students. The size of the demonstration in Toronto, and the chants directed at McGuinty ("Dalton, you liar, tuition's getting higher") shows that students weren't fooled. In their thousands, students demanded a reduction of tuition fees for all, a dropping of the student debt, and an increase in education funding.

Students also made links with other issues, chanting and face-painting "drop fees, not bombs". The money for accessible education exists, but it's being wasted on fighter jets, tar sands, prisons, and tax breaks for the 1%.

The labour movement supported the day of action, including members of CUPE, Steelworkers, Toronto District Labour Council and the Ontario Federation of Labour.

This solidarity is crucial. More than 4,000 teaching assistance, graduate-student instructors, lab demonstrators, invigilators and writing instructors at the University of Toronto (represented by CUPE 3902) unanimously voted to set a strike deadline of February 24 if the administration fails to offer them a reasonable contract. They are asking for smaller class sizes, adequate compensation and better funding--in other words, they are trying to improve education.

There is already solidarity growing for CUPE 3902, from a campus organizing meeting drawing the links between students, TAs and food service workers, to an undergraduate-led campaign by OPIRG. As their video states, "CUPE 3902's proposals will improve the quality of education at UofT. What's good for CUPE 3902 members is good for undergraduate students." The February 1 day of action showed the strength and solidarity of the 99% on campus, which will be crucial in the weeks and months ahead to win accessible, high quality public education.

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