Preet Lidder: I think we want to, in a lot of ways, get our power back [as a union]. Like, when Karine was talking earlier about feeling powerless, I want us to be a force to be reckoned with. I want us to be driving the conversation around public education in a broad way, and that intersects with what other issues are happening in our province and in our communities, because we want our employer to be like, “Oh, shit. REV is here,” or like, “Oh, this is going to be a hard bargaining round, because they’re going to really bring something to the table.”
Ultimately, for us, we’re trying to build better schools. We are the guardians of public education, and I do think we’re driven by our students and dramatically and structurally changing the conditions [in which] they not only go to school, but the way they get to live their lives, with dignity and support, and feeling like their families are welcome in the schools. So I think we’re building for something a little bit bigger, and also we’re trying to create space for those that come after us.
I think especially, for folks like us, where the union was not built with us in mind, we have more of a duty and larger responsibility to consider, “What is the legacy I want to live in?” I want racialized teachers, newer teachers to come into this profession and see things have actually changed. Not just platitudes, but really breathing life into it and becoming that union. I mean, we are teachers. We’re there. We are on the front lines. We are there day in, day out, really engaged with our communities and our students, so we’re the best people to know how we are going to transform this. So yeah, I think we are driven by who we serve, which is our communities.
Karine Ng: Two words come to mind. It’s respect, a deep sense of respect—and justice. I know it’s such a cliché: it’s not a destination but a journey. We must strive on that journey always in the direction towards justice and respect.
I want to expand a little bit on respect. When we have union leadership that is not afraid to fight for justice, I don’t think that the rank-and-file members will read them as difficult or oppositional. However, this is still the perception of a lot of rank-and-filers. It’s because they have bought into that neoliberal myth that if we cooperate, if we do that weak handshake, if we have that conversation in the back room behind closed doors, we will get considerable crumbs. We won’t. It’s busting that myth.
The myth is also partly [that] having a strong labor movement and union leadership is going to benefit everybody. I actually think that management will, if we can really live out our ideals and our values and our beliefs, they will actually look at us and respect us. They don’t treat us well, they don’t bargain with us well, because we don’t show our power. Agency is the psychology and action of showing up really grounded and with justice and reason on your side. I think having that gives you so much strength, and it signals to the other party across the table what a true leader you really are. I think they can read it really quickly, who you are and what you’re about. We need to put on that face, not just a face, but be that through and through.