Today, the union representing 10,000 school support workers served simultaneous notice to bargain to 41 school districts for the contracts of education workers. CUPE represents school administrative staff, educational assistants, custodial workers and other classifications in the school system.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill explained that the 41 different CUPE Locals have never engaged in this level of co-ordination, but said the notice represents an historic shift in the union’s approach.

“We’re not going to let the province pick us apart one school district at a time,” said Gill. “Our members are determined to get the respect they deserve.”

Gill said the average education worker in Alberta makes $34,000 a year. According to provincial government figures, Educational Assistants make only $27,000.

“Poverty level wages and a decade of losing ground to inflation has changed our approach,” said Gill. “Our locals are working together and will stand together as we fight for salaries that pay the rent.”

“Education workers play a key role in our schools,” said Gill. “But too many of them are working multiple jobs or relying upon the food bank. It’s shameful the lack of respect we pay to people with such a high level of responsibility and passion for students.”