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THUNDER BAY, Ont. In a move to intimidate workers and silence a peaceful protest against school closures, Lakehead District School Board officials have ordered staff to remove Save Our Schools buttons or face disciplinary action, said the union representing 180 school board workers.

We will be filing grievances to defend our members right to wear buttons as a form of peaceful protest, said Rod McGee, president of Local 2486 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). We are doing what we feel is right to defend the learning environment for children in our community the Board has gone too far.

CUPE members who work in schools throughout the Lakehead District have been working with parents and community groups to try and save as many schools as possible, after the School Board announced it plans to close up to 19 schools in the region. The workers campaign includes buttons (bearing the slogan Save our Schools), leaflets and radio ads. The union warns closing too many schools will lead to overcrowding in some schools, lengthy and unnecessary bus trips for a growing number of children, and even portable classrooms if receiving schools dont have enough space to accommodate a jump in admission.

We are raising awareness around this important issue, and the Boards move to silence our members is an attempt to intimidate us and silence our campaign, said McGee. We want to let parents and the community know we will continue our struggle to save our schools. CUPE is also urging local Liberal MPPs to demand Education Minister Gerard Kennedy address funding shortfalls in the Thunder Bay area, caused by the previous Conservative governments flawed funding formula.

The school board is set to discuss which schools will be closed at its meeting on January 4th. CUPE is planning to hold a news conference on January 3rd to update local media on progress in the campaign and to urge board members to protect our schools.

Once we lose valuable infrastructure like this, it will not easily be replaced down the road especially in rural areas, warned McGee. The Board should think twice before it makes drastic decisions that our communities will have to live with for decades.

For further information, please contact:

Rod McGee
CUPE 2486

Dan Pike
CUPE National Rep.

Charlotte Monardo
CUPE National Rep.

Robert Lamoureux
CUPE Communications