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Winnipeg Free Press | 06Feb2013 | Nick Martin

Teachers' union willing to pay to name class

Is it worth $1.5 million to Manitoba teachers to put their name on one classroom?

Manitoba Teachers' Society president Paul Olson thinks so.

He's urging the union's 15,000 members to approve a plan at their annual general meeting in May to name the new classroom at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights after the MTS in perpetuity.

"Unions have always been involved in human rights work," Olson said Tuesday. "We're obviously hoping for a lot of support."

Olson said it works out to one takeout coffee a month for teachers -- $1.50 a month per teacher on their union dues for five years.

The MTS has already donated $62,000 to the museum, which has given the union rights of first refusal to buy naming rights to its classroom.

"That's basically a plaque in the hallway, a plaque in the room," Olson said. "It is a really big classroom with two dividers that can be pulled out to create two small ones."

The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights have already sold naming rights to 15 areas of the museum, and have another 34 available, from $1 million for various facilities up to $7.5 million for naming the main exhibit gallery.

Selling all 34 could fetch the museum more than $70 million.

The CMHR, scheduled to open in 2014, has repeatedly emphasized how much education, and both student and teacher involvement, will be key components of its ongoing operations.

The naming rights are basically a contribution to the museum, Olson said.

He told teachers in a letter to all 15,000 members: "Every day, we welcome children and families into our schools from every corner of the province and of the world. They have known and lived poverty, war, disease, famine and exploitation in their most heinous forms.

"Despite great progress having been made, we still -- today -- have students who fear entering our schools because of the colour of their skin, their gender identity or orientation, their sex or their creed.

"We teach many subjects -- but first, we teach people. And any teacher who's been in the field for more than a few weeks has looked into the very old eyes of a very young child, and felt a shudder. For many people, human rights are an academic abstraction. For us, it's called 'going to work.' "

Olson said tens of thousands of students from Canada, the United States and overseas will visit the museum each year and take programs in that classroom, which can accommodate up to 90 people.

Kathi Neal, interim chief executive officer of the Friends of the CMHR, said naming rights "are a way to recognize and to thank our incredible donors for their passionate commitment to furthering human rights."

"As early supporters and also our early donors, Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights feels that the Manitoba Teachers' Society would be the right fit for this naming opportunity because they understood, right from the very beginning, that education is the heart and soul of the museum."

More information about naming rights is available at http://friendsofcmhr.com/support/, while Olson's appeal to teachers is at http://www.mbteach.org/extras/naming%20rights.html.

[email protected]

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2013 B1


Glen1423:  7:14 AM on 06Feb2013
The teachers I've talked to are dead against this, but they know it will pass because that is what the union brass wants.

$1.5 million for a plaque at the moneypit? - what an embarrassment.

Teacher salaries are paid by taxpayers. Union dues are deducted from teacher salaries, so in essence it is the taxpayer who will be funding this ridiculous idea.

But it is good to know what the union's priorities are - definitely not improving the quality of education.

PegTeach:  7:32 AM on 06Feb2013
As an MTS member, I am greatly disappointed that MTS is pushing this. I do not support personally paying $100 towards this embarrassing museum (that is approximately what it works out to per member). As other commenters have said, what do Manitoba teachers get out of having a classroom named after them? Nothing. MTS's big push is that we are in support of human rights; well, duh, of course, but I am not in support of this museum. I think the 62K that MTS already gave them of our money is (more than) plenty and it should stop there.

riderfan 1:  3:38 PM on 06Feb2013
I know a lot of teachers that go above and beyond.. they come in early, stay late, bring supplies for students and share their lunches with those don't have one. I see nothing wrong with the 62,000 they have already donated the CMHR, but 1.5 million is a lot. Could that money not be better spent, if it must be spent, putting it back into Manitoba schools on behalf of the teachers? Maybe make their jobs just a little easier? Correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm sure someone will...) but a lot of teachers care about the children they educate. And when they 'look into the very old eyes of a child' maybe they are wishing there were more resources to help 'that' child. Probably not wishing for a plaque somewhere...

Cyrus:  5:14 PM on 06Feb2013
I just got back from having a conversation with three teachers who live in my neighbourhood. All three are passionately opposed to this donation, but they know it will be approved.

So I asked them how this voting will take place. They said they are to email their local association president and tell him whether they agree or disagree. They said there is really no scrutinizing of who votes which way, and how many members will actually send an email. They don't want their president to know how they vote. I thought it would at least be some kind of secret ballot, which is what they want. They also said that their local president in his initial email tried to strongly convince the teachers to agree to the donation. Union democracy at its finest.

I thought I would post this because it seems some union supporters on here are convincing us that it is actually a plebiscite that will determine this decision, but it is far from that.

Maybe MTS should donate money to every other community outside the perimeter.

puddlebug:  6:48 PM on 06Feb2013
I am a teacher who cares very much for human rights. I support the museum and wish them all the best. However, the majority of teachers I spoke with DO NOT want to be FORCED AGAINST THEIR WILL to "donate" from their paycheques. The leadership of MTS is bullying us into supporting this by urging us to agree in emails, and being a part of articles such as this that imply teachers are in support of this idea. The way in which we are voting (some are told to send an email, others are told we will do a show of hands) demonstrates that clearly it doesn't matter and MTS doesn't care what we think - they have already stated their support. I just think it is important for the public to know that most teachers (not all, of course) are ENRAGED about this and if it goes through, you can rest assured it had nothing to do with teachers themselves. Surely the Aspers could find some richer people to steal from. Given the purpose of this museum, it's a little ironic how they are going about funding it. Reading the other comments, I hope MTS realizes how awful this is making them look.