Teachers’ federations have represented the educational professionals for over a century. In 1888 a group of eight women formed the Ladies Teachers Association of Toronto. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) was founded in 1919 with 62 members, the Ontario Catholic Teachers in 1944.
In 1973, the provincial government decided to remove teachers’ right to strike. In what was then the province’s largest political demonstration, teachers walked off their jobs en masse on December 18, and gathered at Toronto’s Queen’s Park.
In 1997, Premier Mike Harris introduced Bill 160 to implement his “Common Sense” efficiency and cost-cutting program in the education system. Outraged, 126,000 members of all teacher federations went out on strike in October that year, forging the largest-ever work stoppage in Ontario and the largest teachers’ strike in North American history. Though Harris failed to obtain a court injunction against the teachers, the government rejected union proposals countering the government’s demands for job cuts and increased class size. After two weeks, teachers returned to the classroom, many bitter at the outcome, but with public opinion heavily on their side.