VIDEO: Langley teacher who fought and won 1939 bargaining battle honoured with plaque

Connie Jervis and 13 other teachers were fired after the school board refused to obey an arbitration order



In 1939, a 24-year-old woman was supposed to be ladylike and defer to authority, especially if she happened to be a school teacher.

But Connie Jervis, the president of the newly-formed Langley Teachers Association (LTA), had a stubborn streak.

So when the Langley School Board refused to pay a salary increase awarded under a new provincial law that called for compulsory arbitration of teacher wage disputes, Jervis and her fellow teachers fought back.

During the dispute, Jervis and other Langley teachers were fired, reinstated, demoted to remote schools and reinstated again.

The two-year battle over a pay increase of $42 a year ended in victory for the teachers and the firing of the intransigent school board.

This month, the late Jervis was honoured with a memorial plaque created by the BC Labour Heritage Centre, a union-sponsored initiative “committed to projects and partnerships that celebrate the stories of BC workers and their unions.”

Unveiled on March 6, the plaque will be installed in the entranceway of the Langley Teachers Association offices in Langley City.

The plaque describes how “a feisty group of Langley teachers — mostly women — stood up to threats, firings, forced transfers and public ridicule from their employer for insisting on their right to be paid their legally arbitrated salaries.”

Jervis was represented at the unveiling by her daughters, Barbara Winter and Peggy McLay.

Winter remembered her mother as an independent person and a strong personality.

“There’s a genetic stubborn streak” that runs in the family, Winter said.

McLay, who has spoken before about her mother’s courage in taking on pillars of the community with fierce opposition and little to back her up, recalled her as “a pioneer type … a pretty fabulous lady.”

Both daughters became educators themselves, Winter a professor at Simon Fraser University and McLay a teacher (recently retired) in the Langley school district.

Ken Novakowski, Chair of the BC Labour Heritage Centre, calls it “a very significant event in the history of, certainly the Langley Teachers Association, in the history of the BCTF and, I think, in the history of the labour community in British Columbia.”

During the dispute, the Langley School Board flatly refused to accept the arbitration board decision.

Board chair J.W. Berry called the 1937 law that provided for compulsory arbitration a “pistol to the head,” and said the teachers were being “obnoxious.”

The board fired Jervis and 13 other teachers over the salary dispute, but the dismissals were rescinded by the provincial Council of Public Instruction authority.

Then the board demoted five teachers including Jervis, and sent them to the most remote rural schools in the district.

The teachers refused to accept the decision and when classes resumed, they showed up at their original schools and sat at their desks in the classrooms where they had worked.

They were dismissed as “sit down strikers” by Vancouver newspapers, but the protest worked.

The Council of Public Instruction intervened again, ordered the teachers returned to their old jobs and this time, fired the entire school board.

Current LTA president Wendy Cook and LTA first VP Gail Chaddock-Costello oversaw the unveiling of the plaque at an association meeting to discuss the end of a more recent dispute, a 15-year legal fight between the B.C. Teachers Federation and the provincial government that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

That fight ended with the court ruling the province could not unilaterally alter class size and support staff guarantees in the B.C. Teachers Federation contract.

Chaddock-Costello said celebrating the outcome of the 1939 battle at a time when Langley teachers were also witnessing the restoration of their contract language was “a fantastic moment for us.”

“We think we’re pretty special in Langley to have had her (Jervis),” Chaddock-Costello added.

Just Posted

Update: Eyewitnesses kept driver who hit Langley pedestrian from fleeing (with video)

Police issue tickets for multiple offences after Sunday incident

VIDEO: A Langley man travels coast-to-coast to honour Canada’s national symbol

The “Beaver appreciation tour” was timed for country’s 150th birthday

Gators top ’Cats in all-Langley Fraser Valley final

Walnut Grove junior girls continue strong play over past month by winning Fraser Valley banner

Rebels beat road-weary Giants

Vancouver was playing fourth game in five days

History for Spartans

First-time in program history Trinity Western women’s basketball team has advanced to Canada West semifinals

Update: Langley gas station robbed (with video)

Incident on Glover Road draws massive police response

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Calgary man dies in Mexico following sudden illness

Troy Black was with his wife, Lindsay, in Puerto Vallarta when he began vomiting blood on Thursday

Virtue and Moir break their own world record

Virtue and Moir break short dance record to sit first in ice dance at Olympics

Trump gets angry about election meddling, but not at Russia

‘Weirdest thing’: Trump expresses anger, but not over Russian election-meddling

New doping charge could hurt Russia’s chance at reinstatement

Russia could lose its chance to be reinstated before the end of the Winter Olympics because of a doping charge against curling bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky.

‘Black Panther’ blows away box office with $192M weekend

In estimates Sunday, Disney predicted a four-day holiday weekend of $218 million domestically and a global debut of $361 million.

Canada wins gold in bobsleigh

Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz tied for first in two-man event at 2018 Winter Olympics

VIDEO: Protesters rally for affordable housing ahead of B.C. budget

Residents call on province to keep locals housed

Most Read