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'Picketing doesn't pay the bills': Striking Quebec teachers taking side jobs

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When teachers affiliated with the FAE union launched their unlimited general strike earlier this month, they did so without having built a strike fund over the years.

The result of a decision by rank-and-file members to reduce union dues, it means no money is coming in to pay the bills.

Teachers like Marie-Ann, who asked to omit her real name, are suddenly without an income.

She's a single mother who felt she had few options.

"I started looking last week. I applied to Canadian Tire, Home Depot, I was just looking for a busy job," Marie-Ann told CTV News.

But at minimum wage and with a child at home, she instead joins the many Quebec teachers offering private tutoring services.

She lined up a few clients and says she's working roughly 16 hours a week. She feels she's at least preventing children from falling behind while classes are on hold.

Marie-Ann and other teachers don't want to be identified because some union activists say they should refrain from tutoring or other jobs in favour of focusing on the strike.

But as she points out, picketing doesn't pay the bills — even for the most dedicated strikers.

"I do know many of my colleagues are couples that both are teachers, so they're affected, and they really feel the crunch. Single moms like me or single dads simply need the income," she said.

Aside from tutoring, Marie-Ann says she can also do some basic home renovation work.

And there are other options: teachers could liquidate their life savings or go back to the job and accept the government's offer.

But for most, there's a lot more at stake than salaries.

"I had two autistic children in my class [...] I didn't even have one full-time aid in my class so it's becoming very difficult just to teach," said Marie-Ann.

That's why she and many of her colleagues feel their strike gamble is worth the sacrifice if it means better education for all.

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