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Thousands of teachers, education workers strike along 30 km route in Peel Region

Click to play video 'Teachers stage huge protest at Queen’s Park and beyond' Teachers stage huge protest at Queen’s Park and beyond
WATCH ABOVE: It was a day of protest across Ontario as 200,000 teachers were off the job. The largest rally was outside the Ontario legislature, while the longest picket line was in Peel Region. Caryn Lieberman reports – Feb 21, 2020

Roughly 20,000 teachers and education workers picketed along a 30 kilometre stretch in Peel Region as Ontario’s four major unions held coordinated strike action on Friday.

The picket line, which unions say is the longest ever in the region, ran along Hurontario Street (Highway 10) from Mayfield Road in Caledon, through Brampton and Mississauga, ending at the lake.

In an effort to put pressure on the Ontario government as they bargain for new contracts, union members spread out along the route with signs and flags.

READ MORE: Entire Ontario public school system closed, millions out of class Friday as teachers strike

The four major teachers’ unions participating in the one-day joint strike action were the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), and Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO).

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The last time all four unions walked off the job at the same time was in 1997.

A poster for the 30-kilometre picket line in Peel Region that stretches from Caledon, through Brampton and Mississauga down to the lake.
A poster for the 30-kilometre picket line in Peel Region that stretches from Caledon, through Brampton and Mississauga down to the lake. Ontario's teacher unions
“I think the lack of negotiations [is] on the government side. I know I have full trust in our unions that they are doing everything. We have given them the mandate to strike and to do everything they need to do to preserve public education in Ontario,” one teacher along the Hurontario Street route told Global News.

“I’ve been teaching for 20 years. Two years ago, I taught a kindergarten classroom with 32 children in my classroom. We didn’t have the physical space for them,” another teacher said. “Just meeting their physical needs and then there are diverse learners and you want to reach everyone. And slowly over those 20 years, so much has been taken away from them. And that’s not fair to them.”

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Click to play video 'Talking with children about the Ontario teachers strike' Talking with children about the Ontario teachers strike
Talking with children about the Ontario teachers strike – Feb 21, 2020

Another teacher on the picket line was protesting alongside one of her own students — bringing her young daughter whose school was closed due to the walkout.

“I hope people don’t see this as an inconvenience. I hope they see it as us standing up for your children, for the future of education in Ontario.

Its the right thing to do, and the issues are real.”

The Guinness Book of World Records has been notified of the protest as the unions said some believe it could be the longest picket line of all time.

Approximately 20,000 teachers from the Peel District School Board hold a one day strike in Mississauga, Ont., on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. The Guinness Book of World Records has been notified as some believe it could be the longest picket line of all time.
Approximately 20,000 teachers from the Peel District School Board hold a one day strike in Mississauga, Ont., on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. The Guinness Book of World Records has been notified as some believe it could be the longest picket line of all time. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

More than 5,000 schools across the province are closed with over two million students out of class.

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In response to massive province-wide protests, Education Minister Stephen Lecce told Global News Friday morning that “our preference today is to negotiate, not see the teacher union leaders escalate.”

“The teacher unions over the last 30 years, in different forms, one, two, three or four of them have worked together to pressurize the government,” Lecce added.

“I want to continue a focus on negotiations. We value our teachers. They want to be in class today and they want to do what they do best which is inspire learning,” Lecce said.

Click to play video 'Education minister responds to Ontario-wide teachers strike' Education minister responds to Ontario-wide teachers strike
Education minister responds to Ontario-wide teachers strike – Feb 21, 2020

— With files from The Canadian Press.

Thousands of Peel Region teachers picket along Hurontario Street (Highway 10) in a coordinated one-day strike involving four major unions. (Feb. 21, 2020)
Thousands of Peel Region teachers picket along Hurontario Street (Highway 10) in a coordinated one-day strike involving four major unions. (Feb. 21, 2020). Caryn Lieberman / Global News