Category Archives: Strikes & Labor

CUPE BC launches ad campaign to avert strike in public schools #bcpoli

CUPE BC, August 25, 2013– CUPE’s education workers [launched] a radio and television advertising campaign on Monday focused on building support for the union members’ work to keep BC’s schools clean, safe, and inclusive.

“We’ve made every effort to bargain a fair and reasonable settlement with the employers, but their lack of preparation is threatening to disrupt classes this fall,” said Mark Hancock, CUPE-BC President.

CUPE education workers’ collective agreements throughout the province expired over a year ago. Previous negotiations in spring 2013 were derailed when it became clear that government had not given the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) a mandate to reach a settlement.

BCPSEA is now directly controlled by the BC government, but it was not prepared for the latest round of bargaining in August when talks broke off for a third time.

“If the government doesn’t show a commitment to bargaining, our members will take full-scale job action,” said Colin Pawson, Chair of the BC K-12 Presidents’ Council. “They’re frustrated that we’ve had three false starts to negotiating, and the clock is ticking.”

It has been more than four years since the education assistants, clerical staff, trades, custodians, bus drivers and other education workers represented by CUPE have received a wage increase. Virtually all of the 57 CUPE locals representing education workers have had positive strike votes.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents more than 27,000 education BC workers in the K-12 system.

Listen to the radio ad here.
View the TV ad here.

See more at: http://www.cupe.bc.ca/news/3148#sthash.Z5mNdsd2.dpuf

CUPE BC education workers’ strike mandate set

CUPE BC, July 10, 2013– After the first week of summer vacation for students, education workers across the province are resolved to make sure BC schools are clean, safe, and inclusive.  The 27,000 CUPE education workers have voted to strike in almost all of the 57 K-12 Locals, in 53 school districts.

Going without a wage increase since 2009, CUPE education workers remain hopeful for funded settlements that would see similar agreements as were achieved for other public sector employees.

“CUPE education workers want a fair settlement with the provincial government,” said Colin Pawson, President of CUPE Local 1091 in Delta and Chair of the CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ Council. “Without any adjustment of wages for more than 4 years, it is time the people who keep our children’s schools working are respected.”

Both CUPE K-12 Locals and school boards agree that needs of students must be at the forefront of negotiations. This sentiment had been clearly expressed by school boards early this year and is now being reaffirmed to the new Minister of Education, Peter Fassbender.

Most recently, School District 33 in Chilliwack expressed “grave concerns” to the Minister that for the BC Government to realize long-term labour peace “the best interest of students and the implementation flexibility of Boards may be marginalized.”

“We further urge your Ministry to provide funding for a reasonable increase for our CUPE staff and any wage changes considered for our teaching staff in this round of bargaining,” said Chilliwack School District Chair Walt Krahn and Vice Chair Silvia Dyck in a letter to the Minister.

“Any agreement is only successful if all sides have been considered and the delivery of public education can continue to meet the needs in the most cost effective manner,” the letter stated.

CUPE education workers include education assistants, clerical staff, trades, aboriginal workers, youth and family workers, custodians, and bus drivers.

After 12 year slumber, BC Liberals dream of 10 year deals

Save for summer school, July and August are typically months during which teachers catch up on life and professional development or find down time after the intensity of stressors of the school year. For the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), this is commonly a time to strategize or coordinate leadership teams. Following an era of astute, outstanding leadership by Susan Lambert, Jim Iker begins his term as President of the BCTF facing pressures from the BC Public School Employers’ Association to shift contract negotiations to plans for a 10 year deal through to 2024.

BC Liberals Education Minister Peter Fassbender begins his term having to defend the pipe dream. One might imagine that this is a Rip van Winkle fairy tale, wherein after sleeping on the job of contract negotiations for 12 years, the BC Liberals now want to make a dream of a 10 year deal come true.  This would be a generous, made-for-preschoolers reading of the situation. The Buddhist policy wonk might say that the Liberals didn’t snooze but meditated on contracts for a dozen years to reach this 2024 vision of clarity. Either could be true, and there you have it…

Iker is clear about the BCTF’s position:

We’re open to a longer term deal, but we know that deal has to represent a fair deal for our members and has to provide more support for our students and more one-on-one time in particular for our students. It has to deal with the issues of class size, class composition and learning specialist ratios. This is also part of our court case, which is ongoing and we’ve got 19 days (in court) in September. It also has to address our salaries; we’ve fallen way behind our teacher counterparts across Canada. For any successful round of bargaining, you need resources brought to the table….

I don’t rule out a longer term deal. Do I rule out a 10-year deal? Yes. We had an education minister in February who told us that no government could never commit to funding 10 years of indexing and that’s one of their pieces. Part of our responsibility is to advocate for public education, for our students and for the funding. We will continue to do that and some people would think the idea of the 10-year deal is just to silence us for 10 years, but we’re not going to be silenced because people expect us to advocate on behalf of students.

When asked by the Vancouver Sun what he “thought of the government decision to remove the bargaining mandate from the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association and appoint negotiator Peter Cameron?,” Iker responded:

I’m not sure what this move actually is because we’ve been at a bargaining table where really, the employer has had no mandate in terms of resources…. We were actually hoping to reach an agreement by the end of June. That was our goal. If we’re going to be negotiating directly with government, I guess that’s fine, as long as it’s at the bargaining table. Peter Cameron has been hired by the Ministry of Education, but is he going to represent government? That’s still to be determined. We will see in September who actually is across the table from us.

 Read more: Vancouver Sun

BC Teachers Federation scores landmark victory in academic freedom and freedom of expression #bcpoli

Well, it turns out that Dr. Seuss’s initial impression during the war that you can’t achieve a substantial victory out of turtles turns out to be wrong! This past week, after 3 years or a decade, depending how its measured, the BC Teachers’ Federation scored one of the most substantial court victories in academic and intellectual freedom for teachers in the last thirty years. The victory provides a substantial defense of educators’ civil liberties and free expression, critical education methods of instruction. And what’s more, it is a significant victory for students’ rights to critical content in the schools.

On 21 May, the BC Court of Appeal released its decision on the BCTF v. BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) / Board of Education of School District No. 5.  The case concerned “the extent to which teachers’ expression of political views on education issues in public schools is protected freedom of expression under s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:”

The political expressions in issue were messages critical of specific government education policies, contained on posters posted on classroom doors and school bulletin boards, and on buttons worn by teachers. Pursuant to a directive from the school district that political posters and information should not be displayed in school hallways, classrooms, or on school grounds, some principals told teachers to stop displaying the posters and wearing the buttons.

This case dates specifically to January 2009, when campaign materials, such as posters and buttons, were circulated by the BCTF to teachers across the province. On 23 April 2009, the Director of Instruction and HR from School District No. 5 (Southeast Kootenay) forwarded a directive principals in the district advising them that the BCTF’s political materials had no place on school grounds other than the staff room. On 1 May 2009, the Cranbrook and Fernie Teachers’ Association forwarded a note to the Director advising that it disagreed with the 23 April directive.  Following a grievance filed by the BCTF, an arbitrator heard the case in March 2010 and denied the grievance, awarding in favour of the BCPSEA in October 2011.

The BCTF appealed the decision. Within Tuesday’s BC Court of Appeal decision is some of the strongest language for a defense of academic freedom for teachers and critical education methods:

There was no evidence in this case of any actual or potential harm to students from being exposed to the materials about educational issues, nor any facts from which an inference of harm could be drawn. On the contrary, Canadian jurisprudence, including Munroe, stands for the principle that open communication and debate about public, political issues is a hallmark of the free and democratic society the Charter is designed to protect. Children live in this diverse and multi-cultural society, and exposing them to diverse societal views and opinions is an important part of their educational experience.

Simply put, “the law supports the exercise by teachers of their right of free expression in schools.”

Court of Appeal Justice Hinkson provides a caveat:

I see no reason why students should receive less protection from the monopolization of the discourse of a societal issue than adults who are subjected to a flood of discourse on an electoral issue by proponents of one side to that issue. In the case of the students, the monopolization on the issue may deprive them of their right to be educated in a school system that is free from bias.

Where the issue upon which teachers choose to exercise their rights to free speech is a political one, their rights must be balanced against the rights of their students to an education that is free from bias. That brings into play, as it did in Harper, the concern that if a group is able to monopolize its message on any issue, competing views will be deprived of a reasonable opportunity to be heard…. However, the proportionality aspects of s. 1 of the Charter reserve for another case the evidence required to establish and the point at which teachers’ rights of freedom of expression in schools must yield to the rights of students to be educated in a school system that is free from bias.

This landmark decision  will certainly be put to test, as the case more generally dates back to over a decade of to-and-fro decisions over academic freedom for BC teachers and their right to free expression. Indeed, one of the best case studies of political speech and symbolic speech is that of the BCTF v. the BC Ministry of Education and BCPSEA from about 2002 to this present decision. Throughout this decade, BC teachers have progressively and systematically tested their rights to political and symbolic speech: posters on school bulletin boards, black arm bands, buttons, letters to parents, t-shirts, bumper stickers on cars in the school parking lot, and wearing black clothes.

“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

In April 2012, amidst another round of disputed bargaining practices and the government’s imposition of the controversial Bill 22, teachers raised questions: “A Prince Rupert elementary teacher has been told a quote from Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle is a political statement that should not be displayed or worn on clothing in her classroom. The teacher included the quote in material she brought to a meeting with management after she received a notice relating to union material visible in her car on school property.”

Eight teachers in the Prince Rupert district received letters warning of “discipline for displaying political messages.” Joanna Larson, president of the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ local said “the administration doesn’t want students to see the messages.” “We feel very censored here right now. We have feelings that our rights to freedom of expression have been violated.”

To accent the 11th anniversary of BC government’s oppressive bills 27 and 28, which prevented the teachers from bargaining on issue such as class size, the BCTF and teachers organized a protest for January 28, 2013– a “Dark Day for Education” and “Wear Black Day.” Teachers wore black in their classrooms while the BCPSEA cautioned that “regardless of the colour of attire worn, teachers should not engage students in discussion about their political views.” Some teachers in Prince Rupert responded with new black t-shirts, this time remediating Shakespeare and quoting section 2(b) from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But three teachers  were told to remove or cover the shirts.

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) weighed in on 4 February 2013 by forwarding a letter to the Prince Rupert School Board and arguing that the ban was unconstitutional: “The school district’s decision to ban free speech about free speech reminds us of a badly-written comedy sketch. But this isn’t an Air Farce skit, it’s a troubling violation of teachers’ constitutional right to free expression,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “The School District has an obligation to respect free speech, and there is no lawful justification for the District to ban these t-shirts.”

Of course, quoting or paraphrasing one’s civil liberties in defiance has been part and parcel of protests throughout the past 300 years. And arguably one of the best political works in the Dr. Seuss catalog, Yertle the Turtle has for five decades been used for purposes of instruction in the classroom and symbolic and political speech, inside and out. Notoriously, the Red Hot Chili Peppers first rocked their expressive version of Yertle the Turtle in 1985. Most recently leading up to the Prince Rupert teacher’s utilization of parts of the text, Yertle the Turtle was used in the protests at the Wisconsin legislature in 2011 and the Occupy movement beginning in September 2011.

ICES colleague E. Wayne Ross recently articulated the necessity of “dangerous citizenship”— “critical citizenship, or social justice oriented citizenship” and civil liberties citizenship— in opposition to liberal notions of “good citizenship” that somehow pass for education in the schools. “There is a misguided and unfortunate tendency in our society to believe that  activities that strengthen or maintain the status quo are neutral or at least non-political,” Wayne observes, “while activities that critique or challenge the status quo are ‘political’ and inappropriate.”

A breath of fresh air, Tuesday’s decision from the BC Court of Appeal changes the tide for teachers. BCTF President Susan Lambert was buoyed by the decision, noting that

it’s about the right of teachers to express their concerns about the working conditions that they teach in and the learning conditions the students are taught in… It’s very important that we as a society encourage teachers to express their views and that we take those views seriously…. You don’t discuss and encourage critical thinking in children by shielding them from diverse views.

An Open Letter Concerning CUPE 2278 and Job Action

An Open Letter Concerning CUPE 2278 and Job Action

A strike is a good thing and especially a good thing for the University of British Columbia at this moment in time. The very courageous CUPE 2278 labour action, full strike pending, is a wake up call, a breath of fresh air, or a catalytic measure for an apathetic campus, faculty and student bodies inclusive. Yes, there are individuals taking chances and stances on issues online and off, but a collective movement has materialized at UBC. Yes, those of us fortunate enough to be members of unions or the Faculty Association accept that a collective agreement is better than an individual agreement.

We invite students, faculty, staff, and administrators to do all they can to make CUPE 2278’s—the Teaching Assistants’– strike meaningful, effective, and successful and help the GTAs inject the campus with the spark and power of activism.

What to do as a student, faculty member, or administrator in the face of a strike? The question for staff tends to be redundant as union members in sympathy will rarely, if ever, have to or want to cross picket lines.

First, a matter of policy.  UBC’s Strike Policy and Guidelines note that the “University respects the right of students, staff or faculty members as a matter of conscience, to refuse to cross a picket line in a labour dispute.” Once a student communicates a decision to side with the striking workers (usually by the first or second day of the strike), accommodations have to be made or will be made once the job action resolves. Missed assignments will be given an extension and have to be completed. Students can gain access to a “senior faculty member to serve as an academic arbiter for students who have sought to resolve their concerns with their Faculties but feel that they have been treated unfairly.” Yes, faculty members, GTAs or undergraduate student employees, and staff may surrender salary for the duration of time taken as a matter of conscience, but it is a small price to pay for activism, dignity, and solidarity.

Strikes are not left vs. right politics, as eventually most want nothing more than fair treatment and find or would give a lot for the security and protection of unions. Reciprocity and shared benefit may be expected in the future when your union is mobilizing for job action. Just as the CUPE 2278 strike is a good thing for UBC at this point, honoring or participating in this strike is a good thing.  Individual dignity is bound to collective power.

Undergraduate students, keep in mind that inasmuch as you can organize a protest, and some of you have, you can also strike in sympathy with your graduate student peers. You can strike regardless of whether CUPE 2278 strikes. The BC Labour Code establishes limitations to the rights of workers or unions such as CUPE 2278, but is does not govern student strikes. As an example, the Quebec student strike lasted seven months, the longest student strike in Quebec history. For an excellent guide to student strikes, see the FAQ from the Students’ Society of McGill University http://ssmu.mcgill.ca/blog/2012/03/student-strike-faq/. It is a fair question to ask, in this case, ‘why don’t faculty members strike?’  Many faculty members at UBC wish we could but our Collective Agreement with the University has a “Prohibition of Strikes and Lockouts” clause. We will support strikes in sympathy nevertheless.

Second, a matter of pragmatics. From a labour activist standpoint, ‘do everything in your conscience and power to support the job action.’ Neither desire nor expect business-as-usual, as a disruption of this business is the intent of most job action, boycotts, etc. If you have to, plan ahead and retrieve necessities from your office or locker prior to the strike, as crossing a picket line is an aggressive response to the striking workers. If you find yourself behind picket lines, move to reposition yourself on the other side of the pickets. If your building of campus is picketed, do not try to sneak in a rear entrance to rationalize that you did not actually “cross” a picket line to get there. Being asked to cover and doing the work of those on strike is an anti-labour or anti-union response that invalidates the purpose of the job action and ultimately makes for a heated, toxic workplace, or in this case university. Be present and invest in strength in numbers. If you’re an administrator, especially without a real “management” designation, well, use your conscience and please don’t direct minutiae from the top down to intimidate the students and faculty. Call in sick if you don’t want to join your students and faculty on the picket line.

What do we have in common and when should we act collectively? For the most part, day in, day out, the only group demonstrating their political capital or clout at UBC is management, and in many ways what a conservative, corporate-driven, regressive politics this turns out to be! Management has its aggressive side and we can readily draw the connections between this and a learned apathy of faculty and students. As 180,000 students took to strikes, protests, and occupations of campuses and streets between February and August in Quebec, it is an affirmation of activism for a student movement to materialize here at UBC and what we used to call the ‘left coast.’ A strike is economically a good thing as well, as it sends a message to the University and government that “net zero workers” and bad faith approaches to collective bargaining are not working. A net zero mandate removes the ability of unions to actually bargain and legitimizes an employer’s option to shirk accountability at the bargaining table. The reasonableness of a CUPE 2278 strike is undeniable, as it would help workers across the province— everyone gains. So, the graduate teaching assistants’ union decision to hold a strike vote and mobilize for action is precisely the injection of student power into activism and bargaining that this campus needs. And let’s not forget the courage of CUPE 2278 in its valiant effort to bring a sense of fairness to the University and government in the full strike of 2003. Again, this is a declaration of full support.

Thank you,
Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross, co-Directors of the Institute for Critical Studies in Education (ICES), co-Editors of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, and blogging at Workplace.

Inaugural issue revisited: Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor

ICES is returning to the archive and rolling out back issues in OJS format! We begin with the inaugural issue and its core theme, “Organizing Our Asses Off.” Issue #2 will soon follow. We encourage readers and supporters of Workplace and Critical Education to revisit these now classic back issues for a sense of accomplishment and frustration over the past 15 years of academic labor. Please keep the ideas and manuscripts rolling in!

Thanks for the continuing interest in Workplace and Critical Education,

Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross, co-Editors
Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES)
University of British Columbia

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor
No 1 (1998): Organizing Our Asses Off
Table of Contents
http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace/issue/view/182236

Articles

  • Foreword: The Institution as False Horizon
    • Marc Bousquet
  • What Hath English Wrought: The Corporate University’s Fast Food Discipline
    • Cary Nelson
  • Unionizing Against Cutbacks
    • Paul Lauter
  • What is an “Organization like the MLA”? From Gentleman’s Club to Professional Association
    • Stephen Watt
  • The Future of an Illusion
    • Christian Gregory
  • Resistance is Fruitful: Coalition-Building in Ontario
    • Vicky Smallman
  • This Old House: Renovating the House of Labor at City University of New York
    • Barbara Bowen
  • Jobless Higher Ed: An Interview with Stanley Aronowitz
    • Stanley Aronowitz, Andrew Long
  • Life of Labor: Personal Criticism
  • Looking Forward in Anger
    • Barbara White
  • Performing Shakespeare: Writing and Literacy on the Job
    • Leo Parascondola
  • The Good Professors of Szechuan
    • Gregory Meyerson
  • Forum: Organizing Our Asses Off
  • Cannibals, Star Trek, and Egg Timers: Ten Years of Student Employee Organizing at the University of California
    • Kate Burns, Anthony M. Navarrete
  • Critical Year
    • Edward Fox, Curtis Anderson
  • What’s Next? Organizing After the COGS Union Affiliation Vote
    • Julie Marie Schmid
  • 7,500 Down, 200,000 To Go: Organizing the City University of New York
    • Eric Marshall
  • Unions, Universities, and the State of Texas
    • Ray Watkins, Kirsten Christensen
  • Organizing Democracy: A Response
    • Karen Thompson
  • Beyond the Campus Gates: The Personal Is Still Political
    • Vincent Tirelli
  • Institutional Memory and Changing Membership: How Can We Learn from What We Don’t Recall?
    • Alan Kalish
  • Field Reports
  • Report on the 1997 MLA Convention
    • Mark Kelley
  • Report on the “Changing Graduate Education” Conference
    • Alan Kalish
  • Book Reviews
  • Review of Michael Denning’s The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century
    • Derek Nystrom
  • Review of Staughton Lynd’s Living Inside Our Hope
    • Paul Murphy

New Issue of Workplace Launched

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor has just published Issue #20, “The New Academic Manners, Managers, and Spaces.”  This issue includes key conceptual and empirical analyses of

  • the creation and avoidance of unions in academic and business workplaces (Vincent Serravallo)
  • the new critiquette, impartial response to Bruno Latour and Jacques Ranciere’s critique of critique (Stephen Petrina)
  • the two-culture model of the modern university in full light of the crystal, neural university (Sean Sturm, Stephen Turner)
  • alternative narratives of accountability in response to neo-liberal practices of government (Sandra Mathison)
  • vertical versus horizontal structures of governance (Rune Kvist Olsen)
  • teachers in nomadic spaces and Deleuzian approaches to curricular practice (Tobey Steeves)

We invite you to review the Table of Contents for Issue #20 for articles and items of interest. Thanks for the continuing interest in Workplace (we welcome new manuscripts here and Critical Education),

Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES)
Workplace Blog

How did Quebec Students Mobilize Hundreds of Thousands for Strike?

Horton Hears an Idiot

This story in the Globe and Mail gets the story wrong, but the fact that a school administrator is sneaking around snooping in teachers’ cars to see what written materials they possess makes this story quite noteworthy. This Prince Rupert teacher wasn’t using Dr. Suess’ Yertle the Turtle in class, but instead was using a quote from Yertle in a meeting with management. Perhaps, by extension, the director of instruction for the Prince Rupert School District judged Yertle’s political message would creep into the classroom. Well, the question this begs is why wouldn’t one want kids to consider Yertle’s claim: “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights.” Equality is now ‘political’ and should not be a ‘value’ that we would want everyone to seriously consider? Theodor Geisel’s work, like many children’s book authors’ work, is not apolitical, nor should we expect it to be. Teaching about politics, discussing political ideas, developing political perspectives is what teachers ought to be doing… where else do children learn about ‘citizenship?’

The Biggest Student Uprising You’ve Never Heard Of

The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Biggest Student Uprising You’ve Never Heard Of
April 23, 2012, 5:32 am

By Marc Bousquet

250,000 students pack the streets in largest demo in Quebec history

A guest post by Lilian Radovac. (BTW, SoCal readers may want to know that Marc is speaking at UC-Irvine a 4 p.m. 4/23 on New Media/New Protests.)

On an unseasonably warm day in late March, aquarter of a million postsecondary students and their supporters gathered in the streets of Montreal to protest against the Liberal government’s plan to raise tuition fees by 75% over five years.  As the crowd marched in seemingly endless waves from Place du Canada, dotted with the carrés rouges, or red squares, that have become the symbol of the Quebec student movement, it was plainly obvious that this demonstration was the largest in Quebec’s, and perhaps Canadian, history.

The March 22nd Manifestation nationale was not the culmination but the midpoint of a 10-week-long student uprising that has seen, at its height, over 300,000 college and university students join an unlimited and superbly coordinated general strike.  As of today, almost 180,000 students remain on picket lines in departments and faculties that have been shuttered since February, not only in university-dense Montreal but also insmaller communities throughout Quebec.
Aerial news footage of the March 22nd Manifestation nationale