Category Archives: Working condition

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.

Workplace Issue #19 Launched

The Institute for Critical Education Studies is pleased to announce the launch of Workplace Issue #19, “Belonging and Non-Belonging: Costs and Consequences in Academic Lives.” The new issue is accessible at Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor.

This special issue represents powerful narrative analyses of academic lives– narratives that are sophisticated and sensitive, gut-wrenching and heart-rendering. “Belonging and Non-Belonging” was guest edited by Michelle McGinn and features a rich array of collaborative articles by Michelle, Nancy E. Fenton, Annabelle L. Grundy, Michael Manley-Casimira, and Carmen Shields.

Thank you for the continuing interest in Workplace and Critical Education.

Institute for Critical Education Studies
http://blogs.ubc.ca/ices/

School improvement in USA and Canada requires an ‘attitude adjustment’

We all want to live in Finland when it comes to education… well respected teachers, successful students, adequately funded schools, free higher education. Many are the educators, policy makers and politicians who make the pilgrimage to Finland looking for the major bullet, the key technique, the secret to success. In this op ed (What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform) Pali Salhsberg eloquently sets us all straight… there is no magic bullet. He identifies three key foundational starting points (and remedies) that make Finnish education what it is, which highlights our own fundamental shortcomings.

Funding of schools: Finnish schools are funded based on a formula guaranteeing equal allocation of resources to each school regardless of location or wealth of its community.

Well-being of children: All children in Finland have, by law, access to childcare, comprehensive health care, and pre-school in their own communities. Every school must have a welfare team to advance child happiness in school.

Education as a human right: All education from preschool to university is free of charge for anybody living in Finland. This makes higher education affordable and accessible for all.

There will be no simple copying of Finnish educational practices in hopes of achieving Finnish educational nirvana. Instead we need an attitude adjustment, different value positions that run counter to the individualist, capitalist values that permeate our current cultural contexts.

CFP Rouge Forum 2012 (Deadline April 15)

The Rouge Forum 2012 will be held at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The University’s picturesque campus is located 50 minutes northwest of Cincinnati. The conference will be held June 22-24, 2012.

Proposals for papers, panels, performances, workshops, and other multimedia presentations should include title(s) and names and contact information for presenter(s). The deadline for sending proposals is April 15.  The Steering Committee will email acceptance notices by May 1.

Read the Call for Proposals.

Featured speakers this year include Mike Prysner, Paul Street, and Susan Ohanian.

Call for papers special issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor (Graduate Studies and the Academic Labor Market)

Call for Papers:
Graduate Studies and the Academic Labor Market

Special Issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor 2012
Guest Editors: Bradley J. Porfilio, Julie A. Gorlewski, and Shelley J. Jensen

 Workplace invites and authors to submit papers for a special issue on Graduate Studies and the Academic Labor Market. What are the futures of the academic labor market for graduate students? Or more to the point, is there a future in academic labor for graduate students? Even a casual glance at The Chronicle of Higher Education and, in Canada, at the CAUT Bulletin and University Affairs, suggests a shrinking job market for PhDs. In some disciplines, academic careers have all but disappeared. Post-PhDs are increasingly tracked or streamed into adjunct and sessional appointments, most of which are dead-end and even on full time bases may amount to less than $25,000 per year. This “income” is oftten typically annulled by student loan payments; indeed, the income to debt ratio for post-PhDs adds to a heavy burden of anxiety. We readily romanticize the life of the intellectual, but – more and more – this life does not put food on the table. Food banks are becoming more and more common on university grounds and the lines are not limited to students.

  •  What is the nature of this phenomenon in higher education?
  •  What do these trends mean for the future of education and learning beyond mere technical training?
  •  How do economic hardships affect scholarly pursuits?
  •  How might graduate students reclaim their futures in the professoriate?
  •  What roles exist for the scholar activist – both novice and veteran?
  •  What other questions we should be asking?

The editors request abstracts for papers by September 15, 2012, with full drafts due by December 15, 2012.

For more information and due dates contact Brad Porfilio (porfilio16@aol.com)

Vancouver School Trustees show support for teachers

VSB Trustees Chair Patti Bacchus sent this letter to Premier Christy Clark urging the repeal of Bill 22.

ICES Delivers Petition to BC Legislature

At lunch hour today, we collated and delivered, to BC Premier Clark and Minister Abbott, 400+ signatures from faculty members, librarians, administrators, students, and staff in post-secondary institutions across the province in support of BC Teachers and the BCTF.  See Petition Site for more.

Thank you to all who helped circulate and signed this petition!  Your activism and presence make a difference.

 

BC Leg Bill 22 “Offences” Draconian

BC Legislature Bill 22, undermining teachers’ / BCTF rights to fair bargaining and job action.  BOO !

Offences:

(1) An employee, the BCTF or an officer of the BCTF or of a local of the BCTF or a representative of the BCTF or of a local of the BCTF, who contravenes section 3 (1) (b), (c) or (e), as the case may be, commits an offence and is liable to the following:

(a) in the case of an employee, a fine amount of not more than $475 for each day on which the offence occurs;

(b) in the case of the BCTF, a fine amount of not less than $1.3 million for each day on which the offence occurs;

(c) in the case of an officer of the BCTF or of a local of the BCTF or a representative of the BCTF or of a local of the BCTF, a fine amount of not less than $2 500 for each day on which the offence occurs.

BC Federation of Labour Plans Rally & Petition

The BC Fed is Rallying at the Legislature, moving on a massive petition, and planning rallies around the province.  Support the Teachers / Stand up for BC !!!