Category Archives: Student Movement

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

How did Quebec Students Mobilize Hundreds of Thousands for Strike?

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

“We want… education! When do we want it? Now!”

Detroit High School Protest: Students Suspended After Demanding ‘An Education’

About 50 students were suspended Thursday from the all-boys Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit, Mich. for walking out of classes in protest, demanding “an education.”

Among their complaints: a lack of consistent teachers, the reassignment of the school principal, educators who abuse sick time and a shortage of textbooks.

Secondary Students Assert Power at the BC Rallies

Over a three day stretch, secondary students organized, marched, walked, spoke, and shouted out against oppressive labour legislation in British Columbia and for their teachers and the BCTF.  It’s rare that secondary students get opportunities to unify as a political force at the provincial level, but now in this labour dispute the students are making a difference.  On Friday, 2 March, thousands of students walked out of their classes and schools and rallied across the province.  In Vancouver, the students descended en masse for a rally at the gallery.

On Tuesday, 6 March, at the BC Fed and BCTF rally hundreds of the youth marched with the unions down Government Street and to the steps of the BC Legislature.  For the crowd of 6,000, two young women, Hannah Case and Erin Galbraith, spoke a lotta truth to a power undermining their teachers’ rights.   In Vancouver, on 7 March for the rally at the gallery, secondary students Navi Rai and Melissa Wong stood together on the steps and voiced their support for the teachers’ rights and their right to a fair government.  Both were active in organizing Friday’s walkout.  And raising the roof of nature, Chandler McCorkingdale rapped.  Sorry, BC Liberals, the students and the public are standing with the teachers.

Now, where in the world are the missing BC post-secondary students, especially the Education majors?  Especially now?  I know that some are organizing online.   And I know that the Canadian Federation of Students BC is 100% behind the BCTF and the teachers.  But across three rallies not a single post-secondary student signed onto the speaker’s lists.  Not a single one spoke while thousands of the secondary students have shown their strength as a political force.  Perhaps UBC’s Teacher Education Officer John Yamamoto’s interview with the CBC’s Morning Edition on 7 March is telling.  Yamamoto advised that the Education students should, nay must, remain neutral.  Some advice for the teacher candidates– one gets the sense that he thinks he is advising 700 administration candidates!  Where are the post-secondary students and will the CFS BC organize the group to be heard or present?

BC Secondary Students Walk Out in Protest

It takes a ton of courage for a student to walk out of school and today these young citizens demonstrated en masse across the province.  Every teacher should stand proud as their students stand side by side with one voice.  Every parent of these kids should feel the payoff.  And the students themselves have to know they make the difference for all of us.  This is education (see slide show below).

At the Vancouver Art Gallery, at least 1,500 students convened around 2:00 and stood, spoke, and shouted in solidarity with teachers and the BCTF.  Students at Eric Hamber Secondary seem to have been the first group, exiting the school around 11:00 this morning.  Despite the typically uncooperative weather (5C and rainy), the students were still protesting through the late afternoon.

It has been quite some time since BC saw a student movement but what struck me most was how many showed up and how well organized the demonstration was.  These kids know their politics and how to win hearts.  Signs everywhere with the critique of the BC government’s decision-making loud and clear, a young woman kicked things off: “BC” she shouted and 1,500 hollered back “students”… “BC” she shouted and 1,500 screamed “teachers.”  That’s a solid show of force.

As post-secondary students in BC deal with compounding challenges that seem relentless, let’s hope the high school students spark this from grass roots to an all out BC student movement.  Quebec post-secondary students are putting everything on the line right now.  Time to take inspiration from the younger crowd to stand up and be heard BC post-secondary students!

BC Students Walk Out March 2012 Slide Show (photos by S. Petrina)

Petition in Support of BC Teachers / BCTF

Post-secondary Support of Teachers / BCTF Petition.

Faculty members, librarians, administrators, students, and staff in post-secondary institutions across British Columbia in support of teachers and the BCTF.  All bargaining units deserve a fair process of reaching a collective agreement.

This is for post-secondary to demonstrate support and appeal to the BC Premier and Minister of Education.  From ICES.