STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT! The Didactic Express, Day 24

The TA’s at my university are the lowest paid in Canada, living in a city with the second-highest cost of living, and we have been working without contracts for the past two years. The provincial government has imposed cutbacks on higher education, which administration has decided ought to be paid for out of sessional instructors’ salaries.

You may well think that this would provoke outrage from our union–and, indeed, you would be completely right. Our union is pissed-off; however, its membership, for whatever reason, seems to be largely apathetic.

This, at least is what I gathered during our meeting over the lunch hour today. I don’t usually attend such meetings, but this billed itself as being an “emergency.” When I inquired as to what the emergency was, I was told “We’re going to have a strike vote.”

I’ve never been to a strike vote before! And once I had the issues explained to me (especially with regard to the state of our negotiations), I came to the conclusion that a strike was the way to go. And as it happened, I’d never been to a strike vote before! I imagined it as being like that scene in Billy Elliot where the coal miners in some hardscrabble town in Northern England walked off the job. You know: angry union organizers shouting harangues at the audience to fits of thunderous applause and pumping of fists, followed by a montage of labour unrest to the accompaniment of “London Calling” by The Clash.

No such luck.

Only a few dozen members of the union even bothered to come out, and so rather than having a strike vote, I was treated to an hour’s worth of rather milquetoasty debate as to why everyone else was so apathetic.

*sigh*

Anyways, at least it taught me today’s moral lesson:

Life may not be like the movies, but sometimes it really ought to be.

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About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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One Response to STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT! The Didactic Express, Day 24

  1. As a former union organizer, I know that it is a huge strategic mistake even to talk about the strike vote unless you have done intense personal 1-on-1 organizing with every member of the union for at least a month before the vote. It is more helpful to do 3 months of organizing. If you have regular organizing activities, then it is possible to get people to come out to vote almost on the spur of a moment. But in order to do that, every member should know who their organizer is and feel her or his breath on their tail every second of the day. Then you can mobilize fast.

    So what I’m trying to say is that union members’ apathy is, in my opinion, always a result of the unconvincing efforts on the part of organizers.

    “angry union organizers shouting harangues at the audience to fits of thunderous applause and pumping of fists, followed by a montage of labour unrest to the accompaniment of “London Calling” by The Clash.”

    – Minus The Clash, this is precisely how it was at my union meetings. 🙂 We did have montages and harangues.

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