We 3903s killed the rat. Whooped and hollered victory from tops of our lungs. Partied all over pummeling York symbolically — and Alex Bilyk physically. What, then, has consternated our carousing? Why now do we grind and gnash our teeth?
Seems as if the mediator might have threatened us with legislation pending over our heads. Unless, that is, we get real — fast. And what have we ever done to deserve such vicious mediation? It isn’t even conceivable asking innocent ideologues like us to get real.
Kidding aside. The following 3903 chatter just got forwarded my way. Hinging on personal leaning and inclination, you can read it and laugh — or weep.
I am at a loss to understand the massive drop in our demands, especially in the face of the absolute intransigence of the employer. Our membership has spoken very clearly on rejecting the “ballpark” that the York admin wants us to play in, and it is an outrage that we are moderating our demands in this fashion. I can understand why the BT and even radical rank-and-file members are breaking down at this point, but this kind of capitulation will destroy our union and our capacity to take anything positive out of this strike as it will completely demoralize our activist base — something that has been broadened and deepened in the course of the strike, and which would be massively consolidated if we win. We need to do everything we can to withdraw these proposals if at all possible, and people need to take a break from negotiating and step back from the brink before it is too late!
In my estimation, it would be a far worse thing for us to break our own strike by giving away all of our desperately needed demands (including fighting the science claw back, the unit three minimum guarantee, and of course job security) then for us to get legislated back to work.. It’s one thing for the government to step in and break our strike, and quite another thing for us to break our own strike especially after so many long cold days of sacrifice.
If we organize we can develop the capacity to actually fight back to work legislation on the picket lines. What we need is a massive turnout from unionists and social movement activists to join us on our lines and to hold the lines in defiance of back to work legislation. Yes, that will mean the union being fined and people going to jail, but if we can stress the broader significance of our struggle in the context of fighting neoliberalism we can get those numbers, and we could actually make this strike a key turning point in the fight against the corporatization of our campuses. 3903 has been a key ally to folks in the Palestinian liberation struggle, to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, to various indigenous struggles, to groups like No One Is Illegal, etc. etc. All of these allies have the capacity to bring out
hundreds of supporters to our lines if we stress how important it is to have them.
If we were to be legislated back to work, and tens of thousands of students came back to campus, but we stood firm and with our allies, and kept our picket lines up even in the face of state repression, we could cause York such a massive PR disaster and so much chaos and confusion on campus, we could force a political crisis that would win our demands. If we organize with this conception, it will also make it much less likely that the Liberals will even consider doing it.
The major problem with this whole issue of back to work legislation is that so many of our members — even the most radical — can’t seem to consider that we could actually organize and mobilize in such a way as to defeat back to work legislation on the picket lines by standing strong. This is how the union movement has historically our major victories, and if we are serious about winning a major victory, then we have to be prepared to do this. This will only happen if we make the political argument to our own members and to our allies across the city that we need their support in order to take this course of action. I think we have 300 to 400 members that would hold the lines in the face of back to work legislation and be willing to get arrested for doing so. I think that we have another 300 members that would watch from the sidelines and be there for moral support but would not be willing or able to be arrested. I think we could get similar numbers of participants and observers from our social movement allies if we start organizing for this now.
Even if we lost in a context of having our lines physically crushed by the state and having hundreds of our members and supporters arrested on the picket lines we would create such a situation of crisis for York that they would for many years in the future seek to appease us by giving us much improved contracts. It would also strengthen and greatly developed the activist base that is so crucial for building union power both in our own local and other workplaces. And we wouldn’t be going back to work accepting a shitty deal that is even worse than the one our membership rejected in the forced ratification, one that we ourselves would have crammed down our own throats.
Can everything this 3903 member calls for happen? Can any of it? Maybe it can. But I highly doubt it will. Because we 3903s still haven’t decided whether to strike for the best interests of our own membership — or whether to ideologically go striking all out against York. Far too many of us still think we can do both. Which is why, despite the horrific damage we’ve done to every aspect of the York community, our strike action remains such a farce. Seriously. It’s funny. And if you don’t get what the joke is, read my Post comment below. Written all the way back on November 14th. I think you’ll get it. What the joke is with why and how striking we 3903s get.
“Talks between York and striking union break down”? Of course they do.
Don’t get me wrong. As a contract faculty member at York I’d love some job security. It’s worse than medieval how York treats contract faculty. Even back in dark ages, after 10 years’ faithful service servants likely received at least some security and recognition from whatever masters they served. Not so at York. Not when it comes to contract faculty.
But can this strike help contract faculty? Help anyone? Of course not. This strike can offer no relief except comic. Comic relief.
Imagine you’re checking out computers at a store. And one computer, price listed $450, catches your eye. So you go to the retail counter and ask to negotiate the price. Because you don’t have $450.
The counter-clerk agrees to negotiate and asks how much you’ve got. You reply: “$39.33.”
The clerk looks you up and down — then directs you leave the store. And don’t come back until you’re prepared to negotiate. Since your absurd offer totally contradicts what you asked in the first place. To negotiate that computer you liked.
And that’s how this strike is. All about impossible demands — not about negotiating or anyhow compromising. The sides are so far apart they might as well be babbling different languages.
This strike is ideological. I’ve heard more than once, within 3903, how we’ll bring the employer to its knees. And you know what? I can get up for a good fight. Lots of us are eager for the good fight. But if we are to strike any blows against exploitation of workers everywhere — then let’s get clear that’s what we’re doing. Let’s let this neo-liberal exploiter know not to bother with offers — since we won’t even try choking them down. This here is a matter of principle. We’ve shut York exploitation down before — this time we’ll do it again and more besides.
Otherwise, if not in pursuit of ideals or ideologies, if it’s about the best pragmatic interests of the membership here and now — then let’s try negotiating like intelligent life forms.
Let’s either negotiate that computer reasonably — or do what needs doing to shut the computer store down. But let’s stop contradicting and humiliating ourselves doing both. Let’s not be offering $39.33 for anything listed $450. No positive relief can result from humiliating ourselves that way. Nothing but comic relief.