Baseball Title Strike One: The Aftermath 

Strike One: The YUFA Grand Strike of 1997


In this last section, we see some of the aftermath of the strike, for a period of just over five weeks after the settlement. We came together as a union and made it stronger. We provided safe places for people to interact and discuss across the campus, as we never had before. We kept up some of the light hearted silly banter and some of the serious sarcasm. We kept talking on YUFA-L, although our numbers did drop as we went back to work. We went back to our classrooms, heads high. We found students eager to hear about the insides of a strike. I still love teaching, but it no longer defines who I am. We went back to Senate, with varying results. In Atkinson, we elected a union-friendly dean. We did a lot of analyzing of where we had been and where we should be going in the future. We found ways to deal with our anger out of the terrible settlement we had to accept, and we helped each other find ways to move into the future.

Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 00:22:14
To: Katherine Cisneros
Subject: Re: No Permission

Oooh, I just heard lovely Katherine of the Pond say this very thing tonight. It is such a great phrase and one of which I shall make good use in the future: I don’t give you permission to involve me in your struggle.

Katherine, thank you, and the Handsome Strike Organizer, so much for your loving attention tonight. It helped immeasurably. I continue to be astounded at the men who cannot abide my hard hat. It is definitely a problem for them. Their problem. Their struggle. They no longer have my permission to involve me.

Frog in a Hardhat


Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 13:40:42
Subject: Re: Payment to Administrators and YUFA Members I know that one doesn’t automatically get back-pay when a strike settles, but it is something that the employer usually offers to help smooth the way back to decent labour-management relations. But as Lucy Elliott said it, our employer has been mean-spirited to the bitter end. Robert Edwards said it too, when he said in the newspaper interview that the reason the Union Negotiating Committee had finally recommended that we ratify the employer’s offer was that the administration was simply unwilling to compromise. They came to the table with an offer; we went on strike for 55 days, and the final offer was little different. Yes, we got money for Equity, which is great. I was astounded to learn that the average female York faculty member earns $13,500 less than her male counterpart.

I know we had to ratify or destroy the summer session and irreparably damage the university, but it doesn’t mean we all have to vote yes, and I was one of the 179 who voted No.


Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 14:55:53
Subject: First Day in Class What worked best for getting back into the classroom?: speaking openly, telling students who I am and where I stood in the strike; reassuring them, and giving them as much information as they would take; opening discussion for them, answering any and all questions.

I went back to teaching yesterday afternoon and evening. I was terrified, because only yesterday did I experience my first burning rage over this strike, and I did not want to take that rage into the classroom. The first class was fairly easy, a fourth-year honours seminar with almost all the work completed; they were supportive of my union’s stand, and they soothed away my anger.

My real worry was my “traditional” evening business class, Introductory Marketing. How would they take to a unionized professor, these students of management? What kind of abuse would I be subjected to? How would they feel about my new dark T-shirt saying “The Struggle Continues”?

Well, I guess maybe in a few short eight weeks, I had forgotten how wonderful they are. I told them that I was now working for free, I told them why I, and my union, went out on strike, I told them about the lousy settlement, and I put figures on the board to remind them of how “average” salaries are computed ($30,000 for the Humanities professor with 17 years of post-secondary education and $175,000 for President Boone). I told them how much this strike had personally cost me in lost wages, but reassured them that in three years I would get a one percent raise. They’re business students; they know about profit and loss statements, and about net present value tables.

I spoke with no notes, a skill I finally learned during the strike where, on the picket lines without anything with which to write, I had to learn how to remember without writing it down. I spoke with no microphone and my voice filled the hall. I walked, I paced, I looked them in the eye. They sat there, rapt, quiet, thoughtful. I paced and I looked at them, still wondering how they would take it. When I finished, they applauded me. Then I gave them the sweetener: an optional take-home exam only if they weren’t happy with their current marks. I’m not putting the full deal in writing, I know Betty reads my e-mail (hi Betty, how ya doin’?)

And then, I perched on the edge of the table at the front of the room, still in my hard hat and lumberman’s jacket, and I told them quietly and with great passion in my voice, how the strike had not been all bad. I told them of the good things about being out on the picket lines together. I told them about getting to know colleagues I had worked with for 17 years but never really spoken to. I told them about building a union which was going to make York University a place we could be proud to teach in and proud to have graduated from. I told them about the students who brought us donuts and coffee and walked with us. I told them the story of my hard hat, which they first met in Week 8 of this course when I do my Channels of Distribution lecture. I told them of the absolute thrill of holding back 4,000 pounds of automobile with only your body. They laughed with me. They eased up. They let go. They asked dozens of questions, few of them to do with grades, lots of them philosophical: what did you go out for? How do you compare it to an industrial strike? What did you really win?

My main job last night was to reassure them that, since we went out in the first place to make the university a better place for students, we sure weren’t prepared to make their lives any more difficult now that we were all back. When we finished class, two dozen or so of them lined up to shake my hand. Good thing I’m a hardened union type, or I might have cried.


Date: Sat, 17 May 1997 21:33:33
Subject: Re: Article 14 and its Aftermath

Indeed, Luke, we are all now distinguished professors, having distinguished ourselves repeatedly on YUFA-L. I distinguished myself recently; you should have seen me crossing the street downtown to see the movie “Kissed.” I simply stopped traffic, both ways, as I chose to cross over. Bert said it was a wonder I wasn’t arrested for jay-walking, but I have to say, it felt great. So, yes, distinguished, I will take the title, yes, thank you.


Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 10:49:59
Subject: Re: Deliberations Concerning the Senate Reactions to comments by Pete Walters on Senate: the fact that the Senate system is a “quagmire” is why we need to get YUFA-friendly professors onto Senate committees.

The real work of Senate gets done at the committee levels. A “good Senate Meeting” is one in which nitpicking debate is minimal because the main work has already been done in the committees. We have to be on those committees. As we control more of what comes to Senate from the committees, there will be more angry administrators wanting to have their say, and, assuming we have by then re-organized the place so that they can only speak, we have only to graciously allow them to have their say, then pass our legislation. This is not to say that Senate should be a rubber stamp. But it will be the final body to approve the work which is done in its name. It is crucial that we have done that work before it gets to Senate.

Yes, committee work burns up time. But just as the literature search of distribution journals pales in comparison to the excitement of getting into the big rig to interview the trucker (my current research project), we must do both. The bureaucratic work is also our work, and, as we have learned over the last many years culminating in the strike, we have at our peril allowed the administration to do it for us. It has been shown in Senate, over and over, that very little that happens at this university is unrelated to our teaching and research.

Every job is important. Every committee is important. If we took over the formal Senate completely tomorrow, without also taking over its life-supplying arteries, the hard working, slogging, sometimes boring work of the committees, we would have little more than we have now.


Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 15:46:09
To: Dan Housman
Subject: Thanks

I remain astounded by those of you who were on sabbatical and still turned out on the picket lines in the full force that made us what we were and will continue to be in YUFA. I too look forward to working with you when you return. I thank you too for your good words. Yours often came when I had inadvertently (or advertently) offended, and were always a joy to me. I wish for you a wonderful trip.


Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 17:58:01
Subject: Re: New Computer Programme

No, Gunther, it does not seem odd at all that the adoption of the new computer programme was undertaken despite vigorous opposition from the Department of Computer Science and Mathematics. Think, man, think, of how many decisions were made over the last many years by administrative offices which took in no way whatsoever into consideration the professors who would be involved or the professionals who might know something about it.
Fellow Sentinel Walker with Gunther Bellamy


Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 22:33:34
To: YUFA-L Subject: Help with Nightmares Okay, I guess it’s time to ask the old electronic YUFA-L hand-holding help-line for help. Does anyone else from the picket lines still have the nightmares that wake me stark out of the bed, screaming, grabbing at whatever is at hand to protect myself and my loved ones from the invading beings coming through my door and my windows and my walls?

If it’s only me, I’ll call a shrink, but honest to god, I’m afraid to go to bed still. Feel free to respond privately if you’re afraid they’ll get you if you speak aloud.


Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 10:47:31
To: Carl Falconer
Subject: Re: Help with Nightmares

Carl, thank you so much for writing. I did get some help from some friends, Katherine Cisneros among them who said I must shake hands with my demons, and I did sleep better last night.

Thank you for your admiration of my risk-taking; I’ve always called myself a low- or non-risk taker, but in teaching about risk in my gender issues course, I’ve come to realize that there are often gender-based differences in the kinds of risk-taking we do. So, yes, while most men on YUFA-L talk male-fashion about strategy, I guess I do take a risk in talking about my feelings, loves, and dreams. But the strike gave me that ability; I hope I do not lose it once all this is over.


Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 21:55:48
To: Nicole Jeffreys
Subject: Re: The Strike From the Students’ Viewpoint

Thanks, dear Nicole, laughing and dancing on the Pond. It was great to see you again today too. I shall try hard not to lose the bluntness you admire and not to learn to hold back, but I wonder what it will all be like once we are back awhile.

Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 08:54:22
Subject: Re: BOG and Associate Deans

I worked closely with Sean Paulson in Senate when I was Chair and admired him tremendously. I can testify that Sean is no rat; he’s not even a mouse. So go tuck your whiskers away out of sight, Sean.


Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 08:33:41
Subject: Re: I Know a Dark Secluded Place...

Dear Emma, it was an absolutely splendid evening. I was deeply honoured to have the opportunity to dance with you. My, but it was a late evening!
(you KNOW which L!)


Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 08:34:45
To: Eugene Myers
Subject: Re: Hey

Emma Darling, there are no words, just no words for what you gave me last evening. I was charmed to be able to be the gentleman who escorted Emma as she first waltzed openly on a dance floor.


Date: Fri, 23 May 1997 19:01:02
To: Nicole Jeffreys
Subject: Re: Senate Meeting

Moi?! Exhibitionist par excellence of the dance floor!? Me who has bandied my passion for Darcy and for you about the YUFA-L like it was True Confessions? You are worried about having made something of mine public? Do Not Worry! I said it months ago on YUFA-L; Anything I write, I assume the world will read. Also, Nicole, it was writing openly on YUFA-L that I finally got to acknowledge and grieve for my father’s death. Zach Conway may not have been impressed, but that’s his problem.

Now, just between you and me, I will admit to having written a few notes that I would not want made public. But you have my permission to use anything of mine at any time. I trust your judgment.

We live on a ravine, and do see the occasional fox and lots of raccoons. The fox was just exquisite, although a little thin. Hope she finds food.

I love the idea of the monthly gathering of Pondlings; I’ll be coming.
Frog of the Pond


Date: Fri, 23 May 1997 19:03:43
Subject: Re: “Doing Other Things”

I agree with Nicole, Richard and Haywood (Me Four!) Once again, we are taking a phrase and using it as our own, just as we did with Perry’s label, “YUFA-Senators.” Someone in the paycheque line today said that in the next strike, the first button is going to read “Doing Other Things.” I also heard that Genius Perry said of YUFA strikers that he hopes we “Crawl back into our holes.” Nice people, these York Administrators.


Date: Sat, 24 May 1997 10:42:24
Subject: Being on the Line Paige, I did not read Estelle’s question as a questioning of your dedication to YUFA. There are over a thousand faculty members at York and there were eight gates in the strike. We simply can’t know everybody, and so, when for voting purposes we need to know who “walked with us,” we ask, as Estelle did. You yourself say to her, “Ask anyone in History and Humanities.” That’s what she was doing, asking. With regard to the division between who went out on strike and who did not, it is going to be a crucial question over the next number of years, and it is going to be asked.

Those of us who are working to change Senate from within with renewed membership that cares about YUFA’s issues are asking only: did s/he walk with us? If the answer is yes, we don’t care specifically how many hours he walked or whether she “walked” physically or by sitting at the Strike Headquarters telephone, a job which to my mind is far more difficult. I took one call at Headquarters one day from one abusive mother of a student and headed right back out to the picket lines. God bless those of you who had more fortitude than I.

You were out with us, Paige. That’s all Estelle wanted to know. It does matter and will continue to matter.


Date: Sat, 24 May 1997 11:17:04
Subject: Re: Being on the Line

Frank, your image of YUFA-L being all of us wandering about our house having a familial conversation is beautiful. We’ve taken back the university; let’s make it fully ours. You are right that our profession is so individualist that we need something like the house image of YUFA-L. It reminds me of an early posting of Horatio Taglieri’s about how the excitement of the picket lines, the busy off-campus offices, the meetings in our homes, and the overall “theatre” the strike generated is providing something we have not seen in many years at York, a sense “that York is us – not as employees, but as house-holders.” How’re you doing this morning? Sleep well?


Date: Sat, 24 May 1997 11:19:56
Subject: Re: Being on the Line
Drew, I’m more inclined to believe that the drop in YUFA-L subscribers is due to other activities which are now resuming. I, for example, am teaching two summer courses, and dusting off my hard hat and steel-toed boots for an interview with another trucker.


Date: Sat, 24 May 1997 11:36:26
Subject: Re: Being on the Line

Can you second your own seconded thoughts? I second Horatio on this: we don’t need witch hunts. I have seen the faces of some of my scabbing colleagues, and some are desolate and grim, sad and gray. A colleague in Psychology describes it as “cohesion envy.” They have seen what we-who-went-out-together have become, and they are envious. Our hosts at The Grille said of the YUFA party at The Grille that they have never seen such love and happiness in all their years here. Maybe next time the sad gray faced colleagues will decide to join us and then they can be happy too. Let’s ask, to be sure. But let’s keep open minds.

Now, Frank, if you’ll get out of the shower in this crowded virtual household, it’s my turn! Jeanne, thanks for heating up the coffee; now I’ll try to get back to a normal Saturday life.


Date: Sat, 24 May 1997 11:47:34
Subject: Re: Being on the Line

Lamont Ackerman has put his finger on a major difference here. For those who went back from the picket lines to a supportive, generally union department, YUFA-L will not perhaps be as important anymore. For those of us who went back to departments where the greater number of our colleagues scabbed and were proud of it, YUFA-L is still a life-line. In my own department, where only a few out of some twenty were full strike supporters, nobody has even mentioned the “other thing.” I did hear, in confidence, from a trusted staff member, however, that it was being said of me that “she’s back, and she’s very militant.” This warmed my heart. But nothing warms my heart as much as the sharing I find on the YUFA-L. If somebody does decide to ban personal correspondence and comments, well, heck, we’ll just have to start a new list.

Keep writing, friends. You never know whose soul you may be saving in the dark night of worries and professional ostracism.
Loving, and loving to be able to be so after 17 frigid years at York.


Date: Sun, 25 May 1997 10:10:41
To: Hope Stafford
Subject: Re: Documenting the Strike

One of the wonderful gifts of the strike for me was an ability to live my life more openly, acting and speaking and writing publicly without worrying whether everyone would still love me if I said what I really meant and did what I really wanted to do. A great gift for one’s fiftieth year.


Date: Sun, 25 May 1997 10:29:21
To: Teresa Herbert
cc: YUFA-L
Subject: Re: Being on the Line I too worried about it’s being wishy-washy to feel sorry for the non-strikers/scabs, Teresa, but have been doing it anyway. I truly do feel more sorrow for them than anger. The phrase that helped me most is “Welcome back.” I found myself furious on the day we marched back in, that people who thought they owned the university because I had walked out, said to me, “Welcome back.” So I started saying to them, “Let me welcome you back, because it’s a new university and it’s never going to be the same as it was,” and then found I was no longer angry.

By the way, I want to say publicly what a great thing I thought you did, starting up the fund of strike pay donated by those who did not desperately need it, for the sake of those who did.


Date: Mon, 26 May 1997 14:06:51
To: YUFA-L Subject: Decanal Election

All of you who followed the Decanal Election from its earlier days when we discovered that candidate Hal Bryson was out walking the picket lines while candidate Julian Brown was abstaining, figuring he might be called for higher things, will be pleased to hear that Atkinson now has a new head: Dean Hal Bryson.

Date: Tue, 27 May 1997 10:03:24
Subject: Re: Important Message (this is not chat) My paycheque too was better than I expected, and so will be the paycheques of my scabbing colleagues. And, when I put myself forward for the position of Union Steward in my department, I intend to remind the scabs that they owe that increase to those of us who went out on strike. This is probably the most galling aspect of scabbing. They get their full pay, and they get the benefits that we won by putting our salaries, careers, and lives on the line.

Ah well, t’is a good thing it was such a soul warming experience or I might get angry.


Date: Tue, 27 May 1997 15:31:25 To: YUFA-L
Subject: Don’t Write “I Won’t Write”
Okay, let me rephrase the invitation: To those of you who are concerned about how the lack of administrative support at York hinders your teaching and would like to do something more than just gripe about it, send me your stories, and I shall collate them, with an eye to eventually doing something formal through YUFA, if I get enough of them.

Those of you who do not wish to spend any time writing up any stories, please, for heaven’s sake, don’t bother to do so. But you could save me some of my precious time by not bothering to write to me to tell me why you don’t want to write to tell me. Now I am curious why three people have written to essentially suggest that I not do this; this makes me curious. Why wouldn’t someone write about lack of administrative support?

The idea arose out of a deluge of writings on the YUFA-L by people desperate for some sort of help on things which make their jobs so difficult and which could, in many instances be fixed with a minimum of effort. My own department has actively discouraged for decades any questioning of the facilities and support systems which are supposed to help us in our work lives.

Yes, we need to tackle the big jobs. But we also need to tackle the small ones. The motto for Senate during the strike was “step by step by step by step.” We did not walk into Senate one day and take over. We will not change this university by walking in one day and taking over. We will effect change by taking the small steps, one by one, and the bigger steps as we can.


Date: Tue, 27 May 1997 16:34:48
Subject: Senate Executive Meeting Changed

I forward this from Griffin re: the Senate Executive meeting. It gives details of what’s on the agenda. The meeting is now scheduled from noon to 2:00 in South Ross 821, tomorrow, Wednesday, May 28, starting immediately after the union meeting from 10:00 to 12:00. Yes, they had to change their meeting time, not the other way round. As it should be.


Date: Tue, 27 May 1997 20:09:07
Subject: The Struggle Continues
I taught last night. A friendly colleague wrote on e-mail to ask, why on earth are you still at York at 10:30 p.m.? My answer, because I teach from 7:00-10:00. Anyway, I disabused my students of the notion of “bad words.” I told them that a former student (from Winter 1997) had come by my office that very afternoon and spoken, supportively, of the problem with “the situation.” I quickly informed him, I told my students, sitting there all 97 of them in a third-year class without even a T.A., that he needn’t apologize and that he could use such words as “strike.” I then wrote three honourable words on the board:


and we talked about all of these words and what they mean for the future of our university. Make no mistake, colleagues, these were business students, and this was a class in introductory marketing, and they heard me and listened, and, if the line-up at the end of the 10:00 p.m. class to chat with me were any indication, they wanted to talk, and supportively.



Date: Wed, 28 May 1997 20:14:14
Subject: Re: Strike Pay

Hey, this is a joke, right? You’re pulling my leg, right? I left off teaching for 8 short weeks to offer my services to my university through working with my union to try to make York into a decent place in which to work and study and learn, and I lost pay for that, and now they want to know whether I was double-dipping?

I do have my goddam MBA and if you want to do balance sheets, we’ll do them. I’m currently out about $5,000, but it’s a steal for the deal I got. Build me a UNION! Send me the bill! Only $5,000? A steal! A deal! I’ll take it! Sign me up!


Date: Wed, 28 May 1997 20:21:45
Subject: Re: Being on the Line

There are two simple replies to your worries about keeping alive the feeling of belonging and camaraderie that we felt on the picket lines. First, if we all go back to business as usual, then we deserve the state we will live in. Period. Second, if lots of people lose interest, there will still be a small core of those of us who will not.

As one who spent 17 years at York playing a role that wasn’t really me, working hard to impress people I did not respect, just because they held power over me, being so lonesome that I sometimes closed my office door and cried, I can only cite for you the words of Rita MacNeil, from “Working Man,” which I still play as I drive through the Sentinel Gate into work:

“And I swear to God if I ever see the sun
Or for any length of time
I can hold it in my mind
I never again will go down underground.”

Never again.


Date: Fri, 30 May 1997 07:01:05
Subject: Report on May 29 Senate Meeting

The Senate meeting today was the rip-roaring, rowdy, rude meeting we all wanted to have last week, but were initially too polite to do. A hearty Thank You to the graduate students for initiating it. Perhaps, somehow, it was as if, because it was really the graduate students group meeting, the faculty felt released to say what they really wanted to say. The administration came in, trying to act as if it were “Business as Usual,” and clearly determined to punish the graduate students for their support of the strike. The students and faculty simply refused them this privilege. The graduate students’ group put forward six motions. We won all but one, which even our own Herb Morgan said was probably out of order on a technicality. The lesson is this:


We started with a motion to waive all library fines accumulated during the strike. The University Librarian made an incredible fool of herself, speaking at length about how the Library’s policy on fines was actually in the interest of fairness for students because some poor suckers would have already paid their fines and how unfair it would be for them if others now did not have to. She also elaborated on how badly the Library needs the money. Despite one student’s cogent observation that he had always been told that fines were only to “help circulation” and had nothing to do with revenues, TUL Kessler continued to insist that they do indeed count the fines money in the library budget.

I could go on and on; she certainly did. Gus came to her defense. It was pathetic, really. In a clear and obvious effort to further completely distance himself from the students and faculty, he blew what might have been a chance to mend some fences. In the end, they lost it; we voted to support this motion, and the others as well. In each instance, it was amazing to watch the hands go up for the “NO” vote. There they sat, all the administrators, Gus, Betty, Julian, MizNada, Sesspool, Genius, the whole little tribe, voting openly and publicly over and over to try once again to make miserable the lives of our students. They did not succeed.

But the joy of the day was that we recouped what we didn’t get in the May 22 meeting. We stood up and we talked back. Remember when, last week, Herb Morgan, Brad Harold, and Horatio Taglieri all asked pointed questions of Betty Boone, and she ignored us? Well, today she did not get to ignore us. Brad Harold spoke passionately about the issue of support for students. Betty interrupted the speaker’s list to ask Julian to let her respond to Sam. When Brad asked to rebut, Julian said No. Well, last week, we were really very polite; we weren’t this week. Brad Harold rose up to his full height and voice and took on first Julian for allowing the administration to speak whenever it wanted, and then Betty for jumping the queue, and then went on to rebut Betty as he had asked to be allowed to do.

Horatio Taglieri then took Betty to task for her insulting, demeaning suggestion that the students had not prepared for this meeting. Herb got his licks in too, with both Betty and the University Librarian. Nobody really had to take on Gus. We just handed him a length of rope and watched him hang himself right there from the rafters of Senate. Nada Kessler was pathetic, but also a little scary, a little like the rottweiler in your neighbour’s yard. She was on the employer’s negotiating team; again, thanks and admiration to our Team who faced this daily. TUL Kessler simply refused to see reality.

There was an incredibly naive defense from the administration as to why they did not want students on the President’s Policy Committee. The student who seconded the motions was eloquent on this issue, pointing out that the administration complained so often about financial matters constantly being brought up in Senate. Maybe, he suggested, if we had student representatives on this committee, they wouldn’t have to bring these issues up in Senate, which, as of now, is the only place they do have to do so.

Regina Loeb from Environmental Studies gave a stunning speech on start of term versus start of classes. It goes something like this: if you’re going to have a strike, go ahead and start the term, but not the classes; this will make everything okay. Regina Loeb did not join the three of us from Senate Executive who said enthusiastically to the Senate, Yes, vote to censure the failure of Senate Executive to submit to Senate the decision to begin the Graduate Studies summer session on May 1.

Near the end of the meeting, Julian said that he would end the debate on the last motion by speaking to it himself, then letting the student senator have the last word. One of the costs of being Chair of Senate is that you do not get to speak in debate. I know; I had to be quiet for a whole year, facing Maurice Williams. We challenged Julian on this and he finally withdrew. Horatio Taglieri, in his usual gracious way then suggested that perhaps we could find a way to let Julian speak, and Herb proposed moving to Committee of the Whole. The point is important here: Julian got to speak, not by bullying his way but through the proper channels, and it was YUFA Senators who saw to it that he did it in this way. Step by step by step by step we are taking Senate back.

But the day belongs to the graduate students’ group Senator, mover of the motions, who spoke eloquently without ever losing her cool. She stood up to the Chair, to President Boone, to Vice President Barlow. She stood up on every issue, calmly, quietly, forcefully, eloquently. Near the end, when Julian was trying one more time to get her to accept an unfriendly amendment, you could see her simply shaking her head, and Julian did not even dare to ask.

It was a good day in Senate. It also was an honour of which I can barely even manage to pick out the keys to write, to sit on the lily pads with two of the women of the Pond, Katherine and Nicole. Soon-to-be-Senator Nicole Jeffreys proved her value already. When I argued with Julian Brown that I knew I was right about not being able to speak as Chair of Senate because Griffin Conrad had taught me that, I whispered to Nicole that maybe I should suggest that there were different rules for girls and boys. Nicole hit me and told me to shut up. Nicole, sit by me always.

Now I am off to bed. I’m sicker than I was the first days of the picket lines, and I left my husband with an immobilizing back injury lying alone on the living room floor in order to come to Senate. Any other meeting, I’d have stayed home. But I knew I had to be at Senate to stand with the students who stood so firmly with us. And my god, am I glad I did. It was a great day. Step by step by step by step. Today we took some leaps.


Date: Sat, 31 May 1997 10:32:43
To: Nicole Jeffreys
Subject: Thanks, Nicole

Thanks, sweet Nicole. I’m near tears reading your supportive note. I’m off to see Bert soon. They said I can come early. I’m one of those “nursemaid” visitors who save the nurses tons of work because I take over his care myself.

The doctor who finally diagnosed him, a woman, listened to me about the painkillers, went immediately to the nursing station and changed the orders for the timing and intensity. Nicole, the older I get, the more I trust women. The older male head surgeon was almost obnoxious. I had to interrupt him twice to tell him that Bert was trying to tell him something. I liked your joke: the difference between a doctor and God? God knows he’s not a doctor. Thanks for the ear, Nicole.


Date: Tue, 03 Jun 1997 21:10:09
Re: The YUFA-L Lifeline

Last Thursday, I wrote a report on Senate, in which I mentioned that I had left my husband immobilized with back pain on the floor of our living room in order to attend Senate with the Graduate Students who stood so firmly with us during the strike.

What I haven’t told you publicly yet, although I’ve told a good number of you privately, is that my beloved husband is still flat on his back, but in hospital, unable to move one inch, in excruciating pain, so much that I cannot touch him, and so doped up on pain killers that he hardly knows who I am. They had to come get him off the floor with an ambulance and three strong men. He could not move. They don’t know what is wrong, except that it’s probably his lower back, but it may be the entire back. They don’t know what will happen to him. They don’t have anything they can do for him. They don’t even have pain killers strong enough to really control his pain.

This is the man who is the love of my life, with whom I have shared the past fifteen years, the man who loves me so much that he tolerates my flirtations and my passions and my adoration of teaching at Atkinson which keeps me out all kinds of crazy hours and makes a family life very difficult. I am scared to death. I am sick with worry. I am hanging on “by the shreds of my fingernails,” with none left to cut off and smoke. I now also have the sole care of our twelve-year-old son who is also desperate.

The point of my message here is that if I did not know these people from their public postings on YUFA-L, I would not have known them well enough to ask them for their help. It’s easy for some of you to say, Oh, the YUFA-L is too crowded, stop talking; do it privately. Well, my answer to that is, we do a lot of it privately. The 387 messages credited to me that one week are only my public ones; I have no idea of how many private ones I sent in that same time. But the point is, how, I ask you, would I have known to whom I could write without having gotten to know them through their public postings on YUFA-L?

Would I just look up the L’s in the York Directory and pick Jeanne Loden out randomly without knowing that she had experiences that would help me understand mine? Would I wander over to the Fine Arts building and knock randomly on doors until I found a Nicole Jeffreys and a Katherine Cisneros of the Pond? Would I have stumbled over Edmond Lyons, a stalwart emotional support, as a retired professor working in the library, without having met him on the YUFA-L and done silliness with him over southern ladies and handsome confederate soldiers, and keyboards sloshing with Scotch? And now he’s not writing on YUFA-L because he was hurt by the accusation of writing too often. Kyd Carter, Handsome Strike Organizer: would I have just run into him in the faculty dining room and known that I could call him? Lovely Darcy Pomerleau, I first met on the YUFA-L, back a hundred years ago at the start of the strike, when we discovered we both loved the song, Joe Hill.

I’m not going to name any more private names, because so many helped and I’m afraid I’d leave someone out. The wonderful thing about how YUFA-L is now organized is that we get a variety of messages, and we never know what is going to be “important.” When you write, you never know whose day you are going to cheer up or why. Even a one-line, “Me three” tells me who supports what, and for heaven’s sake it only takes two seconds to read. YUFA-L is a wonderful combination of deadly serious (how are we going to organize YUFA to best fight the administration), seriously frivolous (cookies anyone?) and somewhere-in-between (e.g.: the thread which started with chat about working-class origins and has grown to an astounding testimony of where we really come from and who we are). YUFA-L has given me, and many of us, a place where we can be “at home.” Many of you have no idea, although I did try to write privately to you, how much one of your incredibly silly messages made me laugh when all I could do was cry. I’ve saved the deadly serious messages to read later, because I do read everything, but it generally has been the chatter of the family in the big YUFA-L house which has been helping to heal me.

YUFA-L has started to reverse the tradition over the last 17 years (for me at least, for others it is longer) that you would no more admit weakness and ask a York colleague for help in a personal matter than you would allow a car to pass through the picket line you captained.

“And I swear to god if I ever see the sun,
Or for any length of time,
I can hold it in my mind,
I never again will go down underground.”

Rita MacNeil’s song appeals to me not so much about the dark underground that the administration has encouraged at York, though that’s bad enough. Its real appeal for me is the promise to myself that I never again will go down underground into the black hole I lived in for 17 years at York. I’m not blaming Luke and Aaron for the count, by the way. They only did the tallies. I am more concerned about those of you who are so adamant that we need to stop talking on the YUFA-L.

Now please do not write to me only to say, Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about Bert. That’s not why I wrote this. Please do consider being very careful before you begin to suggest that some of us aren’t using YUFA-L for its “correct” purpose. I also would remind you that far more people “lurk” than write, and we are important to them as well. Several of them wrote me to urge me to respond, on their behalf as well as my own. So, here I do.

Free YUFA-L... to be just what it is: a life-line, and a symbol that we never again will go back to what we were before the strike.


Date: Thu, 05 Jun 1997 00:03:33
To: Kyd Carter
Subject: Re: The YUFA-L Lifeline

Kyd, I was deeply touched by how beautiful this note was when I first read it in my office. Now, at home, after seeing you tonight, I am so deeply moved I could cry because, reading it again, I realized that you had sent it publicly, not just to me. Oh, Kyd, if I have indeed shown you (and others) a way to practice the simplicities of life in the complexities of political struggle and social creation, to work and play together on the edges of realities and dreams that come as much from underground as from the sun of hearts side by side, I was able to do it through what I have learned of friendship and camaraderie on the picket lines.
(“girl from Virginia who feels the big rigs rolling in the night” to her “kid from Pennsylvania”)


Date: Thu, 5 Jun 1997 00:29:51
Subject: Katherine and Benny Sensational

Katherine and Benny, you were sensational tonight! YUFA’s own Benny Sylvester and Katherine Cisneros performed in the Fine Arts Theatre tonight. I could not make it to all of Benny’s performance, but heard enough to know why he is considered such a superb teacher.

Katherine read from five not-so-easy pieces, wonderful commentary on the state of the world, our place in it, and how we use our voices to establish our places in that world. Although speaking to a number of Fine Arts students and faculty, and someone who seemed to be trying to pass for a Dean (will Bart McCarthy ever live down saying publicly in Senate that talking to YUFA was like swimming upstream in shit with your mouth open?), Katherine really spoke directly up to the middle of the audience, where sat an entire row of adoring YUFA-L fans, and clearly she spoke of the strike, from the wonderfully moving opening poem of the boy with the voice of snow, to her final “I am a war, my voice is a weapon.” Katherine, your voice is indeed a weapon, of the kind that we will need many in the days and months and years to come as we struggle to take back this place we love and to ask, as Katherine did, “Who am I and Where is Here?”

Katherine, I don’t think I’ll tell them about the communal ice cube massage at Kelsey’s afterwards, eh?


Date: Sun, 08 Jun 1997 22:23:34
To: Kyd Carter
Subject: Re-Election Statement

Nice candidate’s statement, Kyd. It is redolent of you and who you are and why we do care about you. It uses some of the phrases I had planned: inclusiveness, extension of the joys of the strike to the full membership, the care and the passion. You were probably wise to just write it instead of cleaning the living room first like I did.

My son just came down and I told him what I’m working on. I told him how much I hate writing why my colleagues should vote for me. My son, major fan of Beavis and Butthead, said, “Just write, ‘Vote for me or I’ll kick your sorry little ass.’”

I like this as a candidate’s statement, Kyd. I could run with it; it is as redolent of me as yours is of you.
envious, but I'll bet my living room is tidier than yours now!


Date: Mon, 9 Jun 1997 12:48:39
To: Graduate Student
Re: Canadian Education

I appreciated your note thanking me for being part of a movement for the future of Canadian education. It is heartening to all of us who were on the picket lines to know that many of our students were not swayed by the rhetoric about money and understood the causes of the strike. Indeed, you are never alone when you stand with a unionized faculty!


Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 19:39:38
Subject: Re: “Secretarial” Load on Faculty Members Course Outlines in crayola on lunch bags it’s gonna be, then. I have been too long a partner in my own degradation. You’re right that we need to be less accommodating if we want the administration to provide basic office equipment and support staff.
Desperately Seeking Crayons


Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 17:06:35
To: Mario Janetti
Subject: Your Mission Statement

Mario, thank you for your kind words of support. I know your mother would be proud of your fight on the picket lines. I can well imagine her fight for the freedom of Ukraine; we thought our battle was tough!


Date: Thu, 12 Jun 1997 23:30:14
Subject: Bert Coming Home

Bert comes home tomorrow! There are no words to say Thank You to all of you who saw us through this difficult time. He’s still got three more weeks of intravenous antibiotics, with visits from a VON travelling nurse, but he’s on the road to recovery!


Date: Thu, 12 Jun 1997 23:35:14
Subject: Car Troubles

Y’all will remember my problems with my 1992 purple Taurus, the Strike Security Vehicle. It acted up often during the strike, unlike its owner. Today, I drove into campus facing the departmental meeting to elect the first-ever Union Steward, and lo and behold, the darned thing stalled, right there in the middle of the two lanes of incoming traffic. Eliot Gilling and Dorothy Gordon will both attest to this. I had the hood up. It appeared a genuine stall. Nevertheless, several cars swore at me as they swerved out around me.

I told Pat that the darned thing often stalls. Pat was so sweet; she offered to look at it for me and looked like she knew what she was doing. It took me a while to convince her that the beloved purple strike security vehicle would be fine once it had had a chance to play at least the first five songs on my tape of union strike music!

I went from this episode into my departmental meeting. I have been trying all evening to write this one. It was so wonderful that I falter trying to put it to words…. note my new title below:
Departmental Union Steward to the Department of Administrative Studies,
first in the unit’s history


Date: Mon, 16 Jun 1997 00:45:31
To: Kyd Carter
Subject: Re: Chat

A few days ago, Elizabeth Weiskoff from Hannah Grissel’s office called and told me that my duties are no longer required as University Orator. I thought they weren’t allowed to play those sorts of games of retribution. Oh well; it is their loss; it was a job I did well and I have letters from degree recipients across the world to prove it. That just leaves more time for work for my union.

Goodnight darling Kyd, I must to bed. I have a long day tomorrow, starting with a meeting at 11:00 a.m. and ending at 10:00 p.m. after teaching. I would love to see you on your horse and with your saber. I wrote a lot today, as I told you. You have been an inspiration for me and I thank you.

Thanks too for the ear for the angry voice. I am still so furious over so many things out of the strike. I am going to channel this energy into working for my union. I had a bit of a sad day today. It is Father’s Day and I have no father. The man died 32 years ago. Wouldn’t you think I might be a little bit over it by now?


Date: Sat, 28 Jun 1997 22:20:20
Subject: Mario’s Poem

Here, with Mario’s permission is a copy of his poem to which I referred yesterday. I still remember Mario’s comments at that meeting about feeling so over-powered in this strike by an administration that appeared to be able to do anything they wanted even in spite of a legal negotiated contract. Their delaying of the strike was indeed unconscionable, and I have no doubt that they would have been willing to prolong it into the summer, if we had not held them at that Senate meeting.

At The Gate

At the Gate,
We walk and walk
And wait and wait,
Strike ending news we anticipate.
Round and round our pickets slowly turn
While our hearts with bitter sadness burn.
Watch out!
Suddenly a speeding car torpedoes through.
Is it an angry student with pressing work to do?
I wonder.
Does he know the purpose of our fight?
That we walk for his and his child's right
To a quality unadulterated education.
We're freezing out here!
Perhaps for every student in the Nation.
Does he know that dedicated scholars ponder night and day
Not caring a damn about their monthly pay?
Often pondering on Saturdays and Sundays too,
Hoping their work will bring something new.
A fresh interpretation to a piece of prose
A brilliant insight that unlocks the beauty of a rose,
A hidden revolution in the history of our race
A fascinating comet in outer space,
A novel transformed into an award winning movie
Or a piece of music that's really groovy.
A poem that'll inspire a timid student to light her special fire.
We professors at the Gate,
We Walk
We Wait
We hope and pray
For a better world for all someday.


We began to look forward to the future in earnest. Given the poor settlement we settled for, we knew we had to move forward, not look back.

Date: Sat, 28 Jun 1997 22:27:12
Subject: Report on Tuesday Workshop on Reshaping YUFA
Tuesday, June 24, 1997

We identified five major areas we wanted to discuss:

1. Incorporating the Gate Structures into YUFA
The gates fostered the ability to speak freely and familiarly with our gate members, and eventually with all of each other. They served both a social role and a political role. A major advantage of the gates was that they were not departmental. Standard York structures all revolve around departmental membership, and for many of us, the department is the most abusive relationship in the university. The gates cut across these relationships and provided relief, knowledge, academic discourse, support, and friendship. We need to find a way to incorporate what we discovered in the gates structure into our current governance structures.

2. The Role of Communications in YUFA
The gates provided lines of communication versus lines of authority, informing YUFA of their wishes, expectations, problems, concerns. How do we integrate this function into the current structure of YUFA? How does the ordinary YUFA member communicate with the “upper echelon” of YUFA?

3. Keeping the Energy and Vitality of the Strike Alive
We need to keep the energy and vitality of the strike, for our own sakes, and also to win over those who were lukewarm or less in the l997 strike. Next time, we want 100% out, or better yet, we want no strike because we are strong enough to be heard. YUFA can provide an opportunity for alternative discourse, getting us out of the narrow context of the department and engaging us in the central academic issues of the university, giving us the ability to engage in intellectual discussion on broader planes.

4. The Role of the Stewards
If the stewards are active, things should work more effectively than they did before the strike. We may not need the gate structures but should encourage what came out of the gates to influence how we organize our other structures, including the steward structure.

5. Implementation of the Collective Agreement
If we develop YUFA as a place for discourse, the pay, workload, and other issues of the Collective Agreement will follow. The University Academic Plan is coming up again. This will be a time to address these issues.

We came up with specific recommendations:

Consider re-instating the concept of formal union membership, with a card required for such things as voting.

Short Term:
Consider formalizing the role of the gate structures in the structures of YUFA.

Long Term:
Build a union so strong that next time there will not be a need for a strike and we will get what we want in money, work-load, and other issues by the strength of our union.


Date: Mon, 30 Jun 1997 10:16:09
Subject: Vigilance in Senate


Yes, Horatio. Your comments also show why we need continued vigilance in Senate. After spending yesterday tending my tiny garden (no bigger than the enclosed circle of a Sentinel Road picket line on a rainy day when seven of us tightened the circle to avoid walking where the road did not drain), I am decided not to be so downhearted about the last Senate meeting because once again, we learned from it for the future.

Next time, we will caucus in earnest before the Senate meeting. We will have telephone trees to remind us all to be there and to remind us what the issues are. We will know that we have to be at every Senate meeting if we are Senators. We will know who to look for if we don’t have the information we need. We will know how to vote. We will know specifically which motions we can let ride, which we must try to fight, and which we must win.

I never again want to spend the last half hour of Senate literally up out of my seat, trying in vain to find someone who could explain the Graduate Studies legislation to me, trying to find a way to stall the vote, trying to find out what to do and how to vote and whether it was important to us. I came within a hair’s breadth of having to call quorum to stop Senate, and those of you who know how dearly I treasure parliamentary procedure will understand why I am loathe to call quorum. The day that Ripley is reduced to calling quorum in Senate is a bad day in Senate.

It was an extremely important political point to make, to vote down the granting of summer authority to Senate Executive, and we lost that vote. We lost the vote 38-25; fourteen votes short. We didn’t lose it 35-34, or even tie it 38-38; we lost it by 14 votes. There is no point in having a half dozen people take a verbal stand in Senate if we are then going to lose the vote that badly. It has little to do with the actual issue. I personally doubt that Senate Executive, particularly the new one, is going to do anything ridiculous over the summer. The point is that we wanted to show the administration that we are still vigilant, and even if the loudmouths make a fuss verbally, but we then lose the vote by such a large margin, we don’t look very vigilant.

But we know what went wrong. A major problem in Senate was that yours truly made a classic marketing mistake in thinking that advertising could be substituted for personal sales. I put out notices on YUFA-L; I didn’t even have Herb’s famous list, so I knew I also missed some YUFA-Senators. Next time, we’re going to have to telephone. This is how it works in Faculty of Arts; we’ve got to do it in Senate too.

So, I won’t be asking you here on YUFA-L if you’ll help with telephoning in Senate. I’m going to be calling you. Me and some others. To know how important this is, you have to know how much I hate the telephone. E-mail was a godsend for me because I hate using the telephone. But the new YUFA V.P. of Organization is going to give me a crash course on telephone methodology. Horatio wrote a while back too that it can’t just be me; it can’t just be Herb. We all have to pull our weight in this one. So, look for a call to do your part on a telephone tree for every Senate meeting this coming year.

And be of good cheer. The gardens are in, the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, the weather is sultry and summery; things are looking up.


Date: Sat, 05 Jul 1997 18:47:29
Subject: Union Film Series

Good news! Ivy Dalton is putting together a film series for this coming fall, where all militant strikers missing the picket lines may gather once a month to watch films about famous strikes and union activity together.
Thank you, Ivy!


Date: Sun, 13 Jul 1997 12:11:11
To: Hope Stafford
Subject: The Whistlers

Oh, yes, Hope, it was I who spoke in Senate about the whistlers. I’m glad you are writing the story for _Our Times_, and for Feminist Studies; it was very much a women’s grass roots uprising, and I think you are right that it was a key turning point. Many wrote on YUFA-L to criticize the actions of the “whistlers” but they wrote out of ignorance, thinking that this was a small band of renegade strikers acting on individual motives with no authority from the union, when in truth, those of us who met in that strange stuffy overheated upstairs room at Strike Headquarters to plan the whistling protest that afternoon knew the truth, that this action was carefully planned, down to the last detail, with full knowledge of the Executive, not that we asked permission, that would not have been right, but we discussed that, the fact that occasionally movements have to come up from the membership. You were there; you will remember that this action came directly out of our successful Bread and Roses walk at Hannah Grissel’s home. It also came out of a cry for gender inclusiveness. Our men envied our women their walk at Hannah’s, and some felt excluded. We all, men and women, met together that day to plan something in which all of us could participate together. We planned it, and we asked that the plan be relayed to YUFA Executive.

We even decided that I would not be at Senate Executive, or among the whistlers, dearly as I would have loved to be, because Betty Boone and her entourage already knew me as a trouble-making-rowdy (wore my goddam hard hat and picket captain’s coat and badge to HER Senate Executive meeting and used dirty words like “strike” and “picket line” and “union.”) Had I been at Senate Executive that day, Betty easily might have just dismissed it as one more rowdy outburst from me. So I captained my line that afternoon instead and was nowhere to be seen when the whistlers interrupted Senate Executive. I wept tears of admiration and joy as I read that evening about the whistlers.

The courage of the whistlers was tremendous, to go to that Senate Executive meeting and do what they did. As I understand it, they whistled and chanted for nearly two hours, about fifty of them, finally closing down the meeting. They called for the resignations of both the President and Vice President Academic. The truly important thing about that action was that after that, Senate Executive was never the same again. They no longer assumed they could just do what they wanted; they no longer tried to silence those of us who spoke for the union; they no longer looked at us few strong union supporters as if we were lone marauders; they saw us suddenly as the pickets at the outposts of a large army waiting with full reserves to fight to the death for what we believed in. After the action of the whistlers, Senate Executive took the union seriously. After the whistlers, Senate Executive listened to us, asked us to speak, gave us room to be heard, literally started to smile a little more at us, much as one smiles weakly at a force which one begins realize holds a tremendous amount of power and is not to be trifled with.

The beauty of the whistlers’ action was that yes, it was outrageous. It was rowdy. It was impolite. It was rude. But it was the voice of a strong and increasingly militant union which, prior to that action, had too often allowed itself to be silenced. The whistlers’ demonstration was the turning point for the strike, in my opinion. After that, Senate Executive started to listen to us. The administration began to take us a little more seriously. We were suddenly not just one or two members of a faculty association playing at games of protest; we were a union and a force to be reckoned with. Never underestimate the power of outrageousness. The whistlers were outrageous. They did what had not been done before. They broke the “rules” as they had been laid out for us by the administration. They gave the rest of us the courage to be a little more outrageous, and this culminated in the day at Senate that we voted 58 to 58 to hold the administration on their outrageous proposal to start summer school without full-time faculty or librarians.


Date: Mon, 21 Jul 1997 16:14:57
Subject: Jeffrey Freed

It was good news to hear that the case against Jeffrey was thrown out.


Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 08:13:56
To: Kyd Carter
Subject: Pictures of May 13

I see what you mean, Kyd, when you look at the pictures of us all on that march back into the university. Every one of us is literally physically “in touch” with another, arm in arm, hand in hand. I felt it so strongly during the strike, the willingness, the need to hug each other. I have never in my life been anywhere that I felt so much a part of a group. Nowhere, except perhaps my years at my lovely little undergraduate school, have I ever been in a place where I felt so much that I truly belonged as I did with this union in this strike.


This book is also dedicated to all the faculty and librarians with whom I have walked many a Canadian university picket line. Stand firm and stand together.

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