Baseball Title Strike One: WEEK ONE

Strike One: The YUFA Grand Strike of 1997
WEEK ONE

These first emails are taken from the earliest days on the picket lines. They show, generally speaking, a mostly committed but inexperienced group of strikers, sorting out how the whole process of a strike works, how it was different (or not) for university professors, and how to establish links with colleagues, some of whom we did not yet know, in many cases had never met. It is not possible to underestimate the loneliness felt by so many of us at that time. We were more than a thousand, spread across more than a dozen Faculties and Colleges, and a huge Library. We were burdened with high teaching loads, massive amounts of administrative and committee work, and new and untested technologies. Nevertheless, we were still expected to pull our weight as researchers. It was said that one could shoot a cannon down any of the hallways of York and not disturb a soul. Too many of us were too beaten down to even open our doors and look for companionable people. 

This was not about teaching or students. Most of us loved teaching, especially I believe, those from Atkinson College, which specialized in mature students returning to earn a degree. I had said many times that I loved teaching so much that it defined who I was. Many of us did not realize until the strike how very unhappy we had been. For the previous five years, we had been in a wage freeze, under the rule of the Provincial Government of Ontario, and including mandatory days off without pay. For a variety of reasons, including these, our morale was exceptionally low. Many of us did not even realize our union had been in hard bargaining on our behalf for five months already, with no sign of any potential agreement. Few of us even attended union meetings. It is entirely possible that there were members who did not even realize we had a union. The major roadblocks in negotiations were the sections of the Collective Agreement on retirement and on basic issues of governance. Lower on the list was salary and benefits, although we were at that time near the bottom of the pay scale for Ontario universities. The strike vote was held on Wednesday, March 19, and with a mere 71% strike vote, on March 20, 1997, the York University Faculty Association walked out on strike.

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Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1997 09:46:12
To: YUFA-L (York University Faculty Association Listserv)
Subject: Re: A Strike Story: The Car As A Sacred Object

What a wonderful story to find in my e-mail on this the second morning of my first own personal strike! It is interesting, Rene, that you teach about the car as sacred object in modern societies in your courses in Sociology because I also teach about it in my Marketing courses. We too yesterday, on our picket line, commented on how people’s entire personalities seem to change when they get in their cars. Or maybe it’s just that cars bring out the worst in us. I love the image of your shift captain, dressed all in black with silver hair and beard, landing gracefully, spread-eagled, on the hood of the white sports car that tried to run your lines. I am glad the Shoreham Line stood its ground. Here on the Sentinel Road picket lines, we were particularly appalled at a pizza delivery driver who swerved out around and past our lines.

I say, “my first own personal strike” because I grew up as the daughter of an American newspaperman and labour union organizer, Stephen Ripley, who was posted here in Toronto in the early 1950s trying to organize the Canadian Press. I have marched in picket lines since I was in my mother’s womb, and I remember having smaller quieter Christmases when we cut back on the household budget to send money to families of striking workers. I have honoured picket lines at York University in other unions’ strikes, and indeed have never crossed a picket line in my life. This, however, is the first time I have been on strike with my own union; in the 1985 strike, I was not on campus for the day and a half that it lasted. My dad didn’t live to see the Canadian Press organized; he died when I was only 18, but I know he’s proud of his daughter.

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Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1997 17:12:20
To: Regina Loeb
Subject: Re: A Strike Story: The Car As A Sacred Object

Thank you for your kind words, Regina. I have felt for so long that in my 17 years as a business professor I was betraying so much of what my father stood for. It’s part of why I sought out teaching at Environmental Studies and Women’s Studies. Colleagues have asked me why I don’t just transfer to a department where I might feel more at home, but then I think, no, if I did that, I would deprive the Department of Administrative Studies of its sole tenured feminist.

I could not believe they would just assume there would be no problem for any of us in Senate Executive to cross picket lines to meet on campus. Gus Barlow I can perhaps see, since as the VP Academic he is “administration” (although he was originally a YUFA member and active in our last strike), but Julian Brown as Chair of Senate holds the highest elected faculty office on campus. I could hardly believe it when he said that of course we would meet on campus, and of course I had to say something. I am glad that others then spoke up too. Somehow with the strike becoming a reality, I am already finding the voice I had lost for so many years, trying so hard to fit into a place where I never felt I belonged.

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Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1997 18:08:21
To: Estelle Ward
Subject: Re: A Strike Story: The Car As A Sacred Object

I know my father would indeed be proud of me, Estelle. He might wonder why it took me so long, but then he was a patient man and would probably understand. I know your name from Women’s Studies but have never met you. One of the things I am already enjoying about the strike is meeting so many colleagues from so many different areas of the university, people I never knew were out there, and with whom I find I have so much in common. I do not feel so alone any more.

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Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1997 18:14:14
To: Drew Lipton
Subject: Early Experiences with Picket Lines

Glad to hear you had a little girl on the Shoreham line with her father today, Drew. As a society we don’t teach our children much about strikes and labour relations, certainly not in university business degrees, so they must learn somewhere what a strike means, and about the wonderful solidarity of the picket line. I look forward to meeting you in person.

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Date: Sat, 22 Mar 1997 17:42:05
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Re: Confusion about Strikes

“I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night...
And standing there as big as life, and smiling with his eyes,
says Joe what they can never kill, went on to organize...
...where workers strike and organize,
it’s there you’ll find Joe Hill.”

Darcy Pomerleau’s comment on Joe Hill’s famous recommendation to those who would mourn his death at the hands of the copper bosses, “Don’t mourn, organize,” twigged me to what was bothering me about some of the replies to Rene’s story of his strike captain stopping the car on the picket lines with his body; more than one of those complainers suggested that we were acting more like factory workers than academics on the picket line. As Rene says, this strike is not only about rights and workplace citizenship but can be fieldwork in the study of all the things that make us human.

The York University Faculty Association is on strike. Yes, we’re out there on the picket lines to educate, but so was Joe Hill; so is any striker. Any strike is an educational process. But it’s also a protest, a statement, a deliberate intent to make things just a little inconvenient for anyone involved who might have any ability to sway management’s response in our favour. If all we’re doing out there on the lines is educating, and if we can’t make our point with some occasional drama, then please YUFA, for heaven’s sake, call off the strike and I’ll go back and educate in Curtis Lecture Halls where it’s a heck of a lot warmer and drier than Sentinel Road in Friday’s icy rain.

As university professors, we may enjoy a privileged lifestyle which makes it difficult to justify a strike when you compare our working conditions to Joe Hill’s copper miners, but the minute we step out on a picket line, where men and women defend their rights, we are working men and women together with every other who has ever gone out on strike. This is the meaning of solidarity.
See you on the lines on Monday.

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Date: Sat, 22 Mar 1997 22:33:23
To: Rene Lavraj
Subject: A Strike Story: The Car As A Sacred Object

I find it interesting that you as a new junior faculty member and I as a 17-year veteran are both experiencing the same thing. I too am enjoying suddenly having a dozen new soul mates. You may well be right that the greatest outcome of this strike will take some time to be revealed to us.

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Date: Sun, 23 Mar 1997 09:25:07
To: Elmo Rutter
Subject: Tradeoffs

Hi Elmo, Yes, I remember “Solidarity Forever” and “There Once Was a Union Maid,” although it’s been a long time since I’ve sung those songs. My Dad had a whole fat book of labour union songs we used to play on the piano and sing when we were kids.

I too do not want to walk the picket line for long, and I do not want to see students lose their term. As a woman working most of my life in traditionally male jobs, I have long known that you must be prepared to compromise at least a little on almost everything. I am going to a strike captain’s meeting today and shall ask around about the tradeoff between salaries and flexible retirement provisions, of which you wrote.

Good to hear from you. You were one of my heroes when you were head of YUFA and I was Chair of Senate.

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Date: Sun, 23 Mar 1997 10:10:13
To: Abe Paniraj
Subject: Meeting During a Strike

Glad you enjoyed my posting, Abe. It is indeed good to meet so many others who feel like we do, whom we never knew before the strike. I would love to hear your stories of picketing during the Metro Days of Action. It sounds more like my kind of picketing – no one crossing the lines for the entirety of one’s four-hour shift.

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Many of us found relief from the hard and already sometimes tedious work of the strike, through humour. I have only my own postings, which will show up here occasionally, but YUFA-L was rife with humour and goodwill, expressed in stories and parodies and satire. Regarding the red arm band, I myself received one early on, just days into the strike – the coveted red badge of courage, the YUFA Picket Captain’s arm band. It was awarded to me by a particularly brave sort of soul, an untenured faculty member. Tenure, we believed, would protect us from losing our jobs once the strike was over. There are supposed to be no retaliatory actions, according to any usual settlement. This was not to be the case in this strike.

We did not write about the rain and snow nearly as much as it tormented us. It simply became part of our daily grind. It was apparently the coldest spring in eighty years in Toronto. Often, it poured rain or sleet for the entirety of the shift.

Date: Sun, 23 Mar 1997 20:50:32
To: YUFA-L
Subject: ‘M’ on Fashion

Oh, exciting news, fashion mavens! ‘M’, our answer to the American fashion magazine ‘W’, was on the picket lines with us Thursday and Friday, checking out the latest styles. Here are some of M’s comments and recommendations:

It’s March; the snow and ice are still here and the salt is still on the roads, and any York professor worth his or her salt is out on the picket lines, dressed to survive. Spring comes late in Toronto, so they’re dressing warmly. Layers are in again and the well-dressed professor on today’s picket line is sporting layers: layers, and more layers!

Start with cotton or silk underwear to wick away that unwanted moisture. Top this with a pair of tights, in Gore-Tex if you can afford it, to trap that warmth! Then add wool or cotton long underwear (Note ladies: they even come with pink flowers!). Of course if you are truly into union-chic, borrow your granddad’s red union suit! Add a turtleneck pullover, wool sweater, and a sweatshirt on top of that, wool pants or jeans below. Then make the outside fashion statement. This is what your colleagues and students will see, and ultimately what they will judge you on when the next fashion awards come round! A wool parka is ideal; it provides the wicking wool and the insulation, preferably with a hood. If it is raining or snowing, a rubber slicker is essential. Consider making a quick trip, not to New York this season darlings, but to the Biway Discount Store, to pick up a nifty fashion statement made by our children: splash pants! Because the rain will wash down a rubber slicker and just soak those blue jeans. Definitely a tacky fashion statement to arrive for a drink after the picket shift with those nasty tell-tale stripes of wet!

Top it all off with an old but suddenly new again Canadian fashion statement: the toque! Earmuffs are allowable for those who don’t want to ruin the coiffure, but when it’s really cold, it’s difficult to try to keep turning your head to watch and see whether you’re about to be run over by an angry motorist and still keep on the muffs. Of course you’re going to add a big scarf to wrap around the neck and if it’s raining, you’ll pull up the attached hood on the rubber slicker. An absolute fashion necessity: gloves! Note: bring a second pair. Shifts are four hours.

Feet, of course, are the crucial fashion statement at any time, and important enough that M has left them till last. Start by protecting them with as many layers as your boots will accommodate. On top of the tights, add a good solid cotton sock. Colour is not a crucial statement, but white cotton really does seem to imply a certain “Je ne sais quoi.” Top this with a good wool sock and put these well clad feet into whatever suits you for good, solid, dependable, comfortable footwear, but preferably leather so your feet can breathe: hiking boots, construction boots, wool-lined winter rubber boots if it’s really nasty out, and, if you’re on one of the lines where we’ve got the really aggressive drivers, steel-toed boots!

As a final addition to this fashion statement, M urges you to heed a definite fashion no-no on the picket lines: Please, no academic robes! If you want that extra pizzazz that distinguishes you from the run-of-the-mill-striker, consider getting committed enough to the union cause to earn the right to wear a red YUFA arm-band as a picket or shift captain!

Note, here, please, for those who might have been thinking it could be fashionable to show up an hour or so late for the strike shift and leave fashionably early to catch supper and an evening show – strike pay means five four-hour shifts per week. So plan to stay that full four-hour shift, if you’re looking to get your strike pay to spend on next season’s fashions!

See you on the picket lines!

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Date: Sun, 23 Mar 1997 21:06:12
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Brave Untenured Faculty

Adrienne, you were a real inspiration to me on the picket line, particularly as you are relatively new to York and an untenured faculty member. I speak of myself as “promoted on the field of battle” by you when you were looking for someone to take over as shift captain.
See you Monday.

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Some of our colleagues were late in joining us on the lines, and some never did join in the strike, but we kept asking. Some it seemed, faculty, or staff, or administration never did understand what a strike is all about. It is about the withdrawal of services, sometimes the only weapon a union possesses.

Being away from the picket lines was always fraught with concern, for anyone. While we urged our non-striking (we were not yet ready to use the word “scab”) colleagues to join us, we also reassured those who were ill that it was okay to stay home and get better. Some, due to perceptions of our position in the university as business professors, did not dare to miss a shift despite being miserably sick. We encouraged each other when lines were light, when darkness came early, when things were difficult to understand. Despite holding to our promise to hold an “informational” or “educational” picket line, and stopping the lines regularly to let through those waiting, some of those waiting for us to open the lines became angry and perpetrated violence upon our picketers. In one incident in particular, a woman’s ankle was shattered. There was supposedly CTV-type film covering the attack, but the tape somehow mysteriously went missing.

Date: Sun, 23 Mar 1997 21:10:37
To: Llona Behrens
Subject: Joining the Line

What was your final decision re: the strike? I am hoping that maybe you saw fit to stay out. With the whole union out on strike, your crossing to meet a class makes no difference to your students; the marks have to be passed by the faculty before students can finish, and the faculty is out on strike. I saw several of our students at the Sentinel Gate, and they turned back after we chatted. The line cheered them. Many of our students are out in support of us. On the Northwest gate, professors of Science report students turning up to walk the lines with them and talk about Physics and Chemistry. Come out to the Sentinel line; maybe we can talk to our marketing students about Shelby Hunt’s Three Dichotomies Model of Marketing!
Your friend and colleague,

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Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 08:19:16
To: Llona Behrens
Subject: Joining the Line

If you can’t bring yourself to support the strike for some of the reasons we’re out there, e.g.: more control over academic decision-making in areas such as forced courses on the internet, class sizes (you won’t remember when Introductory Marketing had only 35 students instead of 120, but I do), hiring of the people who will control our academic lives (did you know the administration appointed Gus Barlow as Academic Vice President for another five years without so much as asking faculty their opinion?).

If you can’t come out for a stronger faculty voice in academic governance, then take a look at your salary. Does it reflect your education and experience? Ten years ago, York paid fourth in faculty salaries; now we’re twelfth. As a female York professor, you’re paid sixteenth in the province. There are many older York faculty on the lines who make enough money but they’re out there because their junior colleagues don’t make anywhere near what they should be paid.

Give it some thought. We’ll still work together when this is over; I’m not one to hold grudges. But a solid front gives the negotiating team an incredible boost. At Glendon, 100% of the faculty is out.

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Date: Mon, 24 Mar 1997 08:00:45
To: Horatio Taglieri
Subject: On the Line

My husband asked why I was out on the line with my antibiotics, and I painted for him the picture of a liberal arts colleague asking me, a business professor, why I wasn’t on the line and my saying, “I was sick.” Yeah, right. I am remembering of course our 1985 strike that lasted just a day and a half. I believe you though, when you say you are sick, and it is important that we take care of ourselves because it looks like this strike may be longer than we expected.

My labour union father was my childhood hero. I can remember vividly, and I would have been less than four years old, walking with my mother and my twin sister on a picket line in New York City, round and round, and watching my father, who was a union executive, greeting all the guys and holding a picket sign and walking with them, and how glad they all were to see him. My father was a feminist long before we used that term for men. He raised his twin daughters to believe we could do anything we wanted if we worked hard enough. He also took us to ball games. To this day, baseball is still my favourite sport. I adored my father. He died when I was 18. I never got over his loss, and I guess I never will. This strike gives me a feeling of being close to him again.
See you on the lines soon; hope you’re feeling better.

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Date: Mon, 24 Mar 1997 17:45:32
To: Department Secretary
Subject: On Strike

You wrote to ask if I am teaching any classes. My union is on strike. As a member of that union, and as the daughter of a labour union organizer, of course I am not teaching any classes!

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Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 20:14:23
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Decanal Candidates and the Picket Lines

Julian: I didn’t get your e-mail till now (8:00 p.m.) because I was out on the picket lines in the freezing rain before the union meeting today. It is incomprehensible to me that the holder of the highest elected faculty office on campus is not out with the union when we are on strike. It is even more crucial given that you are supposedly in candidacy for the next Deanship of one of the major teaching faculties of York. By the way, are you holding classes, Julian?

You said you would like my advice as a past Chair of the University Senate. My advice Julian: get out there on the picket lines.

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Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 20:33:02
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Shoreham Gate

Bless those of you who are at the Shoreham Gate. I called four members of Administrative Studies who are crossing the lines and asked them to please come out, and to please come to Shoreham Road where women (and maybe men) are being attacked because of the low numbers on the line.

Please let’s not let the Shoreham line close down. This is the first foot-in-the-door, the first threat that works, the first shaking of the fist that makes people back off. Be there! You heard me today at the YUFA meeting about the evening shift: think positively. Think, If I’m out on the line from 3:00-7:00, I don’t have to fix dinner; I don’t have to wash dishes. We need to pull together; it’s what solidarity is all about. Please, join the Shoreham line after 3:00; don’t make us close it down.

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Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 21:17:21
To: Harper Whitney
Subject: Re: Picket Lines

Yes, Harper, most of us at Atkinson are out at Sentinel, but we’re okay on numbers, so please consider going to the Shoreham line. A picket captain was deliberately separated from her line by a driver, a male student, who then got out of his car and beat her up and sent her to hospital with a broken ankle. At the meeting tonight, YUFA said if we don’t get 20 people out at Shoreham, we will close the line at 6:00. I stood up and asked, please, don’t give these testosterone-pumped guys the pleasure of shutting down a line. E-mail me and tell me you’re going, and I shall announce at regular intervals on the Sentinel line who is away supporting the Shoreham line.

Please know that illness is respected. Some of us are idiots about health and I have been out there with my antibiotics since Thursday, but I have this dead labour union organizer father to whom I have to apologize for being a business professor. If I fall in the line of duty to pneumonia, we need the healthy ones to keep the line going!

Thanks so much for writing. Every bit of good news helps. I think ‘M’ should write soon on new hairstyles for the picket line. Do you know, Harper, four different women at the meeting today asked me if I were cutting my hair differently. I said, no, it’s just the latest picket style; the wet look is in again, thanks to the pouring freezing rain.

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A few of our new-found friends were French speaking, given York’s bilingualism. Some of them, whose English was far better than our French, strove hard to write in English on the fast-moving YUFA-L. Sometimes we tried out our very poor French.

Date: Mon, 24 Mar 1997 08:24:05
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Merci

Cher Darcy, merci beaucoup pour vos mots amiables. Mon Francais est si tres pauvre, mais, comme je dit quand voyageant en Quebec, j’essai.
votre ami,

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Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 21:35:04
To: Darcy Pomerleau
Subject: Re: Your Recent Message

Cher Darcy, Prometre moi une dimanche apres la greve, vous et moi; vous etes un ami nouveau. Greve is a feminine noun, I love it. Please forgive my very poor French. I also note that my computer has no diacritical marks for writing in French, so I shall have to do without those.

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We dealt with practical matters, and we dealt in song and poetry, and we dealt with serious matters, and sometimes we found all of these surrounding one issue. We passed on messages and we apologized to each other, and we learned to rely on each other.

Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 21:30:15
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Gloves More than Fashion Statement
Today, walking the line in the rain with Edgar Maynard, Duncan Mountbatten, and Lowell Byron, I noticed that Randolph DeSantis had no gloves. When I called out to ask him where his gloves were, he took them out of his pocket and wrung them out, water dripping out onto the picket line path. Tomorrow I shall put an extra pair of one-size-fits-all gloves in the trunk of my car.

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Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 21:30:15
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Re: Other Actions

An interesting Freudian slip here: I wrote earlier, “We are not ‘only working in circles;’ we are a union on strike standing up to the increasing encroachment of business upon the academic decision-making process.” Of course I meant “walking in circles,” but it’s an important slip. Our strike is our work right now. We are indeed working in circles.

Great meeting today! Good to see so many out and good to hear everybody’s input. As the man from the Canadian Association of University Teachers put it, those old paintings may have fine cracks when viewed up close, but viewed from any distance, say, the distance from the stoplight to the picket line, we are beautiful.

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Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 08:05:01
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Re: Other Actions Diana, I too am dreaming of vicious faces and threatening shapes. I wake in the night clenched like a ball of aluminum foil. To dispel negative energy, we need more songs and chants on the picket lines. In addition to the ones on the duplicated sheet, here are some we’ve heard on Sentinel Road:

Betty Boone is a jerk
She’s the reason we’re out of work

Left, left, left,
Left, left, left,
First she hired me, Then she fired me
Then by george I left, left left…

There once was a union maid
Who said she wasn’t afraid
of Betty Boone’s letters
or Barlow’s fetters
or a Board of Governors’ raid

Be of good cheer!

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Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 10:55:21
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Picketing

Yes, everything including duty rosters disintegrated in the freezing rain yesterday, Max, everything except our spirits!

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Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 10:59:18
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Re: Other Actions

Sorry, Leland. I realized at about 3:00 in the morning that my message might have sounded like I did not like your idea. I had meant to add a paragraph saying that I loved it but I was just so darned tired, I could barely think straight. We’re educators. Let’s get out there and educate. I would be more than glad to participate, especially if we take up Hope Stafford’s suggestions for holding classes for our students to explain what strikes are all about. They know so pitifully little about labour unions. Our undergraduate business students earn a degree that supposedly sends them out into the world ready to be managers and most of them have no idea what a strike is about.

Cheers, and sorry for sounding negative.

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Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 11:10:42
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Why I’m Not at Senate Executive

Peg, please relay this message to members of Senate Executive: I will not be at Senate Executive’s meeting today. I am shift captain on one of the most dangerous times, the 3:00-7:00 evening shift at Sentinel Road and my place is there before anywhere else.

I am sure that Julian Brown, my colleague and fellow professor from Atkinson, will bring forward the concerns of the faculty, serving as he does, as I once did, as the Chair of the University Senate, the highest elected faculty office at York.

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Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 20:40:14
To: YUFA-L
Subject: Other Actions

Excellent advice. You put a new slant on it when you say that we’re not here to be understood or acknowledged by the commuters coming through our lines, nor to preach or lecture to them, but rather we are here to send a message to our employer by “jamming the machine.” I think we are so accustomed to being professors and seeing the need to teach that we carry this onto the picket line. Perhaps we do need a little more militancy. Also good to remember that our cause, although just, is not worth a broken leg or a squashed foot.

My best protection on the line comes in the form of a retired Army Colonel, Jake Granger, now a professor of Human Resources in our department. Jake lives a fair distance away so he comes and does his entire shift on two days. He is 6 foot 6, with the kind of bearing you get in the military. Underneath it all, he is a very sweet guy, but the cars that are pushing their front bumpers against my knees as I stand there with my STOP sign, don’t know that. When Jake comes sauntering over to lean down into their window and ask in his polite and respectful but powerful voice, “Anything wrong here?”, they quickly stop battering me. I am always very happy when I arrive for picket duty and find Jake Granger on my line.

He also has lots of helpful advice from the military experience. Suffering with this sinus infection, I asked Jake one day how soldiers in the field deal with runny noses. They surely can’t be carrying little packets of tissue and setting down their M-16’s to wipe their noses every few minutes. He said that you just wipe it on your glove, and in cold weather, every so often you just peel it off. I love Jake’s practical straightforward way of dealing with things.

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Violence on the Lines

Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 20:45:27
To: YUFA-L
Re: Safety on the Line

It was reported in the papers today that the attack on Tracey was caught by the video cameras near that gate. I have a yellow hard hat that I use when I go out on my interviews with truck drivers (I teach Channels of Distribution and part of that is trucks). I wore it tonight as Shift Captain, with a big message pasted on it that said, “This hat’s for you, Tracey.”

Take good care, people. There are a few nasty drivers out there, even though the majority of them are fine. It’s especially important for those of us on the evening shift. In the words of the immortal Yogi Berra, “It gets late early out there.”

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Sometimes we wrote philosophically, and sometimes we wrote sarcastically, and sometimes we wrote in French. And we fought back against those who appeared to actively oppose our efforts even within our own union and our own listserv, often engaging a friend to speak on our behalf.

Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 21:05:34
To: YUFA-L
Re: Strikes and Pickets

Of course fun and nostalgia are not what a picket line or a strike is about, Zach, but it sure helps get you through four wet, cold hours on the line. It’s also about solidarity, and those who have been joined on our lines by the contract faculty union, students, by government workers and teachers who aren’t even connected with York but sympathize, will know how important the thread of connection is. Yes, I marched on picket lines with my father when I was young, and that gives me the strength to be out there now when my own union needs me on the lines. Because, make no mistake, folks, your union needs you on the lines.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If I thought we were just out there to educate people, I’d be doing that in Curtis Lecture Halls. We are on strike, and part of a strike is a picket line.

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Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 21:09:20 To: Darcy Pomerleau Subject: Re: Other Actions
I loved your note about asking Frenchmen to lunch!

By the way, please read Zach's nasty dig about my father, and my reply. Since we're not on the server here, may I ask you to send a stinging rebuttal to him? I may not stay up for replies; I was on picket duty 3:00-7:00 tonight, and am exhausted. I used to use the phrase, “staggeringly tired” when I had put in a fifteen-hour day at York and working on my doctorate. But I realize that I never knew what that phrase really meant until I had spent four hours on a picket line in the freezing rain in addition to doing strike work all day. I shall be careful not to use the phrase so lightly any more. It is dark out now by 6:00 p.m. and it’s also very scary. As I stand as Picket Captain, I have two lines of traffic coming right at me, splitting and going to each side. In my sleep I still see those two lines of oncoming headlights.

Trop exaustee pour le francais cette noir, pardonnez moi.

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What Did We Learn in Week One? (Heading Out)

1. University professors also can go on strike.
2. We are not alone in our feelings of disaffection for our employer.
3. On any picket line, safety is number one, but morale is number two.
4. Not every union member supports a strike.
5. We well may be strong enough to do this thing.