Baseball Title Strike OneWEEK TWO

Strike One: The YUFA Grand Strike of 1997

In the second week of the strike, we were still working hard to get many of our colleagues to understand what a strike is all about, both those who had not come out with us and many of those who had. None of us pretended to know everything, but many of us had had prior experience with strikes and knew something about them. We talked about what a strike vote means, the fact that both coal miners and university professors can go on strike. We talked about the purpose of a picket line, what it stands for, who walks on it, its various specific roles, and perhaps most important, how it is made safe.

We also experienced the continual need to try to convince our non-striking colleagues to come out on the lines with us. Already, those of us who walked and captained the picket lines were growing to realize the power of a picket line. We kept coming back in our arguments to the reasons for the strike and we kept remembering more and more picket line songs. We began to write advice to each other, to stand up for each other, to speak up to those who were verbally abusing us or others out on strike with us. We learned how to speak to management, and to tell our Department Chairs they ought to be out with us. They were YUFA members. We began firmly to believe that in previous encounters with the employer, we had not stood firm enough. Now we were standing.

The weather continued to be terrible, so much so that we eventually stopped complaining about it and just accepted it as part of the job of a striker.

Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 10:10:09
Re: Tracey Milner

To Delbert Sands, for Tracey: I wept reading your note about Tracey as she struggles to recover with her shattered ankle. Tell her she is still very much contributing to the strike effort. She is in all our thoughts, especially as we work for picket safety and morale.

One of the major purposes of a picket line, which Zach Conway neglected to list, is to show “management” that we stand firm. This is apparently particularly necessary in this battle because the administration seems to have some misguided idea that we don’t really mean what we say. Tracey’s suffering must not be in vain. We must continue the picket lines until we have a contract that we can respect.

Take good care, Tracey. I shall continue to wear my hard hat in your honour.


Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 10:16:13
To: Llona Behrens
Subject: Re: Joining the Line

Thanks for your note and the invitation, but the only coffee I’m getting these days is on my four-hour picket shift, when someone in the line can get to the coffee truck and can open the lid for me, because I’ve got one hand on my safety sign and the other on my whistle. Why don’t you come down to Sentinel Road; it’s walking distance from your apartment, and talk to some of your colleagues about labour’s side of the issue.
Hoping to see you on the picket lines soon.


Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 10:35:54
To: Elmo Rutter
Subject: Re: Other Actions

Hi Elmo, it’s good occasionally to talk privately off the listserv. I am supporting my union and the strike because I think we should hold out for a just contract, and because when the employer steps in and unilaterally strips a clause out of the contract as they did with our early retirement clause, you can’t just lie down and take that, but it’s a difficult process to explain. How for example, do you explain to someone who works for a regular salary or wages our very strange compensation system? For example: Progress Through The Ranks adjustments to account for the fact that we don’t go through regular promotions and job changes as the rest of the working world does. No wonder no one can agree on what percent raise we’ve actually been offered. The employer says 8 but it is nowhere near that.

Are they negotiating this weekend, I hope? I think the mediator should lock them all in a room over the Easter Weekend and make them come to an agreement. I may talk a great line about my days with my dad on the picket line (I was furious at Zach Conway.) but the reality is, I came home last night at 8:00 p.m., wet to the skin and so exhausted I could have cried. We had the older kids and grandchildren over for my husband’s birthday and I was not real good company. I woke this morning with a migraine headache from the tension, and a left hand so stiff from holding my Stop/Slow sign that I could not move it.


Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 10:50:45
Subject: Re: Public Relations

No, it’s not perverse at all that we turn to the outside for expertise in Public Relations. I did my doctoral dissertation on the subject of in-house versus outside advertising agencies and my results show that most organizations are better off using an outside agency where there are strong emotions and issues involved. It is the old “forest and trees” syndrome.

I strongly urge YUFA to hire someone to do our public relations, and hire them fast. I too am hearing the same things from family and friends (in the rare moments I get to see them these days.) that our arguments seem weak and we appear to be whining.

(one-time) Associate Professor of Marketing


Early in the strike, faculty and librarians already were concerned about what the strike was doing to our students, and how it was affecting important administrative work, such as the movement forward of a colleague’s file for Tenure and Promotion. We also began to be sensitive to just how much work was being done in other than the picket lines. We had fantastic support staff who put in long hours taking care of all that needed taking care of in a strike. And there is a lot. Early on, we had tended to say, “Can we ask YUFA to do this?” Now we were beginning to realize that we ARE YUFA and that many things we could do for ourselves.

Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 10:55:15
Subject: Re: One Student’s Letter

Somebody wrote on YUFA-L about setting up a food bank for students:
> Might the strike office be able to coordinate this?

Please note: the Strike Office is already overloaded. Even when finishing a four-hour shift on the lines, I feel guilty when I go home at 8:00 p.m., and the Strike Office staff is still there working.

Each of us knows somebody out there who either cannot physically handle four hours on the picket line or does not want to picket, but is supportive of the strike and of students’ interests. Maybe some of them are reading this and could volunteer for this opportunity to contribute.


Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 08:02:14
To: Department Secretary
cc: Department of Administrative Studies
Subject: Re: T&P Meeting

I’ll be there at the tenure and promotion meeting for Maggie Barton on April 23, assuming the strike has settled. In addition to having a strong file, Professor Barton also has been out on the picket lines. Jacques Barrault, also untenured, is out there with us, and when he’s not marching, he’s delivering wood for the fire barrels that keep us warm.

To anyone who’s not on the lines with us: Please folks, this one’s important. It’s not merely about money, it’s about academic governance and who makes the academic decisions in a university. We need a solid front to help change the way the administration is trying to run the university. If the strike is still on by April 23, I assume we will postpone.


Friendships were tested. Early in the strike, I had a friendly exchange with a colleague whom I would later blast with an email to the listserv and refuse to apologize to. After the strike, many friendships were made up, including this one, but some stayed broken or continued to drift away.

Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 08:18:30
To: Nina Kidder
Subject: Re: Reply

Thanks, friend. My daddy didn’t raise his little girl to tolerate scabs, and he also gave her a fine wicked sarcastic tongue.

Oh, Nina, I’ll tell you this privately, but not on the listserv: I was hurt by Zach Conway’s crack about being on the picket line with daddy. A direct slam at my union childhood stories, which I offered for the sole purpose of keeping spirits up and making the links not only across unions and causes, but across time. But then, yesterday, I arrived at 2:30 at Sentinel Road, and there was a faculty member walking with his little girl, maybe 5 or 6. I thanked her for being there, and told her that when she is fifty, as I am now, she will remember being here with her daddy.

I read your comment about it being hard to do the four hours. It is tough, and we’re not spring chickens. Consider asking Strike Headquarters if you could do some of the hours delivering stuff, or running errands. I don’t know what their policy is, but I know that we cannot lose people because of the physical hardship. And make no apologies, it is hard work. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life, save one time. That was when I spent a day on the truck doing research, with my truck driver friend who taught me to drive his 22-wheel Peterbilt truck, and helped him throw 10,000 pounds of fertilizer in 55-pound bags, off the back of the trailer.

Be of good cheer, friend, and thanks for your kind words.


Time, which seemed to pass so slowly when standing picket duty, seemed at other times to fly by. It was almost Easter.

Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 08:27:07
Subject: Weekend Plans
Take care, Horatio. Hope you have a good Easter weekend, whatever your persuasion. I personally tend toward paganism and the Druids and am thinking of painting myself blue for the weekend.


Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 08:36:44
Subject: Re: Letters From Chairs

Yes, Gunther, it would be great if all the department chairs would write to the administration to condemn its positions and poses. Maybe we could start alphabetically and ask the Chair of Administrative Studies to at least join us on the picket lines. What is it that is so appealing about administrative jobs that our fellow faculty members who get elected to a position which is supposed to represent the faculty immediately think that they are management? Our Chairs are members of the YUFA bargaining unit, and belong out here with their fellow faculty members.

My apologies if, as Julian Brown says, I tend to stress the picket line. When we’re on strike, the picket line is the strongest statement of where we stand on the issues. I don’t know of another that is as visible hence I use it. If I’m being too simplistic, you’ll all have to forgive me; I am, after all, just a simple business professor.


Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 10:07:32
To: Darcy Pomerleau
Subject: Re: Other Actions

J’aime aussi votre philosophie du sifflement. Mais, sur les jours premieres, je n’ai pas une voix. Malade comme un chien! Does that one translate literally? I was sick as a dog, with no voice, and needed the whistle!

Un dimanche apres de la greve? Un autre jours je risquerais de m’endormir dans mon potage.


Anger too began to fester. And we saw early evidence of cracks in the listserv, both from non-strikers and unfortunately our striking colleagues, as tempers flared.

Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 16:51:15
To: Luke Corbett
Subject: Anger, Private

I too am very angry, Luke. I wrote earlier of waking in the night clenched like a ball of aluminum foil. I have terrible dreams. I just dozed on the couch for a half hour and I dreamed that someone had shut me, and my beloved cats whom I was clutching to my chest, out of my home. I looked in a small window and saw Betty Boone, the President, and I beat my fists on the window pane but she turned away. I then fell to my knees weeping, losing my cats, and threw up a wretched bunch of staples, the kind we are using to affix our signs to the wooden picket sticks. Yes, I am angry. This is the same anger of which Diana Symonds wrote; we have shared stories on the Sentinel line. And I don’t know what to do with the anger, other than to channel it into my stand on the picket line and the safety of my picketers, and my attempted cheer on the e-mail. When they settle, part of the Collective Agreement should be increased coverage of mental health repair.
p.s.: this one’s private right now; I hurt too much to decide whether to write it publicly.


Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 18:36:33
Subject: Re: Family Day on Monday

Yes, let’s make it Family Day on the Picket Lines as school is out on Monday. Despite the one nasty comment I received about daddy’s little girl on the picket lines, I have found that most of us respond well to the idea of support from our families and from the next generation, because they are, ultimately, those for whom we are fighting the battle.


We continued to use, actually increased our use of humour as time went by. We blended humour and advice and more and more began to use it to express our anger. In many of the messages, we can find early signs of real struggle for the union, for example when we heard on the lines that a mediator had been appointed but the employer was refusing to come to the table.

Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 18:37:09
Subject: Fashion Statement

On Thursday evening, a student walking by our evening shift picket line at Sentinel Road called out in a loud voice, “Effete snobs! Get back to work!” I was at that very moment dressed in my blue jeans and my yellow truck-driving steel-toed boots, my five layers of sweaters topped by my old wool jacket on which the zipper no longer works but it has a hood, thick gloves, my scarf (a gift from an old student years ago), my balaclava over my brown earmuffs, flattening my coiffure under my yellow hard hat (yellow is the working person’s hat, unlike white which is supervisor) with its message to Tracey (This hat’s for you, Tracey), and red picket captain’s badge on my sleeve. I turned to my line and shouted the question that I later asked at Picket Headquarters when I returned signs and barriers at 7:45 p.m., “Is this the fashion statement of an effete snob?” Siobhan Connelly got a picture of me to send to Tracey in the hospital.

Happy Easter, everybody! Be of good cheer. Rest up. Keep spirits up, and let’s really shock the administration on Monday if they think they’ve beaten us. See all of you with your children and/or grandchildren on the picket lines on Monday morning.


In true form for a group of academics, we tried to get a “publication” out of our picket experiences and wrote for the listserv and our daily strike bulletin. This particularly included keeping the picket lines safe and the email reasonably well-mannered. There were many roles to be played on the picket line and the wise Picket Captain delegated. We also experienced some other new technology: the cell phone. It would be unrecognizable today, but back then it was a relatively large black rectangle with impossible to remember codes and numbers and buttons and rules. Some Shift Captains immediately delegated the cell phone to someone who was familiar with them. We were fortunate to have many Mathematics and Computer Science faculty on our lines.

Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 19:38:39
Subject: Re: No Subject; No Object

Thanks for saying it too, Burl. I have one simple rule for writing on e-mail: I never say a thing that I would not want the entire world to read. Even if you’ve received something from me that I said was “private for now,” I assume it may be read by someone else at some time. As our former Dean used to say, “Remember the lesson of Ollie North.”


Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 21:08:23
Subject: Re: Family Day on Monday

Phyllis Weller accuses me of dreaming in colour (in French yet!) regarding bringing our children to the picket line, but the suggestion to bring children came from Robert Edwards, President of YUFA, and I am supporting him. Every person has to decide for him/herself when their children are old enough to come to a picket line.

Phyllis, would you please read Burl Winslow’s words about e-mail politeness? We’ve got enough to handle with the administration taking pot shots at us; we don’t need to do it to each other. Take a look at your line about not bringing your three-and-a-half-year-old daughter so that I can have a remembrance of things past. Was this a nice thing to say to a fellow striker? For heaven’s sake, don’t bring your young daughter for the sake of my remembrance of things past. I’ve got my remembrances; that’s how I know that strikes are serious and dangerous things. Bring whom you feel safe bringing.


Date: Sat, 29 Mar 1997 13:55:57
Subject: Watching Our Language

Please read Burl Winslow’s memo: Watch Your Language, please! I’m standing four hours a day and more on a picket line and I believe I am making a difference in a strike that will make a difference. To be told that what I am doing is “unproductive” is harmful to my morale, my spirit, my temper, and eventually even my physical health. And the task is not mind-numbing; we are learning a lot talking to each other on the picket lines.


Date: Sat, 29 Mar 1997 19:19:26
Subject: Re: Barry’s Apology

Yes Horatio, I concur. It’s sad that it took a strike to do it, but I am feeling much more a part of this university than I had been feeling for a long while. It’s important to remember, even when we are yelling at each other, that when this is over, we’re going to work together again, no matter what we said to each other in the heat of frustration. As long as we keep our sense of humour, and our sense of perspective, I think we’ll be okay.


Date: Sun, 30 Mar 1997 11:14:22 To: Darcy Pomerleau Subject: For You Yes, my friend, I will do this for you. I shall write a scathing open letter to the listserv about Conway. I shall include my now constant comment about watching out for how we speak to each other. I heard about Conway, by the way, at the Saturday morning meeting; someone said that on the rare times he does come to the picket line, they all chant, “Cameo! Cameo!”

He is the idiot who sneered at my story of a childhood spent walking with daddy on the picket line. This was my beloved labour union father who died when I was 18 and I never got over it. If it weren’t for marching on the picket lines when I was a little girl with my daddy, 17 years of business students would not have had at least some exposure to the principles and ethics of the labour movement that are sorely lacking from most of their business education.

I have the feeling that my English here to you is no better than my French, but I hope you are reading the strong feeling I have for your hurt. I am very sick today. I have an infected abscess in my sinus. I went to the emergency room yesterday and am on new antibiotics, and taking codeine every 2-3 hours to kill the pain. So give me a little time, but I shall avenge you, my friend.


Date: Sun, 30 Mar 1997 13:32:31 To: YUFA-L
Subject: Re: (Fwd: Re: Family Day on Monday) Better yet, if you bring your children, bring another adult to walk with them, especially if you have any sort of duty on the line.

My fond childhood memories of my daddy on the picket lines also include the safe secure hand of a mommy beside me (actually between me and my twin sister, with my brother in my mom’s womb; we were a union family). We also did not march for four hours, of that I am sure. I would remember walking for four hours. I don’t think I’ve ever walked for four hours in my whole entire life before this strike. I once explained to a Health Science colleague that I don’t go to the gym because it’s too far to walk from my office and he gently suggested that if I just walked to the gym and back to my office three times a week, I’d be getting more exercise than I do currently. Anyway, my doctor has been advising me for years to get some exercise, and as a colleague put it, walking the picket line is much cheaper than a health club. We’re going to be the fittest faculty in the nation.

So, bring your spouse, your partner, the other parent of your child, your lesbian lover, your significant other, your gay companion, your mistress, your sugar daddy; better yet, bring all of them. One of mine rides a huge Harley; wish I could get ‘em out here from Seattle. (don’t ask which it is; I’m not telling.)


Date: Sun, 30 Mar 1997 13:43:20
Subject: Picket Safety, Publication: Forthcoming PICKET SAFETY Darcy Pomerleau (Chimneystack) and I both run picket lines where people have told us they like to march because they feel safe. Kyd Carter, Strike Organizer, asked me to draw up some guidelines for safety from our experiences. Achieving this involves a system of security and discipline. Security is Job One. Discipline on the picket line is polite and friendly, but explicit and strict.

Delegate Everything Except Line Safety:
Delegate to someone on the picket line every responsibility that might distract you from managing the safety of the line. We’re bringing some stick-on badges to write titles on and hand out. Tell them you will call them by function:

Shift Captain – Only the Shift Captain allows cars to move, or the picket line to clear/reassemble.

Cell Phone – Assign it to someone along with instructions on how to use it.

Sign-In-Sheet – This person also can collect the chits from the coffee wagon.

Greeter – Lots of good people come to talk to us, to join our lines, to say they support us. They are wonderful, but they are a distraction. Direct them to your Greeter. Instruct the greeter to announce their arrival, especially if they join the march, or bring coffee & donuts, with great clamour to keep spirits up.

Incident Reporter – This person is responsible for taking down information on any difficult incidents, such as a car running the line, a particularly obnoxious motorist, anything that endangers our line. We have a right to safety. YUFA has developed forms for reporting incidents. At the minimum, this person writes down the license plate number. Security is following up on campus drivers who abuse safety.

Photographer –In the case of a really difficult incident, summon the cell phone person and the photographer. The photographer snaps a shot of the person’s face and their license plate. Highly effective at calming raging motorists.

Coffee Captain – The coffee truck often arrives unbeknownst to the Shift Captain whose eyes are on the traffic. The Coffee Captain should make sure that people get out of line in an orderly way to get coffee. Kind Coffee Captains get a coffee for their Shift Captain. One picketer didn’t wait to ask whether I wanted a coffee; she just got me one, and another hand-fed me a Tim Bit donut hole.

Honk Sign – Every line should have a picket sign which says, “Honk if You Support YUFA.” There is no better way to stop a frustrated line of drivers who decide to honk their horns.

Leafletter – Assign leafletters who are the only ones to speak to the commuters, based on their diplomacy and self-control. Keep the talk quick and short. If well-meaning people want to talk more, encourage them to pull off the road. We don’t give directions. A florist arrived, and totally blew my line rhythm, trying to ask directions for delivering flowers. I told him that he had two choices: he could deliver the lovely flowers right at my feet, or he could get back in his car and keep moving.

Dress for Success:
As few distracting colours as possible
Your florescent safety vest
Your red Shift Captain’s ribbon on your sleeve
A flashing red bicycle light if it’s early morning or late evening ($10)
Your YUFA strike pin
Your whistle, if you use one (Darcy does not; I do; an interesting article on cultural differences there?)
A hard hat! ($6.99 at Mark’s Work Wearhouse; dress it up with your own sign)
Safety boots with steel-toes, if possible (gives you an incredible sense of safety)

Talk to Your Picket Line:
Your number one job is keeping the picketers safe. When you arrive on duty, announce the few brief rules of the line. Here are mine:

1. Keep the line together and keep moving.

2. Obey signals absolutely from the Shift Captain for clearing the line. One whistle to clear; two to get back on the line. Don’t move unless you hear the whistle, or are in immediate personal danger.

3. Nobody lets a car through except the Shift Captain.

4. Keep heads up. It’s okay to talk, but be constantly aware of where you are and where traffic is. As Yogi Berra put it, “you can observe a lot just by watching.”

Remind Your Team That Your Main Job is Safety:
Keep the line moving; our greatest safety defense is a good line, well behaved, orderly, tight and close. Our cause is just, but it is not worth a broken leg or a squashed foot. Heads up! Especially when certain kinds of cars come through, usually black or red.

Praise Your Team:
Your second job is morale, and it’s non-spuriously correlated with safety: “We’re looking good! We’re a small but strong band, keep the line going.”

Have A System:
Establish a system of control where picketers feel safe and commuters know what to expect. Cars should move at a regular pace decided by the Captain, and they should stop at a designated place, far away enough to not interfere with the line but close enough in case of emergency. You establish a contract that they will get through the line and that things will be orderly. When someone is clearly in control, it is much less likely that incidents will occur. Below is my system: use your own, but have one.

I join the Sentinel line while the line is marching and the traffic is stopped. I walk for a while on the line, while the previous Shift Captain gets ready to leave. S/he introduces me as the new Shift Captain; I move into the centre of the circle, holding up my own picket sign (I carry it in my car to every shift) that says “STOP” in white letters on red to traffic. I state the rules of the shift, and greet as many people by name as I can as they circle around me. When we’re getting ready to start the traffic again, when the traffic light turns yellow, I shout to the picketers, “Getting Ready to Clear the Line!” and, standing facing the halted traffic, I blow the whistle once.

I insist on absolute obedience to the whistle, and I yell at them if they don’t clear quickly. Picketers move safely to the side of the road. Then I do the scariest thing I do in the whole shift, which is, while standing between the two lines of traffic, I turn and look behind me to make sure the line is cleared; then I turn my picket sign around and show the motorists the side that says, “SLOW” in black letters on a yellow background, and then I wave traffic through. Having steel-toed boots on helps me feel a little more secure.

When we’re ready to stop the traffic again, I wait for a good break, timed to the red traffic light. I turn my sign to the red side, blow the whistle twice, and shout, “Back on the Line as Quickly as Possible!” I watch closely for cars going too fast or out of control, and I hold my STOP sign high in front of them, moving over close to them only if necessary for the safety of the picket line. Know your own limits for moving among cars. Traffic stops and the leafletters visit each car, until the traffic backs up to the end of the street (four to five cars), and the stoplight turns yellow. Then we do it all over again.

Darcy Pomerleau works a similar system, but without the whistle, only verbal commands. He puts a new person in charge of moving traffic every hour. I do the whole four hours myself, because it’s what I do best and I like consistency. If you’re using a whistle to direct picket movement, never use it for anything but picket movement.

Establish Emergency Procedures:
If an angry motorist tries to run the line, your number one job as Shift Captain is safety, but your number two job is morale. There are few things so dangerous or so demoralizing as having someone successfully run the picket line. Every Shift Captain has to decide what cars they will try to stop and which they will just let go. If you are going to stop cars, make sure that only designated people do so. I am fairly aggressive at this, but as I tell my line, “I’m a professional; don’t try this at home. I grew up in New York City and this is simply how we crossed the street.” If you don’t know whether it is safe, do not step in front of a car.

If a car appears to be a danger to the line, I leave the centre of the picket line, and bring over “Carter’s Blinkers,” named for our Strike Organizer, Kyd Carter. I hold my stop sign horizontally across the windshield of the offending car, without touching the car. If the driver moves forward, he has hit my sign; I have not hit him. This protects us in case of a police report. No one stands in front of the car, in case the driver panics and bolts. The picket line continues to walk steadily and if it slows down is verbally ordered to continue to walk. I summon our most gentle and persuasive leafletter to talk to the offending motorist. The photographer comes and appears to obviously take a “Carter Portrait” (real or faked) of the driver’s face and license number. The Incident Reporter writes down the license plate number and as many details as possible. I summon the cell phone person and tell them to get ready to call the police. Sometimes just the phone coming out of a pocket is enough to settle them down.

On Darcy’s line, the totality of the picket line repeats the license number as if it were a strike slogan. This helps the line feel they are doing something, and keeps them focused. We don’t let the offending car go too soon, lest other vehicles see it as an effective technique. On the other hand, I make every effort to get them out of there as soon as I reasonably can without appearing to have caved in. Darcy maintains the crazies are always men; I beg to differ. There is no gender discrimination in idiocy on the commuter line; men and women both can be nasty and brutish.

Immediately after an incident with an attempt to run the line, I shout to my picketers for a number of minutes to remember that there are very few difficult motorists, most of them are decent people; don’t let one idiot ruin our spirit. This reassures them and helps pump the accumulated adrenaline out of my system. This adrenaline is not all bad; it’s been known to get me through close to an hour of picket duty without even noticing the passage of time.

If the line of cars starts honking while you are holding them stopped, call for the HONK sign. There’s nothing like a sign that says, “Honk if you support YUFA” to stop a line of rowdy cars from honking at you. If you have no sign, stand firm and have your leafletters move from window to window telling people that the Captain will not move traffic until they stop. Again, you do not want to establish successful line-breaking techniques that drivers will carry to other lines and other shifts.

Overly Enthusiastic Picketers:
You don’t want to discourage people’s enthusiasm, but your number one job is safety. If you have someone who is out of control on your line, other picketers will stop coming because they don’t feel safe. Delegate someone to take the person aside and explain nicely but firmly that they are endangering the line, and insist that they follow directions.

Safety For Children On The Picket Lines:
If strikers bring children to the picket lines, they must be accompanied. Designate a place where they are to sit or stand when they are not on the line, imperatively off the road.



Sometimes we experienced a few hours of quiet on the listserv. Those of us who wrote a lot wrote privately to other “YUFA-L loudmouths”, most often just to see if the lines were open. There would later be talk and action about limiting YUFA-L to fifty messages a day, but it soon became clear that the limit would never serve us well.

Date: Sun, 30 Mar 1997 17:31:27
Subject: Re: Aliens Revisited

OK, Luke, since it’s so deadly quiet out there, I’ll say my reply to you publicly. Thanks for injecting some humour; I loved it. I’d love a comparison to Sigourney Weaver, but after four hours in the rain on the picket line, I look more like the black alien beastie. I envy his extra arms; I could carry two picket signs.

I worked closely with the administration on the Ninth Floor when I was Chair of the University Senate, and yes, it was dark up there. Back then, I can tell you that I thought it was just me; I felt it was because I was a relatively junior (and dare I say female?) Chair of Senate, that the administration always seemed to be trying to lure me over to their side. I felt I was constantly fighting to keep the faculty’s side of things clear. This was the early days of the what-President-Maurice-kept-telling-us-please-don’t-call-it-a-budget-crisis, and the days of the Presidential Search which resulted in the hiring of Betty Boone as York’s first woman president, she who now heads the employer’s side of the negotiating table.

I think Diana Symonds is right. We all have our demons to carry about how we may not have stood firmly enough when the early threats to our academic control over university decision-making began, and to the “corporatization” of the university. I have the added guilt of having been on the search committee that recommended Betty Boone for the presidency of York. I am trying to atone for my errors by being visible on the picket line, being audible/visible (what is it for e-mail?) on the listserv, and injecting emotion (dead fathers are great for this) and humour (M’s fashion page) whenever I can.

By the way, I hear that you are on the lines frequently with your fiddle, along with Ira Hayman and his bodhran. I came to know and love both instruments when on sabbatical in Nova Scotia. I hope you will come to Sentinel Road so I can hear you. I am hearing how much your visits lift the spirits of the Gates. I hear too that there is another group in kilts entertaining the lines with Scottish country dancing.


Date: Sun, 30 Mar 1997 20:03:00 To: Darcy Pomerleau
Subject: Re: Lundi: A La Barricade (fwd) je suis meilleur par une piece du chevaux. I’m better by a hair’s breadth, though I think I said something about horses instead. I am retiring from the e-mail for the night and taking your French Lesson to read. Here is a hug for you. ( )


Date: Mon, 31 Mar 1997 08:34:10
To: Elmo Rutter
Subject: Re: Blue Woad

My now famously beloved dead labour union organizer father was a devout atheist. I, like any good daughter, rebelled against his beliefs and took up theism. For a number of years, I devoutly tried to believe not only in a god but in an intercessory god, but once I got my doctoral thesis completed with help from family and friends and colleagues, but no deity, I began to realize that there probably was no such thing, and I lost that faith and returned to the beliefs of my father.

Elmo, I’m curious. I don’t care about the details of “nasty things” you’ve heard written about me (now there’s a contradiction in terms that comes with e-mail) but I don’t understand why someone would not know from whence I was coming. Isn’t it pretty clear that I am a business professor who ardently believes in the union cause? Or is it perhaps the fact that I am a business professor that makes someone think that I could not possibly be pro-union?

And no, I won’t be painting myself blue, but I had ancestors who did – Druids.


Date: Mon, 31 Mar 1997 18:44:33
Subject: Re: Exam Schedule

It is a shame I have to live with that not only are my part-time professors crossing the picket lines and giving exams, but many of my full-time business colleagues also are crossing. My response has been to give my students my personal guarantee that I will see to it, as Marketing Area Co-ordinator, that at least in marketing, they will not be penalized for supporting the strike.


Date: Tue, 01 Apr 1997 19:43:51
To: Darcy Pomerleau
Subject: Re: Les Petits Poissons Rouges D’avril (fwd)

Cher Darcy, Je suis magnifique si encore tres malade. J’ai fait une ligne superbe, partiellement parsque je dis, “mon ami Darcy a me montrer comme une ligne (should be; I warned you I won’t be able to do subjunctive.)” Je travai sans un dictionaire ce soir. J’ai un desir pour tu pour une Avril poisson heureux!


Our families were a godsend to us. They strove to understand about our long hours, especially on the YUFA-L as none of us had seen anything like this before. They calmed and soothed us when we came home furious from the picket lines and poured us a scotch on the rocks. They gently explained to children why the household was so different from usual. They understood when we merely picked at a lovely meal made specially for us at the end of a long day. They drove to the picket lines to bring us warmer clothes when the weather changed, usually for the worse, which it did mightily in those fifty-five days.

Date: Tue, 01 Apr 1997 19:53:11
Subject: Re: Dressing for Meeting with Students

Hear a word from ‘M’, fashion writer to the YUFA web site. We who teach business usually dress in our finest business attire. I am deliberately now not dressing like a Suit. We are on strike, and as strikers, we are closer to the truckers and auto workers who go out on the line than we are to the business honchos who run our Board of Governors. I’m not saying, dress for un-success, but be careful that we don’t try to imitate the employer. Students in this situation will respect faculty who stick to the usual things they wear.

Speaking of clothes, I was so touched by Kyle Knight’s story of his wife driving from a half-hour away to bring him a warmer coat when the weather changed so suddenly one day last week. He’s on Northwest Gate and every time the wind is at my back at Sentinel Road, I think of my colleagues on the north side of the campus who will be getting it in the face.


Date: Wed, 02 Apr 1997 09:51:19
Subject: Re: Comments on the Strike (fwd)

Some suggestions to Nolan Wurmser regarding his comments about not supporting how we’re managing this strike:

You say the union has harmfully misrepresented the financial position of the university and that everything you learned in your years as Dean leads you to conclude that the employer’s financial data is correct. But the real problem is that the employer says they cannot afford salary increases, and yet refuses to open the books to show us the proof, despite the fact that we are a public institution, accountable to the public, and those books ought to be open. We are on strike partly to force more accountability.

You say that the strike is creating recruiting problems. Will the fact that we pay the twelfth lowest salary in the province make it easier to recruit top professors? Will the gender inequity in salaries make it easier to attract top female professors? We are on strike partly for the sake of future faculty who might join us.

You say that the main victims are the students who are currently here. Just exactly who did you think the rest of us thought the “victims” would be? The pizza delivery man who can’t get through the lines in time to deliver a hot pizza? Yes, we put our students at risk, but only because we believe that in the long run our students will benefit from what we are asking for. We are on strike partly for our students.

You complain of demonizing and ridicule in union comments about the Board or the administration. Have members of the university never spoken ill of each other before? I could remember, if I wanted to, some of the filthy verbiage thrown at me when I was Chair of Senate, but I figured that was part of the battle and I moved beyond it. I am on strike, planning to remain collegial when it’s all over, with whomever is currently involved, and on whatever side.

You say you are opposed to this strike, but what would you have us do now, with a 71% strike vote? Quit the strike? I encourage you to continue to make suggestions for helping to end the strike, but diatribes on why we should not be on strike do not help. Our union is on strike; the single best thing we can do is to be out there supporting the strike, and the single best visible means of support for the strike is the picket line.


Date: Wed, 02 Apr 1997 14:16:28
Subject: Re: Pension Lindsay, thanks for reminding me. I forget sometimes that I am also one of those women who entered this particular work force late, at the age of 36 to be precise with zero pension from jobs before that. But then I’m at the outer edge of the baby boomers and have always followed the recommendation of the comedian on This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes who said that the baby boomers will have no problem supporting ourselves in our old age, as long as we are prepared to work till we’re 145 years old.


Date: Wed, 02 Apr 1997 14:25:51
Subject: Re: E-Mail Etiquette If you don’t vote, your voice is not heard. You cannot weasel out later and say, “Oh well, I really meant ‘No’ by not voting.”

We took a strike vote, folks. 71% of those voting voted in favour of a strike and now we are on strike. It is, from what I hear, one of the single most effective instruments we have in negotiations; the administration never expected us to have the guts to stay out this long, yet here we are and they are making concessions; small, but more than they were in the last 13 months.

Now is not the time to be reconsidering that vote. Betty Boone already asked us to do that via her charming letter of March 20, and I believe we responded resoundingly that we were not going to re-vote. We are on strike. Let’s support our union, while working for a manageable solution to the issues.


Date: Wed, 02 Apr 1997 20:38:34
Subject: Re: Parker Brothers: administration versus YUFA: A Game

Len Vega’s plea to take back that word, “elite” because he can’t accept it, reminds me of the day a student called my line a group of “effete snobs,” and all I could answer back was, wearing my workingman’s (they are a men’s size 6) work boots and my hard hat, “Is this the fashion statement of an elitist snob?!” We are none of us “elite” or “effete.” We’re just doing the best job we know how, to get this settled.

Please, Mallory, take it back. Let’s be as kind to each other as possible. It hurts enough from the outside; let’s keep it as decent as we can on the inside.

p.s.: any clever entrepreneurs out there ready to develop a Parker Brothers game? We could sell the rights and provide for all our financial needs.


What Did We Learn in Week Two? (Support)

1. We have to be kind to each other, on the lines and on the listserv.
2. Support from home is essential.
3. Struggles in negotiations can be huge and take an unbelievable amount of time.
4. Do what you can yourself; your union cannot do everything.
5. Have PATIENCE. Time does pass, sometimes slowly, but it does pass.

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
Return to Beginning Return to 3 Books Page    


© 2020 M Louise Ripley