Baseball Title Strike One: WEEK THREE

Strike One: The YUFA Grand Strike of 1997

In Week Three, we were still working on what a strike means, what it means to belong to a union, still sorting out who on the listserv was with us, who was against the strike, and who was “lurking”. We began to realize we had a number of lurkers – people who were interested and read the listserv regularly but never commented. We also began to hear more from those who were very clearly not strike supporters.

I was sick as a dog (and tried translating that into French!) but not too sick to write a letter to my father’s old union newspaper. I sought other ways to contribute.

Date: Thu, 03 Apr 1997 10:24:01
To: Kyd Carter
Subject: Staying Away From the Line

Not to worry, Strike Organizer Kyd Carter. Both my husband and Madelaine called me stubborn and threatened to bodily remove me if I went to my line as sick as I am. I know when it’s time to let go, and you shouldn’t have to worry about my health on top of everything else you have to worry about.

Assuming I come back from today’s hospital visit feeling better, is there anything I can do from home? Writing? Calling?
Thank you for your caring.


Date: Fri, 04 Apr 1997 11:23:00
Subject: Re: Today’s Meeting

Union discipline and pep talks are what have got many of us through this ordeal so far. I will be at the meeting in spirit only today. I am out of hospital, after a nasty bit of sinus surgery (nasty concept but elegant performance by a woman surgeon at Scarborough Centenary Hospital), and am ordered to rest. My doctor assures me that this was not caused by standing in the snow and rain for four days. I hope to see everybody on the picket line Monday, unless we ratify before then.


Date: Fri, 04 Apr 1997 12:17:05
Subject: Re: Report from the Centre for Applied Decanal Salary Sustainability

Luke, please tell Anon. that I found the piece great reading, even while recognizing myself in the scathing descriptions of those of us who do overdo things (as Yogi Berra put it, “it’s déjà vu all over again”). I was, however, deeply shocked, nay, horrified, to find out that we are allowing childbirth, broken legs, death, and even sinus operations as excuses for not walking the picket line. What kind of wimps are we, anyway?


Date: Fri, 4 Apr 1997 12:54:29
Subject: Re: The Real World of Adversarialism

To Preston Gallagher: your eloquent message reminds us why we are out here; when an employer violates the norms of free collective bargaining, labour has only one viable option: withdrawing our work to pressure the employer back into meaningful negotiations. If others want to call it adversarialism, your message reminds us that that adversarialism is now our only protection.

We are on strike, and in one way or another, we deal with it: Some of us talk about how it’s not a strike without a fire barrel (thanks for the wood Jacques Barrault, Lazlo Goodrich, and Levi Saks!). Some of us invoke the spirits of our own particular heroes. Some of us summon the inspiring language of the striking worker. Some of us write lengthy academic arguments for or against an idea. But the fact remains that when management will not listen to labour, labour must find a way to get management’s attention. Usually that way is a strike, and when we are on strike, we are very little different from any other worker on strike for more say in working conditions. We each use what tools we have. Let us just try to be as kind to each other as we can, while still making our points. We are a union. And please don’t anyone write back to correct me that we are an “Association;” we are a union.

And while I’m on the subject of terminology, can we all try to be sure that when referring to the administration, we call them that, or “the employer” but not “The University.” The administrators are not The University. The students and the faculty are The University.


Date: Fri, 04 Apr 1997 13:41:48
To: _The Guild Reporter_
Subject: Steve Ripley’s Daughter

April 4, 1997

I am the daughter of Stephen Ripley, one-time Executive Secretary of the Contracts Committee for the American Newspaper Guild, who died, incidentally, thirty-two years ago today. I thought the _Guild Reporter_ might be interested in this story.


The full-time faculty of York University in Toronto is on strike for more say in university governance by students and faculty. One of the Picket Captains in that strike carries in her pocket a small blue and gold pin which belonged to her father, and which would be familiar to many Guild Reporter readers.

Professor Louise Ripley, a business professor at York University for the last seventeen years, is the daughter of Stephen Ripley, one-time Executive Secretary of the Contracts Committee of the American Newspaper Guild. It is ironic that Professor Ripley is on strike in Toronto, the same city where she lived at the age of four when her father came to help obtain a fair contract for the Canadian Press. Steve Ripley died in 1965, but his union spirit lives on in his daughter’s commitment to the power and integrity of the union and of the legal right to strike, even for as unlikely a group of “downtrodden workers” as university professors.

This is the first strike in twelve years by the eleven hundred full-time faculty and librarians, and the first one of any length in the thirty-year history of York University, which serves over 40,000 students. Professor Ripley explains to her students the particularly difficult problem of a strike by teachers. “If a steel mill owner mistreats his employees, and they go out on strike, the owner loses money and eventually settles to protect his income. When teachers strike, it is our students who suffer. It is imperative that students, the administration, the Board of Governors, and the general public understand the magnitude of the issue of participation in academic decision making in order to appreciate why we would call a strike that puts our students at risk. Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”

Professor Ripley, who studies truck drivers in her area of Marketing Channels of Distribution, wears a trucker’s steel-toed boots and a hard hat for protection on the picket line. Her hard hat bears a sign, “This hat’s for you, Tracey,” a direct message to fellow professor Tracey Milner, who is now in a Toronto hospital recovering from surgery on a foot that was broken by an angry York University student, 33 years old, who after trying unsuccessfully to break the picket line, jumped out of his car and threw the 54-year-old Milner to the ground, shattering her ankle.

Professor Ripley remembers marching on her father’s picket lines in New York City with her twin sister, Jane, and her mother, Kathryn Jane Ripley, who still lives in Falls Church, Virginia. She also remembers lean Christmases when her dad sent part of his pay cheque to support the families of striking workers, and she remembers many of the songs the family sang around the upright piano in the dining room, including her own personal favourite, ‘I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.’

Members of the American Newspaper Guild will remember with fondness Brother Ripley’s warmth, his loyalty to the union cause, and his devastating wit. His daughter, Louise, is drawing on all these memories and skills to keep her strong on the picket lines today at York University in Toronto. It was thanks to the generosity of Guild friends who established a scholarship for Steve Ripley’s children after his death that Louise was able to complete her education. If you knew Steve Ripley, or if you would like to write Louise to support her union’s cause, she would be delighted to hear from you. You can reach her on e-mail at


Date: Fri, 04 Apr 1997 17:27:41
Subject: Re: The Real World of Adversarialism

Mallory, either you have misread me, or you are deliberately trying to make one of us look like a fool. Please re-read my original line. It says, “Let us just try to be as kind to each other as we can, while still making our points. We are a union.” I spoke of the need to be kind to each other within our union, while still airing our differences. I made no reference to being kind to Betty Boone or Gus Barlow, because they are “carrying muskets” for a side with which I find myself unable to feel any sympathy. But, now that you mention it, I am reading _Gods and Generals_, a book about my academic passion, The American Civil War. During that war, musket bearing soldiers on opposite sides often spent the evening before a battle sailing little paper boats across the river, trading chocolates and cigarettes before they marched to their deaths in the morning in numbers which make even a reference to muskets almost unthinkable in our context.

You ask whether I would be interested in working with you “in investigating whether our union is representing the labourer at York University adequately.” Let me put it in my words. When this strike is over, I am going to offer my service to the union which has stood behind me for all of my 17 years at York and for whose governance I have paid very little, happy and comfortable to let others do it. For all my rhetoric about my dead-father-the-labour-union-organizer, who died, by the way thirty two years ago this day, I had no gut-level understanding of the importance of a union until the first day that I stood at the gates of York University without a job, and with only my union providing the thin thread that still connected me to a place where I have worked for 17 years, but whose current governance seems to leave little place for student or teacher.

But I will have to offer that service in the same way that every other YUFA officer has: to stand for election and let the members decide who will serve and how. I personally believe that the current YUFA team is doing everything in its power, capability, knowledge and faith to help end this strike. I also believe that the people beneath the administration’s facade, the persons, the human beings, Betty and Gus, probably want to settle it too. I encourage those who disagree to keep sharing ideas. Look at your journals, whatever your field: we share ideas and dispute theories there without personally attacking each other; let us try to do it here.


One of my personal ongoing issues was the fact that I was a business professor on strike (very few of them were). I also had experience and friends in the administration, as did many union members. An ongoing issue for the union was the increasing corporatization of all universities, with policies encouraging us to do joint research with corporations to look for ways for corporations to help finance our research in an age of declining federal support for universities, both in Canada and in the United States.

Date: Fri, 04 Apr 1997 17:34:46
To: Sean Paulson
Subject: Re: Letter from Chairs in Faculty of Arts

Ah, Sean, the dangers of making a list: And I’d like to thank the folks who made this whole shebang possible…and there, sure enough, you’ve left someone out. My worst one? I dedicated my doctoral thesis to my mother (who also edited it), my husband, and my mentor at Wharton. In my acknowledgements section, I thanked everyone I knew, including the dear man in the photocopying room who ran the stapling machine without authorization to produce my questionnaires. You know whom I forgot to mention? Anywhere in my whole thesis? My dearly beloved father, of whom you have heard me speak here.

This is private, right? Yeah. Keep writing, Sean. What you’re saying is important, and coming from someone who has “been there” as an administrator, it means even more.


Date: Fri, 04 Apr 1997 17:43:00
Subject: Re: Evaluating the administration

Hear this from a business professor: Who the heck ever proved that the corporate model worked well for corporations before they started to take it on for universities? Did we have in mind corporations like Campeau (who managed to bankrupt Brooks Brothers, the men’s shop of choice for the corporate executive)? Olympia & York? Eatons? Bre-X? Pearce Brogger is right that there is much here at York that needs to be questioned: costs overruns of the voice registration system, the Library computer catalogue, the Commons construction and road improvements, the Bramalea deal, Seneca, York Lanes, the Ice Palace, Space University, and the bookstore deficit, all things we need to know about but the employer won’t open the books. Pearce is right: we’re not even using a corporate model well, much less using one of collegiality and trust.


Date: Fri, 04 Apr 1997 11:53
To: Elmo Rutter Subject: What to Do

You asked if I have any friends on the Ninth Floor. I used to, but I don’t think I do anymore. Betty Boone was my friend. I was on the search committee that recommended her to the Board; I had not known her before the search. I personally supported her and believed her to be the best person for the job. I remained a loyal and ardent supporter, for many years. I liked her personally, Elmo. It hurts having to choose between Betty and my union, but I am the daughter of a labour union organizer. I don’t know if you have any idea how important my union connection is to me. My father died young, partly from driving himself 18 hours a day fighting for the union movement. He also was Irish and drank too much, and now, spending my days as he spent 80% of his, I think I understand why he drank so much.

I lost my father in more ways than just death. I joined corporate North America and got an M.B.A. I have taught business for the last 17 years where I have had to put up with right-wing, anti-union, anti-women, anti-liberal attitudes of colleagues who held my career in their hands and of students who sat in my classrooms. I spent eight years in a demeaning arrogant business PhD programme at the University of Toronto where I had to subjugate every liberal thought I ever had, be it on unions, women, social class, whatever. I came close to thinking that I had betrayed everything my father brought me up to believe in. I even forgot to mention my father in my doctoral thesis dedication or acknowledgements. But perhaps as I think on it, I didn’t forget but rather knew at some deep level that he wouldn’t have wanted to be there.

This strike has given me back my voice, Elmo. I remember now who I was and who I was brought up to be. I remember what is really important to me. And I also remember my father’s gentleness and his compassion. Mallory may mock me for my sentimentality, but I honestly believe you can fight for a cause and be a decent human being at the same time.

I used to name a number of people in the administration as friends. I just don’t think they would listen to anything I have to say, and, if they would, they are not high up enough to effect any change. Let’s hope for an early settlement and a cup of tea very soon.


Date: Mon, 07 Apr 1997 10:22:38
Subject: Re: The Real World of Adversarialism Mallory, stop trying to put words into my mouth. Re-read my original about the American Civil War where even carrying muskets they were often kind to the fellows on the other side. “...a union not so fierce in its delimitation of bonhomie...” Good grief, listen to yourself!

You appear to me to be being deliberately unkind, thoughtless, and vicious. It does not help anybody. There seems to be a long York tradition that if you don’t answer somebody back, they are “right.” This will not hold true for me in this case. I don’t have the energy to waste on any more of this kind of communication and will not be responding to any further like it.


The picket lines in the miserable weather this spring certainly took their toll. The smallest things came to mean a lot, whether it was a kind deed, or a visit to our lines, or a seemingly meaningless loss of a sweater. We remained concerned for our students.

Date: Mon, 07 Apr 1997 18:12:31
Subject: Re: Lost Sweater

Gunther, I was so sad to read that you lost your dark blue crew neck sweater on the line this afternoon, even though they left you a black cardigan in its place. I hope you find yours. Some of the small losses hurt the most. A colleague lost a coffee cup one night, was desolate; I understood. One night, I thought I had lost one of the only gloves I owned that did not get drenched after four hours of rain; fortunately found it in my trunk, but I found the level of my relief astounding, considering it was just a glove from the Biway Discount Store. I think this strike is affecting all of us in incredible stress. Part of why I’m sick, so my doctor says. I saw her this afternoon, and while she maintains no one gets sick from the cold (weird experiments done with putting medical students in buckets of ice water) she says we know little about the relation of stress to our immune systems. So I’m off the lines for a few days, and just bitter about it. Although it sounds silly, this strike has given me back the original love of my university that has been eroded slowly over the last years. A large part of it has been being out on the lines with all kinds of people from all kinds of departments, and being surprised by some, like seeing a right wing business colleague out on the lines (although he crossed the line and went in after each shift to do university work).
Take care. I’ll be back as soon as I can.


Date: Mon, 07 Apr 1997 18:18:59
To: YUFA-L Subject: Re: A Nightmare and a Dream We must be careful not to bargain away important but seemingly less obvious points just to win on salary. I am decently paid; I don’t care if I get a nickel more (well, of course, I exaggerate; I would love a raise like anyone else) but I am more concerned that we do two things:

1. Get more say in how the university is governed, and 2. Help get those who are way below the median up to decent salaries. I was so struck by Rodney’s story of having to give up his apartment even before the strike because he could not afford it on his salary. This is simply unacceptable.


Date: Mon, 07 Apr 1997 18:32:09
To: Janine Sydney
cc: YUFA-L
Subject: Re: For What It’s Worth

It’s worth a lot, Janine; thanks for writing it. Your father obviously knew many of the same things mine did: A party that does not have its decision-makers at the table is just stalling, and returning to work without a fair settlement will mean the end of a strong union. Let us hope the latter does not happen to us.

It’s why we have to stay on the lines; it’s why we have to stand firm until we obtain a fair settlement. Even the idea of postponing the strike, to me, implies giving up in a way that will damage the union forever. Leah Merle-Scott, the head of NAC who spoke at the rally today said it all. We are not fighting for better salaries; we are fighting for a say in the social structures that make up our lives.


Date: Mon, 07 Apr 1997 19:57:09
Subject: Re: More on Picket Line Clothing

We’ve heard about Gunther’s lost sweater and Randolph’s drenched gloves; one day last week on the line, my friend and colleague Pablo Ortega, tired of wet feet from two hours of picketing in the rain, left the picket line briefly, drove to a nearby store, purchased and put on dry socks, and returned for the remainder of his shift.


Date: Mon, 07 Apr 1997 20:05:59
To: YUFA-L Subject: Our Negotiators

It was great to have our negotiators visit us on the Sentinel picket line today; as is usually the case, Atkinson has a disproportionately high share of union officers and volunteers, so typically, more than one negotiator is from here. It cheered our spirits immensely, just seeing them and being able to talk with them. They want our input; we felt they really wanted to hear what we were feeling, out here on the front lines.

I am especially proud to be from Atkinson during this strike; as Tom Priestly put it, he thinks of the whole of Atkinson as a strike force. We are proud to be holding our line at one of the most difficult entrances to York, and in such awful weather. As an added bonus, as is the case on so many of the picket lines, we are getting to know so many more of our own faculty members, people who, prior to the strike, we just thought of as “someone from Department X” but it turns out they had forebears in the Welsh coalfields, or they also like our favourite poet, or they do research on rare coral reefs and go scuba diving to find them, or they are quietly writing a novel while also publishing their academic articles. I personally admire those who can walk the picket lines and read at the same time, like Lazlo Goodrich. We’re meeting lots of librarians on the Sentinel line. Isaac Larson, the York Archivist urges us to keep everything for the archives, so save your e-mails to a hard drive somewhere; you never know when they might be needed. Isaac recently was picked up on the hood of a car and driven for 200 yards by an irate driver. These librarians are tough!


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 09:12:37
To: Luke Corbett
Subject: Re: Meaning

I’m working on writing a piece about this. It has to do with how I got my tenure by learning to become “one of the business boys,” laughing at sexist jokes, ignoring homophobic barbs, taking the excesses that came to me because I was in a category to which excesses came, learning the rhetoric so well that I almost became one of them, until the Women’s Studies programme happened along and brought some daylight to my nightmare existence. I am feeling with the strike that I am finally able to stand up for something I truly believe in.

What’s really killing me is that what I was doing best was rallying the troops on the picket lines. Now, sick, I cannot be on the lines, and I cannot urge people to go out on the lines when I’m not there myself. I mentioned I’m reading _Gods and Generals_, about the Civil War. The best generals ran, not rode, into the fray in front of their men; they did not lead from the safety of the nearby farmhouse; General Winfield Scott Hancock comes gloriously to mind. (I know, I know, my husband objects to my glorification of the Civil War. I don’t think of it as glorification, just as I don’t think a picket line is any fun, but there’s something about being out there putting everything you’ve got on the line for something you believe in that warms my soul).

You’ve heard me speak (write? e-mail is so confusing for verbs) about my labour union organizer father. He died when I was only 18, and it had a profound effect on me. I lost him to more ways than death. I went on into corporate North America, earned the coveted M.B.A., got a job teaching business at York, and almost forgot the things he had taught me so carefully about the rights of the less fortunate, the power of unity, and the necessity to stand up for what you believe in.

Oh, Luke, sorry to get so carried away. The piece is there in my head. I’ve got to get it down on paper. I think you’ll understand, anyway. Please do consider continuing to correspond when you feel like it, even if you’re not on the listserv.
I look forward to meeting you.

p.s. I agree entirely with your comment about the danger of arguing with philosophers; I learned this with Brad Harold at Atkinson, with whom, despite amazing battles on the floors of many university forums, I remain friendly.


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 09:29:18
To: Preston Gallagher
Subject: Re: Help

Exceptionally well responded, Preston. Matthew Miller’s letter infuriated me, as do Mallory Hallstrom’s rantings. Maybe you can give me some personal help. I need to do something. Up until this week, I had found my niche in the strike in exhorting the troops to the picket lines. (Please forgive my militaristic language; I’m deep into _Gods and Generals_, about the American Civil War). Now I am sick, really sick. I’ve had an operation on an impacted sinus, and it’s not responding. My doctor has ordered rest, also my husband, and the Strike Organizer Kyd Carter, my colleague and fellow spirit Darcy Pomerleau and my new friend and “commanding officer” Madeleine Kieran, the last two of whom literally escorted me off the field of the rally yesterday and sent me home to bed. I’m a good soldier; I won’t disobey commanding officers, especially ones for whom I have so much respect. But what can I do for the strike effort? I seem to write well when emotionally charged (I made the coveted back page of the Globe and Mail last week); I’ve written a piece for _The Guild Reporter_, the union newspaper of the American Newspaper Guild (now called The Newspaper Guild), with whom my father used to work; they are going to use it; it talks about why such an unlikely group of “disgruntled workers” as university professors is on strike. Can I write for YUFA? I write here, on the listserv, but it seems so self-indulgent. I need desperately to do something.


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 10:11:36
To: YUFA-L Subject: Re: Doing Something Constructive A friendly note to Matthew Miller, and anyone else with ideas of what we can do to help our students: Matthew, I like your idea of phoning students with a plan. What are your plans for your students? What sort of things might I consider? So far, I’ve just told them that they won’t be hung out to dry, that when the strike is settled, we’ll fix everything up. What are you telling them? What are other professors telling their students? What can we legally (and morally if we’re supporting the strike) do for them?


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 10:26:30
Subject: Re: Supporting Students
I support Kyle Knight’s comments that we need to support measures to accommodate our students, but not to the extent that we give up the strike. Several people spoke privately at the rally yesterday (through chattering teeth) of wondering how we reconcile the concept of being on strike with trying to make everything as convenient as possible.


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 10:52:42
Subject: Re: Salaries

“...not particularly valued,” is putting it mildly in my case in terms of how non-academic experience is evaluated in negotiating a university salary. My dean at the time simply and literally laughed in my face when I tried to discuss what I could be earning in the corporate world. He said (and it hit home, sadly), if you want their salary, go work for them. I had to come up with a job offer from another university in order to finally force him upward to something that came near what I knew colleagues were earning (thanks to Atkinson’s open salary list). Even then, I was hired at $13,000 a year less than a similarly qualified colleague hired at almost the same time (female, not gender-based) and finally got an anomalies settlement later, but only after lengthy bickering, pleading, threatening, and generally playing the role of ping pong ball for the dean and the academic V.P. I hope they enjoyed the game. I did not. I still feel guilty about the lovely and friendly university where I interviewed, spoke, lunched, and chatted, knowing all along that I was probably not going to do more than use their offer to threaten my dean.


We wrote to many people, especially anyone we believed could possibly help us. We received back encouraging letters. Within York, we received nasty letters from the employer.

Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 14:23:49
To: Avram Ford, University of Toronto
Subject: The York Strike

The strike is nasty, Avram. We went out on March 20 and we’re still out. The university administration is simply not budging, and there are serious fears that their real goal is to bust the union. The formal reports have the administration saying they have offered us an 8% raise, and the union responding that this is just making up the last two years of Progress Through the Ranks adjustment that we gave up in the recent Social Contract wage freeze.

We are at loggerheads about Article 14 on retirement, with the administration saying that they cannot afford to give flexible retirement any longer, and the union arguing that it has cost less to have flexible retirement because people go earlier. The union offered to put this one major contentious issue to binding arbitration, but the administration has said they cannot risk having a third party make long range future decisions for the university. I am, of course, a union supporter. My father was a labour union organizer. I am also a business professor, but one with a strong interest in equity issues and a social conscience.

This strike is mostly about who will govern the university, and how. The Board of Governors seems intent on making us unto a corporation (I ask, like which successful one? Campeau? Eaton’s? BreX?). The union maintains that this strike is just the first dangerous wedge into changing the face of university governance across the country.

Many of our students are out with us, but we are all weary, and sometimes terrified. Just today, it was announced that the mediator has decided the two sides are too far apart and has sent them both home. Meanwhile our students sit with no finished winter term, no exam schedule, and a summer term looming fast.
Your old student


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 14:47:54
Subject: Re: Betty’s Letter

The anger you may feel in this note is directed at Betty Boone’s most recent letter. What exactly are we to tell our students, assuming we did get them in a room? I would be willing to phone all 350 of my current students, individually, if I had any idea whatsoever of what to tell them that I can do for them.

I found Betty Boone’s latest letter to be the most humiliating, abusive, irresponsible, almost personal slap-in-the-face that I have ever received as a professor at York, and trust me, here for 17 years, housed in a home department which does not always respect my interests, and having served as Chair of the University Senate, I’ve received a few. My concerns lie, of course with my students, but it is exactly my concern for my students, future as well as current, and my concern for the continuation of the university as a place of democratic governance, which of course prohibits such an action and keeps me on the picket lines.


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 15:11:34 To: Darcy Pomerleau
Subject: Colere Oh, Darcy. I put some trust in writing to Betty, and she has thrown it back in my face. Her last letter is a disgrace, including, in her personal response to me, a comment about my father that was uncalled for. Elle est une chienne, une sorciere, une chipie! Merde!

I feel so disabled, being sick. I want to be out on the lines. I need to physically put my presence out there and show them. I feel the same disappointment and furor as Colonel Chamberlain in the Union side of the Civil War when the troops were all heading out and his division was left behind, victims of a bad smallpox serum. He offered to have his men head the attack, infecting the enemy army.

I meant to say to you, I read in one of your messages and learned that you teach Linguistics, in French, to non-Francophones. Surely it must be one of the most difficult things in the world; linguistics already tops the list, much as it fascinates me. But to teach it in a tongue foreign to your students, you must be an amazing teacher.
Your sick and angry friend


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 15:26:58
To: YUFA-L Subject: Re: Armchairs Let me add my agreement to what Gunther says, from an additional point of view. I have written on the YUFA listserv from almost the beginning, when I was walking the lines four or more hours a day and captaining a shift. It was easier then; I earned my right to speak by walking my hours on the lines in the snow and rain. Now I am at home, after being in hospital, and I have missed four days on the lines. I have tried to sneak over, but Madeleine Kieran my Gate Captain, won’t let me come. She’s only 4 foot eleven, but she’s terrifying: She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Now I find myself having to be much more careful about what I say on the YUFA-L, lest I be seen as an armchair general (I signed one of my notes, “Armchair Private”), especially about the need to be out on the lines, even though I would by choice be out there and will as soon as I can again. Yes, we need debate, but Horatio is right in his posting about a certain level of union discipline which has to prevail, especially now with the mediator’s dismissal of both sides and Betty Boone’s outrageous newest letter. We can’t go on but we must go on. We must all hang together, or we will hang separately.


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 15:37:37
To: Horatio Taglieri
Subject: Re: Response to Hallstrom

Hi, Horatio. A private reply to your wonderful response to Mallory, in which you remind us that undermining union discipline in the middle of a strike is equivalent to sabotage. In _Gods and Generals_, at one point, the Union troops are being severely beaten by the rebels, and are in almost full retreat. The young general, on horseback, sees one of his own men approaching him, running back toward the Union lines; he pulls out his pistol and holds it to the man’s head and says, “Get back in your lines.” And they all return to their lines. I’m not advocating shooting deserters (yet), but I sure liked your response.


Even though our nay-saying colleagues were dragging down our spirits, we continued to try to change their thinking.

Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 21:18:34
Subject: Re: 8 Percent

Zach, you might think about considering those less fortunate than you. I don’t know when you came to York, but I figure you’ve been here a while, and I know you’re male. You may make enough to not worry about getting a salary increase, but what about our colleagues who cannot afford homes, cars, or sometimes even families? What about the bright, new colleagues who won’t even come to York because they can get much better salary packages elsewhere?


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 21:47:53
Subject: Re: Armchairs

The question is not, Mallory, how many picketers does it take to make a strike effective. The question is, when it’s all over, and one is benefiting from the gains made by one’s union supported by its hard working picketers whom one has not chosen to join on the lines, can one look oneself in the mirror in the morning?


Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 21:54:53
Subject: Johnny on the Spot

Ours has been turned on its side several mornings when the early pickets have arrived. The general consensus on the afternoon line is that we try to go before we arrive for picket duty, avoid drinking too much coffee and just hope we don’t have to use it.

In their turned-over condition they do serve a useful purpose; Tom Priestly who does the early morning shift said that he found the toppled johnnys useful to sit on to rest his ailing hip. Striking is more difficult for us the older we are and this freezing rain and snow doesn’t make it any easier. A hot bath and a scotch at the end of the day helps.

Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 21:58:51
To: Horatio Taglieri
Subject: Letter from Betty Boone

No, Horatio, this is even newer. I just forwarded it to the list. This more detailed note is private to you. I wrote to Betty Boone privately, urging a settlement that would see Article 14 on retirement sent to arbitration. She sent the new letter back to me, with a note that it was going out today to YUFA. She also made a personal ugly comment about my labour union father that I will be a long time forgetting. I told someone, in talking about who walks the lines and who doesn’t, who supports the strike and who doesn’t, I don’t hold grudges, but I have a long memory.

I so admire your continuing answers to Hallstrom. I don’t have the patience for him. You are magnificent! I am on doctor-ordered rest. But I need to get back to the lines.


Some of our contract faculty held full-time jobs downtown and taught the occasional course for us. Some tried to carve out a full-time career as a faculty member on short term contracts. This was becoming an issue for academics all over North America, with the United States approaching fifty percent of university professors being on contract instead of in tenure stream jobs.

Date: Tue, 08 Apr 1997 22:19:42
To: Albin Newman
Subject: Feeling re: the Strike

Thanks for writing, Albin. I realize that most of our contract faculty have no idea of what is going on with the strike, especially if the only information you are getting is from those of my full-time business colleagues who are crossing their own picket line.

As to my personal feelings about the situation, if you really want to know, I’ll send you the 85 messages in my file of my letters written to the YUFA listserv! My father was a labour union organizer. I grew up all my life steeped in the rhetoric of strikes, and marching on picket lines, from an age so young I cannot remember, but this is my first strike on my own job. I hate putting students through what is happening, but many of them are out there with us. They are aware that we are fighting for more say in university governance by students and faculty. I am putting a 17-year career at York on the line. I am feeling this more deeply than I have felt anything in my life.

On a lighter note, my piece in “Facts and Arguments” in The Globe and Mail could not have come at a better time. Published April 4, it came to the day, thirty-two years after my father died. A nice tribute, I think. Thank you for writing to me about it.

When tensions ran high on the picket lines and in negotiations, they were reflected in our listserv as well. A colleague and I had a spat over the spelling of a word. But it was always inspiring to meet together physically.

Date: Wed, 09 Apr 1997 09:36:22
To: Barry Meyer
Subject: Re: Jive

Barry, we all grew up in various different parts of different countries. I assure you that I have heard “jive” used in the way I used it, many times before, whether or not it’s technically correct. Obviously you got my meaning.

If you look, as a touch typist, where the two letters are, you might also have concluded that I hit the wrong key. But thanks for thinking of me; I’ve never been one to be mortified by errors. And thanks for not sending it to the open listserv. Then I’d have been forced to write back with a scathing diatribe, calling into question your own educational upbringing, your mother’s chastity, and your father’s honour.


Date: Wed, 09 Apr 1997 09:38:33
Subject: Re: Downtown Rally

Sadly, I had to miss that one. I was just out of hospital and made it to the second half, held at the church, but I missed the downtown rally where we all showed up in academic robes. I would have liked that; I have a beautiful doctoral robe. Presenting Sanford Payne with the Honourary Degree in Binding Arbitration was a good point to make; we have offered to return to work if the employer will put to third-party arbitration those issues where we are still miles apart, but the employer won’t have any part of it. More and more I wonder if they simply hope to break the union. I loved that we shouted “Shame” every time Payne tried to weasel out of explaining why he would not go to arbitration. It is fast becoming a favourite union catch-phrase.

The meeting at the downtown church was inspiring. It was a large gothic church with wonderful stained glass windows and the sun streamed through as we debated and argued and discussed and voted and decided and settled on various courses of action. Jane Daniels stood up (not quite in the pulpit) and explained to us how strike pay would work. I think for most of us it will be our first experience with receiving strike pay. Jane said something which really struck home with me. For all our suffering in the cold and wet of the freezing picket lines, our worry about what will become of us, or impatience with seeing this strike settled, there are amazingly few instances of people taking their frustrations out on each other, as often happens in our normally high-pressured work lives. The support one finds on the picket lines is truly heart-warming. She spoke of professors doing carpentry to set up signs, building fires in oil drums, bringing hot treats to share on the lines, teaching each other protest songs, standing up to brash students in cars, and sometimes finding themselves on the hoods of those cars, all things that we don’t normally see each other doing.


Date: Wed, 09 Apr 1997 09:51:12
To: Horatio Taglieri
Subject: Re: Letter from Betty Boone

Hi Horatio, an infected sinus blocked up and had to be surgically fixed. In essence, they put me out and drilled a third hole in my nose; I asked about getting a diamond, but the hole is on the inside. The doctor assured me that I didn’t get it standing in the rain and snow, but she does admit that added stress will impair the body’s immune system.

I went into hospital directly from the picket line, so I had my seven layers of clothing, my red badge and light, my work boots and hat. This caused questions, so I got to tell several dozen people about our strike. I never waste an opportunity. When I told my twin sister about the operation, she asked, tongue mildly in cheek, “Oh, did you get your eyes done at the same time?” Apparently my operation is what people often tell colleagues they were having done when they were in fact having a face lift. Shoot, I missed my chance.

I am better today than yesterday; that’s two days now I can say that, and the first since St. Patrick’s Day. I hope to be on the picket lines at least for a while on Friday. I draw my energy and resolve from the line. I miss it terribly.

And, hey, you’re right about not taking Betty’s comment personally. I am working on learning how to do that; you’d think I’d be better at it by now. Glad to hear you had a more civil response from G. Barlow. I respected him when he was Dean of Arts and I was Chair of Senate.


Many students supportively walked the picket lines with us and brought us donuts and coffee. But some, unfortunately highly vocal, began to wear thin our concern for them.

Date: Wed, 09 Apr 1997 10:50:53
Subject: Re: Students’ Letter

These suggested back-to-work protocols are all ideas which I have already decided I will in one way or another implement in my classes when we go back: lots of choice, relief of anxiety, and student needs as number one priority, even if I have to bend a few Council rules. But to be told to do this or else, by a group of students who can’t even put their names to the sheet of paper, with the bald insistence that we did not make students our top priority, is offensive to say the least. The unnamed students suggest that once the faculty fixes things up for them, “Then and only then should you fight your *other battles* (emphasis mine) for as long as you wish: we have lives to live.”

My battle with the administration, which takes the form of being on strike, is about gaining increased participation in university governance by students and faculty. If I were to fight exclusively for my own rights, I should probably be back in the classroom, earning my nice salary instead of worrying about how I am going to continue to support on strike pay the household that constitutes my share of “lives to live.” The suggestion that we postpone the strike until this particular group of students is finished, because they have paid for their merchandise, follows the same thought patterns of those who would view the university as a corporation, with students as customers, and courses as merchandise to carry corporate brand names and logos.

This unsigned document shows an incredible lack of understanding of the whole concept of a strike. A strike is not about trying to inconvenience as few people as possible. A strike is about solidarity, about putting on the line, literally, everything you have and care about, in order to achieve a just settlement from an administration which usually has far greater financial means than you do to endure the hardships involved in standing up for what you believe in. The students in the student union and the graduate students seem to understand this well, and their presence on the lines with us has cheered my frightened heart as no words from anyone else could possibly do. If we have a failing as a faculty, it is not a lack of caring about our students, but it may be a lack of curriculum content which teaches the next generation what a strike is, what it involves, and what it means.


Our spirits continued high, however, and we reasserted ourselves as colleagues whenever we could.

Date: Wed, 09 Apr 1997 11:07:43
Subject: Re: A Fine Pond Day

Eugene Myers, thank you for your heart-warming story of the driver of the red car who, trying to get around your picket line on Pond Road, mired himself in the mud and so instead of waiting three minutes, had to wait for three hours. Good stuff.

I have been by your Pond Gate, delivering literature, and you are a valiant bunch with lots of spirit. I remember the night you all left your beloved gate early to come add to our numbers at the entrance to Atkinson for the evening shift on Sentinel Road.
Many thanks.


Date: Wed, 09 Apr 1997 11:19:21
Subject: Re: Arbitration on Salary

Arnold Ackland quotes the report on our sister University of Toronto’s memorandum of agreement: “The agreement is designed to prevent debilitating faculty strikes like the one at York University” and asks, Arbitration anyone? Yes, yes, please, I’ll take arbitration. I’ll take two! Tell me which counter I go to in order to request it!


Date: Wed, 09 Apr 1997 16:45:32
Subject: Sign-Language Interpreter

The Sign Language interpreter is provided at meetings by YUFA, for one of our members who cannot hear. We are very much a union that stands behind the kind of accommodation that we ask of our employer.


Date: Wed, 09 Apr 1997 16:50:31
To: Mallory Hallstrom
Subject: Re: Support/Private

Mallory, with this sentiment of yours I agree, that we try to get the best we can, but we can only do that by winning the strike. I had a private note from a colleague asking me not to judge you too harshly, that you had an ironic wit at times. I knew that if he whom I’ve respected for ages in Senate, stood up for you, you can’t be all bad. I too have been misunderstood on the e-mail when I meant well, and I suggest that when we get this settled, and we must get it settled, all of those of us who yelled the most at each other get together somewhere for a drink and meet each other.


Date: Wed, 09 Apr 1997 18:02:07
To: Mallory Hallstrom
Subject: Re: Support/Private

So good to get your friendly response. I took a chance. A miserable person would have broadcast my private message and said, “Look, she’s caved in.” You didn’t do that. We’re all colleagues, Mallory, and I look forward to having a drink with you.


What Did We Learn in Week Three? (Information)
1. Information is a key factor, from every source possible.
2. There will be genuine reasons that keep a union member off the picket lines, such as illness; find out before you criticize.
3. Who you knew from before the strike may be of no use once you are on strike.
4. There are serious nation-wide issues for universities, including increasing use of part time contract faculty and the increasing connections between university research and multinational corporations.
5. The smallest of things can support or likewise demoralize striking picketers.

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
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