Baseball Title Strike One: WEEK FOUR

Strike One: The YUFA Grand Strike of 1997


We were cheering up a bit and getting better at defending each other on the lines and defending the strike to those who would cross our lines or refuse to support us. There was still no movement from the employer but there was talk of arbitration. YUFA supplied us with black tee shirts reading, “Arbitrate Now”. They had also provided baseball caps with the YUFA logo on it.


Our union was great about keeping our spirits up. In addition to things to wear on the line, a coffee truck showed up twice a day to provide coffee and donuts, cost paid by YUFA. We later learned that one of the coffee truck guys was padding our expenses on the lines in order to charge more to YUFA. We wondered how much lower one could get.


There was talk of a “Free School” that we would put on for our students while we were on strike. They would learn what a strike and labour unions are all about. When one of our lines was low on people, we visited each other’s lines to keep up the numbers and our spirits.



Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 08:24:07


Subject: Re: Affording Retirement


I can’t believe that YUFA and the administration can’t work out some sort of clause to help those who will be most hurt if we do have to give in on the retirement issues. I am one of those women who came late to university work and will probably have to work till the age of 145 to have a decent retirement, but I’ve always suspected that near age 60 or so I am going to begin wearying and will look forward to retiring, even if on a reduced income. After the tension of this strike, I think I’d like to retire this coming August.




Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 08:31:14


Subject: Re: Arbitration on Salary


I hear you Richard: we’ll all take arbitration, but will the administration? I don’t want to get my hopes up. This darned habit I have of always seeking the silver lining in any gray cloud, is clouding my vision (pun intended).




Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 08:36:23


Subject: Re: YUFA Free School


All these suggestions for a YUFA Free School make me so happy, and remind me of what I love about York. You can just feel in them the driving need to get back to teaching. Let’s do this one. Maybe we could finally put on my course called “Econometric Modeling of the World’s Great Literature and Music;” I’d need lots of help from people in music, humanities, and economics.

(feeling more cheerful; more silver linings? oh heck, who cares? I’m feeling more cheerful.)




Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 19:36:48


Subject: Re: A Milestone


“Found my voice” is a phrase I keep hearing over and over; it is an important thing to remember.




Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 21:13:17

To: Luke Corbett

Subject: Re: Yet More Administrative Incompetence


Corbett, it’s more than okay if you call me “Ripley;” it’s just great! One of my fondest memories of my father’s union work was that he was known, not as Stephen or Steve but as Ripley. It’s part of why, when my first marriage failed, the first thing I did was to take back my maiden name, my father’s name, back before women did this regularly. I have never borne anything so proudly as I have my father’s name, especially now. I am honoured, even with the Alien connection, to be known as “Ripley.”




Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 21:18:47


Subject: Re: Visit from Pond Road


Ah, yes, Leo, I remember you visiting our lines from Pond. Much appreciated in our reduced numbers. You all were wonderful to join us, and we enjoyed the humour provided in your guessing game of how close the end of shift was. I was always wrong. Which is why, at least when I’m captaining a shift, there’s an unwritten rule against speaking the time, with one exception. When Pablo Ortega from Philosophy is walking with us, he who has a natural sense of time, knowing that we can endure short periods of time, he will check his watch and call out at the appropriate time, “Only ten minutes until the last fifteen!” And that is our signal to be sure we are having deeply important philosophical discussions. Only he is allowed to break our rule, and now you, because you were so good to come and walk with us.


Pablo says that the vitality and buoyancy of the picket lines reminds him of the early days of York, in the 1960s. He also, sadly, said he was surprised to discover that under the aura of peace and calm of our society (he came here as a refugee from Chile in the 1970s), there could be so much violence among students and others waiting to come through the picket lines, enough that they could hurl their cars against what is, after all, a legal picket line.


Duncan Mountbatten referred in a posting recently to the number of “old lefties” remarking how the strike is what the university is really about. While I agree with Duncan that there is more to us than that, I do think it is high time that the professoriate started standing up and being counted in the battle to ensure that universities don’t become just one more multinational corporation.


Duncan was nearly hit on our lines recently, by some idiot on a red motorcycle who literally charged the picket line. He says that with the insect-like bike and the black-visored helmet obscuring the face of the driver, it was bizarrely like being in some science-fiction movie.




I and a few others it seemed were still trying to warn that nothing is private in email. We were getting less patient with our colleagues whom many of us are now calling scabs, although I was told that the correct term was blackleg. I prefer scab; it is a powerful word. We were reaching out to each other, and to others outside of York, and other universities were sending messages of support. They meant a lot.



Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 18:03:25


Subject: Re: YUFA Web Site


Aaron, I hereby give you my permission to use anything of mine from the YUFA listserv now or in the future, in your web site, or for the union’s _Active Voice_ publication. Perhaps others could give Aaron this same blanket permission.


This does not apply to what I call “private” correspondence, but then I think you all know my definition of “private” on the e-mail; it just means that for now it is private; I assume someone will read it at some time in the future, and I assume anyone may be reading it who has access in different ways to our e-mail system. Like Amanda Cross in feminist Columbia University Professor Carolyn Heilbrun’s murder mysteries, I believe that confidentiality is only something invented by “the old boys” to protect their interests and keep out women and other unwanted interlopers out of the club. So, anything I’ve sent to the listserv, feel free to use. Also, Aaron, if you would like something re-written or polished, please let me know.




Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 18:16:42


Subject: Re: Senate Meeting


Well spoken, Herb. I agree that we need an emergency meeting of Senate to set the Senate Executive on the right path, and that it must be held off-campus. I had not yet heard the administration’s response to our offer to return to work pending arbitration before getting your message here, but it does not surprise me that they said no; they have refused arbitration all along. Good thing I hadn’t heard it yet; gave me a chance to have my scotch after the picket lines this afternoon before getting sick.


Let me caution you about Senate Executive: it is headed right now by a man who said openly in the meeting just before the strike that he saw no problem with members of Senate Executive crossing the lines to attend a meeting. This was then seconded by Gus Barlow. It was only the naive voice of yours truly, daughter of a labour union organizer, hesitant at first (finding her voice after years of teaching business) saying, wait a minute Julian Brown, what do you mean you don’t see a problem with crossing the picket line? And telling Gus Barlow that it might not be a problem for him, but it sure was for me, that got them to decide to meet off campus.


We need a meeting of Senate. But be untrusting of anything that comes from the current Chair of Senate.




Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 18:59:44

To: Llona Behrens

Subject: Joining the Line


For god’s sake; come out and join us. One of our YUFA officers spoke at the meeting yesterday to say that, strong and committed as we are, we have yet to see all of YUFA out with us. For god’s sake, come out and join us.


I am forwarding to you an announcement made at yesterday’s meeting re: the British group of academics who announced they would boycott York University. I remember you got your doctorate at a British university. Come and join us on the picket line.




Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 20:03:29

To: Peter (British colleague on another listserv)

Subject: Re: Support from Abroad


I cannot say Thank You strongly enough for your message of support. We had a message read out at our union meeting yesterday from an academic group in Britain who is asking members not to take jobs, graduate work, conference accommodations, anything, from York until we are settled. We had a donation of $10,000 from the New Brunswick organization of university professors (fewer members in total than our York faculty), and good words of support from UBC. This is indeed a fight in which all university faculties need to be involved.




Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 20:17:09


Subject: Re: On the Line


Hear Hear (or is it Here Here? I’ve never known), Eugene Myers! We must, as Rene suggested early in our listserv, share our stories. They are what keep us going. I have shared your story of the red-car-in-the-mud-for-three-hours many times, including just today.


Don’t waste time apologizing for instinctive responses. We are human beings. Your academic work is the one I use in my classes about emotion being as important as logic. Several of my good friends have held me back at Sentinel when I would by instinct have done something nasty. For future reference, remember never to touch their precious cars, but instead to hold your Carter’s’s Blinkers (your picket sign) out just in front of their car so that when they rush forward, they hit you. We did just such a thing early in the strike with an angry woman in a red car. She too was furious, stopped and called us names and raved and ranted at us. Finally, she refused to move, and called the police from her car phone. The police came and ticketed her for obstructing traffic.


I discovered one day, reporting to work (Sentinel Line) that our safety vests are visible from the Sentinel line all the way back at Finch Avenue. I have experienced the colleagues from Proud Pond, who came more than once to help us fill out the lines at the Sentinel Gate where evening students come in.




Date: Sat, 12 Apr 1997 10:23:45


Subject: Re: Fine Arts Auditions, What Next?


I know that some of our members are reluctant to use “union” terminology, but this decision to use non-union workers to replace us, Nicole, is scab labour. I will be glad to put my signature to anything you are preparing about this.


I am deeply concerned myself about rumours, and I stress that they are just rumours at this point, that my own faculty may run its summer session with only part-time faculty. I am scheduled to teach two sections of Introductory Marketing this summer. While I have not made any effort so far to instruct part-time professors I hire in my Area regarding what they should do during the strike, I will be letting them know (and my full-time colleagues who are crossing) that anyone teaching my scheduled sections in my place this summer will be regarded as scab labour.


Lucy Elliott said it, in tones that rang through the vaulted ceilings of the downtown church we met in on Thursday: we are strong in our cause and in our strike, but we have yet to see the whole of YUFA out on strike. How I envy and admire Glendon Faculty which has 100% of its full-time faculty out. I wrote last night to several members of my department who are crossing, urging them to reconsider.


I’m also sick to death of those who are still out, but spend the entirety of their time on the picket lines talking about how we ought to pack it up and go back in. In the first place, it’s sheer idiocy to think that we could do it, but worse, it is demoralizing to the picket lines to have to listen to such garbage.




Date: Sat, 12 Apr 1997 12:02:33


Subject: Re: Senate Meeting


A caring friend and fellow striker wrote about forwarding something of mine to a list, that she was reluctant to stick my neck out. I wrote her back to re-assure her. I thought I’d share it.


My good friend, go ahead and stick my neck out. I’ve put everything else on the line for this strike. First it was my 17-year career at York, the only job I’ve ever had that I really cared about since leaving elementary school teaching. Then it was my salary, being the sole financial support of my household. I put my health on the line, dodging cars, standing out in the first days of snow and freezing rain, sick as a dog because I knew that as a business professor I couldn’t “call in sick.” I’ve taken personal risks, openly sharing stories about my long deceased labour union organizer father. But until yesterday, I had not made the supreme sacrifice.


We had talked half-seriously at a Picket Captains’ meeting about getting junk cars from the wrecker’s to block dangerous traffic. Yesterday, I went out and bought a flashing strobe light, made up a large white sign that fits on my front windshield and says, “Strike Security Vehicle” and parked my own beloved car (the Purple Bull) to block the lane of traffic we had closed off. You have to know that I am worse than many of the young men crossing our lines in my love of my car; teaching in graduate studies at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, I have been known to drive my car from Atkinson across the campus to FES. So, my neck? Hey, a mere bagatelle!




Date: Sat, 12 Apr 1997 13:05:04

To: Haywood Hollis

Re: Your Note


Thank you, Haywood, for your note commending my strike activities. I do feel that as one of the few business professors with any kind of labour history, I have an obligation to be here. All of us who are still earning full-time salaries (when not on strike) so very much appreciate those of you who are retired but nevertheless still out on the lines. It was our colleague Edmond Lyons who taught me the importance of working for all our causes, with his statement that there are two kinds of faculty on campus: those who are retired and those who one day will be.


I worry that you are correct, that if we don’t win this strike, there will be a demoralized resentful faculty at York, which will indeed be a terrible setback to the entire university system.




Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 10:19:37


Subject: Re: Website


If the administration receives twice the number of hits on their web site that we do, this makes it a channels-of-distribution problem rather than a product or packaging problem. We have an excellent product, in a great package, it’s just that the customer is having trouble either finding it on the shelf, or finding the store in the first place. Ooh, it feels good to talk marketing again!


What can we do about the fact that our page is difficult to find? One thing would be to, when we write students, suggest they read our page and include a link to the actual page, or at least the URL. I assume it’s printed on all our leaflets. If we create a letter or phone trees to students about grades, etc., we also can urge them to read the YUFA page. Mention it in any ads we take out in newspapers. When faxing the Board Of Governors, ask them to check it out. Mention it in any interviews done with the press. They may not print the URL but they may write that we have a page.

Keep up the good work, Aaron.


p.s.: please note that while I am willing (wisely) to use marketing-ese to talk about promoting our web page, I detest its usage in speaking of the so-called customers who come to my store in Curtis Lecture Halls to purchase my new and improved product each new sales year. Coming soon: maybe even with a $10,000 corporate logo if the Board and the President have their way.




Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 10:55:45


Subject: Fine Arts Auditions


Nicole, I woke at 4:00 this morning with the phrase “Musicians Union” glowing in neon in front of my eyes. I am a card-carrying member of the Toronto Musicians Association and have been for two decades. Your Fine Arts faculty must have connections with Actors Equity.


Can we get them in on this issue of the scam auditions? Surely they are one of the immediate beneficiaries of York’s Fine Arts programme and might like to say something about the abrogation of the faculty’s participation in the choosing of the next incoming class? I myself am going to call the Musicians Association tomorrow morning and ask if there is anything they can do for us, in terms of P.R., etc.

In solidarity, and sleeplessness




Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 14:24:01


Subject: Re: Our Negotiating Position on Equity


Excellent question, Jessica, about why York administrators continue to earn their administrative salaries after they are no longer administrators. I find it ridiculous beyond belief that someone finishes a five-year term in a specific job and then keeps their higher salary when they go back to their original job. I can understand they should gain what they would have gained (through their union’s hard grinding efforts on their behalf) but I have never understood the policy of continuing to be paid for a job one no longer does.




Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 14:43:32

To: Trish Hall

Subject: Bold Woman


Trish, just between you and me, you should have seen her take on Steven Fienberg at the Presidential Search Committee; she was gutsy. Thanks for writing back to defend her. I think that the more we can all hang together, the better off we’re going to be. Part of the reason I even wrote privately to Mallory H., whom I’d sworn I wouldn’t even answer anymore; turns out he’s frightened much like the rest of us. I don’t believe he means to sound as negative as he does. Don’t get me wrong, he does sound negative, and I wish he wouldn’t, but ultimately, it seems to come more from his fear for what his university is becoming than from being a miserable person.


I looked up the quote; it was Benjamin Franklin who said to John Hancock at the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” I seem to be using it a lot lately. I honestly believe this includes the “opposition” as well, which is why I am so pleased you contacted the woman you know on the Board of Governors. I wrote Betty Boone a private note, based on the years I’ve known her since the Search Committee. I did not get much back; a tacky throwing in my face of the April 8 letter, but at least I felt I had reached out.




Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 14:56:24


Subject: Re: Phone Campaign to the Board of Governors


Trish, these are the kinds of bridges we need to be building. Every bit helps. It comes back to my ill-fated reference to the fire barrel that led to the misunderstanding between Mallory H. and me about muskets. My twelve-year-old son is a little embarrassed that everywhere we go (example today to the Pickering Flea Market) I wear my red Picket Captain’s badge, complete with light, just below my strike button. But today I talked to three different stall owners where we bought something (not a lot; I’m on strike pay; that’s how my chat starts) and now three more people know about York’s position in this strike, and, all three of them are supportive of us and send us their best wishes. Keep those lines of communication open.



We saw the first glimmer of knowledge that this strike may well end up being about equity. It was not just the difference between professional studies and liberal arts. It was also gender based. We eventually discovered that the average female professor earned $13,500 less than her male counterpart, with age, length of service, discipline, etc. taken into consideration.


YUFA clashed with the Senate Executive frequently and angrily. Issues were often broader than they seemed at the time. Complaints about how Senate was being handled came out of deep roots in our main strike issue of governance.




Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 15:15:00

To: Joyce Kenneth

Subject: Re: Equity Issues


Your issues are important and should be aired. Same-sex partners of YUFA members do not get full pension benefits and even tuition benefits are given to a spouse defined as “a husband or wife.” It has been my personal experience at York that often the sexual orientation issue is one of the last we think of, even for those like me who are extremely supportive.


A woman in my gender issues class last winter asked on the evaluation form why I had not done anything with lesbian women’s work issues. I was stunned: here I thought I had covered almost every single thing I could think of with relation to women at work and yet, even having a lesbian woman best friend (she’s the one out west with the Harley) I had not thought to include it in the course material. This year, I made an effort to bring it out more. It didn’t take much and the response was great; I was so pleased. One young black woman wrote her final paper on issues for lesbian women at work (triple discrimination), and came out publicly for the first time in her presentation in my classroom. I was moved to tears.


So, that said. I think we don’t have much for same sex couples at York for the same reason that our gender equity isn’t great. York has for too long been run by people in the majority of university life: older, white, and male. They may not necessarily be against it; they just didn’t think about it, which is often just as offensive.


Now, what do we do about it? Do you want to write something like you wrote to me? Do you want me to write something? I appreciate your willingness to out yourself on YUFA-L but if you don’t wish to do so, I can bring the issue up.


And yes, I am hating waking at 4:00 a.m. The real problem is that then I get thinking and worrying, and the adrenalin starts flowing, and I get pretty desperate. I have a few times almost got to the point of just getting up and getting onto  the computer.


Let me know what you would like to do. I think we should at least bring the issue into the light of day.




Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 17:08:29


Subject: Crossword Thoughts


I’m hoping to get off the listserv for the remainder of the evening. The family is supportive, but it is Sunday, and they are tiring of seeing only the back of my head bent over the computer.


A thought before I go. I’ve been doing a lot of crossword puzzles lately; it helps calm the jitters that set in when I think too long about this strike. Yesterday evening I found a clue that said, “slum, e.g.” Near the end of the puzzle, I finally found out the answer was “eyesore.”


Slums are eyesores.

Workers are a nuisance.

Strikes are a hindrance.

Unions are an outrage.


We are indeed one of those “Special Interest Groups” that Toronto Start columnist Michelle Landsberg says Ontario Premier Mike Harris calls anyone who does not agree with him and his corporate agenda.




Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 22:50:57

To: Betty Boone

Subject: Action!


Hi Betty,


I have a great idea; why not end your term with a dynamic action worthy of the woman I watched walk into the interview room at the Plaza Hotel five years ago and thought, there stands the next President of York University.


Fire Gus Barlow for insubordination, tell the Board of Governors to get off their duffs and go for arbitration to settle this strike, resign as President, and come out and walk the lines with us, the faculty. I can personally guarantee you a warm welcome on the Sentinel Road late afternoon shift, and I can suggest that you will be welcomed into the faculty across the campus




We began to see serious problems for the Union if the employer were allowed to continue to control Senate. We started writing individual members of the administration, particularly any we knew personally from work within the administration, asking especially that they get us all to arbitration.



Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 19:16:16

To: Peg McCord

cc: Senate Executive

Subject: Re: Senate Executive Meeting


As I stated at today’s meeting, I will not be able to be at the Tuesday meeting scheduled for 3:00 p.m. I captain a shift for my striking union from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. that is thin occasionally: in numbers, never in spirit, and that must be my number one priority. I hope that in my absence, someone else on Senate Executive will remember to say out loud some of the words that I felt I was alone in mentioning today, like “strike, withdrawal of services, and picket lines.”


I was deeply moved by the student contribution to today’s discussion. I was desolate at my feeling of isolation from fellow faculty who argued vehemently for academic integrity but seemed never to mention the fact that we are on strike. At least in not being there, I will save Julian Brown his usual difficulty of remembering my name on his speaker’s list.




Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 19:40:04

To: Herb Morgan

Subject: Re: Senate Meeting


Herb, I was at Senate Executive this morning and on the picket line from 2-5. Please, for god’s sake, urge them to have the special meeting of Senate sooner. I agreed this morning with Tim Mercer that calling it for Thursday does not leave us enough time to get people out. But then Passover comes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and we won’t have it till Thursday next. I originally agreed to this. Then I went out on the line where I find we are seen as a non-performer at best; a non-entity, if we do not meet soon. If you’re at Senate Executive tomorrow, press Tim Mercer to go for an earlier date. We need a Senate meeting now.


We also must get this out of the control of Senate Executive. I sat today and watched Julian Brown, flanked on each side by Griffin Conrad and Nat Sullivan, both men whom I considered good friends when I was Chair of Senate. But I was so struck by my remembrance of my knowledge even at the time that while Julian, particularly, was advising me as Chair of Senate, he also was secretary to the Board of Governors. This is part of the co-optation of Chairs of Senate that is a serious problem at York.


Herb, I’ve got to run; my wonderful husband has fixed lasagna for me and dinner is ready. I’ll be back later. Write me.




Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 08:39:39

To: Holly Darrow

Subject: Changed My Mind


Holly, go ahead and send the letter from women faculty pressing Betty Boone for her resignation. Betty is said now to be the “hard hat” in this deal. I had thought it was the Board. It would appear that she is so bitter over not being given a second term by the Board of Governors that she has decided to “take York down with her.” I do believe she wanted a second term; I myself wrote a letter of support for her to the BOG. As someone who served on the search committee that recommended her to York, I am bitterly, deeply disappointed. I expected better.


So, perhaps it is time to write the stronger letter, to call for her resignation, unless she is willing now to go to arbitration. I captained the Sentinel Road late afternoon shift yesterday and, while we were not demoralized, we were all very low; you could feel the energy draining off into the pavement. Largely because of the absolute impasse with the administration refusing to even consider arbitration. What the hell else do you do when two groups have been talking for 14 months with no results?




Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 10:05:00

To: Peg McCord

Subject: Re: Senate Executive Meeting


We need to discuss the implications of the contradiction between our first ruling that all assessed grades must be with agreement of the course director, and the motion from the student and me that students in courses with exams worth less than 35% of the total mark may take their term mark as their final mark. These clearly are contradictory, and we must address that.




Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 12:58:08


Subject: Go Do It


YUFA is an organization which depends in large part on its membership to get work done. To people who ask for something to be done, may I suggest that they consider doing it themselves. YUFA is us. We are YUFA. We’re not a wealthy corporation with numberless employees to do our bidding. If you want something done, volunteer to help get it done.




Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 13:07:47

To: Sylvia Stanley

Subject: Re: Senate and Exams


Sylvia, keep pushing this on demanding that the academic governance of York be returned to Senate. I was involved in yesterday’s Senate Executive meeting and am going back today at 3:00. It was the most demoralizing thing I’ve been through since I left American corporate finance. We need the authority of Senate. Keep pushing, please.


Part of the reason Senate Executive has done all this is that, like everyone else, we’re trying to do too much too quickly with too little time or understanding. We passed two totally contradictory motions yesterday; they show up in the document that went out to the press. I am going to do what I can to fix it today. I was partly responsible for the error, partly because I’m working from no printed text, and in an atmosphere of total haste and of student attitude which seems to be that Gus and Betty are the only people on campus who seem to feel anything at all for the students. Keep pushing.




Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 20:05:46

To: Herb Morgan

Subject: Re: Senate Meeting


Herb, you were stunningly eloquent today. Thank you for coming and for speaking so well and so emphatically. I am hoping to god that you are right that Senate Executive had the obligation to take those guidelines to Senate before publishing them.


I also think you should put forward the motion to take Senate Executive’s role back into Senate. I am deeply torn between a rock and a hard place. Sure I care about my students. I was voted Alumni/ae Teacher of the Year last November because I care about my students. I went into this profession because I care about students. But dammit, I don’t work for Chrysler Corporation, who is losing $11 million per day in their strike. I work for a university. And if all I have to withhold is my students’ grades, then just maybe I’m going to have to withhold those grades until the administration agrees to go to arbitration. We ought to have gone to arbitration ages ago.


There seems more than just rumour now that Betty Boone is holding York up for ransom because she is embittered at being refused a second term by the Board of Governors. Can one woman hold up 40,000 students for ransom?


I myself have two courses where the <35% rule would hold, but I still have 30% of their marks not yet graded or reported, and there is no way I am grading those until we get back to work. I am one of those professors to whom I referred today who is getting radicalized away from my support of students. Up until today, I have been telling students, don’t worry, we’ll get you through this. Now, tonight, with 15 messages on my voice mail, I am replying that I can’t give out any marks until I get papers graded and I can’t grade papers until I get back to work please call the board of governors and betty boone and urge them to go to arbitration thank you very much.


I’m not the supportive professor I was two days ago, Herb, and it’s in large part from being pushed to the wall on Monday by the students, for whom my heart aches, but who seem to have no understanding whatsoever what a strike means, and also from the lack of union support in my Senate Executive colleagues, who did not seem to even want to hear the dirty words, “strike,” “withdrawal of services,” and, god-forbid, “scab labour.” If I sound angry, I am. This message is private right now, but tomorrow morning, I’m probably going to re-write it and send it to YUFA-L. I look forward to seeing you on Thursday. You gave me back some of my strength today. Thank you again for coming.




Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 20:11:29


Subject: Re: Who Are We Fighting For?


Yes, Drew, we are part of something larger. I stood at the aftermath of the line yesterday at 5:00 p.m. (longer and longer we stay after the actual picketing hours and talk) and someone said that no, we are not fighting for other universities; we’re just fighting for York. I disagreed. This strike is about the way we run our society. Nothing less. Why the hell else would I put 17 years of teaching, my salary, my life, my car (!) on the line? I have forwarded messages of support from several listservs, and we receive dozens and dozens more. At first they came from the U.S. and Canada, and I wrote that our struggles were the same across North America. Then I heard from a colleague in Britain, and then one in Australia saying that I had said North America, but it’s across the world. This is an important strike having to do with the chaos across the world as we move closer and closer to government by multinational corporations.

Thank you, Drew.




Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 20:34:15


Subject: Senate Executive


Darcy, I can’t thank you enough for the emotional support to get me through the afternoon shift at Sentinel Road on Monday after the debacle of a Senate Executive meeting on Monday morning. If you had not been at Chimneystack, if I had not known where to find you, I would simply have sat in my car and cried.


We are having a Senate meeting at 3:00 on Thursday. I am urging all pro-union senators to be there and to question the pronouncement of Senate Executive on guidelines for student grades. We as faculty are being forced into an impossibly difficult place, as I was at Senate Executive, asked to choose between our students and our union. But I can tell you, dearly as I love my students, as much as I ache for them with graduate school applications and jobs and such, if I am forced to choose, I will choose my union. What’s happening with our request for a charge of Bad Faith Bargaining?


In solidarity, and with the smoke of the battlefield still in my hair,


p.s. This was originally going out to Darcy personally. I finally decided, especially given my postings on the meaninglessness of privacy on e-mail anyway, to send it to YUFA-L. It may help to atone for my guilt at getting broadsided at yesterday’s Senate Executive meeting and helping to pass what may be seen as strike-breaking guidelines.




Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 20:40:48

To: Jeanne Loden

Subject: Re: Who Are We Fighting For?


I am glad you could use some of my comments about our headlong rush into world-wide government by multinational corporations in your words to your students. At least it appears that in your discipline of Social Sciences, your students are learning something about labour unions. One of my personal griefs in this strike is learning how little our business students know about strikes. I’m not talking about whether they agree with us. I’m talking about requests for individual exams, private audiences to complete their presentations, things which suggest that they have not the faintest idea of what a “withdrawal of services” means. I’m not talking about the student who has genuine problems, like one who was moving to Halifax and I said go, we’ll work something out later. I’m talking, “I want to get this course finished; can you please meet privately with just my group.” And these are going to be the next generation of managers? Some of them, however, are thoughtful. I found particularly interesting, the student who said that he had previously thought of all these issues in the abstract, as affecting others but not personally touching him. This is happening to many of us, I believe.


Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 22:03:53

To: Darcy Pomerleau

Subject: Re: Senate Executive


Was I demonizing of individuals in my posting? I feel badly if I was; I usually try not to be. I was just hurt at Senate Executive by the president’s arrogant refusal to go to arbitration. Her whole attitude at Senate Executive,  you can read it in her body language. This is not the woman I once knew and admired.


I feel sad that you have carefully deleted my private messages; many of your warm fuzzy happy ones, I have kept in a special file that I look at when I am feeling low. Hope that is okay? The last one I wrote first only to you, then decided there was no point re-writing it; it said what I wanted to say, so I sent it to all of YUFA-L.




We were still tending the listserv like a garden of rare blooms and numerous weeds. We revisited the question of what is a strike? And how do we implement and hold one?



Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 08:35:30


Subject: Re: Freedom to Know (fwd)


Please do not even consider moderating YUFA-L. Or if you do, realize it will no longer be YUFA-L and then we will truly have to write in and say, “Free YUFA-L.” If people get tired of 96 messages a day, they can unsubscribe, or learn to read selectively, or faster. Those of you who followed the Believe-it-or-Not/Dr.Ha-Ha exchanges for a while may not know that these two, corresponding after those shouting matches, now understand each other’s sides better and are corresponding politely.

Keep YUFA-L free.




Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 08:55:31


Subject: Camaraderie on the Lines


What I can’t get over is the number of people who are saying how wonderful it has been to find such camaraderie on the lines. I thought it was just me who felt so alone all those years at York before the strike. I am reading of colleagues “meeting” colleagues they’ve never talked with before, both here for years. I heard about a colleague who is on the picket lines largely because of what the stripping out of the retirement clause will mean to fellow professors who are near retirement age, even though he is not himself anywhere near. I’m hearing of colleagues meeting someone and getting to know an entirely new area of research in their field. People write about the talks around the fire barrels, of how the confrontations with line-crossers only serve to deepen our resolve. Someone wrote of looking forward to coming to the picket lines each day to catch up on the gossip. We find our fun where we can.




Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 09:00:32


Subject: Best Offer


Of course the administration is going to say this is their best offer. When I first accepted my teaching position here, it was to be a tenure stream job, even though I was just starting my PhD at another university. The Dean and Academic V.P. decided it should be only a Contractually Limited Appointment till I was further along in the doctorate. We had already decided on a salary. My mentor at the time, who was a dynamo in negotiation techniques, told me to ask for $2,000 more for the risk factor. Do you honestly think I went into the Dean’s office and said, “I’d like $2,000 more, but that’s not my best offer; I’ve got lots of lower levels I’d settle for”? I got my $2,000 more and it was part of that salary that went up every negotiation for many years, thanks to my union. Of course the administration is going to say this is their best offer.




Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 09:29:58


Subject: How Would the Vote Have Gone?


Zach Conway wrote asking how we thought the strike vote would have gone if we had known various things beforehand, including 1) that the Union Executive would determine the final point at which we went on strike, 2) that the strike would last for at least a month, 3) that there was a high probability that the employer would recruit non-YUFA members to teach the summer courses.


Pardon the ignorance of the daughter of only a humble labour union organizer, but I always thought that when we voted to strike, that meant that we said to the employer: we are prepared to go out on strike if you do not settle fairly. I never expected to be asked to come back after every day of negotiation and vote again whether I would still go on strike.


A month? Only a month? Again, it may be the difference between someone who grew up living it and others who may only have read about it, but it was my firm belief when voting to go on strike that we were voting to stay out as long as it took to enforce a fair settlement. In Pete Seeger’s song, “Mrs. Clara Sullivan’s Letter,” about the striking coal miners in Kentucky, he sings,


“now fourteen months is a mighty long time

to face the goons on the picket line...”


In any strike, there is a high probability that the employer will recruit non-union workers to do the work of the striking workers. In John Steinbeck’s _Grapes of Wrath_, the union went on strike because they could not feed their families picking peaches at $2.50 a load. The owners simply hired people who would pick for $2.50. The union has a name for these people. I know a lot of you don’t like the term, but in the household where I grew up, it was commonly used: Scab Labour.




Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 11:13:55


Subject: Talking to Staff


No picket-line crosser, I. But I do once a week arrive for my shift by way of a different gate, where I visit and cheer them on, then go in and water my plants. I read that living things have their own special category in a strike, and I believe this has to be so. While in the building, I try to chat with as many staff as I can, and I constantly hear good things. They are taking a lot of the flak from disgruntled students, but they realize that if we give up now, they will not stand a chance in their own union’s negotiations with the administration.


Let me not fail to be clear here. All I do is water my plants and chat up the union cause. I do not read mail; I do not write memos; I do not answer my telephone; I do not meet with students. I did, however, take home some grade sheets which I saw sitting in my mailbox. It may be one thing I can hold back if someone tries to get scab labourers to do my grade sheets (with what numbers I’m not sure; on one of the first visits in to water my plants, I emptied my computer.)




Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 11:20:35

To: Kyd Carter

Subject: Two Dozen Ways




1. Don’t run for elected union office. This leaves you free to criticize its actions later.


2. If asked to serve, promise to as soon as your next research project is done. This will impress your colleagues with your importance in the research community.


3. Don’t vote in union elections. That way you cannot be held responsible for the results.


4. When the union sends you material, contribute it directly to the recycling effort. This way, you can claim not to have known what they were up to.


5. If a strike vote is called, do not vote. If the vote is “no” you can say you knew it would be so and thus did not bother to vote. If the vote is yes, this leaves you free to say you never agreed with the strike in the first place.


6. If a strike is called, cross the picket line and continue to teach your classes. Say you are doing it for your students. When your commie-pinko comrades return from the lines with new rights gained in the settlement, you will get these same rights anyway, and can still call yourself a good teacher because you did not put your students at risk.


7. If you don’t teach your classes, don’t serve your time on the picket lines. After all, you didn’t vote for this strike, and it’s not your battle.


8. If you are a member of a professional faculty, claim this as a reason to justify crossing the picket line. This will be particularly effective with those academic colleagues who never believed that your professional discipline belonged in a university to begin with.


9. Denigrate as publicly as possible any union members’ injuries on the picket line; limbs broken by angry students crossing the lines do not count for much.


10. Make fun of people’s memories of previous strikes and previous generations in the history of the labour movement. After all, it’s mostly sentimental garbage.


11. Insist that your students cross the picket line, hand in their papers, and take your exams. They are just students; what do they know anyway?


12. Remember that the union is not really a union, but only an association. This is particularly helpful with union terminology. Even if you cross the picket line, they can’t call you Scab because they’re not really a union.


13. Publicly keep up good relations with the administration; whether they win or lose the strike, they will still be in a position to reward those who stood by them.


14. Complain constantly, loudly, and publicly about the poor leadership of the union. After all, you did not vote for them and you certainly never ran for office.


15. Condemn loudly and publicly the efforts of the Negotiating Committee. They are the ones with so little to do that they can spend fifteen hours a day in posh hotel rooms, schmoozing with the negotiators on the administration’s side.


16. As soon as the strike starts, form committees to investigate whether the union is truly representing the worker. You are in an ideal position to do this as you have never served the union and hence are blameless in its actions.


17. Come to union strike meetings but speak vociferously against the strike effort. It will help people remember that you weren’t responsible for any errors the union makes.


18. Use whatever position you hold on campus as an excuse for maintaining neutrality in the strike, in case you are called on to explain why you are not out on the picket lines. If you are serving as Chair of the Committee on the Equitable Distribution of Paper Towels, the mediator may just wish to call upon you to arbitrate the dispute.


19. Mock those who try to keep up the morale of the picketers. After all, most of the picketers are out there only because they enjoy walking in the fresh air or because they envy the working class worker they always wished they had become instead of an effete academic snob.


20. Never forget that walking the picket line, even in March snow and freezing rain, is a fun thing to do, and we must be wary of people who take too much enjoyment in any activity.


21. If you do walk the picket line, complain at great length how difficult and boring it is. This will help remind people who thought they were having a good time that they really are not. Whatever you do, do not come to the picket line with any good stories, jokes, chants, or songs which might help pass the time.


22. Don’t make any effort to meet your fellow professors from different departments on the picket line. For future reference, picket duty should be assigned by department in both gate and shift, so that the intermixing of different departments is kept to a minimum. This will ensure that the picket line is as boring and conventional as a department meeting, and people will not be so eager to come out to it.


23. When it’s all over, the strike is settled, and you’ve got your raise and your smaller classes and your greater say in university governance, or whatever it was the union said they were fighting for, go back to teaching, go back to your research, go back even to your committee work, but for god’s sake, under no circumstances should you go work for the union. They will probably screw it up all over again next year, and you would not want to have your good name associated with such an organization.


24. Final recommendation: Use your administrative connections and now well-known strong anti-union stance to get yourself a good administrative position such as Dean, or better. Then you won’t have to worry any more about the rights of the worker. You will be management.




Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 13:08:29


Subject: Re: Senate Executive


As a second reporter from within the Senate Executive, I will suggest, in my humble opinion, that it was not a slip of tongue when Gaston Follet wrote that his concern for fairness to students has outweighed concern for integrity of courses. I myself referred earlier to the incredible pressure put on Senate Executive faculty members to try to do something for students, being seen as anti-student if we do not. This is why we need to discuss the matter at the full Senate tomorrow.




Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 18:03:35

To: Kyle Knight

Subject: Re: Payment for Strike Time


Ah, the bounty that accrues to the scab labourer: no risk, no worries, no loss of money, and when it’s all over, they get the same benefits as their commie-pinko-hippy colleagues who walked their silly meaningless little circles day after day after day. I’m trying to keep my nastier comments to private messages, because I am getting angrier every day. Thank you for writing this, Kyle, and for all your writing on the YUFA-L. I read everything you write, and you are always encouraging. I’ll send a quick public agreement.




What Did We Learn in Week Four? (Language)


1.     There are a lot of people who know almost nothing regarding strikes and picket lines.

2.     Concrete gestures of support from the union, like a ball cap, mean a lot to those walking the lines every day.

3.     The words of a strike, like scab, have a very real value, because they are understood by most people, even if they do not know fully what a strike entails.

4.     It is not possible to have true equality where there is inequity in any area.

5.      The picket line serves many purposes and has its own vocabulary.



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