Baseball Title Strike OneWEEK FIVE

Strike One: The YUFA Grand Strike of 1997


Learning on the job is often painful. With no one else on Senate Executive to consult, Herb Morgan and I were lured into joining the students in a motion that would see them allowed to opt out of exams for courses with less than thirty-five percent of the mark in the exam. The employer was ranting daily about how the union did not care about students and this seemed a good way to do something about it. At Senate, Herb moved the motion and I seconded it, both of us certain, from quick discussion, that it would not pass and at least we would have been seen to be supportive of students. It did pass. Some of our colleagues saw the motion as strike-breaking and I was heartbroken.



Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 09:02:00

To: Edmond Lyons

Subject: Re: Edmond Lyons’ Letter to Dr. Grissel


Thanks for your support, Edmond. Bold as I may seem on this listserv sometimes, I fret over putting things out like that, but I thought the time was right. I did indeed write my letter to Betty, thinking she had spirit. I have had a fairly close relationship with Betty since the Search committee; I felt so badly about what an awful process it was that I determined I would befriend her while she was in office. This lasted until the day we went on strike.


On the day that I learned, from a friend who shares a friend with her, and says I may speak it, how bitter she is over not being appointed for a second term, I have lost almost any feeling I once had for her. Note the word, “almost.” I am a true Pollyanna and still hold out some hope that she will turn around. I also believe that Santa brings gifts and that the Easter bunny brings chocolate eggs, and, I am quite sure that if I keep enough fingers and toes crossed this strike will end tomorrow.




Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 09:22:19

To: Student Senator

Subject: Faith


Of course I am supportive of students; I teach because I care about students. But I also am a member of the union on strike in one side of the battle which students see disrupting their lives right now, and I am the daughter of an American labour union organizer whose own personal hero was Joe Hill himself.


I am torn between two of the strongest principles of my life: the first is my belief that one does not subject to harm those for whom one holds a trust, as teachers do with their students. The second is my belief in the absolute necessity for strong unions to protect the labour relations which make up the very fabric of our democratic society.


I am hoping we can arrive at a compromise today in Senate which will attain what was started as a way to take the most desperate of students off a terrible hook, but I want it done without removing from the union what is the only “service” we have at our disposal to withdraw in a labour dispute. Chrysler’s workers are fighting for a cause by withdrawing their services from their employer. In so doing, they are costing the owners of Chrysler $11 million per day. YUFA is fighting for a cause by withdrawing our services from our employer. Those services are teaching and grades.


It is a dire situation; I only hope we can find a good solution. The best solution, would, of course, be if Betty Boone would let go and agree to send the whole thing to a neutral third party for arbitration. See you in Senate.




Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 09:59:27


Subject: Re: Senate Meeting


As a Senator, as a member of Senate Executive, and as the co-mover of the now infamous “<35%” motion whereby students could opt out of exams in courses where the final exam was worth less than 35% of the total mark, I fully support the suggestions of Horatio Taglieri and Eugene Myers, and urge senators to vote to return control of Senate to Senate during this difficult time. Although I moved this in good faith, in good faith I also believed it had to be approved by Senate before it went out to students and the general public. This is why, I thought, we were in such a rush to do it, to get it to Senate for approval so we could get it out to students. This is indeed another instance of the more generalized problem of university governance.


I also urge any YUFA member who can make it to come out to the Senate meeting. This was part of the problem with the Senate Executive meeting. I cannot even begin to describe to you the unfair pressure that I felt as a faculty member at that meeting of Senate Executive, torn between my care for my students and my care for my union, with apparently some sort of subtle agreement among the whole rest of the committee, to which I was not made party, not even to mention the dirty words “strike,” or “withdrawal of services.” Something akin to being invited to come to a work party to dig the foundation for a new building but they forgot to tell you that it was just a tea party and you show up in your hard hat and steel-toed boots. Oh well, that’s pretty much what I wear these days, so I consider myself appropriately dressed at any occasion. See you at Senate.




Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 10:09:27


Subject: Re: YUFA Staff


Horatio, your public Thank You to Midori Seto, Rebecca Magnuson, and Raphael Sinclair says so much what I think we would all like to say. We will indeed keep this posting as a record of how much we all owe to their dedication and hard work in the off-campus YUFA strike office.




Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 10:22:44


Subject: Daydream


If you want to talk about wistful yearning, look no further than the suggestion of temporarily abandoning the strike. If we are thinking of temporarily abandoning the strike, I have a better idea:


Let’s keep the strike going, but return to work. We will go back to the classroom, give exams, mark papers, give grades. We will continue to do this through the summer term and into the fall term, but we also will continue to strike on weekends, just like rich people who get caught on the wrong side of the law, who go to jail on weekends only. This way we will earn our full academic salaries during the week, and strike pay on the weekends (note to Robert Edwards, that will have to be time-and-a-half strike pay, since we’re working weekends, double-time for Sundays.)


This way, we can help out our students, fatten up our depleted pay envelopes, and at the same time stand our firm ground on the absolute necessity for strong unions to protect the labour relations which make up the very fabric of our democratic society.




Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 11:24:32

To: Student Senator

cc: Senate Executive

Subject: Re: Emergency Senate Meeting


You have nailed down one part of the problem: professors are torn between wanting to help their students and wanting to exercise their legal right to strike in order to stand up for issues in which they believe.


I am saddened to see you state publicly that “students don’t give a hoot about either side; they only want to go home.” I have seen hundreds of York students, in meetings, out on the lines with us, calling and e-mailing us, faxing the BOG, who care deeply about a whole lot more than just going home. You do your fellow students an injustice with this statement.




Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 20:42:16

To: Horatio Taglieri

Subject: Help


Horatio, we have to make something good of the Senate decision today. A number of things happened. Herb Morgan knew last night, and I believed him, that we would not win the motion he and I put forward. Instead he used it to get Senate back the power to approve what Senate Executive had only proposed. We did that. Secondly, he used it to get Senate to separate the controversial C-1 (<35% rule) from the rest that is already Senate policy, so that we could end the day with an approval of the policy from 1988. We did that. I fully believed that Senate would, in its wisdom, reject C-1. I myself voted against it. But we lost.


It is my worst nightmare that it will be this one loss which will signal the defeat of the strike, and I am so sick over this I cannot bear it. Help me. What do I tell the people on the lines tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.? What do I tell people at the union meeting tomorrow? What do I tell my dead father, the union organizer? Horatio, help me. I hurt so badly I cannot stand it.




Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 20:50:18

To: Kyle Knight

Subject: Re: Senate Meeting


What do we do now?

How do we make good PR from this?

How do I explain it to people on the picket line tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.?

How do we counteract the fact that, as Pablo Ortega pointed out, Betty Boone and her crew left the meeting beaming?


I want to know, from people I trust from just knowing their YUFA-L writing, and you are one of them, how can we turn this around to our advantage? Bulletin Headlines?


Union stands firm on commitment to students!

Union rhetoric is meaningful after all!

Senate votes to help students!


Help me. Please.




On Thu, 17 Apr 1997 21:55:16

To: Horatio Taglieri

Subject: Re: Help


Thank you, Horatio, for the lovely virtual flower. You cheer me with several points: that YUFA itself kept out of the absurd debate, that the Chair of Senate won no admirers as he let Senate degenerate into a circus, and that the students were a splinter group leaning heavily toward the administration’s positions. I think you are right on all counts. I wrote one of those students whom I know from Senate Executive how sickened I was by their bleating that they just “want to go home.” I guess you are right that it was not such a loss for YUFA, perhaps just that I felt it so keenly, having tried to do my best gambling with something that did not work.


I will do as you advise, will smell my virtual carnation, enjoy its deep red, and think ahead to tomorrow.




Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 22:00:19

To: Student Senator

Subject: Just Between Us


You got what you wanted today, partly at a cost to my union and to me personally. In return, you can do something for us: be sure that the administration does not walk out of this coming meeting as proudly and confidently as they did today believing that they have added one more notch in their battle to break the union. Tell the public that the union too cares about its students, as shown in today’s decisions. Repeat in your press releases that everyone at York cares about students, including the striking faculty. Because if my actions today are perceived as helping to break the union, the students have lost a supporter.




But with support from friends, we do move on and we did. We had by now, previously more than a thousand isolated faculty and librarians, learned how to reach out to each other for help. Later that week, the union stood 700 strong at a meeting at the now infamous Montecasino Hotel near campus, and changed the direction of the strike.



Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 07:12:40

To: Sylvia Stanley

Subject: Re: Help


Sylvia, thanks for your kind words; if it is true that my record on supporting the strike is “rock solid” I only hope that people do recognize the incredible pressures put upon those of us who are in the Senate Executive. I think my biggest worry was reduction of our leverage. We don’t have much (compared to the Chrysler worker) and therefore every quarter inch counts. And yes, I worry about my role in it, but then again I have to realize that I, like many of us, am just doing the best I can with what I’ve got. My father may have been a labour union organizer, but I’m not trained in this stuff. I’m just a university professor, with some deep seated beliefs, doing the best I know how. I agree that a reversal would have been badly used against us. I can just see the press headlines: Union Determined Not To Help Students!




Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 20:26:35


Subject: Friday YUFA Meeting


When I left the glorious YUFA meeting today, I said to a few close friends:

I have to go now to some address in my book; there’s a man and boy there who claim to be my family. I’m not sure who they are, but it sounds like maybe I better check out their story.

With love and care, but desperate for some family time




Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 20:51:33

To: Peg McCord

cc: Senate Executive

Subject: Re: Senate Executive Meeting


I am informed, verbally and non-verbally, that I am not allowed to come to these meetings as a striking professor. Betty seemed genuinely devastated that I would even suggest that she and I were now on opposite sides of some unknown struggle. Betty is there as President. Gus is there as Vice President. The students are there as students. Yet I do not seem to be allowed to be there as a striking professor.


Yes, I will be there, but you have to know that I will be there as a striking professor. It’s the only job I have right now, and especially now after today’s unanimous union decision  to make this strike about equity, it’s a job of which I am even more proud.




Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 21:03:15

To: Edmond Lyons

Subject: Re: Interview This Morning on the York Strike


Edmond, you and I have corresponded before, more often about Southern belles and generals, so I am going to pass this on to you regarding York’s not being a collegial place anymore. It’s personally particular, but feel free to use it generally.


I once loved York with a passion verging on idolatry (to quote Amanda Cross, the academic murder mystery heroine). I served for four years, untenured, as chair of both my faculty curriculum committee and the Senate curriculum committee simultaneously. I served on numerous other committees. I served as Chair of Senate. I won a rating of excellence in Service in my tenure and promotion file, as well as in Teaching.


In the last five or six years, I have become so demoralized that I have spent numberless hours, first: trying to figure out how I could get years of service and age combined to retire early, but at 45 it didn’t look easy, second: trying to figure out how to be so obnoxious as to win a golden handshake, but I was raised as a good southern girl, and being nasty doesn’t come easily to me, but finally: in just disappearing into my research and teaching and saying to hell with the place and just collecting my pay; this was quite easy to do.


It is only this strike which has brought me out again, which has made me believe that I do after all have a voice and a place in this institution and that there are things here worth fighting for. I also came to an understanding, finally, that there is more to life than one’s job. On the picket lines, I found out something of who I am when I’m not a professor.


Use what you will, without or without my name.

In solidarity




Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 21:23:31

To: Horatio Taglieri

Subject: Re: Ending It All


Hey Horatio, what do you expect from Dr. Ha-Ha? The poor guy has never had the experience of the picket lines. How would he know? Carter, of carter’s Blinkers, invited him today; I hope he will accept. I agree that in his calling picketing “foolishness” he shows a dreadful lack of understanding of one of the main issues, which is indeed to fight an administration bent on adopting the model of an authoritarian corporation.


I have never felt anything quite as powerful (individually of course I speak of; today’s meeting is the top ever) as standing alone (well, with my car...) at Sentinel Road for over a half hour, on the picket line at 8:00 this morning, soaking up the power of the picket line from the pavement beneath my feet. My tape of union songs playing in my car helped, but it mainly came from the feeling of spirit that I get from that line.


We’re gonna win this one. I came home (to this strange man and boy who claim to be my family) and opened a bottle of (inexpensive and we already had it in the fridge I am after all living on strike pay) champagne to celebrate.




Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 18:40:43

To: Kyd Carter

Subject: Re: Help


Many thanks for your kind words, Kyd. I, of course, as a former Chair of Senate, should have known better than to expect anything more of Senate. And I finally was able to say so at the Friday YUFA meeting. I think your phrase is right that I was ‘dealt from a stacked deck in a rotten game.’


And Friday – well, what can I say about Friday? Kyd, I was at the famous march, walking with my father’s union, the AFL-CIO, on Washington D.C. in 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and I can say that, at least for me personally, it pales in comparison with yesterday’s YUFA meeting! To stand together with so many others in unanimous agreement as our union decided to change the focus of the strike to fixing the issues of inequality that have been discovered in the bargaining process was a tremendous feeling! Who knew that the average female York professor was paid $13,500 less than her male counterpart? Not I and I teach Pay Equity in the classroom. I believe the shift to Equity Now! as our watchword is a good thing. I respect that some union members feel it was a last ditch desperate effort to win something out of the strike, but even if it were only that, which I don’t believe it is, it would be good to try to find something that we can win.


I told some of the story of my own Friday morning at the microphone, but not all of it. It was in repentance and in search of redemption (two wonderful concepts that I, as a Unitarian Universalist agnostic learned in the Catholic cathedral in Antigonish on sabbatical) that I went out to the line an hour early on Friday morning. I pulled my car into position (the Strike Security Vehicle), set my tape at full volume to play my union songs, and stood in the middle of Sentinel Road and glared at every passing car until I had pulled up enough energy from the pavement of Sentinel Road to enable me to meet the line that was coming to join me at 9:00 a.m.


I continued, while captaining my part of that shift, to sing the following refrain from one of my all-time favourite songs, by the Cape Breton Men of the Deeps (coal miners, of whom my father said, there is a simple answer to the salary demands of the men who go down into the coal mines: no matter what they ask for, it is not enough):


Union workers stand together

Victory for you prevails

Keep your hand upon the dollar

And your eye upon the scale


I stayed high on the results of Friday’s meeting for a while, but then the nightmares and the doubts began to resurface, and it was your message, received now, that brought me back to the high ground. Kyd, look at the words of that song in terms of our decision on Friday: we stood together, to a person, 100% unanimous, in a room of more than 700 professors and librarians to support the strategy of our Union Executive. We are keeping “our hand upon the dollar” in terms of not giving up our demands, but we are putting our emphasis on equity: “keep your eye upon the scale.” I too believe that we will win this strike.


Perhaps my greatest personal gift in this strike has been that for 30 years I have maintained that my father did not really die in 1965, and now I know that I was right. “Says Joe, ‘I didn’t die...What they could never kill, went on to organize.” Kyd, Joe Hill was right. my husband is playing on the stereo for me right now, Odetta, singing in 1956: “I’m on my way!”

In solidarity




Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 19:00:39

To: Geoff Myers

Subject: Thanks


Hey, what can I say? Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! We made a good team on Friday morning with all three shifts walking the line together. I particularly felt incredibly deeply your personal support when you yelled at the fellow who was threatening me with his automobile. You were great. We’re gonna win this one, Geoff; we’re gonna win it.




Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 19:10:58

To: Jeffrey Derrick

Subject: Re: Fingerprinting


Jeffrey, we all had a wonderful Friday afternoon, but it was marred for me by hearing that you will be fingerprinted in the absurd charge of hitting a driver’s car who ran your picket lines. Any one of us could have been so charged. I personally hit the car of a woman who then called the police. Fortunately, I left no mark, so she was instead charged with obstructing traffic. But it could have been any one of us who feels the strike as deeply as you do. My first marriage was to a man who challenged the United States Government’s Selective Service during the Viet Nam war. He was arrested and went to court over this, and almost to jail. It was the support of friends that got us through, literally and figuratively, and so I write to tell you that you have my support for whatever you may need.




Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 19:15:26

To: Darcy Pomerleau

Subject: Brio


I was in the model train store today with my son, looking at trains and things that we might buy once the strike is settled, and I saw the little wood Brio trains like your three-year-old son’s and I thought of him. I was so moved by his tears when I started to cry. Please tell him for me that when we are all older, he will remember the day that his father and his friend cried in his living room about la greve. It was a hard day for me, that day of the Senate meeting, but every bit of my strike learning has been on-the-job training, as I suspect is has for most of us.


Please tell him, I know you will anyway, how important this all is to all of us.




Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 19:22:25

To: Katherine Cisneros

Subject: Re: Strategies and Initiatives (fwd)


Oh Katherine, I once attended a Wicca gathering of women at the Unitarian Universalist Association to which I belong, at which we gathered, women only, on the beach of UniCamp (up north near Honeywood, Ontario) and among other things, recited who we were in terms of our grandmothers’ names. I found it tremendously moving and felt the same kind of spirit at the YUFA meeting on Friday.


I have heard many wonderful things from you folks in theatre; if you are planning something at 11:15, I shall be there, just before I have to go to a Senate Executive meeting at noon.




The public continued to be both supportive and dead set against us.



Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 22:06:32


Subject: Two Busses


Two Busses, Two Crossings


On Friday morning, at Sentinel Road, a wonderful combination of all three shifts before the afternoon meeting, we had an interesting set of crossings, which seem to me to epitomize the different approaches to a picket line.


A group of high school music students came up from the United States to perform at Burton Auditorium. The first two busses stopped well behind our picket lines. A group of three teachers got out and approached me as Picket Captain, polite and apologetic – no one had told them about the strike – and wanted to know what to do. I asked Geoff Myers to talk to them, since safety is my number one job as Picket Captain. They went to the sidewalk and talked at length with Geoff, but he was not able to convince them to turn back, nor did we really expect them to. They got back on their busses and approached the line. I held them up only the normal amount of time, which at Sentinel Road is not long. Then the first driver, sitting in his bus driver’s seat and seeing me there with my picket sign, bowed his head with gracious shame, and put his driver’s hat over his face. I smiled at him, and when it was time, waved him through with an understanding wave of my hand. The second driver coming behind him, stopped his bus, opened his little window, handed me a U.S. five-dollar bill, and asked me to buy coffee for the line. (YUFA, I owe you $7.00 Cdn; I’m framing this bill).


Then more busses came. Another teacher got out, came storming over to me, demanding to speak to whoever was in charge. (I read this as the usual “you’re only a woman; you’re probably not the boss,” but perhaps I overreact). I told her the same thing I told the first group, that I am in charge, I am the Picket Captain, but my number one job is safety, could she speak to someone else? She continued to yammer at me. Finally I ascertained that she thought I should just let the busses go through without being stopped whatsoever, because they were performing musicians. Well, folks, at this point, she had hit a wrong note. I informed her that I am a member of the American Federation of Musicians (Toronto Musician’s Association, Harp), and that she had probably picked the wrong place to make her appeal. While she continued to insist that they were only high school music students, I insisted that someone in charge should have checked with the musician’s union about conditions at York University before they planned their trip. I then gently informed her that if she had simply remained on her bus, she would be through by now, but by coming out and insisting on speaking to me, she had interrupted my traffic flow and we had missed the red light on which I change, and she would have to wait another minute or so.


Eventually, Geoff Myers, Rachel Abbott, and I boarded the stopped bus to talk to them. They screamed at us. We tried to explain to them that we would only be holding them up a minute or so. I explained again that they should have checked with someone about the possibility of delays at the gate (does the United States know anything whatsoever about what happens in Canada?)


Finally, the woman in charge decided she could not wait any longer, and ordered her students off the bus, without coats, to walk the long distance from Sentinel Road to Burton Auditorium (remember how cold it was on Friday morning?). They hurried off and started running. Meanwhile, Frank Fogel who had taken over the captainship from me, moved the other traffic through, and we watched the busses move forward, and a hundred yards further, they stopped to pick up the running students.


The lesson: If you do have to cross a picket line, cross it gently and with a little shame, and an apology. It will be a lot easier than calling into question why we are there, because, make no mistake, if you want to ask why we are there, we will tell you.




Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 22:21:25


Subject: Re: Some of the Remote Causes of This Civil War


You are direly mistaken if you think this strike has made no difference. It has given back our voice to numberless numbers of faculty members at York University. This strike has made a difference. Do not be disappointed. Do not be tired. Come out and march with us and earn for yourself the energy that is flowing up out of the pavement from the lines where we march daily.


I started out being angry at colleagues who were not marching. Now, I only feel sorry for them, and for what they have missed.




Date: Mon, 21 Apr 1997 09:04:30

To: Jeremy Murdock

Subject: Re: Senate Executive Meeting


Thank you, Jeremy. I’m printing your message out and taking it with me to Senate Executive today. You make an excellent point that if Senate Executive is telling students that the strike will not prevent them from completing their academic year, they are indeed undermining the effectiveness of our strike.


When I tried to bring up this point at Senate Executive, about how their suggested policies would affect my union’s bargaining power, I was met with the kind of looks you get when you say dirty words in Sunday School. No one, including those senators who are neither students nor administration, wanted to hear it or deal with it. I personally was not as offended as some by Genius’ term, “YUFA Senator.” We have student senators. We have administrators who sit on Senate. Why can’t I be a YUFA Senator?


The Senate Executive meeting originally also tried to get Perry permission as Registrar to issue “official stamped sealed provisional” transcripts. At this I finally and fully balked. Wish now I had held harder to the first issue as well, but it’s a guilt I’m learning to live with.


Thanks for putting into writing what I had until this morning just been going to say I have been hearing on the picket lines. And please do know that those of us who are at this time able to walk have the deepest respect for those of you who are with us in spirit but unable to walk the lines. Every ounce of spirit counts.




We continued to keep our sense of humour, and to be astounded as we learned more of who was crossing their own picket line. We continued to analyze and synthesize what we were learning from the strike. And we took up a new slogan: ANY SENATE STRIKE POLICY IS SUBORDINATED TO BACK-TO-WORK PROTOCOL. We wished we had established it at the very beginning, for dealing with students.



Date: Mon, 21 Apr 1997 18:47:33


Subject: Re: Don’t Back off Article 14 Entirely


Okay, okay, it’s time to add my “Me three” (see Arnold Ackland’s wonderful piece on “How Many Listserv Members Does It Take To Change a Light Bulb”), even though, after Hope Stafford’s eloquent appeal not to clog the YUFA-L lines because of the problem with its shutting down when there are more than fifty messages, I have been trying extremely hard to write privately where I can (Hey Joe Hill, thanks for saying that) and to not write unless necessary. I believe, though, that they are looking into fixing it so we may write more.


It was my understanding too, with others, that we were not conceding the principle of flexible retirement as laid out in Article 14 of the Collective Agreement, but rather we’re just giving our Executive room to negotiate, as they must have, and without insisting that we know every detail of the negotiations. We cannot know everything a negotiating committee is doing, but must simply trust them. I know they are listening to us; the ones from our faculty are frequently on the lines visiting with us; apparently they have several times resigned from the team, or threatened to, to force a hearing of our voices.




Date: Mon, 21 Apr 1997 19:49:34


Subject: The Light Bulb



HMIS! (Hanging my head in shame)


I am so sorry! Please note, it was Aaron Moritz who sent the wonderful cheered-up-my-entire-day Light Bulb piece. He was gracious enough to send the correction to me privately, but still, this one deserves a band-aid:




Here are a few lines from that joke:


Question: How many listserv subscribers does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: 1,331

1 to change the light bulb and to post to the list that the light bulb has been changed

14 to share similar experiences of changing light bulbs

17 to write how it could have been changed differently

7 to caution about the dangers of changing light bulbs

27 to point out spelling/grammar errors in postings about changing light bulbs

53 to flame the spell checkers…

and on it goes.




Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1997 19:59:00

To: Mario Janetti

Subject: Crossing YUFA’s Lines

I have just had it confirmed that indeed Elmo Rutter, who used to be President of YUFA, is crossing his own picket lines. My god, Mario, how low can one person stoop? He was President of YUFA when I was Chair of Senate and I saw him at all kinds of events, often went to sit and talk with him, feeling privileged to be in the presence of the head of my union. How could he? And he has been writing to me as if he were just another YUFA colleague.




Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 09:48:02


Subject: Administration Liked Senate/Hated Friday




I too have heard that the administration left Senate, gloating. But I also heard that their gloat did not last long after they heard about Friday’s union meeting. They apparently believed that Thursday’s Senate vote would break the strike; but then, they don’t know this union.


One thing to come out of all this was that now Senate Executive and especially its Chair are much more careful about Senate’s authority. Although, having once chaired Senate myself, I still caution anyone, do not try to predict Senate, do not put your trust in Senate, do not assume that Senate is favourable to faculty concerns.


I went to the Senate Executive meeting yesterday. The students were unbelievably arrogant and greedy, but they did not succeed. Having been given a more than generous rule about opting out of exams worth less than 35% of the final mark, they proceeded to ask for further rules for exams worth 40% and 50%! Even Betty Boone at one point seemed to feel obliged to speak to try to bring them back to reality.


As apparently the only YUFA Senator there, I wore my “Arbitrate Now” T-shirt and I prefaced every comment I made with the statement that now goes at the beginning of anything I say in Senate or Senate Executive, on the phone or in e-mail to students, anywhere that I discuss Senate policy on grades:




After we managed to keep the students from further abrogating faculty rights, I had to leave, as I informed the meeting, because the only paying job I have right now was starting at 2:00. I stood and dressed myself into my full picket line regalia standing right there at the table, put on my Tracey Milner hardhat, turned and left, so I don’t know what other idiocy they got into, but this certainly beat all I had seen so far from these student senators who were supposedly so grateful for Senate’s help in relieving some of their anxieties.






Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 10:26:15


Subject: Re: Other Unions


Jeffrey, you brought up an interesting point about other unions. Yesterday on the line I heard that Buzz Hargrove had at first been willing to bring out the CAW in our support, but was dissuaded by some scabbing faculty that YUFA was divided. Well, Friday proved them wrong. Can we now get Buzz Hargrove out with us? The TTC busses refuse to cross out lines, letting students out beyond the picket lines; can we get the support of other unions? Can the contract faculty refuse to teach the summer session? I re-read the Manual on Legal Strike Action yesterday, waiting for Senate Executive to start and unwilling to provide an un-busy ear or eye for some non-YUFA Senator to poke at. It suggests that in most strikes, all unions will refuse to cross the lines.


This was certainly my remembrance of union policy growing up, as we literally decided which shop to buy a dress from depending on whether it was union run. My Mom tells a story about that. When she was pregnant with my twin sister and me (unbeknownst to her of course back then), Macy’s and other stores in New York were being picketed and only Saks was unionized, so they bought the layette for “the baby” there. All the other stores had a policy that if you turned out to have twins, they upgraded you to a duplicate set for free, but not Saks! There is sometimes a cost to holding to one’s principles.




Writing on YUFA-L helped me clarify where I stood on a number of issues.



Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 12:25:31


Subject: Subject to Strike Settlement


A rally for our students sounds like a fantastic idea, but I have a few problems. This is long, but it’s long overdue for me and I need to say it. If you want the short version, here it is:




My first problem is that all my students really seem to want right now from me is their remaining marks that I haven’t yet graded because I am on strike, so that they can decide whether or not to opt out of my 30% final exam. All I can tell them is this:




The Student Senators at Senate Executive keep bleating, “But this is an after-strike policy.” The YUFA Senator (lripley) keeps echoing back, “But my students are calling me now, wanting to know now what I can do for them now, and until the strike is settled, all I can tell them is that I cannot do anything for them now.


I tell my students that I am on strike and cannot grade anything. I tell them that I cannot promise anything having to do with back to work until the union and the administration settle the strike and agree to a written back-to-work protocol.


I have another problem: These are business students. I go on to apologize to them for the fact that our programme seems to have done little to instruct them about labour law. I stress the fact that this is a legal strike; I tell them what a strike means, because many literally do not know: it means the withdrawal of services by the employee to force a fair settlement in the absence of a contract.


I have another problem. A month ago, when students called to tell me their lives were disrupted and they were upset, I sympathized with them, and did what I could to relieve their anxiety. Now, a month later, with the administration refusing for 12 days to even come to the table, students are still calling to tell me that their lives are disrupted and that they are upset, but now I tell them that my life is disrupted and I too am upset and perhaps they could contact President Boone and the Board of Governors and urge them to go to arbitration or at least back to the bargaining table.


Who is now being held up for hostage? Every striking faculty member at York, that’s who. Every picket-walking or otherwise contributing YUFA faculty member who went out on strike because they cared about their students is now being held up for hostage. “If you really cared about us, you’d give us our grades and let us go home.” Never forget one student’s ringing words at the Senate meeting: “Students don’t care about anything in this strike. We just want to go home.” Well, maybe I too, want to go home. But I have a job to do, and that job involves taking a stand to ensure that our great grandchildren will have a decent university to attend. I don’t often agree with him, but I fear this time that he may well be right about the students he represents.


Avid YUFA-L readers will remember way back a month ago when I wrote of the fact that even growing up in the family of a labour union organizer, I really had no idea until March 20 when I walked off my job with my union, what a strike really meant to the individuals on strike. Do enough of our students really understand what a strike means? Would they be behaving the way that the Student Senators are behaving right now if they had any concept of what a strike means? Do they perhaps believe what we keep saying to cheer ourselves up on the lines: it’s great exercise, and when else did you ever have a tan in April? All I can tell my students at this rally on Friday is this:






Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 12:31:25


Subject: Rampaging Cars on the Lines


Kyle Knight’s story of the two elderly strikers with placards running after the car that nearly ran one of them down on the picket line seems very much a portrait of our increasing frustration with an employer who refuses to come back to the table. Kyle spoke of them as two professors who walked the lines almost every day together in the endless rain, drizzle, and weak sun, seemingly two of the least violent and most harmless people he could imagine, yet pushed to the brink, they went after that car, hitting it with their placards and shouting at it.


We are picketers in a legal strike, on a legal picket line. We have a Negotiating Team ready to continue bargaining. Where is the employer? Are they allowed to just refuse to come to the table like this?




Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 17:09:50

To: A Student

Subject: Conflict and Safety


I cannot believe that anyone involved in this strike would not understand that there will be contradictory statements and actions. Of course my actions regarding Senate Executive were conflicting; that is the entire reason that I have written openly about them, to try to resolve what for me was an incredibly unfair holding up for hostage of professors. I was, unduly and unfairly I believe, pressured into supporting the students on Senate Executive in a move to try to ease their predicament. I did this with a full open statement to the committee that I did not want it undermining the bargaining power of the union. Now these same students sit at the same table and try to push for more and more.


Of course I am conflicted. But part of the problem is that I too am just an “ordinary faculty member.” I don’t have training in how to do this stuff; I have not worked for my union before. I am just doing the best I can with what I have. One of the ways I get help in what I have to do is writing openly on YUFA-L and “expecting comments” from other faculty. I get them and they are always helpful, even when they don’t necessarily agree with me. If I have said anything that seemed to imply that I did not want to hear, I cannot imagine what it was. E-mail is easily misunderstood; if you will send me the offending paragraph, perhaps I can try to clear it up for you. I desperately want input from fellow faculty. If I did not, I would not spend the hours I do on YUFA-L. It is the greatest forum for faculty that I have seen in 17 years at York.


One final note: How could you possibly know whether I still need my hard hat? I met another faculty member on Pond Road just yesterday who also wears one, a great big tall man, at the gate where two male faculty members were knocked off their feet by a speeding Mercedes. While I am willing to listen to your judgment on many issues, I call my personal safety my own to worry about. My research area is channels of distribution and I spend many research days on big trucks dressed exactly as I dress on the picket line. What I wear is genuine safety equipment. The boots are also steel-toed, guaranteed to withstand the weight of the tire of a car. About this I make no jest. I am 50 years old and the sole support of my family.


Thank you for writing. If I can try to clarify anything further, please let me know.




Date: Wed, 23 Apr 1997 08:28:17

To: Kyd Carter

Subject: Re: Strike Pay & Stuff


Oh, Kyd, my lunch and “day off” were so sad. We need to talk about picketers’ morale. Bert took me out to our favourite local pub for my usual Guinness and a nice pub lunch. I was so depressed, could not stop thinking or talking about the strike. It’s almost as if as long as I’m working on the strike, picketing, writing on e-mail, I’m okay, but the instant I try to relax or let go, the reality hits and I sink.


I did get some encouraging advice. An old friend came in and we talked union stuff; he works in traditional industry. He reminded me that in industrial strikes, the employer always stalls for days or weeks, trying to demoralize the pickets, taking advantage of a superior position in terms of more money, warm offices versus cold lines, jobs versus no jobs. So what the administration is doing is maybe not nice, but it’s also just part of management strategy.


Rats, I’ve done it again. I was trying to talk about morale. I only had my usual pint of Guinness, but I came home and slept the afternoon on the couch. We are all fighting depression every day, Kyd. I feel that I am keeping from sinking into a deep depression only by sheer will power. I told someone at the (glorious) Friday meeting, who had admired my energy, that I had a letter of credit at a local energy bank, and one day I was going to have to pay it back.




Date: Wed, 23 Apr 1997 09:05:21


Subject: Epiphany and Uzis


Burning Voodoo dolls, indeed. Dan, this line of thinking is dangerous and inflammatory…Keep it up! I was at the Stouffville Flea Market with my family on Sunday; while they were off looking at electronic equipment, I was admiring three-foot wrenches, machetes, army command hats, billy clubs, pellet guns, sledge hammers…




Date: Wed, 23 Apr 1997 19:05:12


Subject: Ping!


Yes, Dan, I too have stood at the sink doing dinner dishes, listening to the “ping” as new messages come in on the YUFA-L. One thing we all seem to share in this difficult time is supportive family who understand our need.




What Did We Learn in Week Five? (OJT)


1.     Learning on the job is painful but necessary.

2.     A first strike is on-the-job training. It can be painful but it is necessary; no one is born knowing how to do it, and we do learn.

3.     Colleagues who are supportive when you make a mistake are blessings.

4.     Those who must cross a picket line must do so with respect for a legal strike.

5.     Any Senate strike policy is subordinated to back-to-work protocol.



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