Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Strikers are students, too, and have rights

this letter to the editor of the spectator about the strike at mcmaster university was shortened before it was published, so we're publishing the whole letter here.

the letter was written in response to this letter that called for mcguinty to legislate 3906 back the first three days of the strike.

lisa says everything i could possibly say about legislating a union back to work after three days, and more eloquently:

RE: McGuinty should force end to Mac strike

"The strike at York University last year was miserable. I should know. As a teaching assistant and graduate student at York, I spent November to February out in the cold, waiting in vain for my employer to negotiate with my bargaining team. During that time, my colleagues and I were branded as uncaring, greedy, selfish, radical and as “hostage-takers”.

York cried broke, public opinion was against us and in the end we were legislated back to work. This sent a dangerous message. It told employers that they don’t have to negotiate with their employees – especially not in the education sector where workers can just be portrayed as holding students hostage.

This is dangerous for several reasons. First off, it implies that strikers, who are exercising important legal rights, are guilty of both violence and theft. This detracts from any possibility for dialogue about the actual issues at the table. Secondly, it hides any responsibilities that the employer has in the bargaining process. Thirdly, in the cases of both the CUPE 3903 and 3906 strikes, it fails to recognize that the majority of the workers are also students.

Mr. Silvert insists that all of the parties involved have time but the students do not. What do we make of this argument when we remember that the striking workers at McMaster are students as well? Perhaps we should consider the fact that they might not want to be on strike but rather that they felt forced to withdraw their labour. And perhaps we could spend a bit of time talking about the reasons they have for this rather than demanding that their civil rights be suspended their first week out on the line."

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