Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the Picket Lines

I've been on strike for just over a week now, and it's an interesting experience that I've somehow not had before, considering that this is at least my third union (just lucky, I guess?) I'm not sure I quite knew what being on strike would be like before the strike vote happened, but I'm in it with a vengeance now. I'm still at the office on Mondays, training Hayley, but Tuesday to Friday, I become Picketer Mel.

Every morning, I wake up and clothe myself: tank top, undershirt, t-shirt, sweater, sweater, long johns, jeans, wool socks, parka, touque, scarf, mittens, hiking boots. I pack my bag: spare socks, water, fruit, poncho, umbrella, book, iPod, coffee mug, Kleenex, chapstick, spare gloves, earmuffs, baked goods for my co-picketers. I arrive at the picket line (a one-hour bus & subway journey) and choose from one of a few picket duties: timing the cars, moving the entrance gates, moving the exit gates, talking to people in cars, moving pylons, walking in a circle holding a sign. And then, for the next four hours, I do my job, trying not to freeze. My activities are punctuated by only a few things: trips to warm up by the fire barrel, and the arrival of the coffee/food truck. At the end of shift, I'm cold and my feet hurt, I still have no idea if we've made any progress in bargaining, and I head home exhausted. I'm also in danger of losing my term, if classes are cancelled for much longer.

However, there are some great things about being on strike. I get a break. I had time to get my hair cut, I've got time to get my school work done, and I've got time to relax and recharge my batteries. I get to spend a lot of quality time with my classmates, which I typically don't. I've had amazing conversations over the past week about music, theory, archetecture, dogs, cooking, politics, classes, profs, research...just about every topic under the sun that grad students would find interesting. I know some people much better now than I did even last week, and I've met many people who I probably would never have had a chance to meet (especially as our picket gate is (wo)manned by people from other departments, who I would never otherwise see). That part of being on strike is my favourite. I would be perfectly happy if I knew when it would be over, but I, like everyone else, will just have to be patient and see what happens. In the meantime, I'lll keep plugging away, and enjoy being outside and being social.


Rhianon said...

Wow, that a lot to pack every day!
Can't wait to hear more about it tonight! :)

Mariecel said...

Hubby says it all sounds eerily familiar. During his time at York, Lorna repeatedly threatened cancelling all TA-taught classes and seminars, effectively cancelling their pay. His strike lasted about 2 1/2 months (if memory serves him right), and no action ever followed their threat. It appears that this is nothing but a means to break resolve within the union members.

He also mentioned that the strike was much more hostile at the Keele campus than at Glendon. Does that hold true this time as well?

Hang in there. Though they won't admit to it, admin. is highly dependent on you for academic standards. Good luck with everything!

Melissa said...

Solidarity and militancy seem to be lower this time around. However, our lines are very strong, and it doesn't look like we'll be caving anytime soon. Things have gotten ugly at Keele on a couple of occasions; two incidents come to mind, one where someone pulled a knife, and the other where someone was arrested for uttering death threats.
It has gotten really cold lately, so that it making things harder, but we're surviving. And we're making a big effort to be cheerful and social--great group of people to be doing this with!