charloween: (Default)
Yesterday, we learned that many of these part-time city workers are poor widdle undergrads who're learning a harsh lesson about the modern economy and about labour unions.

Today, still relating to the strike, CBC is interviewing a UofT prof about how part-time and contract work is bad for the economy. Why did CUPE 3903 go on strike this past winter? A number of reasons (some much better than others) but one major issue was our Unit 2 members' lack of job security and respect from the employer resulting from the casualization of labour: in plain English, how part-time and contract work is bad.

My CUPE local tried to fight this battle already, and ended up the bad guys. Argh, argh, injustice, etc.

This morning I'm too tired to get really worked up. My union experiences have let me know that there are no winners in a strike, and the effects of a strike are felt long, long after the picket lines go down. A crushing sense of defeat is really all one can hope for.
charloween: (Default)
Right now, I'm listening to a report on CBC Radio One about the Toronto city workers strike. Apparently, nearly ten thousand of the striking workers are part-time university students, who are, in the words of the reporter, "gaining another form of education on the picket line".

I hope, I hope so hard that at least one of those ten thousand is a York undergrad who vandalized our picket lines this winter. I hope it's this weepy girl who's being interviewed now, fretting about ethics and politics. Or the guy, talking about what it's like to be yelled at by the public. Schadenfreude trumps solidarity, believe me.

What I can't believe is that there's such a sympathetic report about all these poor undergraduate students, who can't believe the strike is going on so long. Where THE FUCK was such sympathy from the media when graduate students were on strike?* These kids on strike now just want to earn money for their tuition! Boo hoo - that's why we were working: to earn money for tuition. They're finding it no fun on the picket line, are becoming depressed with how a strike isn't about numbers - but politics - and can't believe that the strike is going on so long. Check, check, check.
*Short answer: our communications committee kept quitting and unquitting in what looked like fits of pique, so we lost the media even before the strike began.

While I'm not going to raise the issue of the strike with my students this fall, I hope that there's one person in that ten thousand currently on the city workers picket line who'd posted nasty messages on Facebook back in the winter, and who is going through a painful world-shaking experience this summer. It's not much to ask: just one little paradigm shift for one person.

See, that's what I went through this winter, and while I don't wish the kind of soul-crushing sense of defeat and hopelessness on anyone, I can hope that someone, somewhere in Toronto, wakes up on this fifth week of the city workers strike with a sick feeling in their stomach, regretting that day they screamed at our picketers. The world isn't so black and white, is it?
charloween: (Unimpressed)
Now that the government's gotten involved, it's anyone's guess when the strike will end. Rather than having negotiations that could see it end this week, the employer gets to force my union into a ratification vote. Union reps have said they want to see the vote happen this week, the University apparently wants this to happen around the 21st. It's not soon enough for whoever burned down the wind shelter/shack at my picket line. Which was a totally mature thing to do, by the way. Congratulations.

If the University hadn't broken off the talks, and a resolution was found, classes could potentially resume by the time the University wants to see the forced ratification vote go down. (The University has also reduced the amount of time between the end to the strike and the start of classes from 48 to 24 hours. FYI, undergrad f'listers.)

But the Toronto Star thinks it knows what the problem with York is: it's a "wild child of the Sixties" that "can't shake reputation for loud, lefty activism". Ah, good to know. It's the communists and hippies at fault. (I knew it!)

I'll make a note that the hippies are always to blame )
charloween: (Default)
1. Adventure to Ikea yielded more decorative boxes, come curtains, and a tidier living space after a few hours of shifting piles. Next up is a few poster frames and I might be able to trick people into thinking my room belongs to a mature adult.

2. iTunes is being cheeky. It's swinging between hopelessly goth and stuff like "I'm Too Sexy". The good news is that Oingo Boingo approaches both poles, depending on the song, so I've got a good chance of hearing more Oingo Boingo. I fear that I don't make enough of my love for Oingo Boingo. I do love Oingo Boingo.
2b. My headphones have a 10' cord. I'm over here (*gestures thisaway*) with a laptop and the iTunes is over there (*gestures thataway*) on the ol' desktop. If I don't actually stand up and move I'm at the mercy of shuffle.

3. In the past week I've defeated Merlin (measurably better than I'd feared) and the first two seasons of Bones (snarky, pretty and stuffed with unrepentant constant gimmicky shark-jumping). The good news is that I'm back from house-sitting and presumably have my own life to live for a while away from the television. The problem with Bones is that it makes me want to go back and re-watch Angel, but so much of Booth's character is the punchline to who Angel is. Was.
3b. I don't have much to say about the DW casting announcement that I haven't said elsewhere. I might collect all the bits to a single post. I'm a bit sick of DW, though, and I can only imagine how nauseatingly overbearing it might be in the country where it actually gets marketed.

4. Tomorrow the union's got a meeting where we might be voting on the employer's latest offer. We're over 60 days into the strike, and everyone's sick of being on strike, but the rumors are that this offer falls short of our bargaining team's goals. It'll be a very interesting meeting. Interesting ...and bloody long. The novelty of watching eggheads trying to jump into administration wore off around week 2 of the strike.

5. It may be that the crazy trip to the Obama inauguration is just a crazy idea and not a viable enterprise. This is why group projects are annoying. Just because someone says they'll book the car rental doesn't mean they'll actually go through with it. It started out as a neat idea and it's descending into something logistically impossible. Another few days and I'm going to have to decide whether or not to pull out.
charloween: (Default)
I'm house-sitting! There is much television being watched. Cats being snorgled, fireplaces being enjoyed, cookies being baked.

The whole thing about 5000 channels and nothing to watch? Not true! I have discovered that Gordon Ramsey bounces like a little boy when he's excited about something. Like salad dressing. Between the Food Network, BBC Canada and all the movie channels, I am constantly entertained. There's a whole French package (my brother-in-law's from Quebec, they have French channels), so if I get bored with English-language programming, I can watch francophone cartoons.

I have to remember to see my family at Christmas. And not watch television clean through the 26th without a break. :D

It's a fair trade-off for how autumn has been. I didn't watch much television in September and October 'cause I was busy with school, and then November and December were crazy for other reasons (Cardiff, the strike, Lego Batman), which all means I'm enjoying watching BBC Canada. And actively Not Thinking About papers that will come due when the strike is over, CFP deadlines I've missed because I left my academic hat somewhere back in October, and what the heck I'm going to do in January when Ryerson's classes are going on and I'm not in them.

It's much easier to think about just watching BBC Canada.

Edit: why does Top Gear exist? I guess I'm glad that if you're into watching people drive a modified-to-be-amphibious pickup truck across the English Channel, then you've got a show made just for you. Is it a guy thing? It must be a guy thing. Though I'm more scared of Discovery Channel's show Shockwave, which seems to be about the greatest explosions in history. Anything that crashed, exploded and was caught on tape is fodder. Television is strange, man.
charloween: (Unimpressed)
A spokesperson from York was just interviewed on CBC radio.

First, the reporter asked if non-academic staff are expected cross the picket line. It's only classes that are cancelled, the rest of the University is open.

The York spokesperson said those employees would be expected to be at work.

The reporter asked again: so, they're going to have to cross the picket lines?

The York spokesperson said - very deliberately - they're going to be expected to be at work.

The rest of the (short) interview went the same way. With a martyred, arrogant tone, he implied the entire thing was the fault of a bunch of spoiled kids. I don't think the University has any business whining about how long this strike is going to be if they're going to be hostile. It doesn't make me want to give my bargaining unit and executive a mandate to settle early.
charloween: (Unimpressed)
If York's strategy is to go out of its way to piss off the people it's negotiating with, they're certainly succeeding.

My reaction upon reading the most recent update from the University was the same as my union's reaction.

EDIT (to add cut): Read more... )

EDIT 2: It's official, as of 12:01 on the 6th, CUPE local 3903 is on strike. Last time this happened the fight was long, and this time around it doesn't look any more promising.
charloween: (Default)
I've agreed to house-sit and cat-sit (house-and-cat-sit) for my sister in December. Three whole weeks in Mississauga, with a house all to myself and some insane cats to care for. My sister's going to be in Mexico with her husband and a bunch of their friends and his in-laws. ...I guess that settles the question about whether I'm getting a December metropass. They're paying me, too. That'll take the sting out of the expenses for going to that conference in Wales next month, expenses I may or may not recover because York's a bit nuts about these things.

The fun part (and why my sister is awesome) is that she put it like this: “We thought you might like to have a house to yourself and, you know, have a party.” Not "watch our house and don't break stuff" but "watch our house and do whatever, 'cause we trust you not to burn it down". I love my sister.

My little brother and some friends have agreed to come hang out for a while, making three weeks alone with cats in Mississauga less horrifying. Anyone who wants to make the trek out to Sauga for New Years is more than welcome. :D

***

In school-news, ...I'm watching VMars? )

Also in school news, it's possible that my union will be on strike as of next week. That means no classes, except for off-campus stuff and grad-level Schulich stuff. I'll probably still have classes, because I'm taking a grad-level Schulich course and a class at Ryerson. It's getting a bit ugly: the union thinks it's perfectly reasonable to ask for a wage increase in line with inflation, the employer (York University) released a statement condemning "the extraordinary cost" of the union's demands. The press release is funny because they've got lots of numbers and statistics thrown around; but when they put in bold type that the wage increases will be 15% of the total operating budget, it's not like grad student funding is currently only 5% of the budget. Because, thanks to all those lefty Marxists running around campus, our union is quite strong and historically has a pretty good deal. I'm also offended that they're referring to sponsoring research as a cost. Isn't that what they're supposed to do? Fund research and researchers?

The idea of being a graduate student is to research, learn, spend long hours bent over books, be all student-y. The idea of graduate funding is to make it possible for people who want to live this kind of crazy life to live that life, and not to be forced to work more hours per week than they spend on their studies. But we do have to work: these wage increases that are being requested (demanded, whatever) are for the jobs that students have to hold in order to make grad school financially possible. Bear in mind, these are wages that are being fought over, not free handouts. Students do have to work for this money. The idea, though, is that the University wants us to be students first, but only if we have the independent financial means to do so. I don't have those means. I'm taking out yet more debt to go to this conference next month, because if I want a career in academia, I have to start building my CV. It's all out-of-pocket, and I'll be lucky if York reimburses me for even half of my expenses.

I'm not getting rich on my funding, I'm not squirreling away extra money into investments (hell, I've still got a pile of undergrad debt that I'll have to deal with someday); according to the Canadian Council on Social Development, I - and the majority of my fellow students - are living at or below the poverty line. But I don't have to work three or more days per week to make rent and tuition payments. I'm able to buy groceries. I couldn't possibly afford to live on my own, so I have roommates. If it wasn't for the combination of York money and government money, I would have to be working more, and studying less. Researching less, contributing less to the University's prestige as its students succeed, buggering off to Ottawa to work for the Department of Heritage because playing this academic bullshit game is a lot more wearying (when you have to work retail, too) than playing the Ottawa bullshit game...

It's just unfortunate that the bargaining had to happen in this of all months, when the global economy is melting down. I'm not necessarily in favour of striking (I don't think strikes are useful or warranted if you're talking about such white-collar work as this), but I also don't see how it's reasonable on the University's part to assume that its students want to get second jobs while maintaining their full-time status because the job they're doing for their own school isn't paying enough to live on. *hops down, kicks soapbox to the corner*
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