This time next week, I might be on strike.
Here’s the local media’s take on the potential disruption:
Optics are big when it comes to strikes and the fact that the union has asked for a 30% wage increase, especially in this time of “financial crisis”, will make winning the opinion war on this strike especially difficult. You’ll read from the comments on the above articles that people are already pointing out that CUPE 3903 employees are “already” the highest paid TAs in the country. While I hardly agree with the logic behind the argument (those students are nothing but GREEDY!), I’m afraid that most people will see it in that simple way.
There are other, in my opinion, important issues that are being brought to the bargaining table, but the wage issue will colour public perception. Part of the problem is that CUPE 3903 represents so many kinds of university teachers: TAs, GAs, RAs and sessional faculty. Each of these groups have different needs — sessional faculty, for example, have significant job security concerns that should be addressed (a problem with being a sessional is that you can work for X years for the university and be “let go” at the end of the current teaching assignment without warning, renumeration or an attempt to turn these long-term sessionals into tenure-track positions). There isn’t one issue that we, as union members, can get behind and offer the general public as an easy-counter position: all of our issues are mired in institutional practice and minutia. People aren’t going to take the time to be interested in it.
Generally speaking, I do not want to walk a picket line or strike. I would rather keep with my day-to-day staus quo. But my prediction if we do strike: it will be long and bitter. The general public will have a hard time understanding what we’re striking about. So, before we picket, I think it would be wise to would drop the 30% wage increase demand and elucidate one, significant issue that would be easy for the general public to understand and (potentially) support. But I’m no union tactician.
Thursday, November 6th is the big date…