March 30, 2012 • Podcasts
The Labour of Labour
In February of this year, 2012, the Teaching Assistants' union for the University of Toronto, CUPE 3902, found itself on the brink of a strike.
A few female PHD students who work as TAs, and organizers at CUPE 3902, were interested in sharing their experiences working in labour, for the purpose of contextualizing the operating structure of unions like theirs. A central element that emerged in our conversation was the role of gender and equity dynamics, and the affect they have on a healthy and productive union.
Take a listen here:
For a transcription of 'Unpaid Labour' read on:
Sarah Feldbloom: As some of our listeners may have noticed, we had to take this podcast down temporarily. We’d been contacted by a few listeners, people who had been or currently work on the executive of CUPE 3902 who asked us to double check some of the facts in this piece and include others. We asked them, and the other staff at the local whether anyone wanted to go on record with a response to the piece. They declined. We also gave the original interviewees an opportunity to respond to the comments made by those who contacted us. We apologize for any factual inaccuracies, and would like to make a few notes for listeners to keep in mind as they listen to the podcast that follows:
One of the interviewees mentions that the local recently hired its first racialized staff person. That’s not factually correct. The union employed a racialized women in a professional role from 2001-2010. As well, for the past year, 2 of the 5 members of the staff have been racialized, one in a professional and the other in an administrative role.
We also want to mention that the depiction of gender division within the union as discussed by Caitlin, Katie and Sarah is a snapshot of the situation as they experienced it over the 2011/2012 academic year. Of the past eight executive committees, six of them have had a majority of women, and of the past eight chairs of the union four have been women and two have been racialized. It is also a fact that 2 of the executive committees of the past eight years have not had a racialized member. The interviewees ask listeners to note that while this is true, the numbers are still not representative of the diversity within the membership.
One of the people who contacted us in response to the podcast expressed that no explicit mention was made of a history of anti-oppression work done by the local. Caitlin, Katie and Sarah confirmed that there have been gains made in the interest of equity throughout the history of the local as well as problems of inequity.
Another point that was addressed by those who responded to the podcast was that the interviewees didn’t mention the Women’s Committee and the Queer Caucus in their discussion of the lack of spaces available for bringing equity to the forefront of union discourse. In response Caitlin, Katie and Sarah noted that the Queer Caucus and Women's committee have been relatively dormant since they have been working with the union, and that they believe there is a need to move beyond modes of organizing that understand representation as the end goal.
And with that in mind, here is ‘The Labour of Labour.’
Katie Mazer: Despite the fact that working in organized labour is very draining and always feels like you’re waging a fight... it’s also incredibly empowering, I think, to be in a position where you can act.