March 30, 2012 • Podcasts
The Labour of Labour
Continued from page 1
[Sound up on intro monologue]
SF: Hi, I’m Shameless Magazine’s Web Producer, Sarah Feldbloom. 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.
I’ve watched the TA unions at various Canadian universities operationalize several memorable strikes, one while I was studying at York University in 2008/2009, which stopped the gears of the administration and students for three months. Lots of people were angry about the disruption, and unsympathetic to the union and its attempt to negotiate better workplace standards for its members. In the lead-up to the strike that didn’t end up happening at U of T, I contacted a few PHD students who work as TAs, and organizers at CUPE 3902, to ask about their experiences in the field of labour, in the interest of helping those of us who belong to unions or are affected by their actions, better understand how they work. A central element that emerged in our conversation was gender and equity dynamics within the union, and how deeply they affect the kind of progress these organizers have been fighting for.
[Sound up on discussion with CUPE 3902 union organizers]
SF: So, I thought a good way for us to start would be to go around the room and introduce ourselves, so say your name and your age and where you’re from and if you feel comfortable, any way you identify in terms of gender, race, disability, or orientation, just so that the people who are listening to us can have a sense of who we are and what we’re experiencing. If you could, also say what you do at the union and how long you’ve worked there.
Caitlin Henry: I’m Caitlin Henry, I’m from the States, I’m 25, I’m a white woman, and I have worked with the union for 10 months now. I’m the Vice Chair for Unit 1 and get people involved, do some mobilizing and educate people about the union and how they can take advantage of it.
KM: My name is Katie Mazer and I grew up in Prince Edward Island, Canada and I’m a 28 year old white woman, and I’ve been on the executive committee of this union for about a year now, and my position is called Internal Liaison Officer so what I do is mostly work with student unions and trade unions on-campus, but primarily off-campus to build relationships and solidarity and do political organizing.
Sarah Suliman: Hi, I’m Sarah Suliman, I’m 26, I am an African student--I’m from Sudan, now it’s North Sudan—I’m an International student trying to migrate to Canada. I’m in my 6th year of my PhD and my position in my union is Secretary Treasurer, so I’m trying to make a budget for our upcoming year but I also give financial reports to the executive every month.