A Tale of Two CUPEs

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

It was the best of times to be  an up-and-coming CUPE executive, ambitiously attempting to hold both a city and her largest university hostage in one year.

It was the worst of times to be caught in the crossfire.

Before I spin this tale of woe (and promptly hereafter drop the Dickensian tone), let me first say that I am a firm believer in the right to organize. In my time at York University this year, there have been those who have tried to paint me as a union-basher. They are, mind you, the same people who insist that Canada is a filthy imperialist power beneath their contempt, anyone even slightly right of the NDP is a fascist, and military recruitement on campus is a war crime.

My intention is not to question the validity of unions, but rather to simply shed some light on the damage that can be caused by labour disputes.

Which brings me to our “Tale of Two CUPEs”. This is a true story, with only the name of our heroine changed.

For the purposes of this story, we’ll call her Katherine Pryde. (Yes, I know I’m a huge nerd, but I couldn’t think of a name and I’m staring at a pile of X-Men comics).

Katherine began this year, fresh out of her Toronto high-school, as a bright-eyed finance major at York University. She made tons of new friends, loved every minute of her classes, and joined a few student clubs. September and October flew by, consumed by mid-terms and nights at the campus pub.

But remember, remember the 6th of November. CUPE 3903 walked off the job, leaving almost 50,000 students locked out of the classroom, including Katherine.

“No matter,” Katherine mused, “we’ll be back in class in a matter of days”.

Days turned to weeks.

Weeks turned to months.

Exam season passed without a page turned. 2008 melted into 2009 and still, there was no end in sight.

Students began to gossip about the possible ramifications. Would they lose the year? What about exchange students, and people renting homes in the Student Village?

It would be 3 months before the Mcguinty government ordered CUPE 3903 back to work and classes resumed.  In that time, CUPE Ontario’s Syd Ryan would call for a boycott of Israeli Academics on Ontario Campuses.
For Katherine, a Jewish student, this call would contribute to the already palpable Anti-Israel, and at times Anti-Semetic atmosphere at York.

In early February, Katherine finally made it back into the classroom. Despite the syllabusses being compressed to accomodate a short year, reading week being cancelled, and a slew of well-chronicled Anti-Semetic incidents, including a CUPE-sponsored newspaper releasing offensive holocaust cartoons on holocaust rememberance day, Katherine finally finished her year in June.

Unfortunately, as hundreds of thousands of other students returned home in early May, Katherine would neither be able to find a job, nor an internship, in her area of study.

With the summer fast approaching, and the promise of another’s year tuition looming, Katherine knew that she needed to find employment.

She decided to take up employment at a City of Toronto summer camp at which she had worked in past years.

Unfortunately, just hours before pre-camp training was meant to start, another division of CUPE, this time the one that Katherine’s camp was part of, decided to go on strike.

Today, Katherine can be found every morning at 7 AM, reluctantly picketing to collect whatever meager salary she can. Who knows how her tuition will be paid, her rent accounted for, her textbooks purchased?

It would be a really funny story, if only it wasn’t true.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: