Local 556 Responds to George Brown President’s Email

| 16/11/2017

In your memo to us this afternoon your suggestion appears to be that we don’t appreciate several key things in this dispute: Our role in our students’ learning, the impact of this strike on students, and the intent of the CEC in bargaining.  I am truly surprised at your underestimation of those of us who work at GBC and the many thousands like us at the other colleges.


We understand and appreciate our role in students’ learning, arguably to a depth a breadth that those of you responsible for the ‘operations’ side of things simply cannot.  Who do you think is in the classroom with those students every day?  Who do think actually makes the connections with those community partners?  Most of us used to (and still do) work with those community partners and leverage our connections to further the interests of the students and the partnerships with the college.  Like so many others, I am still very much connected with the community, in part so that I can accurately and appropriately align the needs of the students with those of the communities they’ll work in, before and after graduation.  You and your management team may build bridges at the macro level, but I would argue that the real work is done by faculty and staff who are intimately aware of what’s happening in the world our students are preparing for.


We are also acutely aware of the impact this dispute is having on our students.  You’ve spoken with “dozens” of students and family members?  Most of us spoke with and heard from our hundreds of students before the strike about their fears and the implications of a strike.  Try doing that alone with a classroom of 55 students at once.  And we have spoken with the many students we have met while picketing, both from our own programs and from others.  For example, on one occasion I spoke with students from the business program about their worries, taking the time to hear them out and to offer the reassurance that we – management, faculty and staff – will all work to the very best of our abilities to minimize the damage of the strike and ensure their success.  You’ll note that the message was about how “WE” will work together, and that the message was given while walking the picket line.  Even at a time when I have never felt so at odds with an employer (and I worked for the province when Mike Harris took power!) I see myself as sharing and participating in our collective commitment to students.  And yet you think I and my colleagues don’t get it.


In truth, Anne, we identify with our students in ways that you cannot.  Like them, I am experiencing the considerable losses that come from this sort of dispute, including thousands of dollars in lost income that will never be recovered.  We, too, are out of the classrooms we belong in, and we too will have to make up for the academic impact of these many lost weeks.  I can’t help but wonder how your life will be different when we get back.  You are confident, I am sure, that we’ll fix this, and we will, but please don’t lose sight of the fact that it will be faculty and staff who bear the burden and brunt of fixing this.  We’ll be in the classroom, and we’ll be the ones working like mad to compensate for the effects of a dispute that was not of our making.  The remainder of this year is going to be very difficult for those of us at the ‘front line’ and for our students, and we know it.  Yet you think that if we really appreciated the situation we would vote ‘yes’.  Do you really think that 12,000 people – virtually all of whom are well educated and thoughtful educators – could be that wrong?  Do you really think that 24 college presidents know better than 12,000 of us?  Your memo suggests that you do, and that both worries and disappoints me, Anne.  I don’t know the other 23 presidents, but I thought I had some sense of you; I honestly expected better.


Finally, Anne, I have to ask if you have ever had to walk a picket line?  Do you have any idea what it’s like?  I hurt every day, despite wearing abundantly sensible shoes and warm clothes.  It’s a remarkably unpleasant activity, the only advantage of which is that I get an average of 22,000 steps in each day I picket.  My resolve about these negotiations is so strong that I am willing give up my salary and walk in circles around my workplace, week after week in the cold, not out of any self-interest (the money the CEC offered is fine by me), but because I believe that it is my social responsibility to stand against the sorts of employment practices that you and the other members of the CEC have deployed over the years are pushing to expand.  You want to make education cheaper, and you are willing to do it by exploiting staff.  I want my part-time colleagues now and our students in the future to participate in employment relationships that are more respectful and hopeful than what you are offering.  The world of employment you are fighting for is an ugly one in which presidents make $360,000+ per year and those who teach are increasingly pushed into the ‘gig economy’.  What a legacy!

[ name withheld, but original is here ]

Local 556

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Category: On The Line

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