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Up-to-the-minute information about the CUPE 3906 Unit 1 TA strike at McMaster University

A day in the life of a tireless strike organizer

It occurred to me that many people, especially younger workers, have never experienced a strike and may not know what is involved. This is my first time on strike and I know I’m learning a lot. So I thought I’d give you a brief run down of what a typical day looks like for me.

So, as the picket captain coordinator my job is to make sure our picket lines are effective (cause disruption to the normal course of business at Mac), are safe and well organized. The first two days of the strike looked like this:

7am – At the strike office, loading truck with picket supplies. Double check to make sure picket captains (the people bottom-lining the individual pickets) have all the needed forms, contact info, etc.

7:30 – Drop supplies off at each picket (we have three in total) then help set up the pickets. Construction cones go up on the roads blocking traffic for up to 5 minutes (we have set up a car holding area, meaning we block in up to 5 cars at a time, while traffic builds behind them. You let the five cars in the holding area go out one end, and in comes another 5).

The rest of the day is spent running from picket to picket making sure things are running ok. I’m constantly on the cell phone, trying to get used to it (I’ve never used one before!).

I often check in with my picket captains: does everyone know what they are doing? anyone need on the spot training? any thing come during the day that needs to be dealt with?

Supplying the picket lines is a constant effort: which lines need water, food? Any picketers need winter hats, gloves? Do we need more signs? More flyers to hand to drivers?

Keeping the members’ morale up is also important. Music is blasting at all the lines. I try and get to know as many people as possible. Updates from the other lines and from the bargaining table are relayed as often as they come in. Yesterday the old union tunes made their first presence. By the time this is all over, we will know them backwards.

Problems arise throughout the day. Aggressive drivers bump into our pylons. Are the police on it or do I have to call someone? Even revving your engine can get you a criminal charge (a car is after all a deadly weapon). My biggest fear is one of us getting hit by the car. It happens almost every strike. But we are well prepared and so far we’ve kept safe thanks to the picket captains, our holding pen system, and the vigilance of the workers.

Supporters honk their horns. The city bus drivers won’t cross our lines and come on to campus. Ditto for other unionized workers such as maintenance workers and delivery drivers. Our biggest supporters are the CAW and SEIU workers on campus. Though they are legally obliged to cross our lines (another reason we need to rid ourselves of the State), they let us know they support our fight. Often they can be heard saying “we know how it is, this is Mac, enough said.” Other unions and community activists including my fellow Common Cause members come out to lend a hand. These selfless individuals come out for hours doing grunt work in our support.

Mutual aid and solidarity in action. Solidarity is being built. A community is forming before our eyes. Passive workers become active workers. I know some of them will be empowered and changed forever. This makes it all worth the effort.

But still, there is so much to do and I’m getting exhausted. This line is out of flyers. Call the supply people. This fellow worker has a question about strike pay. Call the strike office. Some is playing a guitar at one of the lines and people are singing. Are the communications people recording this and getting it up on the blog? I get a call telling me a car tried to drive through our lines. Did the picket captain get the plate number? Is the incident recorded?

7:30pm. Grab the truck. Picket lines come down. Start loading up the truck. Rush back to the office.

8pm. Debrief. What went right? What went wrong? What needs doing tonight? What’s been happening at the bargaining table? Strategy, logistics, member outreach and more is discussed and it feels like the meeting will never end. People are starting to crash with exhaustion.

10:30pm. The meeting finally ends. Send off a few emails to the picket captains. Make sure cell phones are ready for the next day. I want to hug our community volunteers: they’ve re-organized all the supplies so they are ready for tomorrow.

11:30pm. In bed. The family is asleep. I haven’t seen my wife or son in two days. Plus my wife has been taking on extra child care and house work so I can be out there as much as possible. She is fully behind the strike and I’m reminded that no strike has ever been won with the massive and all too often invisible work done in the home by workers’ significant others and families.

6:00am. Get up to do it all over again. Tired sure. And it is only day 3 of the strike. How many more days like this? As many as it takes to win this struggle.

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Filed under: Features, Profiles

Latest news from our Twitter feed

  • Members vote to ratify the latest contract: 58% to 42%. The strike is over. Back-to-work protocol to be negotiated tomorrow. 8 years ago
  • Results of the rat. vote will be announced at 8pm on the blogs & email, provided all votes have been counted by the scrutineers by that time 8 years ago
  • BREAKING NEWS: UofT sessionals under CUPE achieve a tentative agreement for a 3y contract w. benefits and wage increases of 3%, 3% and 3.3% 8 years ago
  • Monday is the last day to vote in the ratification from 10am-5pm at the Strike Office. Picket lines continue. Get informed. 8 years ago
  • New information on Sunday/Monday's ratification vote available at unit1strike.wordpress.com 8 years ago
  • Excellent, informative 15 minute radio interview with some members of the union bargaining team: http://bit.ly/3caKOS 8 years ago
  • Bargaining team urges members to vote "no" at the ratification vote beginning Sunday evening following a general meeting downtown 8 years ago
  • Nov. 5 solidarity rally a huge success. Clips can be viewed on our new YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/CUPE3906 8 years ago

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