Apologies for our brief blogging intermission. We’ve been busy knitting and sewing together a constellation of new strategies for the summer.
For your ocular and cognitive pleasure today I’ve got a short film to share with you about a less discussed component of our modest campaign. The Union. It is no mystery that it is has been the unions of Montreal that have been the engine behind the fight for fifteen. So we invited some members of the McGill community to talk about their first experience with unions and strikes. Check it out here:
#What is a union? #What do unions do?
Unions are combinations of people - sometimes formalized under the law, sometimes not. They can encompass workplaces, neighbourhoods, and whole social categories.
At its most stupidly basic level, the concept of a union is just the arranging of a group of people in a self-conscious and purposeful manner so as to leverage the capacity of a group to get something done that you couldn’t get done alone.
In a workplace, unions are the combinations of people that carry out the work. On a scale from pineapple to soviet, their objectives can range from simply balancing out voice and vote between employee and employer, all the way through to financing, coordinating, and executing whole enterprises from stem to stern without managers.
In the film above, McGillians and their allies reminisce about their first memories of labour actions, mostly strikes. When a group of people in a workplace band together to bargain over the “when, where, how, why, and for how much” of their jobs with their bosses, they need to have some leverage. The most common form of leverage is the ability of every employee to stop working in concert with one another. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed that the right to strike is protected under the charter.
Unions are not cops. Their role is not to make your employer meet the legal minimum for wages and conditions. They’re job is to improve on those conditions above and beyond the law.
The right time to join a union is when you’ve got it bad at your job. The right time to join a union is also when you’ve got it good at your job. The only wrong time is when you’ve already been fired.
Do you like your job, are you happy at your job, do you want to stay in Montreal a good long time? That’s a great time to join a union because much like medical care, unions are most effective as a preventative measure. Even workers at profitable and trendy gossip mags like Gawker get this. Writing about their decision to unionize Hamilton Nolan from Gawker writes:
If you work at McGill, you may already be in a union such as AMUSE, MUNACA, or AMURE. Don't let your union be the option of last resort. Join their committees before you develop a problem at work, be proactive, help the work along, make irreplaceable friendships.
This blog is a new initiative of the 15 and Fair McGill Coalition. Curated by MM and MB. This post written by MB. The "First Strike" video is produced by the coalition and copyrighted to Selena Phillips-Boyle in perpetuity.