Fragments from a Joint Strike Committee

The following is a transcript and addendum from the March 27 10 kilometre march in Toronto, “March to Unite the Fight”, organized by the Joint Strike Committee of the Canadian Union of Public Employees [CUPE] locals 3902 and 3903 as part of their simultaneous strikes. The Joint Strike Committee partially came about due to the intervention of some members of Toronto’s Revolutionary Student Movement and Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee who were workers, students, or both at these universities. The idea, which other militant members of these locals appreciated and thus helped build the Joint Strike Committee, was to draw attention to the political aspect of the strike, to think beyond the limits of the bargaining demands, and to develop an autonomous body of workers in both locals, united over some basic anti-capitalist/anti-colonialist/anti-imperialist principles, that could operate outside of trade union economism while still being militant union members and, eventually, become something larger. Following the end of these strikes, the Joint Strike Committee changed its name to the Education Workers Action Committee [EWAC] and is in the process of developing into something more than a joint strike committee.

“Carry the struggle forward, beyond the strike…”

Good morning everybody! It is amazing seeing all of you here! All those I recognize from the pickets, meetings, and all you new comrades. My name is Kim, a member of the CUPE 3902/3903 Joint Strike Committee.

First, we acknowledge that Toronto, Ontario—the place in which we work, live and will be marching in—is in the contested territories of the Mississaugas of New Credit, Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the First Nation, Metis and Inuit education workers and students amongst our ranks in CUPE 3902, 3903, those marching with us today, and also my comrades at the Revolutionary Student Movement who have been organizing actions this week. I, as a settler, commit to following the leadership of my Indigenous comrades in my organizing work. I situate my involvement in these smaller movements in the larger struggle for Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.

Today we march for living wages and good working conditions at two of the biggest universities in Canada. Today we march as education workers who perform the majority of the academic work at York University and the University of Toronto. The continued exploitation of our labour is what allows for these two universities to exist.

But at the same time, we must acknowledge that these bourgeois universities also exist because of the continued dispossession of Indigenous lands and the incarceration and genocide of Indigenous women. They also exist because of the continued dispossession of the lands and resources of Third World peoples. Our universities refuse to give us increases on our funding packages and job security, and instead fund apartheid, militarization, and environmental degradation.

Many of us who are working-class and members of oppressed nations are out there on the pickets and on the 8th line everyday, not only for better funding or job security. There are other things that are “red line” for us, things that are non-negotiable. Because we know damn well that even if we get a good deal at the end of this strike, capitalism and settler-colonialism will continue to give us shitty deals!

Our lives and our communities’ well-being are non-negotiable, and that is why I ask you to carry this struggle forward beyond the strike. As long as our universities prioritize profits over people, we will witness ourselves and the new generation of workers and students on strike again in a few years!

We have been on a legal strike for almost a month, picketing in our respective universities, on some days we successfully delay the operations of the university or get the support of undergrads, staff and faculty to join us at the pickets. Meanwhile warrior societies have been defending their territories for decades with hard blockades! Right now in the Unist’ot’en Camp in British Columbia, they have been actively blocking the expansion of oil and gas pipelines for five years now. So today, I ask that we also march for those who resist even without the permission of the state. They resist because their survival and the protection of their lands are non-negotiable.

It is not just fair contacts that unite the striking workers of CUPE 3902 and 3903, it is the fact that our universities have been built on the backs of working class and oppressed peoples in Canada and around the world, and we are saying enough is enough!

Solidarity for jobs and justice!

Dare to struggle! Dare to win!

Kim Abis