Online with
Louise Ripley

CAUT Defence Fund
Flying Picket Reports 
Louise Ripley, YUFA Trustee

Brandon University - Strike Settled!
15 October 2008 Tentative Settlement at Brandon University! This time the Defence Fund Flying Pickets were on the eve of flying out when the tentative settlement was announced. Many thanks to all of those who rallied around to fill in for the Trustees who were to be in Fredericton for the Annual General Meeting and were not to have been able to fly to Brandon for the planned third Solidarity March.

University of Windsor - Strike Settled!
03 October 2008 Tentative Settlement at University of Windsor! This is also one of those extremely rare, possibly the only time, that the CAUT Defence Fund has been on site when a Union has settled. We always hope to be. I cannot believe it happened the one month that I was unable to be with the Flying Pickets, but I'm glad for Windsor. Brandon, may you be next and soon!

Brandon University on Strike
29 September 2008 First time in Canadian history we have had two universities on strike at the same time

University of Windsor is on Strike
The University of Windsor is on strike but I have not been able to travel with the CAUT Defence Fund Flying Pickets. They had made two visits to Windsor as of Friday 26 September.

From descriptions from those who were there on the picket lines with our colleagues at Windsor, it was apparently one of the greatest rallies in which the Defence Fund has ever taken part, with Flying Pickets from London to St. John's, a crowd of nearly 1,000, including WUFA members, University of Windsor staff and students, the new President of the Canadian Auto Workers, the Windsor Labour Council, a student street-theatre group, and many many others. There was music redolent of Pete Seeger and the Weavers which you can hear here, if it's still on: The Windsor Faculty Association members are solidly supporting their union and if there needs to be a third week of Solidarity Picketing, the Defence Fund will be there with WUFA.

University of Sudbury - Strike Settled!
This is a record for me - the strike settled before I had a chance to post my report on the first Flying Picket Support Visit! Congratulations to the University of Sudbury faculty and the Laurentian University Faculty Association on settling a strike that dealt with particularly unpleasant activities on the part of the employer. Here below is what I had written on the plane coming home from walking the lines with the LUFA-US faculty and the CAUT Defence Fund Flying Pickets.

CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - 20 August 2008

"We ask not that the slave should lie
As lies his master at his ease
Beneath the silken canopy
Or in the shade of blooming trees"

So goes one verse of a song popular with labour union families when I was young and bits of it ran through my head as the CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket took on one of the easiest duties it has ever had, given our fine August weather. Unaccustomed to picket lines without blinding snow and minus 25 degree temperatures, the Flying Pickets didn't know quite what to do with ourselves. But we always show up with the Million Dollar Cheque that we bring on the first week's visit.

Things aren't easy, however, for the University of Sudbury, a small university located on the campus of Laurentian University and a bargaining unit whose 19 faculty are members of the same union - Laurentian University Faculty Association. In a move unprecedented in Canadian educational history, the employer at University of Sudbury, before the union had even gone on strike, and with issues of teaching load and salary still in mediation, declared the prior Collective Agreement null and void. Usually, when negotiations extend beyond the expiry date of a C.A., both sides continue to abide by the previous C.A. But the U of Sudbury employer ripped theirs up and declared that if faculty wished to continue to work, they were to make "individual arrangements" with the university, "including presenting themselves each day between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the university registrar's office to prove they were at work" There was also some sort of offer of an additional $6.00 per day and I wish everyone could have heard the ringing words of Mark Langer, CAUT Defence Fund Trustee from Carleton University as he likened this offer to the classic biblical phrase.

It was the first time in Canadian educational history that any university had refused to honour the expired Collective Agreement until a replacement had been negotiated and would have set a disastrous precedent had the employer been successful. University of Sudbury faculty, however, were not about to sell out their Union for 30 pieces of silver per week. The strike vote was nearly 100% in favour.

But back to the shade of those blooming trees... Sudbury is beautiful this time of year, and is a lovely city. No longer plagued by the smoke and pollution of former days, the fresh air was astounding to one accustomed to Toronto (which is not even bad as cities go), and the wide open spaces and huge outcroppings of rock everywhere were beautiful to behold. The University of Sudbury is located on the campus of Laurentian University so picketing was done not on city property and hence did not have the usual requirement to "keep moving". Traffic likewise was extremely light, with very few cars to stop or fight from breaking any lines. The day was delightfully warm, but not too warm, with a gentle breeze and brilliant sunshine, and we enjoyed our morning walk with the University of Sudbury faculty. Later, when they all needed to go to a union meeting, the CAUT Defence Fund Flying Pickets agreed to defend the picket line for them. Some of us with impaired limbs (I have a football knee which I got playing for the Argos; that's my story and I'm sticking to it), took advantage of the quiet line and the beautiful weather to stretch out under the shade of the trees and rest a bit, and it was lying there that scraps of the old tune came into my head. It took a call later to my twin sister (who is my Locke's fountain of all knowledge) to retrieve the whole verse. We, unions, do not ask that we earn the same exorbitant raises that employers give to themselves or all their ridiculous perks and absurdly featherbedded ranks of assistants. All we ask is a fair wage, decent working conditions, and to be treated respectably. The employer at the University of Sudbury was doing none of these and offering none of these and so their faculty had to strike. (By the way, if you run into anyone from the U Sudbury faculty, don't tell them about us lying about under the trees; we told them we spent the time bravely fending off squadrons of goons sent by the employer!).

I was struck by the experience of union when a few of us went in the afternoon, after a late lunch, to visit a colleague undergoing chemotherapy on the day of the Strike Support Visit. We obviously came from three cultures very different from that of our French Canadian colleague. Jorge has roots in Mexico, William is from Ghana, and my family is English Canadian (when I say "merci" to store clerks in Quebec, they reply, "You're welcome." They know; they KNOW!). Yet the nurse never batted an eye when in response to her query, "Are you family?" we answered in unison a simple, "Yes." For as I thought back to how my father was affectionately known as "Brother Ripley" in his union correspondence, I realized that there is no family closer than union brothers and sisters together on a picket line.

On Thursday evening, we were entertained by the Sudbury faculty at a delicious barbeque with chicken, sausages, veggie burgers and salads and rounded off with a performance by local drummers, four of them playing on one large deer- and moose-skin drum, that sent shivers up my spine. Following that, I was personally appreciative of CAUT Defence Fund Trustee Jean-Charles Cachon who obviously had seen at the airport the traumatic disappointment in my face when I learned that Inco no longer does its burning slag dumps for public display. Sure, I was there for the Flying Picket and it's my favourite part of my job (please don't ever tell my students!), but I had been telling everyone in my family and among my Toronto friends that I was going to go to Sudbury and was looking forward to seeing the burning slag heaps! Jean-Charles took me on a tour of where they used to be, and described them so well that I felt I could now see them in my imagination - a train pulling up and tipping over eight 40,000 vats of burning slag. Oh, it must have been something to see! Here's a picture of me standing at the foot of the huge Inco smoke-stack. The scale of the whole operation is really somewhat beyond belief. It has to be seen to be believed. And I learned that they take some 30,000 tons of slag out of the earth every day, out of which a mere 1.5% goes to the refinery. A massive, enormous operation that one can somewhat feel by standing at the foot of that huge smokestack.



Wilfrid Laurier University

The Strike is Over!
Friday 4 April 2008 - Wilfrid Laurier Contract Academic Staff reach a tentative settlement
while CAUT Defence Fund Flying Pickets are visiting the picket lines! 

CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - 28 March 2008

 It was another rip-roaring good day on the picket lines at Wilfrid Laurier where the Contract Academic Staff are on strike for issues of salary, job security, and seniority. This is my baker's-dozenth Flying Picket visit and I don't know that I've ever seen such good spirits on a picket line. Indicative of the spirit of this strike, the Contract Faculty, even though spread out across the southern area of Ontario, still managed to get an 89,4% strike vote. They remain solid in their demands for a fair settlement, even though their employer has not shifted its position since negotiations started. The full-time faculty are supportive and many were out on the lines when we visited. The students are incredibly supportive, having gathered more than 3,000 signatures on a petition to the President, supporting the Union.

The CAUT Defence Fund Flying Pickets come from as far west as Winnipeg (universities are generally not unionized west of that) and as far east as Newfoundland (if they can get off the rock in bad weather; Angela couldn't join us this time because of fog). Here's Tom Booth from University of Manitoba as we prepare to start the march, and Gary Potter of Wilfrid Laurier Faculty Association's Executive: (pictures courtesy of Robert Seale from Acadia University, out on strike just last fall)

The CAW Flying Picket was out with us this time. They came to our strike at York in 1997 and I remember them bringing firewood for our fire barrels. Those folks know the meaning of union solidarity, the reason the CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket comes out too.

The Laurier students have been particularly supportive, despite efforts of the Wilfrid Laurier Administration to turn the students against their faculty, as administrations in strikes so often do, but it just doesn't seem to be working here. The Administration even extended the drop date, encouraging students to drop their courses, something which backfired terribly on them. You can read more about this on the Faculty Association website:

One of the major issues for the Contract Academic Staff is salary on a parity with other universities in the area. They have no benefits, but are paid 4% in lieu, which isn't much. This chart shows how Laurier ranks with others in pay for a half course: (source:

Base Stipend Maximum Stipend* Health Benefits Vacation pay (%) /
Pay in lieu of benefits (%)
McMaster $5,650 $5,750 Yes 4% vacation pay
Western $5,913 $6,226 No 6% vacation pay / 4% in lieu of benefits
Laurier $6,212** $6,212** No 4% vacation pay / 4% in lieu of benefits
Toronto $6,275 $6,775 Yes 4% vacation pay
Guelph $6,356 $7,056 Yes 4% vacation pay
Waterloo $6,708 $7,500 No 4% vacation pay
York $7,195 $7,195 Yes 4% vacation pay

Another issue is seniority, which for WLUFA-CAS is on a per-specific-course basis. Say you have taught Canadian History 101 at Laurier on contract for 10 years and the next year they hire someone to teach it full time. If all you have ever taught is that one course, you lose all seniority because your seniority was built only for that one course. Hardly fair.

And speaking of so-called "part-time" work, I was moved to tears by one of the full-time faculty speaking at one of the gates on the march (we stopped at each gate around the circumference of the campus and heard speeches and sometimes songs). He is married to a Contract Academic Staff professor and spoke of the fact that she gives the same dedication to her research and to her students, and in fact, in his words, "she taught me the meaning of full-time work." As many of us who have the privilege of full-time university professorships know, there is a lot of freedom in our hours of work. That is not to say that we don't work hard, but our hours are much more ours to decide when and what we will do than they are for those faculty who work "part-time" for perhaps three different universities, trying to cobble together a living with underpaid jobs in several institutions or even in one institution where one never knows if one will have a secure position in the next term.

This Flying Picket was especially meaningful for me because, with its being close to home, I was joined on the Strike Support Visit by three members of my own union, YUFA President Arthur Hilliker, and YUFA Recording Secretary Kym Bird (whom many know from previous Strike Support Visits - to Acadia last fall and St. Thomas in the winter). You can see Kym near the centre with a yellow York sign and Arthur just to her right; I am just in front of Arthur. Arthur spoke most eloquently about the plight of the Contract Academic Staff, the great wage gap between their salaries and those of contract staff at York, and the lack of fair practice in pensions, seniority, and job security.

But I said THREE members of my own union, didn't I? We were accompanied by a fourth and my favourite member of YUFA, tiny Quincey who attends all our Executive and Membership Meetings in a large handbag and whom many people met on the lines on Friday disguised as a scarf because technically he wasn't supposed to be there but it was pointed out by someone quite skilled in negotiations that if pressed we could negotiate that situation in a way that has often been pointed out to Kym, "Is that really a dog?"!

It was also a more difficult trip for me (the older you get, the more these things get, as the me generation says, "all about me!"), as my bad knee was acting up, but I tell this story for a union-related reason. Last week I walked twice around the campus and just about did my knee in, so this week I kept it to just the one circumference during the march after the rally, and I wore my $1200 knee brace - thank goodness for a good health plan negotiated for me by my Union. Years ago, I used to say "York provides me a good plan" but after the Strike of 1997, and especially after serving on the Negotiating Team myself, I know where those benefits come from. I once heard of a YUFA member saying that she didn't need the union, and my first thought was, Oh? You've never needed your medical benefits? You've never had occasion to use the dental plan? Got perfect teeth do you? Never faced a problem with an administrator that could easily be solved by having him or her reminded of the language of the Collective Agreement? I just don't get these people who work with all the benefits of a union and claim they don't need one!

Some of the Flying Pickets at Breakfast
We travelled again on this trip with Denise Nevo from Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax as our Flying Picket Organizer (I think of myself as "flying in" even when I drive, and this was my first time a strike was within driving distance for me, because we still are dropping everything on our overly busy plates at our home universities and "flying" in quickly, walking the lines, visiting with the local union, and "flying" quickly back). I like travelling with Denise because she always makes the trips so easy. Instead of separate cheques at dinner for instance, and each of us fussing with getting receipts and recording amounts on our expense forms, she just pays for everyone, so we tell the waitress that "Mom" is taking us all out to dinner. Of course with Denise's petite build and her youthful French visage, she looks younger than most of us there, so the waitresses always are most perplexed, especially when there are 15 of us at dinner with "mom".

After the march, there was a pizza lunch held at a supportive local church hall. Everyone from the march was invited and it was lovely to see the standing ovation given to the supportive students. The student support at this strike has been heart-warming to see. They know the plight of their faculty. They know what it's like to work so-called "part-time" jobs for low wages, with no job security. At the lunch, we had good news. Doug Larimer, the Chief Negotiator, reported that the Employer, who has been refusing to come to the table, had called and suggested that the two sides meet next week. This of course, brought back memories of St. Thomas University where the Employer stayed away from the table so long that some creative members produced an hilarious video titled, "Fear of Tables," showing a series of clips of tables, each accompanied by shots of famous scary pictures (e.g.: Munch's famous "The Scream") and a famous sound clip of a scream (e.g., Pyscho).

And Roger Moore, my friend at St. Thomas, if you're reading this, know that when I got lost trying to find the Delta Hotel in Kitchener (their signage is terrible! says the Marketing Professor in me) and I started to get upset, instead I said to myself, remember what Roger said, and told myself, "I'm not lost; I know where I am; I'm in my car!". You learn so many useful things on these CAUT Defence Fund trips!

But it's good news that the two sides will be back at the table. I am particularly hoping they settle before next Friday because I won't be here to go on the next CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket Visit because I'll be in Virginia, visiting that 93-year-old mother in whose womb I walked my first picket line that so many people have heard me talk about at various strike venues! CAS Strikers, she sends her best wishes for a quick and fair settlement!

We also hope that the Administration at Laurier will stop needlessly alarming students, suggesting they might lose their term when the faculty have only on strike for a week. Jim Turk of CAUT told us this at the St. Thomas strike - no Canadian University that we know of has ever lost a term due to a strike, including when Universite Laval was out for FOUR MONTHS in 1976. See Jim's words from the WLUFA website:

March 27, 2008


James L. Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers in Ottawa,  I’m worried about a potential tragedy at Wilfrid Laurier University. I read this morning that President Blouw suggested students could lose their courses- a remark that surprised me as it is antagonistic and alarmist. In the history of faculty strikes in this country, as far as I know, no students have lost their courses, including during strikes that have lasted many weeks. His remarks indicate that either he is very inexperienced in dealing with labour relations or he has deliberately chosen to follow a confrontational approach. Either can cause a readily resolvable dispute to turn into a disaster for the university, its students and faculty. The only solution to any strike is when the employer and the union are prepared to negotiate. WLUFA has perhaps the most experienced chief negotiator in Canada who has made very clear that the faculty association is willing to negotiate a reasonable settlement. I would encourage President Blouw, instead of needlessly alarming students and their parents, to permit the university’s negotiators to do their job and negotiate a settlement.

Wilfrid Laurier University
CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - 20 March 2008
The CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Pickets were given the gift of a record-setting season by the Contract Academic Staff of the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association. This is the first year in which we have had a Strike Support Visit in all Four Seasons: Bishops University in Summer, Acadia University in the Fall, St. Thomas University in the Winter, and now Wilfrid Laurier University in the Spring. A little Vivaldi on the Picket Lines, anyone?

Of course the Defence Fund would always rather a University didn't go on strike, but given that Wilfrid Laurier's Contract Faculty went out on Wednesday 20 March (a date that is all too familiar to YUFA who went out 11 years ago to the day), one would be forgiven for hoping that the strike would last at least one day to take us into spring, and indeed it did. Unfortunately, it has now lasted a week, and the Contract Faculty are still out on the picket lines, asking for nothing more complicated and expensive than a fair working wage compared to others who do the same job in neighbouring universities and some job security. 

The day of the first CAUT Defence Fund Visit, we had a great rally with a huge turnout
 including a great turnout by students

The students were out in great force generally to support their Contract Faculty. Students at Laurier are apparently usually somewhat on the conservative side, but in this case, they collected 2,700 signatures on a petition that they took to the University President. He was apparently impressed with the number of signatures, but did not impress the students when, in response to their polite and pointed questions about the strike, he simply kept repeating, "I can't speculate."

Judy Bates, President of the Wilfred Laurier University Faculty Association


The CAUT Defence Fund Team brought its usual cheque for $1 million
money that ensures that no faculty ever has to go back too soon for lack of funds


(University of Guelph, Almost)
The CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Pickets were especially effective at the University of Guelph. Set to strike on 14 March, Guelph achieved a tentative deal for their first Collective Agreement after lengthy negotiations just hours before a Defence Fund Strike Support Flying Picket would have been leaving to head out to join them on the picket lines! Our heart-felt congratulations to the University of Guelph Faculty Association on this great achievement, on getting what is in their words "a very good deal" that "significantly improves our compensation and protects our existing pension and benefit arrangements."


St. Thomas University
CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Pickets - January-February 2008

The Strike is Over!

See FAUST's Website: for the details.

A Week in New Brunswick Two Days at a Time

Who travels to to a colder climate than one already lives in, three times in January? A long-time member of the Canadian Association of University Teachers Defence Fund Flying Picket when one of our members is locked-out/on strike for 38 days. Read below for the earlier history of this situation and my first visit to St. Thomas University in Fredericton, but since that first visit, I've been back twice - every other week. In fact, we got to speaking of "taking odds or evens," those of us who got to going regularly to St. Thomas. It's a funny thing how these visits become so important to you, personally. First, you go because the Defence Fund, on which you serve as a Trustee, has called for a Strike Support Visit and you go to represent your university and to ensure there are enough members of the Team to show solidarity and support. When the second visit comes, it's too close to your first one and you figure they'll probably settle soon and besides, there are other universities who didn't get to go the first time, and then before you know it, it's been three weeks out for those folks, and you go again because you remember not only how much it meant to them the first time you went, but how much it meant to you when CAUT Defence Fund Flying Pickets came when your own university was on strike, and besides you remember some of those people personally, so there I was on a second trip to Fredericton.

Here are some pictures. Note the dog: I had commented on my first visit that St. Thomas had no dogs, unlike Acadia where they'd had lots of dogs on the lines. Of course there wouldn't be many dogs; it was much colder in St. Thomas than it was at Acadia, where they went out in the fall. Just look at the second picture! But wait... that's not from my second visit, Week 3, when it was a balmy 1 or 2 degrees (Odds); this is from the second week (Evens) when Kym Bird went in my place and it was so F... reezing cold! It was cold my first week -25, but I think it was even colder this second week.

I got so caught up with catching up with things that I didn't get a report written about my second visit before it was time to go on a third visit (Odds) and by then colleagues at St. Thomas had become like old friends so of course I would go again. As I tell the story, when I told my husband that the Defence Fund would be flying another Flying Picket to St. Thomas, he asked, "Do you have to go again?" And I said, "You're not really understanding this. It's not 'have to' but 'get to;' there are waiting lists for these trips!" I also figured this surely would be the last visit; surely they would settle now.
The Employer still didn't come to the table so the Defence Fund authorized an unprecedented extra three visits. A fourth visit came and went (Evens) and when the fifth one was called, I think I was the first to sign up (Odds) and by then we're talking knowing a whole bunch of people by name and face or one or the other and sometimes by instrument. I had met Doug Vipond the first week on the lines, playing his saxophone on the picket lines. I asked him if the fellow got cold and he said yes, he had to take him into one of the buildings and warm him up occasionally. I play an instrument too so we talked about music. My instrument would, however, be more difficult to bring to a picket line. Doug was great - he found out I used to live in Virginia and played "Carry Me Back..." and some old Stephen Foster songs. Turns out he went to graduate school with one of my best friends at York too. There are always these connections.

The CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket Team had dearly hoped that there might be excellent news of the best kind announced at the party on the Friday night of our record-setting fifth visit. It was not to be, but we still had a great time celebrating the end of another week on the picket lines with FAUST - the indefatigable faculty union. At that party, they screened a great video done by one of their creative union members, titled "Fear of Tables." Centering on the fact that it had taken so very long for the Employer to come back to the table, the video showed a series of clips of tables, each accompanied by shots of famous scary pictures (e.g.: Munch's famous "The Scream") and a famous sound clip of a scream (e.g., Pyscho). It was hilarious. One of the things we discover when on strike is the incredible creativity of so many of our members.

Some good news came long after most of us had all collapsed into bed (around 9 p.m. for most of us - walking a cold picket lines takes it out of you!). At 2 a.m. the Negotiating Team had posted on the website that it looked like they would be working through the night, but that progress was being made towards a conclusion.

See FAUST's Website:
for the details.
Then finally at 7:40 p.m. on Saturday came the good news that both sides had agreed to put outstanding issues to binding arbitration and end the strike, the first thing I hurried in to read upon arriving home that afternoon, delayed only a few hours by snow and freezing rain that had hit the Maritimes overnight.

All strikes are important, but this one was particularly so. A university faculty's very right to collective bargaining was challenged, and as we say so often when we all gather together from across the country to support whichever one of us is out on strike or locked-out, what happens to one of us affects what happens to us all; what one employer can do to one of us all other employers can consider doing to us all. And so we continue to gather together from across the country when any one of us is threatened, to remind each other that in union we stand together, that, as my dead-labour-union-organizer-father* used to say, "You are never alone on a picket line." Well done, St. Thomas!

In Solidarity,
Louise Ripley
YUFA Trustee
CAUT Defence Fund

*This is how I so often referred to him in emails on our listserv, the YUFA-L, during our Strike of 1997, that I dedicated my book, written using material from that listerv, to him with that "title"


St. Thomas University
CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - 4 January 2008

On Wednesday 27 December 2007, the Board of Governors of St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick made history, pre-emptively locking out its faculty during negotiations, before a strike vote had even been taken. Even more amazing for this feat worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records was the fact that this was done by a Catholic University during the Christmas holidays, and when many faculty were away and were not able to get to their offices and retrieve personal belongings.

Word of such abuse of academic collegiality spreads fast and when Larry Hale, President of the CAUT Defence Fund called for a Flying Picket to come and show support for St. Thomas, although it usually takes several days to gather the ten members that the rules allow us to sponsor (and we often do not fill all ten spots), and although the visit was planned for the Friday after New Year's when many were still digesting holiday dinners and quietly contemplating a return to our own classes, Larry was overwhelmed to find all ten spots in the Flying Picket formation filled the day after he put out the call. We assembled in Fredericton on Friday 4 January 2008.

For Driving Pickets there is no limit on numbers, and they came from all over the East Coast, most notably twenty of them from Acadia University, who had just recently settled their own strike against a recalcitrant Employer who was brought to heel partly by the show of support by faculty from across the country, a reminder that no faculty/librarian ever stands alone on a picket line in Canada as long as CAUT Defence Fund members have breath in their lungs, feet in warm boots, and the $20 million in the fund that sustains us all both on strike and in support of our brothers and sisters who are out on the lines.
My 93-year old mother still worries about me when I go out in the winter time. When I emailed her -- yes! she does email at her age! -- that I would be travelling to New Brunswick in bitter cold winter weather (Ginnie - we're fondly remembering the summer picket walks at Bishops!) to walk a picket line, my Mom wrote back that she was sure I would not have a very good time but she understood why I was going. I hastened to write back that no! quite to the contrary, I always have a great time on these Defence Fund visits, that they are, in fact, the highlight of my year, and while, of course I am sad that my colleagues are locked out, given that they are, I always see these Strike Support Visits as an opportunity to meet with fellow Union workers and bring our own brand of good will and cheer to those in peril on the lines. It is also a good opportunity to learn how negotiations are done on other campuses, to hear how colleagues at other places handle problems similar to our own, and sadly, in this case, to learn of whole new ranges of problems one never imagined any faculty member would face in negotiations. But it also is a time to watch and learn how colleagues handle the worst an Employer can throw at one  and respond with dignity and self-respect and fierce Union solidarity.
We were privileged this time to be invited to stay with the members of the Faculty Association of St. Thomas University (FAUST) during their first meeting together since the lockout. There we heard the emotionally moving address by Suzanne Dudziak, President of FAUST, as she brought everyone up to date on what had been happening, and introduced all the visitors. We joined a standing ovation for the Negotiating Team, headed by Suzanne Prior. This team has been through almost a year of The Negotiations from Hell. They have been yelled at, taunted, subjected to profanity and sarcasm, and just generally treated as no one should ever be, particularly not colleagues at a bargaining table, colleagues with whom, when it is all over, the Employer will have to sit again at tables of shared committees, at Senate, at meetings dealing with students and food and conferences and convocations and parking, and at future Union negotiations.

The issues are pretty much the same as we are seeing across the country: salary and workload and in the Maritimes, for smaller Universities like St. Thomas and Acadia who are at the bottom of the pay scales salary is a particular issue. Also important at this bargaining table is the plight of contract/part-time faculty who do not even have the basic amenities like office space and health plans. There are also strange issues peculiar to St. Thomas. Their Board apparently meets and functions in complete secrecy, like some ancient Star Chamber. No one can obtain minutes, and senior staff are required to sign confidentiality agreements. The main thrust of the Board's negotiations appears to be control; they seem to think they "know what is best" for the faculty and seem determined to force it upon them.

We also heard from Jim Turk, Executive Director of CAUT; Peter Simpson, Assistant Executive Director of CAUT, serving as a technical advisor  to the FAUST Negotiating Team; and Greg Allain, Professor at  Université de Moncton and current president of CAUT). More and more, I begin to see a Strike and even a Lock-out as Jim Turk describes them, as indeed the 1997 Strike was at York University, as a chance to find camaraderie and collegiality that you may never have known on your campus before, a possibility to get to know fellow faculty you have never had the time to get to know, an opportunity to build a stronger Union when it's all over and you're back at work. Because, and this is perhaps the best message that the Defence Fund always brings, with our war stories and our messages of cheer and bravado and solidarity: every Strike and Lock-out does end.

After a quick lunch, we processed... no, wait, we did not process, we were asked not to process by good and decent University of New Brunswick with whom St. Thomas University shares a campus which makes picketing ever so difficult, and UNB graciously carved out some space for St. Thomas to picket, but asked that we not march across UNB campus space, and we understood, so we not-processed to a place in front of St. Thomas University's main building where we received picket signs, carried there by car, and gathered together for the rally at which we did the traditional presentation of the CAUT Defence Fund's $1,000,000 cheque, meant, more than anything, to remind the Employer that no Union will have to go back in early for lack of funds.


The Raging Grannies joined us at the Rally! A few years ago I reviewed a book about the Raging Grannies, and I've known about them for ages, but I've never seen them live. They were spectacular! And they added so much pizzazz to our already joyous and rambunctious gathering as we stamped our feet and waved our hands as much in an effort to keep warm in -25C weather as to express our exuberance at being together to help St. Thomas show their Employer how many of us from across Canada were so horrified at their unconscionable tactics.

We then brought our greetings and our financial support, from universities across the country, and I am proud to note that the practice that YUFA started at Bishop's University this summer, of sending a sum of money immediately with a promise of additional money at regular intervals as the strike continues has spread now to a number of other universities. It is in our support of each other that we are strongest in our solidarity. It is not much money for a Union not on strike and it makes a world of difference both monetarily and in moral support to our colleagues facing the difficulties of a strike or lock-out.


After a rousing and very moving presentation, there being a strong emotional element to standing in minus 25 degree weather hearing your fellow universities and their geographical locations from furthest east to furthest west called out, one after the other, with Trustees and Flying/Driving Pickets stepping forward to pick up the megaphone to speak heart-felt words of support, we loaded our signs into snow-worthy vehicles and walked further up the hill, as our signs rode in quiet and invisible solitude. UNB, please make no sarcasm of these comments; we all were deeply impressed with the efforts you made to make a space for your locked-out colleagues, not the least of which was opening your lecture hall for their union meeting, not the least of which was having the walks shoveled and salted early that morning for our picketing, not the least of which was your magnificent financial contribution at the rally. Carrying our picket signs quietly between picketing posts was the very least we could do to repay you.



We spent part of the afternoon with the picketers on the hills (YUFA colleagues take note - at least our picket circles were all on one level!), and then returned to Strike Headquarters for a press conference. We had heard the good news, and it was passed on in the press conference, that the two sides were back at the table.

On a personal note, a comment on how well taken care of we were, and how well taken care of the picketers were. Roger Moore, particularly, for two of us with canes, went above and beyond the call of duty, chauffeuring us about, from airport to hotels and picket sites and headquarters, taking me back once when I forgot my cane! Roger, you're a gem!

I was amazed at the organization and co-ordination at Strike Headquarters as they packed insulated bags to deliver to each shift with warm drinks and varieties of warm and healthy foods and snacks. A separate play area for children, bright rows of windows letting in cheerful light, the place looked quite like home.

Later Friday evening, we were invited to a classic Maritime Kitchen Party, held in the local Elks Lodge. Food, all home-made, was delicious, music was delightful, spirits were up and everything was going great, until Chief Negotiator Suzanne Prior addressed us with stunning news. We had been told that the Employer, who originally had said that "there would be no negotiations outside the parameters of their last offer," had stated on their website that they were willing to negotiate at any time without any conditions. They never notified the Union of this, but FAUST read it on the Employer's website and contacted the Conciliator, who arranged for the two sides to meet. When the two sides did meet, however, it turned out that the Employer only wanted to meet in order to talk about the offer it had already tabled and how fair it was (an offer which left St. Thomas still near the bottom of the pay scale nationally and provincially and at the top of the workload pile), and to tell the Union's Negotiating Team that they would have to accept the offer by midnight Sunday or the Employer would subject it to a forced vote of the membership.

This is allowed, once in Ontario law, I think also once in New Brunswick law, at any rate it is legal for the Employer to do this, to go over the heads of the Union and take their offer directly to the faculty. It's usually a pretty dumb thing for an Employer to do, however, because a membership almost always supports its Negotiating Team, and in this case it is especially so. But their Employer will find that out in the vote. Suzanne spoke of feeling physically and psychologically beaten and bruised; of how abusive the Employer's Team had been at the table, how insulting, how arrogant.

Suzanne Prior then told the assembled and stunned-silent Union and Family crowd at the Kitchen Party that the Employer, in bringing their last offer directly to the members,  would, of course, try to sweeten the deal. They were offering back pay for all but two days, and less the $77 per day from CAUT Defence Fund... oh, and... she added:


Sometimes you just have to wonder where some University Administrators check their brains when they become University Administrators. The whole room, at that point, erupted in a combination of gasps of disbelief and whoops of laughter! It was for me the most joyous moment of the entire visit. I know Suzanne Prior and her Team felt beaten up and battered, but this bit of deep black humour surely ought to make up for some of what they suffered over the last few days, weeks, months. 

I had no doubt that St. Thomas faculty would have voted that Employer's offer down without the mention of expecting the Union to pay for half the cost of changing the locks, but I am going on record here on Sunday night before the Strike Vote, before the Vote on the Employer's Proposal as saying both these votes will now be in favour of the Union's position. Word spread quickly at the Kitchen Party too that the LOCK would probably soon become St. Thomas' equivalent to Moncton's Mittens in their Strike of March 2000.

Rolland of Winnipeg and I left the party early due to a break-of-dawn flight home. We were both on the same flight to Toronto and he managed to get us seats together. Roland is a Math Professor and I think Math Professors can manage to get anything done anywhere! Anyway, we both had Sudoku puzzles and I was feeling very pleased with myself, being able to do Sudoku puzzles just like a Math professor... until I found a correct number to go in one of the little spaces (I make those tiny notations of all the possible numbers that might go in a space) and erased the wrong ones to write in the correct one, and Rolland, looking over at me, said quietly, "Oh. You use an eraser." Good to have one's self-importance balloon punctured every so often.

Another great time with the CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket! 


Letter from the York University Faculty Association

Mr. Thomas McBrearty, Chair, Board of Governors
Dear Mr. McBrearty:

It is with a profound sense of disappointment and incredulity that we, as members of the Executive of the York University Faculty Association, submit this unequivocal letter of protest condemning the pre-emptive lock out of your academic staff. We urge you to rethink immediately your position adn to have the Employer's negotiators return to the bargaining table. We join the CAUT in pledging assistance to our colleagues at St. Thomas University in order to attain a fair settlement. Clearly, this pre-emptive lock out is a pernicious course of action that expresses a commitment to both bad faith bargaining and a blatant disregard to its detrimental impact on the University Staff, Students, and Faculty.

The Executive of the York University Faculty Association (YUFA)

L. Visano, Vice President External, York University Faculty Association (YUFA)

cc: Michael Higgins, President, St. Thomas University

In Solidarity, 
Louise Ripley
YUFA Trustee
CAUT Defence Fund
6 January 2008


Acadia University
CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - 19 October 2007

On Friday 19 July, the CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket was out in full force, visiting the faculty/librarian's strike at Acadia University in beautiful Wolfville, Nova Scotia. We found a classic Maritime welcome - warmth, humour, good food, music, dance, family - children out on the picket lines as well as dogs, and the clear indication that Acadia is out for the long haul, as Maritimers always are. It's too bad their University President Gail Dinter-Gottlieb doesn't have the same culture of standing the gaff, for in the first week of the strike, she took off for China. There were great picket signs about Slow Boats and such. (How does a Torontonian dare to speak as if she knows Maritimers? I spent one precious year at St. FX in Antigonish on sabbatical in 1992-93 and as Tony Bennett sings it, left my heart there).

Their main issues are salary, faculty complement, status of part-time faculty, equity, and benefits. While charging the highest tuition in Canada, Acadia University pays its professors almost the lowest average salary in Canada, six percent below the average for the Maritime region, which is already below the national average.

But Maritime humour rises to almost any challenge. The picket signs were full of humour. Here are two of my personal favourites, one about children and one about dogs: (the pictures all come from the AUFA website).

 The Friday Morning March

After the march up to the campus on Friday morning

we wended our way back to the Clock Tower Park for the presentation of CAUT Defence Fund support, moral and in the form of financial donations from the many universities who sent representatives. Just a few are shown here.

Denise Nevo, Mt. St. Vincent (Organizer of this Flying Picket)

Larry Hale, UPEI (and President of CAUT-DF)

Ginny Stroeher, Bishop's

Louise Ripley, York

Edmund Rudiuk, Cape Breton University

David Josephy, Guelph

Geneviève Robichaud from Concordia

Paul Berryfrom Mt. Allison

Then the CAUT Defence Fund Trustees joined AUFA on their picket lines, always one of the best parts of these visits. It's here that we just walk the lines together, talking with individual picketers, sharing stories, learning new ideas from each other, new ways of coping, and sometimes even in hearing how appalling another's Employer has been, learning to appreciate one's own Employer a little more. Their picket line was a long three or four block stretch of sidewalk in front of the main part of the University and up around one corner then back down and along the stretch again. Everyone was in good spirits, and many dogs and some children accompanied them. One of the disagreements we had in the YUFA Strike of 1997 was whether we should bring children to the picket lines. Our gates were more dangerous, granted, but many of us felt that with the University and the public schools having seemingly done such a lousy job of teaching our students anything about labour relations, perhaps the only way children were going to learn about it was going to be on the picket lines with their parents. It's certainly where I learned about strikes and pickets and scabs and goons and all those things. I walked my first picket line in my mother's womb, and have memories of walking at what would have been the age of less than four, with my mother and father on picket lines in New York City.

The Students were out with us on Friday, and supportive.

The students at Acadia seemed similar to ours at York: many of them in support, many of the official student organizations in support, while, of course, recognizing the difficulties posed for students, and, of course, with some students clearly not understanding that when faculty members go on a legal strike, they are simply withholding their labour in order to try to force a recalcitrant Employer to show more respect for their position, or to return to the table when they are refusing to negotiate, or for any number of other legal and respected reasons. Most students seem to realize what we said often at York in 1997, that "Teachers' working conditions are students learning conditions." But student upset with the Employer seems understandable, especially with Acadia charging the highest tuition in the country.


The CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket isn't the group it used to be at the turn of the last century when I first served on it. Back then, we never went out unless the temperature was -20º C. And the picket line paths were always uphill, both ways. Nowadays, we have Bishop's University on strike in the balmy days of an Eastern Townships summer, and the weather at Acadia this Friday was 19º, that's PLUS 19º!. My strike support wardrobe consists of down parkas, wool sweaters, long underwear, piles of socks, and boots good to -40º. It took me days to figure out what to wear! It was truly superb weather, with the Nova Scotia fall leaves at their peak of beauty and the temperatures just about room temperature. 

Nova Scotia Fall Colours at Acadia University, Wolfville

The CAUT Defence Fund $1 Million Cheque

We didn't do the usual unfurling of the $One Million Dollar Cheque$ from CAUT Defence Fund at Acadia because we had already presented it to them at the Defence Fund Annual Meeting in Winnipeg just one week before. Here is Larry Hale, President of the Fund, presenting the cheque to Acadia's delegate Darcy Benoit. It hangs on the wall of Strike Headquarters.

The Picket Signs

The picket signs showed the real spirit of this strike. You may have noticed the one above in the set of pictures where the Trustees were bringing greetings that said, "Unions Brought You Weekends!". Dogs were a frequent theme, and since one of the hardest things for me on these trips is leaving my greyhound at the door with those huge sad eyes, I was delighted to find pooches on the picket lines.

 -- Dogs

Left Sign says, Dear Gail, Thanks for the quality time with my dog!

Cats too!

 -- Spirit on The Lines

The picket signs showed the indomitable spirit of the Maritimes [and of faculty and librarians (and staff, remembering Bishop's!) for that matter]. We may seem a bookish lot, dedicated to looking after our Universities in our separate and various ways, but when pushed to the edge, when challenged to stand up where and when it counts, we do.

Food and Dance and Saying Goodbye

We ate well; there was always food available at Strike Headquarters, we had the Denise-Nevo-mandated-Picketers'-breakfasts, and on Saturday night Acadia put on a Potluck and Dance at the local Curling Club. The thing about Maritime potlucks, is that, well, compared to Toronto where I come from, when my church has a potluck and everyone stops at a bakery or a deli and buys something to bring it's just not the same as a Maritime potluck where people actually take the time to make something home-made and we had home-cooked dishes like beef curry and fantastic salads and deserts to die for. There was an apple pie with what was so clearly a home-made pastry crust that, even though I can't eat apples because they're one of my migraine triggers, I took a small slice, set the apples aside, and had the crust for dessert! I mention that in case the clean-up crew wondered who would leave such a beautiful apple filling uneaten!. A big Thank-You to those helping out in the kitchen, by the way! It was a magnificent meal and obviously a lot of coordinating went into putting it on.

The dance was great, lots of children, many young families - Acadia appears to be a University where young scholars come for the excellent reputation of the school (it regularly places at or near the top of all the rankings done in the press and elsewhere), for the small class sizes, for the bright and committed students, but sadly few can afford economically to stay. But at the dance that night, no one was thinking about salaries or picket lines. A four piece band of strikers played: electric and acoustic guitar, drums and AUFA's President was great on bass fiddle. A singer joined them too for a song near the end of the first set. The man on acoustic guitar sang a wonderful revised version of "The Train They Call the City of New Orleans," ending with the refrain, 

And we will walk five hundred miles till the deal is done.

It was great to see Ginny Stroeher, President of the Union at Bishop's, APBU, dancing with abandon that evening, after enjoying the camaraderie and good spirits of the picket line without the stress of it being her own strike. Ginny's indomitable spirit and endless good cheer during the Bishop's strike of staff and lockout of faculty/librarians this past summer was an inspiration to all of us and it was a delight to see her able to enjoy herself this trip. She was there as a representative for the Trustee from Bishop's and finally got to see for herself why we loved coming to HER picket line this summer, twice, almost a third time but they settled the evening before we were to fly out. I would have danced with her myself if I weren't so darned shy; missed my chance. Maybe next time, Ginny!

As we left the dance, it was raining, and it continued to rain through the night and into the next morning and by the time we reached Halifax airport, it was pouring buckets and the wind was whipping out of the skies in that wild Atlantic way as we made our flights home. It was cold and grey and looked and felt much more like the Strike Support Visits I remember, but I'll take the weather Acadia summoned up for our visit any day!

In Solidarity, 
Louise Ripley
YUFA Trustee
CAUT Defence Fund
24 October 2007


Bishop's University
Second CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - 19 July 2007

On Thursday 19 July, the CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket again visited Bishop's University to bring messages of solidarity and support, both moral and financial, as our colleagues there enter their fourth week of a strike. All three bargaining units, together in one union, unique in Canada, are in negotiations. The non-academic staff unit is negotiating its first contract and has been in negotiations for two years; they went out on strike 28 June, when their employer threatened to remove some 20 positions, outsource programmes, and make drastic changes in their pension plan. The other two bargaining units have been in negotiations since May 2006, and have been in a strike position for several months. 

Denise Nevo, Defence Fund Trustee from Mount St. Vincent in Halifax, and stalwart, long-time organizer of the Defence Fund visits (that's her behind the megaphone), describes the visit in more detail:

We all gathered at strike headquarters in the morning and at 10:30 am, strikers, flying and driving pickets marched together toward the first campus gate. A very large number of passing cars and trucks honked loudly, a good indication of the local support the association is receiving. The headquarters is located right next a set of railway tracks, and the best part was when a train arrived just as we were walking out of headquarters. The conductor stopped the train and loudly blew several times the horn and whistle, and waved at us. It gave everyone an incredible feeling of power.

In the early afternoon, the union received a letter from the employer, an ultimatum, which informed them that a global offer to all three bargaining units tabled on July 11th was “the university’s best and final offer”, and that union members had until midnight Friday (20 July) to accept it and reach a settlement. After that, all Bishop’s union workers would be locked out as of Sunday midnight (22 July)… APBU is not prepared to accept this final offer of July 11th. Among the contentious issues are, of course, salaries. The university proposal would give full-time and contract faculty and librarians no pay increase for the full term of their contract (3 years). They would however receive a 2% increase on March 1, 2009, if there are more than 2,300 full-time students registered in the winter term of 2008. Last year, full-time enrollment was 2,100 students, and enrollment is expected to be only 1,800 in September. Bishop’s highest ever enrollment was 2,250 students.

The university president, Robert Poupard, claims that the two sides are “very close to a settlement”, which does not seem to be the case, according to Ginny Stroeher, the union president, one of the most charismatic, energetic, dynamic, spirited, bubbly union presidents I ever met! “Instead of 153 people on the picket lines, come Monday we will have close to 300” said Ginny. Union leaders are spending the weekend preparing for the lock-out.

Indeed the train whistle is a powerful image, as those strikers spend their picket shifts making as much noise as possible on the picket lines, located right outside the administration's offices on the main route through Lennoxville. It was heard on the picket lines that one administrator lost his head one day and screamed Why Don't They Be Quiet?!! We were touched by the gift of one picketer - a former security officer in a fantastic sandwich-board picket sign complete with place for horn (he was that evening going to create a place to hold a water bottle), who, when he saw how much Larry Hale (CAUT-DF Trustee from PEI) loved the balloon-based noise makers, went and got one for him and presented it to him. We're going to be suggesting to CAUT that they purchase a warehouse full for future strikes! On this trip, along with my own union's second contribution (YUFA has promised $1,000 every two weeks), I brought something from my 92-year old mother, widow of American labour union organizer, my father, Stephen Ripley. My mom lives on Social Security in the U.S. and doesn't have much money, but she's been supporting strikers since before I was born (I "walked" my first picket line in her womb, with my twin sister, in an American Newspaper Guild strike in New York), and she wanted to send a small donation to help the picketers. Seems everyone, in academia or not, in Canada or not, understands the plight of unionized workers trying to earn a decent wage. How come The Corporation at Bishop's wants them to accept a wage offer of 0%, 0%, 0%??

One of the fun parts of coming on a second CAUT-DF visit is that you return to "old friends" you made on the first visit. Our favourite phrase, repeated often, was that we were sorry we had to come here again, but given that we had to come, we were glad we did! It was good to see old friends and meet new ones on the picket lines and at the Mechui at the Legion Hall on Thursday, a Quebec kind of BBQ with pork, beef, and chicken, salads, desserts, and drinks, a great party and a treat for us from our hosts. Wednesday night, we ate a typical Defence Fund dinner, excellent food at the hotel at which we stayed, but due to the vagaries of plane flights, including Denise's that was just cancelled with no warning, shifting us all three hours later, starting to dine at 8:45 (the line from Ella Fitzgerald's old song, "I get too hungry for dinner at eight" kept running through my head), and, with Ginnie Stroeher, APBU President, joining us for dessert, lasting till nearly midnight as we shared stories and got caught up on the strike news.

We said our farewells on Thursday night after the Mechui, and retired early; picketing is tiring work. We had planned a good breakfast in the morning and a leisurely drive to Montreal to catch our planes home, but three of us decided there was time in the morning for one more walk on the picket lines. So Larry Hale of PEI, Roland Gaudet of St. Boniface in Winnipeg, and I grabbed an early breakfast at the hotel and headed out in a light drizzle. So glad I did, because I met my good friend Dave, the carpenter. We'd had a good talk on the first CAUT-DF visit because my son is in the union carpentry apprenticeship programme here in Toronto. He saw me on the picket lines, waved, and said, "Hey! You're supposed to be on a flight back to Toronto!" Just hadn't had quite enough of the picket lines, I guess. It's the best place to be in any strike, sometimes in any university any time. As we used to say at York in 1997, you meet the best kinds of people on the picket lines! The Union members were all walking in purple T shirts that morning, and they gave the three of us each one, so that made the morning even more special.

YUFA stands in solidarity with our colleagues in APBU, sending our financial support and our emotional and moral support. We wish APBU well and anxiously await news of the outcome of the latest bargaining.

In Solidarity, 
Louise Ripley
YUFA Trustee
CAUT Defence Fund
7 July 2007


Bishop's University
CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - 5 July 2007

Bishop's CAUT-DFGinny Stroeher, President of the Association of Professors of Bishop's University (APBU) receiving the $1 Million cheque from Larry Hale, President of the CAUT Defence Fund
(photo: Rolland Gaudet, CAUT Trustee )

The March from Strike Headquarters to the Picket Lines

I am back on duty in what is one of my favourite parts of my Union work, perhaps my favourite part of all my University work - serving on the CAUT Defence Fund Board. This is a board that oversees an easily liquidable fund of $20 Million, held for the purpose of supporting Canadian faculty Unions that go on strike, so that, faced with Employers who always have money, they can afford to maintain a strike for as long as it takes to win a decent settlement. My own university, York, reaped the benefits of this fund in 1997 when we stayed out for 55 days in the coldest spring in Toronto's history, but as we always say in Union parlance, it's not only about the money.

Along with the cheque for $1 Million that the CAUT Defence Fund brings in the first week of the strike (a loan to ensure that the Union can cover all its expenses), the Fund also provides strike pay at $75 per member per day, and also has a team of Flying Pickets who in a group of ten or twelve, arrive with the huge cheque to bring solidarity and cheer to the picketers. We come from across Canada, from as far east as Newfoundland and as far west, this time as Winnipeg. We bring our stories of our own strikes, our own recalcitrant Employers, our own times on the picket lines, and in sharing those stories with our colleagues while marching on their picket lines, we all learn more about the labour movement across Canada and the similarities and differences between provinces with respect to labour law, we learn more about how to withstand and endure a strike, but best of all, we learn that we are never alone in our battles.

What Bishop's University is facing is what faculty unions across Canada are facing. Their Employer, interestingly called The Corporation, has been threatening the pension plan, offering zero wage increases while their own raises continue to rise despite financial difficulties, attempting massive terminations of staff positions, and requesting that the Union suspend both the clause that protects staff from contracting-out and the clause that stipulates that the Corporation must work with APBU in dealing with a state of financial exigency. Shades of our own Employer in 1997 who unilaterally stripped our contract of the Retirement Articles while in the midst of negotiations that were going nowhere. The threat of terminating staff positions is what drove them out on strike in July. Under Quebec anti-scab law (something we in Ontario used to have but lost under the Tories in the 1990s), the Employer cannot fire staff if they are on a legal strike so they had no option but to strike at this time. For many of us who are veterans of CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket visits, it was truly amazing to be on a picket line with no snow on the ground and with temperatures at something other than minus 30s!

What is unique about Bishop's, and what was heart-warming to see and contemplate, is that at Bishop's, the faculty and staff are in the same union. The staff's unit is out on strike; the faculty are not yet, but are on the picket lines supporting the staff. The idea of faculty and staff all belonging to one union is a great idea. It seems to me it would remove much of the Employer's ability to pit us against each other at negotiating time, and would increase solidarity as we work even more closely together.

APBU President Ginny Stroeher, outside Strike Headquarters announcing the visitors as we
brought our greetings and our cheques
just before the march to the picket lines

YUFA CAUT Defence Fund Representative Louise Ripley speaking at the rally

We had our usual CAUT-sponsored dinner on Wednesday night, with twenty-four of us around a long table at an elegant little French restaurant in Lennoxville (a 2-hour drive east of Montreal), called Le Petit Sabot. Served by the owner herself as the help apparently had the night off, it was a superb feast of Quebec delicacies, ending for some of us, myself included, with a slice of maple sugar pie that was very simply to die for. Others had a strawberries and cream cake that made me seriously consider asking Larry Hale whether CAUT would spring for two desserts but then in the interest of showing austerity, we are after all on strike, I decided not to ask. We had great fun introducing ourselves around the table at the start of dinner, hearing what everyone did and where everyone came from (was there someone there from Winnipeg?!), and particularly meeting the 60th Vice President who sat down at my end of the table!

We flew or drove in on Wednesday afternoon, had the rally with the giant cheque and the press and TV cameras Thursday morning (the weather held, despite threats of terrible thunderstorms), were treated to lunch by the striking Executive, walked a little longer with the picketers, always the best part of any Flying Picket visit, as we walk and talk and share stories and laugh and point out to each other how truly absurd our respective (not respectful) Employers (and here Corporation) can get, and then we had to drag ourselves away for the drive back to Montreal, and flights back home. My dinner was a handful of cookies I'd put in my jacket pocket in case I didn't have time to eat but I was too wound up to eat at the airport anyway. A whirlwind trip, my favourite way to travel. Leave to others expensive tours of Europe, cruises on the decks of big ships, and adventures into far lands. I'll take a walk on the picket lines of my Canadian university colleagues any day! It's good to be back on the CAUT Defence Fund Board!

In Solidarity, 
Louise Ripley
YUFA Trustee
CAUT Defence Fund
7 July 2007


Memorial University
CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - October 2000

   - Gotta Get Me a New Tour Operator

I've really got to rethink my vacation planning and get a new Tour Operator. I'm no exercise nut, I don’t walk unless absolutely forced to, been known to cruise a parking lot for ten minutes waiting for a spot to open up near the entrance, been known to drive from my office to my classroom. It’s somewhat justified; I’ve got this bad right ankle that I sprained while walking the dog I got to get me out to exercise the bad left knee I got from my football days with the Green Bay Packers, but I’m really not a walker by nature, and more than anything I hate getting wet. I guess you'd say I'm really not a traveler. Yet I’m ending up spending all my vacations on these stupid tours where all we do is walk in the rain all day, eat at erratic times, sleep and wash in strange beds and showers, and eat really strange local food. The last place we were at I was fed the tongues of fish one day, and the next morning for breakfast I faced a plate of salt cod and hardtack, and we weren’t even at sea! The actual tours were clearly designed by a sadistic Army drill sergeant with the aid of one of those berserk personal trainers who holds you down while you fight to do one more sit-up – the kinds of nuts whose mission it is in life to push you to the limits of your endurance just to see if they can do it.

This one particular drill sergeant that’s been running the tours lately, she can’t be more than four foot nine but she’s a pure holy terror! "Let's go! Let's go! You! Over there! On your feet and walking! No more chatting! Come on, we've got twelve more gates to cover and it's already four o'clock!" So we drag our weary bones up out of the chair, our weary feet back onto the hard cement, and on we go, walking walking walking, in the rain, the sleet, the cold; oh, the U.S. Marines could learn something from her!

See Exotic places? Yeah, right. These tours seem to only be available in the winter months, they save money, I guess. "Ooooh," my friends all say, "you're going to New Brunswick? How lovely!" Beautiful spot in the summer, the fullness of the green trees, the sparkling rivers, bed and breakfasts in beautiful old houses.... you’re what? You’re going in January? Nobody travels to New Brunswick in January!! “What kind of a tour guide do you have anyway?” they ask and that’s when I first began to suspect there might be something wrong with the particular tour company I’ve been using.  

"Ooooh," my friends all say, "you're going to Newfoundland? How lovely!" Beautiful spot, lovely in the fall, the gold of the leaves and the crisp sunny days, you can’t beat it for beauty. 

MUNFA Picket Lines
Yeah, right. We landed in fog so thick that anywhere else they’d have refused us a landing. Rained the entire time we were there. But then, I really do believe this tour operator, she plans our trips for the rain and bad weather. You can’t tell me it’s just coincidence that every time we take a tour, it either rains or if the sun does shine, it’s so cold you lose the feeling in your fingers and toes. I don’t think I’ve been on one of these trips yet where the temperature rose above minus five. She plans it that way, I’m sure.   

"Ooooh," my friends all say, "you're going to Cape Breton, how lovely!" Yeah, right. Cape Breton in January. Minus thirty-eight it was, that temperature where about the only thing good can be said about it is you don't have to ask whether it's Celsius or Fahrenheit. Bitter gales blowing in off the North Atlantic, freezing rain all day, mud a foot deep in the parking lot. And we went there twice! These tour operators are slick. Once they get to a place and get to know the layout, they plan a second trip there, it’s gotta save them money over planning another one in a different place. Second time it was only minus 12, so balmy that the rain that poured all day didn't actually freeze on our faces!

And how about seeing the sights? The whole idea of a vacation is you get to see the local sights. Ha! This tour advertises that you’ll get to see the great Canadian universities (all of us on these trips are Canadian university professors; I guess tour operators know suckers when they see them, eh?). These sights we're supposed to see? These magnificent universities, these great sites of learning and magnificent libraries? They're never OPEN when we get there! For reasons of some incredible lack of planning or foresight or something, the tour guide always gets us there when the places are all closed off, and all we can do is walk around the perimeter. Imagine going to St. Peter’s in Rome or the Eiffel Tower in Paris and just walking around the perimeter of the block where it's located, never even really seeing it. Come to Toronto and we'll take you down to the Gardner Expressway where you might get lucky and catch a glimpse of the top of the CN Tower, it’ll be fun, I promise! I've seen the perimeter of more Canadian universities in the last two years than I care to remember, and I can tell you, from the outside looking in through fog, rain, sleet, snow, and freezing cold at the end of a ten mile hike, they all look pretty much the same to me.

The tour brochures say they’ll put you up in really good hotels, and they do, but only because it's cheaper with the corporate rates; it's not like a drill sergeant really cares about your comfort, you know. There are supposed to be great restaurants in these hotels, but when you come back after a ten mile hike in the freezing rain, you’re glad to fall into bed, calling the toothpaste you managed to brush your teeth with, dinner.

And how are you supposed to enjoy the amenities of a hotel anyway when you fall into bed too tired to move? Swimming pool? I'd swim a quarter lap and drown. Sauna? Hot tub? I'd sink to the bottom in two minutes and die of exhaustion trying to drag myself out again. And puleeeze, don't even mention the exercise rooms with the treadmills and the weights. By the end of the day, I've had enough walking to do me a lifetime, and I’ve done my time with the weights, let me tell you. You know how tour operators always give you a little nametag to pin on your coat, you know? So people will know who you are in case you get lost, and to sort of make you feel a part of things, and to promote the tour? Well, these folks, they give you a big sign fastened to a huge stick that’s gotta weigh ten pounds if it weighs an ounce and you gotta carry it all day! So don’t talk to me about fancy hotels and exercise rooms.

So why do I keep going back? Why do I keep signing up for these tours? What could I possibly get out of these vacations, me who doesn't like to walk and misses too easily the comforts of home, when all we do is tramp in the rain for endless miles, chilled to the bone, hungry, drained, and weary?

I guess I’m just like any other tourist. Think about what people say when they come back from a vacation, be it to some exotic warm beach or a frozen tundra or a teeming city or a small farm…. what do they always say? What’s the main thing they all remember and talk about?


We meet the most incredible people at the gates of these closed universities we visit. For some crazy reason, the people who work there are all shut out of the place, and, for some further unfathomable reason, they choose to walk at the gates, round and round in circles. It makes it easier to meet them actually; we just walk from gate to gate and by the end of the day, we’ve met them all. And they are worth meeting and they’re the reason I keep signing up for this crazy tour.

My last trip was no exception. The Tour Operator took us this time to Memorial University in Newfoundland, in October, in the rain. We walked the perimeter, and at the twelve of the fifteen gates that MUNFA picketed, we once again met brave souls, stalwart union members who went out this time to protest not money, but the fairness of how money was distributed amongst them. They’re busy, these people who walk at the gates, they’re real busy walking and carrying their signs and trying to talk some sense into the people who administer the places they are walking around, working eighteen hours a day trying to get a fair deal, and yet what is the first concern these people have for us, the visitors, the tourists? What did Bill Schrank ask me on the morning I was flying home? “Did we treat you okay? Did you have a good time?” I’d heard about Newfoundland hospitality and here I saw it for real. Well, MUNFA, we did have a good time! Despite the rain!

It's also the other members of the tour who make it all worthwhile. There must be some sort of screening process to join these tours; I think personally they have some sort of craziness quotient, but seriously, not just anybody would make it. You've got to find people who will walk all day and live with erratic schedules, people who can talk to just about anyone anywhere about anything, even with frozen lips, because part of our job is to cheer up the people we meet outside the gates. You’ve got to find people who will do what they’re told and not complain, at least not in front of the drill sergeant so please whatever you do, don’t tell her about this travel report, she'll kill me if she ever reads it!  

Flying home from this last visit, I saw something that somehow epitomized for me the spirit of this Flying Picket I belong to. Looking out the plane window at some 35,000 feet above the safe and secure ground so far below, I saw on the wing of that plane a long dark painted area and the stenciled words, “Do not walk outside this area.” But that's what what we do, and I’m glad I get to do it with such great people.

In Solidarity, 
Louise Ripley
YUFA Trustee
CAUT Defence Fund



Université de Moncton
CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - March 2000


Join your comrades on the line and don't let them fall,
For in union, there's a place for all

Joignez vos camarades sur la ligne, ne les laissez pas tomber.
C'est dans l'union qu'il y a une place pour tous.

These words from singer/actor Ronnie Gilbert's play about the American labour hero, Mother Jones, ran through my mind the entire nineteen hours of my visit to the picket lines of the University of Moncton, as a representative of the CAUT Defence Fund, and those words are the reason I went.

You might wonder sometimes about someone who would go to three picket line visits in less than that many months, and maybe I wondered too. When I returned from being away with my family during the first UM strike-support visit to find they were still on strike, and that the Defence Fund was planning a second visit, I had already washed the smoke of the fire barrels out of all my wool clothes and had laid them carefully away for the coming spring. I had made family commitments - my husband's sixty-fourth birthday (will you still need me, will you still feed me?) I had promised my neurotic greyhound I'd be home for a while. I read about the strike, and I pondered my poor spoken French, and I read Bob Rosebrugh's message to come, come join the lines, echoed by Denise Nevo, Chair of the Defence Fund, and I thought about going, but it seemed maybe I'd done enough.

Then last Thursday, my husband and I went to hear Ronnie Gilbert, member of an old American singing group, The Weavers, who were blacklisted by McCarthy in that terrible era of American right-wing politics. Ronnie Gilbert sang those words about standing on the picket lines, and with the memories of our own strike at York three years ago, March 20 to May 14, 1997, the tears filled my eyes and I remembered that we can never do enough to support the labour movement, and I knew suddenly where I belonged, where there was a place for me, where, in the words of Dr. Larch in John Irving's inspirational book The Cider House Rules, I could "be of use" as we all must be, and I knew where I belonged. A quick call to my trusty travel agent, a room for one night, the tiny bag I've learned to pack, two mornings of rising at 4 a.m., and I managed to get to my husband's birthday party with our grandchildren AND off to Moncton to stand with my comrades!

Spirit on the Moncton lines was fantastic! They know how to run a joyful picket line. With noisemakers and colourful signs and that lovely slow waltz across the width of the street that never fully stops the traffic because by law we can't block the way, but we can slow them down, and oh my! it was fun to once again step in front of a moving car, picket sign in hand, and insist that they stop long enough to hear the leafleter! The sunny day and the 13 degree Celsius weather made it doubly enjoyable.

Union headquarters was magnificently well organized (and this compliment comes from someone who considers good organization one of the sacraments), with separate rooms for communications, food preparation, meetings, storage, picket sign making, even a media corner with a TV for catching up on the coverage of the strike. Good food constantly available, good coffee, good talk, good comradeship.

One of the most moving parts of this visit for me was the issue of language. I read French very well; I understand a fair amount of it spoken, but to speak it -- well, suffice it to say that I am pretty miserable in spoken French and what little I can manage I do with an accent to rival John Diefenbaker's! So, during the media interviews, I had been assured it would be quite acceptable to speak English and so I did. But on the picket lines, I tried out my French, and when I would start to speak, most French-speaking colleagues immediately would shift into English, realizing they were talking to not only a non-native speaker but a pretty shaky neophyte, and my linguistics colleagues probably even recognized they were speaking to one born in America! But I met one female professor from Education, I don't even have her name, but she and I just somehow hit it off, despite the fact that her English was about as good as my French. And so we stood there together on the line, for about half an hour, talking to each other in what bits of each other's language we could manage, talking in our own sometimes because each of us understood better than we spoke, reverting sometimes to gestures and signals and our hands, with the whole of the dialogue accompanied by two warm and happy smiles. Then we walked on to the third gate, where I met a UM colleague who, when I tried my bit of French, apologizing for how poor it was, he said to me, in French, "then you must practice!" Practice we did, and we were talking numbers!

Through all of this, I was so struck by the whole idea of language, the concept of the language of the picket line, and memories of our 1997 strike at York, where we debated long and earnestly the issue of who we were when we stood on the picket line. When we walk out onto a picket line, we are all workers. When we stand the gaff together on the picket lines, we all speak the same language. If I had spoken no words at all, I could have got by with the smiles and the handclasps and the spirit that binds together every member of a picket line!

My favourite symbol of this strike? That's easy - the mittens! We arrived in the fourth week, and on the lines everywhere, there were cardboard mittens on the ends of picket sticks. It doesn't take much French to ask "pourquoi les mitaines?" and they told me the story. On the day that the union announced it would go out on strike, the Recteur of the university, Jean-Bernard Robichaud, said publicly, "You plan to go on strike? You better knit yourselves lots of warm mittens because you are going to be out in the cold for a very, very long time!" 

The next morning on the picket line, everyone carried a mitten, cut from heavy cardboard and brightly coloured, stapled to the end of a picket stick, and the mittens continued to appear, hanging from picket signs, drawn on posters, and in one emotionally uplifting scene, a whole line of them drying on a clothesline after a snowy day on the lines. I asked for, and received permission, to take home a mitten, and you may see it in my office. I took it to the final meeting of my business class last night, and I told them the story, and I told them, shaking the mitten at them, that when they became the big-shot marketing managers they were studying to be, I wanted them to never forget the workers who make their jobs possible.

Due to the last minute arrangements for the trip, I did not have York's cheque for $1,000 with me, but I knew we'd sent it. There were all my colleagues from across the country from Memorial in Newfoundland to University of Manitoba, handing over cheques to Greg Allain, ABPPUM President, and he opened and read them out as the press stood by, already impressed with the number of us from the number of universities, and I wanted to be sure they knew every one of us who stood with UM with our money as well as our hearts. So, what do you do at a time like this? Think self-deprecating humour. After the last cheque had been opened and read out, I approached Greg's microphone and told them that York University in Toronto too had sent $1,000, but I was sure that knowing I came from the bureaucracy of the big city, they would understand when I said that "our cheque is in the mail."

So I will ask of fellow Unions and Individual Members -- If you can send a cheque, please put it in the mail. UM needs our contributions. We must not ever forget that we all stand together on every picket line, no matter what subject we teach, no matter what language we speak, no matter what country we came from, no matter what our gender or sex or age or class, on the picket line we are one. Each battle fought by any union is fought for all unions. Every faculty/librarian who walks a picket line walks it for every faculty member and librarian in Canada. Even the picket signs are the same - the first one I saw read, "ouvrez les livre$!"

We take our responsibility of representing the CAUT Defence Fund on these visits very seriously. I personally consider it a twenty-four-hour-a-day job when I'm traveling. It's not enough to spend five hours on the picket lines and as many hours with the strikers in headquarters and at meals. I never miss a chance to promote who we are and what we stand for. Checking into the hotel, riding in the taxi, chatting with the housekeeping guy who brought me an iron (I dressed for dinner! see below!), meeting the pilots in the cockpit of the plane (oh! yes, the pilots invited someone to come up to the cockpit to join them for the landing and guess who was first in line  -- I teach Channels of Distribution and study transportation, so it was of course all in the dull and dutiful interest of work!) but I told even the pilots who I was and where I was going and why. And when I tell people why I'm there, I tell them about the CAUT Defence Fund -- the money behind the strike, the money that allows the workers to stand on the lines as long as they have to stand to bring a recalcitrant employer to understand that our requests are fair and our cause is just.

There can never be enough money in the fund that does such work. Every million that we add to it makes us that more impressive as we stand on our picket lines or sit at our negotiating tables across from university administrators who seem to have all gone to some horribly twisted and wrongly conceived M.B.A. programme where some idiot, probably a non-unionized corporate American lecturer from someplace like the University of Phoenix, tells them that the way to run a successful organization is to treat their employees like serfs "poor and chained at their command." Hey guys! I've got news for you! That style of management went out YEARS ago! If our university management is going to take some lessons in management, please at least let them take those lessons from organizations that know how to manage and that know as so many are coming to realize that the single most important resource in any organization is its employees. One way we do this is through the CAUT Defence Fund visits that bring the message to all university employers that we stand together and we stand with a huge defence fund behind us to ensure that our universities will NEVER be run like corporations.

I don't usually write about the feeding of the Defence Fund, for often it's breakfast on the plane and sandwiches and soup at strike headquarters (well.. there was Mount Allison, I never got over their strike support food - the mochaccino concocted specially for me), but this time three of us who remained on Monday night were treated to an unbelievably lovely four-hour dinner with Greg Allain, (four union thugs for dinner – Defence Fund's treat) at a fantastic restaurant in Moncton that is worth the plane fare there just to dine at the Windjammer. It didn't hurt that the superb Maitre D', Frederick, was a former student of Professor Allain and we were treated to the most elegant food and service I've ever experienced.

These reports are always too emotional, I know, but my hope is that in my sharing with you the stories, the symbols, the music of the Defence Fund visits, you will remember what it means to be on strike, and will send your support, words and money, to our colleagues, this time at University of Moncton.

Build high the bridge from span to span
Look up fellow workers, the moment's now at hand
Join your comrades on the line and don't let them fall
For in union there's a place for all
Yes in union there is strength for all
Build a union with hope for one and all

In solidarity,
Louise Ripley
CAUT Defence Fund Trustee
Member, York University Faculty Association



University College of Cape Breton - Visit 2
CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - March 2000

A successful second visit by the CAUT Defence Fund Flying Picket to stand the gaff on the wet cold picket lines with FAUT of University College of Cape Breton, last Friday - March 3, included
Peter Anderson from Ottawa
Bob Rodgers from FUNSCAD
Jack Vanderlinde and Don Fields from UNB
Peter Simpson from Laurentian
Louise Ripley from York

All strike support visits are highly emotional, but this one was particularly so. I'm having some trouble writing about it because it was very moving and I get choked up every time I sit down to try to put it on paper which has been a dozen times in five days now so I just decided to put it down as best I could. When you go to one strike support visit at a university, they're colleagues and of course you care about them, and they're on strike and you feel very strongly about them and you're very glad you came to support them. I just wasn't prepared for what would hit me going a second time to the same strike.

On the second visit, these aren't just colleagues anymore, these are friends. These aren't just fellow union members striking for the same things we are all fighting for, these are the same faces and the same families and the same students and the same strike officers and even the same dogs who come to the same picket lines that were there when you left two weeks ago hoping they'd settle soon, and they're still not settled and they're still walking the lines.

They're in the fourth week of the strike, still facing the same employer who not only refuses to budge but threatens a lawsuit against the union and its chair for defamation of character simply for reporting openly what Scott has said and done -- Jackie Scott, the President of UCCB who said she was DUMBFOUNDED that the union would expect to talk about working conditions.

These are the same faculty with whom we walked the picket lines only two weeks ago, and yet a long long time ago two long weeks ago, for two weeks on the picket line is so much longer than two weeks spent in the quiet peace of the classroom and the warmth of the research library and the security of a salary.

I saw the same faces I saw two weeks ago, the same people I walked up that hill with in the bitter freezing wind, the same ones who slogged through the mud of the rented union strike headquarters, but the mud's a foot deeper now, hey, we're really going to have to take up a collection for a truckload of gravel.... and I will tell you that those faces on the UCCB-FAUT picket lines are still cheerful, still undaunted, still resolute.... they're not going to make the mistake of going back too soon. They've passed that most difficult of milepost - the three week one, the one after which things somehow start to get less scary, more predictable, by the fourth week you just know that all you do now is go to the picket lines and go to strike headquarters and go to union meetings and you just have to stick it out and UCCB-FAUT is doing that admirably.

We did hear that on Monday a week ago, it had been 18 degrees Celsius in Cape Breton, but last Friday, the bitter cold rain turning to sleet by the end of the dismally grey day reminded this York representative of three years ago, when the CAUT came so often to support us as we stood on our lines facing a similarly recalcitrant employer who refused to come to the table and refused to be reasonable and the only thing to do is to wait them out.

It was a joy to attend UCCB-FAUT's Friday evening union meeting. Everyone is onside; everyone is still there and still ready to stand for what they're fighting for. There are no dissenters. There are no whining complainers moaning about "why don't we go back in and finish the term then go out again in the summer?" Our colleagues at UCCB-FAUT know that you have to stand the gaff, together, and for as long as it takes.

But, they told us, you should have been here on Wednesday when the unions of Cape Breton came to stand with us on our picket line and we REALLY learned how to picket! Any of us who has been on a faculty/librarian strike knows how nice and sweet and polite we are -- standing there beside the car, asking sweetly, "Hi, do you mind if we talk to you for a minute about our issues?" Well, I'd never be one to say that a steelworker or a trucker isn't polite, but there's a whole different approach to the picket line. It's basically, "No way you're going through here!" They closed down the university. They went down into a culvert where there lay a huge piece of iron pipe left over from some construction and they dragged it up and laid it across the road into the university. When cars threatened one guy on the end of the line, Mike Manson told the story, all the truckers and steelworkers and miners turned like a phalanx out of the armies of ancient Rome and moved down to just shove that car right back out of the way. I'd love to have been there! Of course it resulted in the employer going to court to get an injunction against "mass picketing" and now FAUT can't have more than 5 members between the end of the (Ding)wall and the second phone pole, but it must have been worth every bit of trouble, to stand together with those union guys!

And -- The Defamation Suit -- Aside from the generally held opinion that it's pretty hard to defame someone's character when they don't have one, and the old saying that it's not libel if it's true, I guess the real lesson of the defamation suit is the purpose and importance of a Defence Fund. After Mike Manson got over the initial feeling of having been kicked in the stomach when he received Jackie Scott's letter threatening him and the union with a lawsuit, he called CAUT which promptly arranged to hire Julian Porter, Canada's top defamation lawyer, to defend him and the union. Nothing but the best for any member of any CAUT union who takes on the difficult task of confronting the current tribe of capitalistic/ corporatized university presidents. That's what the Defence Fund is for. Let us be sure it is always there. There can never be too much money in a defence fund.

Mike never did get over the sadness caused him by Scott's threat in a letter sent this week to students' families at home, threatening that if she had to give the faculty more money she'd have to lay off cleaning staff and untenured faculty and one of the most emotional parts of the visit came at the Friday meeting when Mike was unable for the tears in his eyes to read aloud the part of the letter with those threats in it. This woman fights dirty; there's no way around it. If we let this kind of intimidation go unchallenged, we won't have a university system left in Canada.

Thanks to Doug Grant at UCCB-FAUT for helping us get organized. Denise Nevo is in Spain giving a paper and while Dennis Felbel of Manitoba filled in admirably, Denise's presence was sorely missed; she'd been at every flying picket until this. Special thanks to Bill at UCCB-FAUT for holding my figurative hand while I sat with him at the money table and collected myself before and after the phone radio interview, which I'm assured by some UCCB-FAUT members went very well, but I had about three minutes to prepare for it and I was a bit nervous!

Neil Tudiver, Negotiations Officer from CAUT was there to help with the return on Sunday to conciliation. He gave up presenting a paper at a conference where his new book was introduced, in Winnipeg, in order to be there, and his words to Mike Manson were a simple, "of course I'll be there, of course I'll be there." Neil touches my heart in a special way because this is the job my father did -- he was the guy from union headquarters and that's how Neil got introduced at the Friday union meeting -- what's his title? He's the guy from headquarters, there's gotta be a guy from headquarters, you know the one, the one who flies anywhere at a minute's notice, who's on the phone at the airport while standing in line to get a flight to UCCB talking to Moncton about their strike (first time we've had two unions on strike at the same time), the guy you rely on, the guy who comes when you need him -- the guy from headquarters.

Ah, I'll quit before I get all emotional again. Hang in there, UCCB-FAUT.

Stand the gaff.
Best wishes to Moncton -- wish I could be there with you this Friday.

In solidarity,
Louise Ripley
CAUT Defence Fund Trustee, York University
Work like you don't need money
Love like you've never been hurt
And dance like no one's watching


University College of Cape Breton - Visit 1
CAUT Defence Fund Solidarity Picket - February 2000


It was a minus 38 windchill the day we walked the Cape Breton picket lines with our colleagues at UCCB -- the flying picket of the CAUT Defence Fund -- eleven of us from twelve universities from Manitoba to Newfoundland, but I have not felt such warmth in my soul for a long time.

UCCB FAUT is walking the picket lines twelve hours a day, as does any union in Cape Breton, and they're out on weekends too. They do it in shifts of 2 1/2 hours because the bitter Atlantic winds are so cold, despite fire barrels brought by the steelworkers and fishing survival suits brought by the fishermen, and the requisite seventeen layers of clothing on each back. We spent time with each of the shifts on Friday, with a media event at noon hour. Memories of the York strike in the spring of 1997 flooded back as we returned to the hotel late in the afternoon and delayed dinner so that we could each go soak in a hot bath. If you haven't been in Cape Breton in the winter, you have no concept of how a February ocean breeze can chill the bones.

UCCB FAUT is in high spirits. They have strong support from the local miners, the steelworkers, their students, the staff, the community – who wave and honk as they drive by the two entrances each with a smoking fire barrel. (I'm going to send Jackie Scott my dry cleaning bill). One of the images of the day -- down at the lower gate, an English professor chopping wood.

It was a truly heartwarming experience walking a picket line in a union community. But their administration is unbelievably arrogant and truly offensive, not just to UCCB but to all university professors. Their president Jackie Scott stated publicly that the professors do not deserve a raise because after all they only work 9 hours a week for 26 weeks a year. Scott also said that the UCCB faculty are not really university professors because UCCB is a combination of university and community college and therefore they should not have their salaries compared to "real" professors elsewhere. Nevermind that last year the Board of UCCB gave Jackie a $30,000 raise to bring her up to par with other university presidents. Jackie Scott also said publicly that the professors should not expect to earn parity with other Maritime professors because after all, this is just Cape Breton. A greater insult to the qualified and experienced faculty and librarians, to the UCCB students, to the very people of Cape Breton, I cannot imagine.

Those of us who arrived Thursday night joined a membership meeting at the local Steelworkers Hall. It's a funny thing coming in cold to a meeting of a union group you've never met before, because in some ways all the characters and all the plots and all the subtexts are all new, but in many ways, they're all the same things we've been through ourselves and in other university strikes. There's all the emotion and the careful sifting through the financial and tactical details and the perseverance and the necessary stubbornness and yes, the valour and the sacrifice. Shortly after we arrived, Michael Manson, the dynamic and charismatic head of UCCB FAUT greeted Charles Macdonald, the faculty member who had that day resigned his administrative job to join his union on the picket lines and the union members rose for a standing ovation. He had taken the position with the union's blessing in order to have one of their own in the programme review, but as the strike loomed closer, he felt more and more uncomfortable and isolated from his colleagues. When finally his union went out on strike and he asked if he could work from home, Jackie said no, he had to cross the picket line and he said oh no I don't and resigned. The tears in Michael Manson's eyes as he stood, unable to speak, were one of the most moving testimonies of a very moving day and a half.

At this Thursday evening meeting in the Steelworkers' Hall I passed on the messages I had been given to bring from YUFA-L and W -- Joy Manette's "stand the gaff" was greeted with grand applause (and Joy, everyone sends their love!). Joel Shore's advice to stay out till they got what they wanted was, I was told later by a number of people, the most inspiring thing they'd heard all week and they are determined to do just that, and you're welcome to come out and play your fiddle with them, Joel! They deeply appreciated the story of Mike McNamee, retired under our lousy retirement conditions, emptying out his wallet, a story I told as I handed the wad of cash right out my pocket over to Michael Manson, also their chief negotiator. You know we always say so glibly, it's not the money, it's the thought that counts? Well, I can't say enough how true this is. This is why we need to send money. Yes, they can use the money, always always always. But the support implied behind the cash is the real message. It is the message of union solidarity, the message that you do not walk a university picket line alone in Canada. Every time a university goes out, we all go out. Even those who think they will never strike must recognize that one of the reasons they can live without fear of a strike is because others ARE striking for our rights as faculty and librarians, and that is why we support each other, with our physical presence and with our money.

Of course, it doesn't cost the Defence Fund much to support UCCB. Those folks are so badly underpaid that it is, in the words of Denise Nevo, Chair of the Defence Fund, a national disgrace. Denise spoke eloquently about the purpose of the Defence Fund support on CBC Radio in Sydney on the morning of our visit. On one shift, we met a female faculty member (dressed in one of those fish suits) who has taught at UCCB for twelve years. She makes $27,000 a year.

And Hey! Be sure to notice my bruised cut lip -- wounded on the picket lines in Cape Breton! Jackie's goons are a lot tougher than Susan Mann's ever were! (see note** below!!) I encourage every member of YUFA to send a personal contribution to UCCB. And we must send more as a union; I am certain Exec will do this. Every bit is needed, every bit is significant for both its financial and its morale-building implication, every bit is deeply appreciated. Write letters too, to the Board, to the President, and to UCCB-FAUT to remind them of our support.

I'm writing this, sitting here at my computer, just barely home, listening to the Cape Breton Summertime Revue on my CD. It played often in my head all those 39 hours in beautiful Cape Breton. "Viva Lost Wages" -- we discussed taking the strike fund to the Casino to see what we could do with it, and the satire on John Buchanan could easily be Jackie Scott, "Oh Nova Scotia won't you lend me a tear, it's so hard to get by on a hundred thousand a year...."

Hang in there, UCCB. Stand the gaff. You are not alone.
In solidarity and with much affection,

** I have an addendum too that haunted me last night. I mentioned my cut bruised lip as an injoke with the Flying Picket, and also as a special tip of the hat to a York strike colleague, but I did not clarify that the goon that bruised it was merely the wicked Cape Breton wind that blew my picket sign up into my face as I ducked my head to pull my hood back on! I am certain that Jackie Scott has that wind on her payroll but I worried last night that it might look as if the picket lines had not been safe, and they were very very safe. Very very cold, but very disciplined, very safe.

Louise Ripley
YUFA Trustee
CAUT Defence Fund
February 19, 2000


Mount Allison University
CAUT Solidarity Picket January 1999

On behalf of the CAUT Defence Fund, Professor Denise Nevo of Mount St. Vincent in Halifax organized a highly successful National Solidarity Day on Thursday, January 28, for Mount Allison colleagues on strike since January 21. Eighteen faculty and librarians representing twelve universities from across Canada, as far west as Manitoba and as far east as Memorial, gathered in Sackville (N.B.) for the Solidarity Picket.

The event was very successful, drawing local and CBC press coverage of our walk around the campus, about 150 of us all together, preceded by a cop car with a flashing light. The press interviewed all the out-of-town faculty (I was on the CBC TV but didn't get to see myself, busy on the phone when it came on). But I brought YUFA's message (thanks Lorna Erwin!!) that we are here because as a university who was recently on strike, we know how difficult it is for faculty and librarians to strike, but we also know that we must stand together against the employer who has no respect for the need for quality wages for quality education.

Mount Allison has been particularly vicious. In Denise's words, "In an unprecedented move, the university president, Ian Newbould, had single-handedly decided to cut off their life, health and LTD benefits if faculty went on strike. Although he reversed his decision at the last minute, under much pressure from the CAUT, his letter of "apology" to MAFA president, George DeBenedetti, is nothing more than an admission of his trying to avert a strike by intimidating MAFA members and threatening to deprive them and their families of their most basic needs. "We discussed what we could do to impress upon our members the seriousness of strike action. It was my decision, and mine alone, that striking faculty members should not be allowed to continue receiving the normal benefits through our University benefits policies", he wrote. All in the name of true collective bargaining, of course..."

There was much at Mount Allison to remind me of our own strike at York. I was in fact struck (no pun intended) by the similarities.

The same newspaper efforts to distort the truth. I kept reading that Mount Allison wanted a 28% raise. Well, hey, no wonder, I start to think..... but wait, no, here is the Mount Allison faculty member to tell me that it is 22% over three years, merely to bring them up to par with the rest of the Maritimes, this little university which consistently scores top on the MacLeans ratings, but pays its professors near the bottom of the scale, not the 28% in one year that the newspaper implies. As one placard put it: 

Ivy League PhD 
Bush League Salary 

Oh, by the way, Placards! When we arrived at Strike Headquarters, they had made signs up for us to wear in the Solidarity Picket. There was mine for York, but it was one of those that hangs around your neck, and I needed it on a picket stick. You can't see me in a picket line without a picket stick, can you? Denise had one on a stick, so we traded.  

The same crucial importance of good P.R. The buttons, the placards, the signs, that's what tells your message first and quickest. A large red circle with the simple phrase, crossed out by the diagonal red line, "Mt. Allison La$t."

"Quality Pay for Quality Education" 
"Civility and Fairness Now" 
"Number 1 School, Number 20 Wages" 
"Maintain Excellent Teaching" 
"Quality, Equity, Respect" 
"We're Worth It" 
"More Academics, Fewer Administrators" 
"Respect and Income Parity" 
"Parity Pay Scale" 
"Student Aid, Not Presidential Travel"

I wore my pink button saying "Quality Pay for Quality Education" back on the plane, and when I took it off to put it in the box at Airport Security, the guard asked me about it, so I used it as another opportunity to tell MAFA's story.

The same old arguments. Apparently the Administration has a surplus of $2.2.million but they claim they have no money.

The same old problems. The strikers worrying about neglected family as they put in long hours not only on the lines but in Strike Headquarters, on the phone, .....

The same old arguments. No talks since the beginning of the strike with the Board categorically refusing binding arbitration, despite the urging of MAFA and the students. They said they don't want to put the future of the university in the hands of some third party. Sound familiar?

The same old arguments. The Administration all too ready to call itself, "The University." They're not. They are "The Administration." If anyone is "The University," it is the faculty/librarians and students.

The same kind of stupidity. The President's wife apparently was driving around the day before we got there, taking notes at each gate of which faculty members were picketing (must have been a long list; they had 100 out of 116 out on strike!). She also reputedly said of one woman faculty member that she was shocked to see HER on the picket lines, after all, she comes from a good family!!! As was true in our strike, we laughed a lot. You have to.

The same lousy management. The President is apparently such a dismal manager that the entire Business faculty walked out with the union on the first day of the strike. All but one has remained on strike. The one who went back in apparently was told by one of only 16 who scabbed out of 116, that "they could do more from inside." Sound familiar? She also said that her discipline was one which was so important, so rigourous, that it required continual professional instruction. Sound familiar? I am embarrassed as hell to report that the blackleg is a Marketing professor whom I used to call a friend.

The same efforts to divide and conquer. I spoke to a young faculty member on the lines who said that the Administration had come back with a proposal to pay much more to the younger faculty. No way, she said, am I going to make more money at the expense of people who have put up with low wages for so many years of their career.

There were differences.

The weather was much much COLDER!! But at least it's not freezing rain, was the comment we got over and over. Especially from members who had walked with us at York.

And Ohmygod the food! Next strike, brothers and sisters of York University Faculty Association, we must have what Mount Allison set up -- a Food Committee. The day we were there, and we were assured it was not just because we were visiting, there was a constant parade of food. Coffee and donuts, of course, but also hot chocolate, bagels, muffins, soup, chili, stew, vegetarian casseroles, platters of vegetables with dips, fresh carrots and celery and broccoli flowerettes, cucumber slices with creamed cheese on top, different flavours, one cook kept bringing new dishes, trying out new ideas -- how about this one, do you think perhaps a little more cayenne? And all of this done in a little downtown storefront office, not unlike our own Strike Headquarters, with running water only in a washroom, no kitchen facilities to speak of. And before you say, yeah, but they only had 100 to feed, remember that they only had 100 to do the work. There are always those who for a variety of reasons cannot walk the lines but support the strike. A Food Committee seems like a superb idea.  

Shifts were two hours. Wait. Don't even think oh those lucky guys. The day of the Solidarity Picket, it never got above -12 C. Fortunately it was sunny and there was no wind, but that is mighty cold. You could not do more than two hours. And many faces I saw all day. People did not just walk for two hours and go home.  

But like us, their spirits remain high. Spirits were high, despite the cold, despite a recalcitrant administration who refused to come back with any different offer. The day we left, they met all day, at the request of the Administration. George DeBenedetti, President of MAFA asked their chief negotiator if the Administration had anything more to put on the table. Nothing. Well, George asked, why are we meeting? "Because we're feeling pressure to meet." And so they met. But nothing came of it. The administration is not budging.

Spirits were high, despite the loss of email. One placard said, "email Now!" The email as the glue that held us together may not be as crucial in a smaller town (5500) with only 116 faculty and librarians, but still, it was a blow below the belt. Even Dalhousie did not remove email. These are things to think about NOW before our next strike. We should have an alternative email established to which we can quickly switch if ours is cut off.

Spirits were high. The second strike is a little easier. You know what you're doing from the start. Mount Allison went out on strike in 1992. They were the university which successfully challenged the Maritimes roll-back on salaries at that time. They were the first. They stood up and said no, and the governments eventually backed down. So they've been out before, and fairly recently. They knew what it was like, what it was all about, how it worked.

Spirits were high. The lines were cheerful. When Denise and I left for the drive to Halifax, we drove round the circumference of the campus to wave to each picket line one last time. As we passed the last gate, waiting to turn to head to Halifax, the picket captain, seeing us, walked out into the street to stop a van to let us turn! We were deeply touched!

And hey, it wasn't as if they had much chance to stop traffic. The decent folks of Sackville stayed home, or at least away from the picket lines. I did not get to step in front of a single car my whole time there. Only sixteen blacklegs meant that very few classes were being held, and anyway, most of the students stood firmly with their faculty, citing the excellence in faculty as a major reason they came to Mount Allison so of course they should be paid equitably with the rest of the Maritimes!

Mount Allison Faculty Association was a gracious host. They had a party for us that night, Thursday after the Solidarity Picket. But we weren't great guests. Remember how tired we were at the end of a day of picketing? Well, there we were, the CAUT bunch and a number of Mount Allison faculty, at the home of George and his wife and daughter, who had gone all out to prepare lovely food and drink, and all we could do was sit on the couch and manage to hold ourselves upright!

The old late night soak in a blazing hot tub still works the wonders it did during the strike. The lovely bottle of single malt scotch on George's table almost made me regret I'd given it up after our strike.

By the time I got on the plane to go home, Friday night from Halifax, I was so cold, so worn out, so emotionally drained, that in a well heated plane, I kept on my heavy wool sweater, Harris Tweed jacket, blue wool parka (my strike coat), and when they came by offering blankets, I took one of those too! Canadian Airlines by the way is doing a dyn-o-mite job of catering these days, with excellent food. Unfortunately I had to pass it up on the way back because I'd stopped to devour a lobster in O'Carrolls (what Gail Kellough's students called the Old Folks Watering Hole) with an old and dear friend.

It was refreshing to be at a strike where they weren't afraid to say it was about money. 

Mark from Concordia who remembered so so well our picket lines at York and how each one had its own personality -- the laid back folks from Fine Arts, so relaxed, sipping their coffee. The bold group from French Studies with the red flag, their captain with his red lisere, singing the Internationale. The regiment at Sentinel Road who marched in a circle first in one direction, then turned to march the other way to unwind.

I was so deeply touched at the expressions of GRATITUDE that our colleagues at Mount Allison showed us simply for coming, and then I remembered how grateful we were at York when the CAUT Flying Picket came to visit us. People asked why I had come all the way from York. Because, I said, I still remember standing on the picket line, when the picket line was all you had in your life, and suddenly through the line, came a car, a car that slowed down and opened its doors to let out a whole pile of colleagues from universities from all over the country to walk your picket line with you. There are few feelings in the world to match it for the depth of appreciation.

I learned why we call it the flying picket -- it was originally a group of CAUT Defence Fund Trustees who were meeting in Memorial and decided to fly to Winnipeg to support the then-striking faculty. Shortly afterwards, they flew to Manitoba, to Trent, to York, until finally they decided to make it a policy. Now, at any strike, the CAUT sends delegations of up to ten faculty members from all the CAUT universities. And of course, those who live closer can drive. This time we had around 25 faculty from 13 universities from as far east (Memorial in Newfoundland) and as far west (Manitoba) as CAUT spans. (Some universities -- B.C, P.E.I., are forbidden by provincial law to unionize).

Please consider writing letters of support. Remember how much it meant to us when we were on strike.  

Check the MAFA website for the latest news and addresses at (link no longer functioning) to see the clock ticking away the days hours minutes and seconds of the strike, and to see colour pictures, already there for the Solidarity Picket.

Louise Ripley
YUFA Trustee
CAUT Defence Fund
January 1999

York University, Toronto
© M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D.