Monday, September 5, 2011

Carleton Unions Have No Right to Strike

Article published in the online edition of The Charlatan:

Last Monday on my way to school I was rudely stopped and held at the university’s entrance for an undetermined period of time without any reason.  No, this was not WWII Germany detaining people for inspection; this was Carleton’s campus being illegally blocked off by an “information picket.”  Even though the university specified that it would only allow this picket if it did not block traffic, the rogue union members continually crossed the street, chanting and holding signs while attacking vehicles with propaganda.

Even though this was an “information picket,” I feel considerably uninformed about why a few dissatisfied people were allowed to block off a public road, “backing up traffic for up to 500 metres down Bronson Avenue,” as reported by 24 Hour News on Nov. 16. They harassed people as they were simply trying to enter campus to work or attend classes.  This picket even disturbed people who were simply passing by campus or had no interest or business related to Carleton.  If I blocked traffic on a public road I would be fined at best and arrested and charged at worst.

I’ll bet that many students are feeling just as oblivious and uninformed as I.  This information picket did nothing to inform students of what was going on, or any of the real issues pertaining to the strike that almost happened.

The role of Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) in this entire process is disturbing.  “Our” student union – the union that supposedly represents us, the students – supported the near-striking unions. They urged students to look past the disruption in our academic year and stand with the staff to “defend quality education.”

Why did the union who represents us – the average student who just wants to come to university to learn – support the shutdown of our campus? Why would they not support the university in continuing classes, or reaching a settlement without the possibility of a strike? Or further, why not support the university by condemning the fact that many of the workers involved already make a great deal of money.

The entire “us versus management” dynamic is disgusting.  The university wanted classes to continue so that they would continue to bring in students’ money.  The teaching assistants and professors obviously want to continue teaching and researching their respective topics, and continue making their salaries. And yet the interference of the unions only serves to disrupt the natural desires of both parties. Students were trapped in the middle as the unions demanded “respect.” Neither side wanted a strike, so why was one even on the table?

Fact of the matter is that a strike should have never even been an option in any of these deals. Gone are the days where unions serve any useful or legitimate purpose in protecting workers’ conditions.  None of these unions were protecting their workers from death or undue harm; they weren’t arguing over handling toxic wastes or working 18 hour days. Rather, we were arguing about “respecting” the workers. To the majority of students – those of us whose lives were almost disrupted and possibly irreparably harmed – $41 an hour for only working 10 hours a week sounds like a respectable wage to me.  Sure beats $10.25 an hour at Tim Hortons.

Likewise, Statistics Canada notes that in the 2009/2010 year, the average full time professor at Carleton University made about $150,000, or $48,000 as a contract lecturer.  These salaries are beat only by three other universities in Canada.  Obviously, both TAs and professors are far above the average Canadian’s salary of $31,000.

So perhaps I can put it in the most eloquent way possible when addressing this reprehensible whining for more money: shut up and get back to work.  You have no right to even think of walking out on thousands of students when you already make so much more than the rest of us.  Feel privileged and honoured to be some of the most affluent members of society, and never again consider stopping work to demand more.