At the first University of Toronto General Assembly a working group on Labour Issues was created. It was later renamed Student-Worker Solidarity.
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Announcements and Meetings
Real Food & Real Jobs on Campus & Beyond
My name is Anabela Pappas, and I’m a kitchen worker at Harvard University. I want to share my story of how we improved the food and our jobs at Harvard,
and how we can do it across North America.
Several months ago, my co-workers and I (members of UNITE HERE Local 26) started negotiations for a new contract with the university. Many of us in the dining halls and kitchens were upset that our cooking skills weren’t being used enough, and that the university was relying too much on processed and frozen food instead of real cooking by us. On top of that, during summer and holiday breaks, we had to look for other jobs until school started again. Those aren’t sustainable jobs.
Students were also concerned about the quality of the campus food, and felt the university could do a better job in getting local and sustainable food. At the bargaining table, students sat with us and demanded more information from the university about where the food comes from, and how it is made.
As a result of our alliance with Harvard students, the administration agreed to a new contract that created a joint committee with the union to adopt best practices for environmentally responsible food sourcing and preparation. Harvard also agreed to give Local 26 members priority hiring for jobs during the summer and winter recess. We made a major step forward to creating sustainable jobs and sustainable food!
We still have more work to do, but I am proud of what we achieved. I think it’s time that we improve food and jobs at all campuses across the country.
The Strand Publishes Article About Student-Worker Solidarity Event
The Strand, the Student Newspaper of Victoria College, has published an article about our event on September 22, 2011. Check it out at http://www.thestrand.ca/news/campus-cafeterias-threatened-by-increased-corporate-control-says-assembly-1.2637465
The Truth About What We’re Eating: Food Quality & Working Conditions in
Campus CORPORATE Cafeterias
Thursday, September 22, 2011, 6:00-8:00pm
William Doo Auditorium, New College, 45 Willcocks St.
Food & Refreshments will be served.
Endorsed by: CUPE 3902, Equity Studies, Greater Toronto Workers Assembly, Unite HERE 75, USW 1998, U of T Communist Club, U of T International Socialists
Starbucks, Second Cup, Pizza Pizza, Subway, Tim Hortons, Starbucks….Wait – is that all there is around here?
Sadly, at the University of Toronto, it’s becoming more difficult to find an independent restaurant or coffee shop that offers unique food items at affordable prices. Instead, you’ll usually have to settle for the same old trademarked ‘mocha-coca-whatchamacallit-ccino,’ while digging through your wallet trying to find enough to pay for it. You’ll probably also get used to seeing stressed out, underpaid staff scrambling to handle more customers while being expected to maintain food safety standards. The reality of deteriorating food quality and workers standards is not pretty at U of T, and is negatively impacting the overall “student experience.” Come learn more about the issues surrounding food service on campus, what increased corportization of food means for students and workers, the connections to global food corporations and networks, and how we can work together to change the way things are bought and sold at our University so as to transform our student/student-worker experience.
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PRESS RELEASE: U of T Workers and Students Talk Solidarity in Struggle
On March 31, 2011, members of several labour unions and student groups attended a forum to discuss the connections between worker and student struggles on the U of T campus. Held at the Bahen Centre, the forum was organized by the Student Worker Solidarity (SWS) collective, a working group of the newly-formed University of Toronto General Assembly (UTGA). The UTGA was established in early 2011 and has since grown to encompass a range of different working groups addressing concerns around tuition fees, corporatization, program cuts, governing structures and other campus issues.
At Thursday’s forum, members of the UTSU, CUPE 3902, USW 1998, UniteHERE (food service workers), and UTFA gave presentations to a packed room on the struggles that each of their particular organizations are currently engaged in. They also discussed ideas and strategies for building solidarity between their different groups in order to change the routine realities of exploitation, discrimination, and inaccessible education.
The UniteHERE representative spoke about their difficulties in getting workplace harassment and bullying complaints taken seriously, a concern echoed by USW 1998. Another UniteHERE worker related a story of a supervisor physically assaulting her co-worker, and two weeks passing without any discipline whatsoever. Another issue these two groups share is that their job descriptions are not respected by management.
UniteHERE expressed the desire that students learn about the working conditions they endure, such as split shifts and difficulties getting paid if they clock out even one minute later than scheduled. The result is poor service for students while workers hurry to clean up their stations before close. “In addition, our hours are constantly being cut while new part-time workers are hired,” stated the UniteHERE speaker. “Employees who work less than 34 hours a week receive no benefits, and most of us have to work several jobs to make ends meet.”
Meanwhile, Paul from USW 1998 spoke of how women in that local contribute millions in free labour every year because the administration has been dragging its feet on job evaluation and pay equity. James from CUPE 3902, representing university TAs, contract instructors, lab demonstrators, and teaching adjuncts, stated that “we have more in common politically than differences… we must do away with this hierarchal structure and the false dichotomy that currently exists between academic and manual labour.”
Important points of resonance between the different labour groups included a lack of respect and fairness from a small group of people known as “The Administration.” This Administration has attempted to shut students and workers out of the decision making processes vital to a public institution, while trying to pass themselves off as “The University.”
“It is an indignity to us all when the Administration calls themselves ‘The University’…We are being ruined by this mindset and must take back control from this small group of people trying to wield the university for their own means,” remarked the UTFA representative. The student speaker echoed this sentiment, declaring “this institution is designed to silence and ignore the voices of those who make it work. The current structure that privileges the decision making authority of corporate donors and the administration doesn’t just need to be simply reformed; it must be drastically re-imagined.”
The meeting signalled a fresh effort to bring diverse labour organizations and student groups on campus together to work side by side, to learn from each other’s struggles and issues, and to collectively articulate a new force for social justice on campus.
To find out more about the UTGA, please visit https://utgeneralassembly.wordpress.com/.
To get in touch with SWS, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Student-Worker Solidarity intends to unite those seeking a space for dialogue and collective action outside of and in resistance to the confinements of institutional bureaucracy. Our goal is to bring together diverse groups of workers and students in common struggle by demonstrating that our interests are aligned. We plan to expose the administrations pretensions to equity and multiculturalism by acknowledging and resisting the fact that the exploitation of workers on our campus is deeply infused with other forms of discrimination. We seek to reclaim the university as a public institution whereby students, workers, and other community members hold decision-making power for how our university functions. This cannot take place without resisting the current top-down structures that suppress these voices.
Student-Worker Solidarity Manifesto
A spectre is haunting the U of T administration – the spectre of student-worker solidarity!
Students and workers make the University what it is. Without the different contributions of our labour, the University simply could not function as it currently does. And yet, every day we are treated with disrespect and disdain. By each other? No, not by each other, but by those who have acquired the power to decide who is and who isn’t a part of our University.
These are the people who tell us to keep quiet, to refrain from speaking out against the mistreatment we face on campus as well as the oppression of others across the world. When we say no to being silent, these are the people who threaten us with termination, academic sanction, or even criminal charges. And when our resolve remains unshaken and we decide to raise our voices even louder, these are the people who consistently refuse to listen.
Who are they? They are the ‘higher-ups,’ the presidents and deans, the corporate bosses and managers. They are the people whose work is concerned with monitoring, managing, and exploiting our own. Theirs is the kind of work that does nothing to nurture the free exchange of ideas; rather, it is the kind that confines critical ideas as much as possible and punishes those who seek to actualize them. They exist to set our wages, draft our contracts, limit our institutional participation, and repress our dissent. In these ways, our very lives are determined not by us, but by people who are openly hostile to us.
Yet none of this has ever taken place without resistance. Student-Worker Solidarity’s purpose is to propel forward this proud history of struggle, but in a different way.
First, we intend to bring different groups of workers into conversation because we know that our subordination is linked, and that it can be challenged more effectively when we join together. The imaginary walls that have separated cafeteria workers from faculty, librarians from custodial staff, and maintenance workers from office employees need to be demolished in order for solidarity to flourish.
Second, we aim to shatter the deep-seeded myth that has been so effective at keeping students apart from – and often antagonistic towards – workers. The fact is that many students must work low-paying, menial jobs in order to afford tuition fees. In this sense, student-worker solidarity is not only about building links between workers and students forced to sell their labour, but also about cultivating an internal unity between the student-worker that inheres in so many of us. And to students privileged enough to not have to work in order to learn, we say this: your learning is fundamentally dependent on workers to clean, grade, cook, teach, file and fix. Solidarity with them is nothing other than solidarity with those who make being a ‘student’ a concrete possibility.
Third, we seek to infuse horizontal solidarity with vertical critique. We want to work together, side by side, to improve our everyday working conditions, but that’s not all. At the same time, we will challenge the administration’s top-down monopoly over decisions that create such conditions in the first place. Recognizing that these conditions are not accidental, we strive to wrest the power to control our livelihoods from the people who have abused and denied it to us for far too long.
Fourth, we plan to acknowledge and resist the fact that the exploitation of workers on our campus is deeply infused with other forms of discrimination. In so doing, we will challenge the administration’s efforts to make our campus appear as some kind of harmonious Eden of gender equity and multiculturalism. By exposing the reality of what these concepts actually mean, we hope to empower female workers, workers of color, and workers with precarious immigration status to confront their exploitation even more forcefully.
Given all of this, let there be no confusion. The current figureheads in the University administration are not the root of our problem. The Aramark food-service corporation is no more or less resentful of workers than is Sodexho or any other corporation. Today’s administrators and corporate bosses are only doing what yesterday’s administrators and corporate bosses have done, and what tomorrow’s will do so long as we allow them. They are the rule, not its exception. This is our problem.
So when administrators disregard the voice of the University’s constituent members and punish those who dissent, let us be clear: they are acting correctly. When bosses perpetrate routine abuses against workers on this campus, let us be even clearer: they are acting only as they ought to. This is precisely why we are not interested in having a different president or corporation on our campus. What we are interested in is their material and conceptual negation.
In their place, we seek to bring about a University organized and operated by those who make it work. A University that is governed by the many communities of which it is a part, and by the people to whom it owes its existence – that is our ultimate aim. To those who deem such a project unrealistic, we remind you that many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today were once dismissed on the very same grounds by the predecessors of today’s elite. Meanwhile, to those who agree that unrealistic ideals can only ever be transformed into concrete realities through steadfast struggle, we say join us.
Workers and Students of the University, Unite!
Minutes and Resolutions
Minutes are available via our Google Group.
Google Group Home Page: http://groups.google.com/group/utga-sws-labour
Group Email Address: email@example.com