I wrote this before seeing the result of the latest CUPE 3902 ratification vote.
One element of the strike for which I am grateful was being able to meet so many fellow students and teachers on the picket lines. I have often likened U of T to an amoeba with no centre – just a collection of loosely bound parts which are considered in some rough sense to be a single organism. Being out on the pickets has exposed me to a wider variety of fellow U of T people than anything that has happened before during my three years here. I have dozens of new people to follow on Twitter.
The strike has also been another example of a political struggle against difficult odds, and the way in which the strength of a moral argument is often overwhelmed by the relative power of those involved in it. The strike has also been a demonstration of how difficult it is to even bring people to the fight. Only a small subset of CUPE members ever showed up on the picket lines and an impossible-to-fully-know but at least moderate proportion just kept working.
The strike also demonstrated tensions between hierarchy, democracy, and strategic success. All the picket line chants were about democracy and universal involvement, but the union administration is inevitably an entity with interests of its own. It’s certainly hard for 6,000 people to make any kind of coherent decision – especially when those who are best informed tend to favour secrecy the most, and when there is a militant band full of enthusiasm for shutting down any public discussion aside from pep and slogans in the name of tactics and strategy.
For the big fights confronting us – climate change, most notably – we need to deal with both of those problems: find ways for the moral demands of the many to win over the entrenched power structures of the few, and find ways to make people active, political, and part of movements that can win.