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Individual Paper: CUPE 3903 in the BoG: Two Logics of Collective Action

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In The Natural Contract, Michel Serres asks a simple question of the Hegelian master-slave dialectic: where do the master and slave fight? For all of our attention on this archetypal struggle as the motor of history, Serres argues, we have failed to notice “the marsh into which the struggle is sinking” (Serres 1995: 1). As rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and the accelerating degradation of the biosphere compel us to finally pay attention to the mise-en-scène of the living Earth, our struggles are ripe for re-evaluation.

Working within the field of labour environmentalism, this presentation marks a preliminary gesture towards an ecologically situated analysis of labour struggle in the education sector, focusing on recent strike action at York University in Toronto. CUPE 3903, an academic union local representing teaching assistants, contract faculty, graduate assistants and part-time librarians and archivists at York University, went on strike on March 5th, 2018, following the York administration’s elimination of 800 unionized jobs and the intensification of precarity among non-tenured professors. Now the longest post-secondary strike in Canadian history, the strike has seen a flowering of rank-and-file militancy pitted against the intransigence of the York University Board of Governors (BoG).

As the strike continued through the frigid Canadian winter and into spring, members of the CUPE 3903 flying squad established a guerrilla garden at one of the picket lines, located on a grassy bluff above a bog on the former farmland at the perimeter of the York University campus. In addition to providing herbs and salad for strikers, the affectionately-named “CUPE’s Big Gay Garden” has functioned as a fertile site of what carla bergman and Nick Montgomery call “joyful militancy.” This presentation explores the garden’s role as a hub for organizing direct action around fossil fuel divestment, green-and pinkwashing and the BoG-led corporatization of the university within the broader context of the strike.


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: Moriskan (Bistron)
Track: - Other - (fill submission note below)



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