I had the opportunity, on January 14, 2022, to lend my support to Concordia University of Edmonton’s Faculty Association (CUEFA) by joining them on their picket line. I was a member of the CAUT sponsored FLYING/DRIVING pickets. Marc Schroeder and I drove to Edmonton on Thursday evening so we could be on the picket line for the full 4 hours of picketing on Friday.
The flying/driving pickets is a group of faculty members from associations across Canada who bring strength and support to faculty associations actively engaged in legal strike action. It is the idea that there is strength in numbers; the idea that we are stronger together; the idea that we are showing solidarity across the sector. The January 14 Flying/Driving Pickets included faculty members from University of Northern British Columbia, Dalhousie University, Mount Saint Vincent University, University of Manitoba, University of Lethbridge, University of Calgary and of course Marc and I.
I admit that prior to arriving in Edmonton I was a bit nervous about this upcoming day of picketing. Being a member of the MRFA is my first time being a unionized worker and quite honestly, during my corporate career I have usually aligned myself with management. After all, I WAS management for a time as the Assistant Vice President of Human Resources at a local credit union here in Alberta.
Would I be able to relate to the situation that drove CUEFA to the picket line? Could I honestly, and in good conscience, be at odds with management’s position? What would people say if they saw me on the picket line? Would being on the picket line put my longer term career aspirations in jeopardy at MRU? (For those who don’t know, I am a limited-term faculty member with my current contract expiring on August 14, 2022 and I want to be here permanently).
Positive emotions remained high that day despite the below zero temperature. I was blown away with the power of this demonstration, with my affinity to the position of CUEFA and with my commitment, even moreso, to the MRFA. For the first time in my working life, I could see how I could truly help workers in a workplace! By walking the picket line and lending a visible show of support, Marc and I and the other Flying/Driving pickets reinvigorated an already strong group of workers to remain steadfast in their desires for a better working environment. CUEFA was able to ratify a new contract later that Friday and they were back to work on Monday, January 17, 2022. In total, they were engaged in strike action for less than 2 weeks.
CUEFA members shared with me that their mental health has never been better; that they were spending time on the picket line with colleagues whom they hadn’t seen in two years since the start of the pandemic and in fact were coming out to the picket line more often than asked just to spend time with each other; and that the positive momentum of sharing stories and knowing they were “not alone” would be strong enough to spill over into the workplace once the strike ended.
I look to the experiences of CUEFA to provide positive momentum for the MRFA. The video, below, that I took on January 14 shows the immense and unanticipated benefits of being on strike.