On April 25th my union local, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3906, representing almost 3,000 academic workers at McMaster University, voted to give the student federation ASSE 10,000 dollars.
We did this for several reasons. We recognized that the months long student strike to stop the Charest governments’ tuition hike was important, not just for students in Quebec but across the country. We also saw that the strike was taking on a new dimension. It was becoming more about the rejection of Charest’s neoliberal policies than just about student concerns. The April 22nd march of 300,000 people was emblematic of this turn. We believed that the state was beginning to really try to repress the strike through violence. The strikers, unlike in some labour struggles, could not be forced back to school through a government order. We also noted that the main organization CLASSE – which includes ASSE – had a huge need for funds. The arrests, tickets and the general organizing costs of running a months long strike with over 170,000 people required huge resources.
After some debate we decided we could afford to give, what I believe is the single largest donation we have ever given. It should also be noted that CUPE 3902, representing academic workers at University of Toronto also gave 20,000 dollars. While the sum of money given is great, so to is the need. We did not give this money out of a sense of sympathy or charity, rather we gave this money in the spirit of solidarity and as part of a strategy to counter neoliberalism and austerity.
The Quebec student strike is the current frontline in the battle against austerity. A victory by students against Charest’s austerity would be a boon to the left in North America. It would a powerful lesson of solidarity and collective power. To rollback the cuts in Quebec is to get the ball rolling for the left in North America. A strategic allocation of funds to ASSE – the most active and solid of the three student federations – in the next two weeks could mean the difference between defeat and victory.
If you are a rank and file member or an elected official in a union please consider making a motion at your next local meeting to donate to ASSE to help ensure victory for the Quebec student strike. I know funding and supporting local struggles is important but if your local has any money to give please consider. The time is now.
Websites of ASSE and CLASSE:
Questions? Email ASSE or CUPE 3906