Classes resume at York’s Osgoode law school

Students are set to cross picket line

Well, there’s been rumbling about this for some time, but now they’ve finally pulled the trigger. The Senate at York University has agreed to an exemption for Osgoode Law generally, and classes will resume on Dec. 1. Note this does not mean the strike is over – simply that Osgoode will resume classes in spite of it.

Osgoode is able to resume classes because they employ almost no contract faculty (in the sense that would make them members of CUPE 3903) and do not rely on TAs. Of course the few classes that are taught by members of CUPE 3903 won’t be resuming.

All the same, CUPE has a right to picket the grounds. Speaking only for myself, I don’t think I could cross that picket line. I believe too strongly in union politics for that to happen. Apparently there’s some Senate policy or other that covers this situation and students who simply won’t cross the line. In that case students are being directed to an Assistant Dean to discuss the situation. I’m interested to know what options they’ll be offered, if any.

Of course there are many compelling stories out there about students who stand to be adversely affected by this strike. And some international students at Schulich already enjoy exceptions. As a law student myself I understand some of what’s at stake for students of Osgoode. Those in second year have real concerns about their summer employment positions. Those who are graduating this year have even greater issues with getting licensed. And yet … the very nature of a strike rests on the idea of applying pressure. That has got to include some inconvenience or else it’s meaningless.

The Osgoode student caucus recently circulated a letter to their members supporting this plan to resume classes. I suspect that support is genuine and reflects the will of most students. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of that letter to link to, but it mostly just describes the plan as it was finally approved.

Osgoode enjoys a reputation as a progressive law school. Among close to 1,000 law students I’d expect there must be some who have qualms about crossing a picket line. I’d love to hear from some of them. I appreciate that students are under great pressure. I can even understand a considered decision to cross the line. But I want to see some indication that these students appreciate the great significance of their actions. If even Osgoode law students are dismissive of the meaning of a picket line, then who’s left to care?

I sincerely hope this issue never gets tested at all. I hope the strike is over before Monday and everyone goes back to class. I don’t necessarily agree with CUPE 3903 in their positions on this strike or think that their demands are reasonable. But I have a great respect for the right to strike and all that it implies. Like many rights, it can’t only apply to people we agree with and to causes we approve of. People died for the right to collectively bargain and the right to strike. I can’t help but feel that even if it fucks up my year a little bit, that’s a price I should be willing to pay in order to respect the history of the labour movement.

Questions are welcome at [email protected]. I use them for the advising content of this blog. Even the ones I don’t post will still receive answers, and where I do use them here I’ll remove identifying information.