(This article is from the WLUFA Advocate October 2016 5.1.)
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Long before their strike began, it was clear that WLU management had a target on the backs of CUPE 926.
The union, which represents custodians, groundskeepers and trades at WLU, had crafted concession demands that targeted only a portion of CUPE 926’s membership, effectively driving a wedge between members.
Despite having little leverage, a small group of CUPE 926 members — known now as the ‘Super 16’ — decided they needed to take a stand, striking for eight days in an effort to defend their collective agreement from WLU’s concessionary demands.
Lynette Brubacher, a custodian with ten years’ seniority, is one of the Super 16.
“We absolutely knew we were being targeted by management,” said Brubacher, who also was a member of the CUPE 926 Bargaining Committee.
“In previous rounds, it had pretty much been sunshine and rainbows, but this time it was clear management weren’t willing to negotiate and we would make proposals and they were like, ‘nope, we’re not interested.’ It was definitely an eye opener, for sure,” she added.
When the Super 16 put up their picket lines, things looked grim. Many other union members, either frightened by management’s hard line or convinced there was nothing in the struggle for them, simply reported for work.
“It was a very difficult and disappointing situation,” said Brubacher.
But something happened along the way. Support for the Super 16 began to pour in from individuals and groups, both on campus and off campus.
CUPE, Canada’s largest labour union, stepped up with financial and human resources. They were joined by CUPE Ontario, the political wing of CUPE in the Province. Then came the support from CUPE Locals across the country, in the form of financial support, picket line support and most importantly, moral support.
“Then we had the staff and faculty were very supportive, and there were always WLUFA members who would join us on the line every day. We had other unions — Unifor and the United Food and Commercial Workers and others coming out with all this external support for us. It was just overwhelming,” said Brubacher.
In the end, the Super 16 held their lines for eight days before returning to the table and negotiating an agreement that Local 926 members could live with.
Brubacher acknowledges that moving past the strike hasn’t always been easy for her and fellow Super 16 members, but she’s proud of the collective action they took.
“It has been a little bit of a strain, but I can sleep at night knowing I did the right thing,” she said.