Mohammed Ali, known by his stage name the “Socialist Vocalist”, brought the energy to Friday’s solidarity strike through passionate and energized rap lyrics.
“When I say OPSEU, y’all say strong / OPSEU! STRONG! OPSEU! STRONG!/ When I say Socialist, y’all say Hip Hop/ SOCIALIST! HIP HOP! SOCIALIST! HIP HOP,” the rapper led the crowd in chants.
Ali got the masses moving with his particular talent at the rally, with strikers clapping along and cheering as lyrics flowed from the back of a pick-up truck.
“All and together, sister, brother sing this song. The union, yes the union, the union makes us strong,” rapped the activist musician, a lyric from his “Solidarity Forever”.
Ali has participated in strikes in the past as a student and has performed at several OPSEU events as an artist.
The GH Post was able to connect with Ali after the rally and asked several questions.
The Post What about the labour movement attracts you?
Ali Labour is a broad movement that brings together a large cross section of the working class. Through strength in numbers, organized labour is able to win real gains to improve the lives of all workers.
The Post Were you invited to today’s event?
Ali I was invited to the event today to perform and to share my experiences as a former college student.
The Post Was your performance volunteer or paid?
Ali I was provided an honorarium for performing today. I travelled 3 hours from Niagara Falls and had expenses such as travel. An honorarium is always helpful in making an event accessible to me, especially when travelling so far.
The Post What would you say to students who are concerned for their education?
Ali I feel that students need to work more closely with campus staff and faculty in fighting for a better education system. Be it lowering tuition fees or improving instructor-student class size ratios or gaining a stronger voice on campus, we are more effective when we are all united in fighting for a better education system.
The Post What would you say to faculty who are concerned for their jobs?
Ali I am in solidarity with faculty who are fighting to make sure that all students have a better education.
The Post How would you describe your rapping’s effectiveness?
Ali My music shares the stories of everyday people so it’s effective because it’s not only my story being told, but all of our stories.
The Post You got a crowd jumping–why are these rallies important in general and to you?
Ali It’s important to both educate as well as energize workers who are on strike. Walking the picket line day to day is not easy and any energy that can be instilled in workers walking the picket line only serves to strengthen their resolve for a just contract.
Image 1 of Mohammed Ali from The GH Post.
Arbitration awarded in Ontario college faculty dispute
Arbitrator William Kaplan handed down an award on Wednesday, announcing binding arbitration that puts an end to the dispute between Ontario’s 24 public colleges and the union that represents faculty, librarians and counselors.
The college faculty union described a major win in regards to “academic freedom”, which will allow faculty to speak freely without fear of reprisal.
The award also includes improved job security for partial-load and full-time faculty, according to a statement from the union.
A new government-run task force will also be put in place to carry out recommendations regarding “faculty complement, precarious work, college funding, student success, and governance issues.
Collective bargaining started for a new agreement between the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union in July, but failed to come to an agreement by 12:01 a.m. deadline on Oct. 16, resulting in a strike by the union.
“Today’s award from arbitrator William Kaplan could have been bargained between the colleges and faculty a long time ago,” said JP Hornick, chair of union bargaining team.
“With any reasonable amount of cooperation from the colleges, there would never have been a strike, students would not have had to worry about losing their semester, and faculty would never have lost five weeks’ pay.”
“Throughout bargaining, which began in July, the College Employer Council had ample opportunity to bargain a deal,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a statement.
Details for the arbitration agreement were posted online on the College Employer Council’s website.
An OPSEU press conference following the arbitration award was positive in regards to what was accomplished, but made clear that further improvements for precarious work and other issues still have happen.
When asked whether the strike process was “worth it”, OPSEU negotiator Nicole Zwiers said “a strike is always so costly”, however she explained that for the union there was “there was no other option”.
Zwiers hosted the conference with OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas.
“The colleges are Crown agencies and the government could have – and should have – stepped in and forced them to bargain,” Thomas said regarding the strike.
“It is too late to prevent the strike, but it is not too late for the government to step in and change the leadership on the Council.”
The College Student Alliance made clear in a tweet that if it’s previous demand of binding arbitration on Nov. 7 was agreed to by the two sides, a bargain could have been struck “weeks ago”.
“It’s both disappointing [and] frustrating students were ignored.”
The University of Guelph-Humber was shut down on Oct. 16 due to Humber College faculty that teach at the university and the campus being behind a picket line, with the administration saying that, without college faculty, they could not offer programs in full.
University courses resumed on Oct. 30 via a digital format, angering many students who disagreed with the way Guelph-Humber operated during the strike.
University courses returned to campus a month ago, with college courses returning with the rest of the province the day after on Nov. 21.
More details to follow. Please refresh for the latest.
Binding arbitration expected in college dispute
Binding arbitration is expected Wednesday morning in the dispute between the 24 public colleges and the union representing faculty, librarians and counselors.
The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union will be holding a press conference at 11:45 a.m. that can be live streamed via their official Facebook page.
More details to follow. The Post will be covering the announcement online. Image 1 from previous files. Follow our Twitter here. ■
Ontario college arbitration to be awarded this week
The union representing faculty that went on strike earlier this fall and negotiators for Ontario’s 24 public colleges released a joint statement on Sunday saying that binding arbitration occurred with an award release this week.
“The arbitrator’s award will form the new collective agreement for Ontario college faculty,” reads the statement released by the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union and the College Employer Council.
The provincially-appointed arbitrator has imposed a media blackout until the award is released, and thus, the details of of the binding arbitration become clear.
OPSEU and the colleges “participated in mediation from [Dec.] 14 through [Dec.] 16.”
The arbitration followed back-to-work legislation that was passed by Queen’s Park on Nov. 19 of this year.
The legislation came after a dramatic forced vote requested by the College Employer Council where a majority of the 12,000 striking faculty voted no to agreeing with the a final offer from the colleges with the encouragement of OPSEU.
The strike launched on Oct. 16 when a midnight deadline could not be reached for a collective bargaining agreement between the colleges and the union.
For five weeks, some full and part-time college students across the province were out of classrooms and faculty, librarians and counselors were on the streets in mass picket lines.
The University of Guelph-Humber had university courses shut down for two weeks before they resumed online in a digital format, much to general student disappointment.
University classes returned to the classroom on Nov. 20 and college courses resumed the day after.
More details to follow. Image 1 of picketing faculty from The Globe and Mail. ■
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