We survived the York U strike, now can we survive the summer?


I am a York student, and I survived the strike of 2008-2009.

Like many students balancing piles of school work with a part-time job, I hoped the strike would happen and was excited by the political turmoil on campus. CUPE 3903 and the university assured the public that if a strike happened it would be short, just a couple of weeks.

It was three months after the start of the strike before I entered the classroom again.

I did all the right things during the strike: I kept up with my school work, checked email regularly for word from teachers, didn’t take sides in a muddied battle with stubbornness on both sides. And yet, I, and many students like me, still suffered. No, my marks did not suffer, but the strike hit me where it hurts the most: financially.

"Working multiple part-time jobs is a resourceful solution, but it’s very stressful. Unfortunately, the strike hasn’t given York students much choice."

The strike caused the school year to run a month longer than normal, eating up time which would normally be used for job hunting and starting full-time summer positions. At the end of the last school year, I started a job at a nursery and garden centre on April 26, worked all through May, June, July and August, and made a great deal of money.

This year, with my last project due May 27, I missed the busiest month of the year for garden centers: May. Most students faced similar difficulties finding summer positions, especially students unwilling or unable to work through the school year.

Many of my friends did not even finish exams until June 3. In order to keep summer positions they’ve had for years, such as at Wonderland, several of my friends had to leave school to go straight to work, sometimes leaving early or missing important clases altogether.

In the throes of a rough economy, I was surprised at our ability to handle the summer job situation and adjust our plans for the future. I was planning to move out this year – either get a summer job there and move in May or June, or get a summer job in my hometown and move in August or September.

Instead, I held onto my part-time job which I enjoyed and got a second part-time job that was only one day a week. I also took a house-sitting position in June for a bit of extra money, making my income comparable to what I would make at a full-time job while still leaving me enough time to take a summer course.

Working multiple part-time jobs is a resourceful solution, but it’s very stressful. Unfortunately, the strike hasn’t given York students much choice. Very few students saw financial compensation for the strike. York made bursaries available only to students who would normally qualify for financial aid – yes, these students need the money, but the strike affected every single student financially. We lost weeks of our education and have a shortened summer term as well.

The option to transfer funds from dropped courses helped even fewer students, since most students worked extra hard when returning from the strike to maintain their marks so they wouldn’t have to drop a course. The students that did the most work in this instance, do not benefit.

If you’re a York strike victim who’s still looking for a summer job, check out the online career centre – this is how I was able to get my second part-time job.

About the author

Jess Taylor is a third-year creative writing student at York University who is pursuing a minor in science and technology studies. She would like to become a fiction writer and a non-fiction science writer. Over the past four years, she has managed and played in a ska/punk band called The Big Man Himself, started her own label, run a zine and much more.