Students, faculty and staff from Mount Allison University joined residents from Sackville today at Main and York Streets to support CUPE public-sector workers on the 15th day of their strike.
“I thought it was important for as many people in the community as possible to come out and show their support for the striking CUPE workers,” said Politics and International Relations Professor David Thomas who organized today’s rally.
“We want to show them that we’re behind them 100 per cent,” he added.
“We applaud them in fact, for their very difficult and courageous stance in terms of standing up to the Higgs government here and fighting for a fair contract.”
Thomas said it’s clear from polling and general observation that the CUPE workers have strong public support partly because there are 22,000 of them and all have friends and family.
“In a small place like New Brunswick, almost everyone is somehow involved,” Thomas said.
“Many other things over the past several months have led to a credibility crisis for the Higgs government, whether it’s the handling of COVID or it’s the refusal to talk about unceded territory and on and on and on, his popularity rating has been declining so much, I think there’s a general lack of trust in the Higgs government,” he added.
Hannah Wickham, a religious studies student at Mt. A., said it’s important for people at the university to support the CUPE workers.
“I think it’s probably one of the most obvious instances where the employer so deliberately is being under-handed and back-handed towards workers that it’s impossible for anybody to look at the situation and not come away feeling just total support for the workers,” she added.
John Dale, a recent Mt. A. graduate, said he also feels the Higgs government is biased against workers.
He said last year’s faculty strike showed that Sackville has a strong, union-organizing culture, and so it’s important to support CUPE strikers who are friends and neighbours.
“We live in an under-developed region, so I think a lot of the concerns of the folks in this union are quite valid indeed,” he said. “Wage increases, for example, have not matched that of inflation, so there’s a lot of reasons for folks to be unhappy.”
Two students from Tantramar Regional High School said they joined today’s rally to show support for CUPE workers and to send a message to the Higgs government to settle the strike so that their school can re-open.
“Everyone that I’ve spoken with, all of my friends and the teachers as well, we all hate online learning,” said Quinn MacAskill, who was named Sackville’s Youth Citizen of the Year at Monday’s town council meeting.
She added that online learning means hours spent sitting in front of a computer screen and not interacting directly with teachers and other students.
“It’s so much more difficult to learn and to teach and just understand things,” she said. “It’s really hard on everybody.”
Theodor Michaelis-Law said he supports CUPE workers at his high school because their work is so important.
As he spoke, several passing drivers on Main Street blew their horns.
“The people on strike are Sackville citizens and I think Sackville citizens have a lot of solidarity with each other, Sackville’s a pretty close-knit community,” he said.
“When someone in Sackville is in need of support, then other citizens will support them and if that’s honking horns, then yes.”
His father Stephen Law, who is a professor of economics at Mt. A., said that Sackville is a strong union town.
He pointed to the three unions on campus, town employees who belong to a CUPE local and unionized CN workers.
“If you start going through all the locations, schools, hospitals, the university, there’s a lot of union support in Sackville,” Law said.