CSU talks to students on how to organize a strike against unpaid internships
“The next step is within the hands of each department,” said Camille Thompson, the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) external affairs and mobilization coordinator. Students “are the heart of a strike. If they don’t do anything, we cannot help them.”
The five steps on how to organize a strike were explained on a flyer at the CSU’s information session for student strikes against unpaid internships on Friday.
The first step is to find and learn about the student association’s policy around calling a strike general assembly. The second step is to set a date for the general assembly, where a ballot vote is usually cast to decide on a strike. The third step is to organize the assembly and count the number of attendees to make a quorum. A quorum is the percentage of students in the department required to make binding decisions at an assembly. The fourth step is to plan and to execute the strike. The fifth and final step is to celebrate and have a post-mortem.
Many students and executives across multiple departments such as political science, School of Community and Public Affairs (SCPA), and women’s studies were present at the information session.
Thompson understood that some students may be confused or scared about the idea of a strike. She advised these students to inform themselves before making a decision. “Talk to other people like your fellow students,” she said. “Ask them what is happening and what they think. Check the information that is available.”
Lou Taj, a social work student at l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), was present to familiarize Concordia students with the steps revolving around a strike, following one that was held by numerous student associations at UQAM from Nov. 19 to Nov. 23.
With the new Quebec government, Taj said that making all internships paid is a difficult issue to tackle. “Now we are under the CAQ government—they are not as open,” Taj said. “We went to speak to them once but nothing interesting got out of it. They said the door is open but there’s no conversation happening.”
Sean Illman-White, secretary of academic affairs and advocacy at the SCPA Students’ Association, attended the session to better inform his association on whether or not a strike mandate is a step worth considering. He said a committee meeting by his association will be held next week.
The vast majority of internships at the SCPA are unpaid, said Illman-White. Nevertheless, he said they are necessary. “For a lot of us, unpaid internships are really important,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are building towards a future where this work is valued.”
“Many student associations are not mobilized at the moment, so people aren’t really talking with each other,” Illman-White said. “Now that this discussion is happening and people are thinking about it, maybe we can start building better practices around talking to each other so that we can mobilize together better.”
Photo by Mackenzie Lad.