In anticipation of the Sept. 27 climate strike, Climate Justice Action McGill (C-JAM) has filed a petition to the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) calling for its members to hold a general strike. Ahead of the AUS’ general assembly (GA) on Sept 25, The McGill Tribune looked into what a strike would look like, and what would need to happen in order for a strike to be called.
What is a student strike?
All students attending a Quebec university are entitled to belonging to a student union, such as the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU). These unions are protected under the Act respecting the accreditation and financing of students’ associations, which states that student unions are organisations dedicated to promoting students’ interests within their university. However, students are not employees, and therefore cannot benefit from laws that protect workers’ strikes. For example, employers are forbidden from firing workers on a legal strike; however there exists no specific piece of legislation at the provincial or university level that obligates schools to protect the academic standing of students who strike.
Student strikes still have a history of being a successful bargaining tactic in persuading policy changes. For example, the 2012 Maple Spring protests were a significant factor in persuading the Quebec government to rethink tuition increases. Regardless of whether a student strike is called, Montreal’s global climate march intends to proceed as planned.
What has to happen for a general AUS strike?
The AUS has a policy in its constitution that lays out the necessary steps to call a strike. First, a petition must be presented to the AUS’ legislative council with 200 signatures from AUS members—full or part-time students registered in the Faculty of Arts or the Bachelor’s of Arts and Science program. This step has already been fulfilled by C-JAM’s petition. Now, the AUS’ must call for a GA with five days’ notice. Normal quorum for a GA is 150 members; however, because strike votes have a quorum of 500 members. If the GA does not meet quorum, or the GA meets quorum and students vote against striking, the motion to strike will fail. However, if quorum is reached and students vote to hold a strike, the AUS is bound by the GA to call for a strike for all of its members.
The GA will be held on Sept. 25 at 6:00 pm in Leacock 132. Those who vote at the GA must be AUS members. McGill’s contingent for Sept. 27th’s climate strike will meet on McTavish Street at 11:00 am.