Monday Update: Building the Union

Welcome to the first day of our latest round of strikes. This time round, we’re focusing on building the union, recruiting new members, and spreading the word about just how severe a crisis we’re facing. To recap today’s action, here’s Fergal, a postgrad member from Chemistry:

Today we got out to different parts of Cambridge that we haven’t in a while, or possibly ever, in a drive to recruit more people. We sent members round different parts of Downing Site and New Museums, as well as a contingent out to Chemistry. Chemistry was somewhere that many who stopped commented they hadn’t seen pickets at before and weren’t certain on why we were striking. Whilst these comments could be taken as disheartening to some, it wasn’t at all as it allowed for productive conversations with staff, postgraduate students and even the odd undergraduate student as to why we were out there.

We managed to get most people who passed by to engage and talk to us, which provided for some interesting discussions and opportunities to recruit. We had sign ups on the picket line, we had people reading and talking about our campaign literature with us, we were educating people as to the reasons for the strikes and the cuts to pension and Four Fights that have forced us to strike. We also explained to many what the union could do for them, from protecting their pension, to fighting for better pay and conditions, to trying to reform the system for college supervisors. Today also allowed us to update people in person on how our recent industrial action has been going, and to inform those who signed a #Justice4CollegeSupervisors postcard that it has brought senior management to the table.

Letting our presence known at departments who don’t usually see a big union presence also showed people that the UCU is not some abstract thing or just a bunch of unhappy humanities researchers, but we are a varied and diverse group, who should engage our colleagues. One thing to note about Chemistry specifically is how willing people were to talk as they don’t usually encounter a picket line, and it made for an enjoyable and productive morning. How different it is having long conversations with people in the sun instead of having cyclists try to plough through us in the rain and cold.

We are also targeting STEM subjects as we know that density or enthusiasm there can be low, and getting people out of labs is sometimes a difficulty. With that in mind, we plan to target West Cambridge on Wednesday morning and Addenbrooke’s and the biomedical campuses on Friday morning. We look forward to seeing as many people out there as possible, as well as at the other activities we’ve got planned over the coming days. 

And now, plans for tomorrow. TOMORROW THERE WILL BE NO PICKETING. Instead, from 13.00 to 16.00, we’re running our own local Organising Day-School, with a focus on building our membership over the days ahead. If we’re going to come out of these strikes stronger than before, we need you, so make sure you’re there!

Here’s a run-down of the programme:

Session 1: 13.00-14.00

  • 13.00: Mapping membership density and activism across the branch
  • 13.30: Breakout groups: organising research staff, STEM on strike, building among academic-related staff, building at CUPA

Session 2: 14.00-14.45 

  • Organising and recruitment in your department
  • How to have an organising conversation with your colleagues

Tea break 14.45 

Session 3: 15.00-16.00

  • Planning for pickets and campaigning in West Cam and at Addenbrookes 
  • Getting the message across – ideas for social media campaigns 

All sessions will be held at the Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane (map here); but they’ll also be hybrid, so you can join us online as well. For the Zoom link, check the branch email. See you there!