The Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Council was evenly divided yesterday over a motion to support striking non-academic workers in their negotiations with McGill.
The McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) represents over 1,700 McGill employees and has been on strike since September 1.
The motion was brought to Council by Arts representative to SSMU, Micha Stettin, and VP External of the History Students Association, Jonathan Cohen.
The motion read: “the AUS officially declares its support for the workers unionized by MUNACA and declare solidarity and agreement with MUNACA’s position in negotiations with the McGill administration.”
The motion failed with 14 councillors voting in favour of the motion and 14 against.
Stettin opened debate over the motion by stating that AUS “has the chance now to be a leader in the student body, and to do something that is just, and in the interest of the students that we represent.”
Stettin also said that he had informally canvassed Arts students, and felt that there was overall support by students for MUNACA.
“Arts students really are supporting the MUNACA workers,” said Stettin. “More students are trying to become involved, more students are realizing that the MUNACA strike really does affect the McGill community.”
Several councillors, including AUS President Jade Calver and VP Events Jason Karmody, expressed concern that without concrete information on student opinion, the motion could have a divisive effect on the Arts student body.
“I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and we’re not really informed enough as a group to make a decision like this,” said the representative for the Economics Students’ Association (ESA), Hannah Herman.
Calver explained to Council that, although she personally agreed with the motion, she felt it was possible for AUS to support MUNACA without issuing a direct statement.
VP Finance Marlene Benavides expressed concern that issuing a statement of support for MUNACA would reflect badly on the McGill administration.
“I just want to say that I personally do support what’s going on with MUNACA,” Benavides said. “What I don’t support is a resolution that seems one-sided and makes it seem like the administration are the bad guys.”
After Council, Cohen explained in an interview with The Daily that he thought the motion was a “great opportunity for the AUS to stand in solidarity with MUNACA and represent its students, and display its willingness to take arguably difficult stances in its support for its students.”
“I think that it was a disappointing refusal by many councillors and many members of the executive to do what I think many students have in mind, and what I think is best for the AUS and the University,” Cohen added.
Stettin agreed, explaining that “this is the biggest issue at McGill right now for the McGill community, for Arts students, and for us to not want to take a stance on it is unacceptable. We owe it to the people who elected us to be assertive, to say what we mean with conviction. When we all care that the MUNACA strike ends, and ends in favour of the MUNACA workers, then we should respond accordingly.”
Isaac Stethem, representative for the Department of Philosophy, expressed his support for the motion in an interview with The Daily.
“There were some things discussed in Council that were fair points, that perhaps we do need to be more informed and need to consult more. So that’s certainly a positive step, but I definitely think a lot of students have expressed their support, and we can definitely see the problems [the strike] is causing, so I think it is important that we express our support [of MUNACA] more strongly in the future,” said Stethem.
The motion will be discussed further at the next AUS Council on October 5. Both Cohen and Stettin expressed their intent to continue seeking a statement of AUS support for MUNACA.
Other faculty Societies, including the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) and the Education Undergraduate Society (EdUS) have discussed the possibility of a motion regarding the strike, but neither group has voted on the issue yet.