Over 500 people gathered on McGill College last Thursday to rally with the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), who have been on strike since September 1. Following speeches from McGill students and members of other campus unions, demonstrators proceeded to march through the streets to Occupy Montreal, located in Montreal’s financial district.
The Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) held a breakfast on campus before the MUNACA-organized rally. Jonathan Mooney, a member of AGSEM’s bargaining team, spoke about the event, which offered free coffee and bagels to participants.
“The goal here was just to get a lot of TAs to come out – people like bagels, people like coffee – so we thought that we’d get a good number of TAs to come out and show their support for our demands and listen to the speeches,” Mooney explained.
Sunci Avlijas, a biology TA, member of AGSEM’s mobilization committee, and an organizer for the event, delivered one of several speeches to around 35 people gathered in the Y-intersection. Avlijas told The Daily that the committee planned the event after AGSEM members voted on October 19 to initiate pressure tactics.
AGSEM VP External Sheldon Brandt noted that “the tone may have shifted because of the pressure tactics.”
At noon, a group of 35 marched through campus to join the rally, which cordoned off McGill College, across from campus.
Speakers who addressed the crowd included students, professors from the McGill Faculty Labour Action Group, members of AGSEM, and members of the Association of McGill Undergraduate Support Employees (AMUSE).
Allison Cooper, a U4 Anthropology student, attended the rally in costume and introduced herself to the crowd as “Cruella McGill.”
“I’m here because of all the familiar faces in the crowd – my favourite librarians, anthropology advising department, SSMU porters – and we need to realize that the University isn’t working. We, the students, support you. We need you,” Cooper said.
Seven police vans, as well as intermittent police motorcycles, trailed the march as it wound down major streets on its way to Occupy Montreal. Mooney explained that MUNACA’s parent union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), had contacted the police ahead of time.
Marc Laramée, a member of the juridique (police and law) committee at Occupy Montreal, said he had learned that morning that the MUNACA rally would march to Square Victoria.
“It’s an awesome phenomenon. If every major demonstration could converge to our spot, that would be awesome,” he said.
McGill and MUNACA continued negotiations last week, and three dates have been set for this week.
An email from Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa stated that the “parties are continuing serious negotiations during which the key issues will be discussed.”
Di Grappa’s email also states that both parties have agreed not to publicly discuss the contents of negotiations.