Last Friday, strike organizer Joan O’Malley was arrested and ticketed as she and other members of McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) took part in a disruption action outside of the 42nd Annual Leacock Luncheon, one of the main events during McGill’s Homecoming weekend.
Several groups of MUNACA members entered the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure Hotel at around eleven that morning to distribute flyers.
Lynda Bray, a picket captain for the union, was among those who went into the hotel.
“Our intent was to inform the alumni members of our strike… We were going to hand out flyers and let McGill alumni know that the strike is into its seventh week, and we want a contract,” she said.
Bray said she entered with six other people, including O’Malley.
“We were with alumni members and we have every right as employees to be there,” she said. Bray said that MUNACA had bought a table in the luncheon and McGill accepted the union’s payment.
“Security was on us immediately,” said Bray. “We were persona non grata, not allowed to be in the building, and within minutes the place was swarmed with police.”
Police escorted Bray and other members out of the hotel, but, according to her, O’Malley refused to leave.
“Four police officers pushed me against a wall, pulled my hands back behind me, spread my legs and pushed up against me,” O’Malley told The Daily later that day.
O’Malley said she was pointed out to the police by McGill Security agents who were in the hotel lobby.
Police officers handcuffed O’Malley in the hotel driveway a few meters away from the union’s picket line. She was put in the back of a police car and drove away amidst boos from the picketers.
O’Malley remained in the car for an hour behind the hotel before being ticketed and released. Police asked her not to return to the hotel picket line. When she spoke to The Daily shortly after her release, she was heading back to union offices to organize a two o’clock picket.
“I’m 63 years old. I’ve never been arrested in my life, ever,” she said. “The issue is McGill Security pointing me out… That’s what I find objectionable.”
McGill Security at the hotel declined to comment.
Michael Di Grappa, McGill vice-president (Administration and Finance), spoke to the presence of McGill Security at the event.
“If we have an event at another location, that location is responsible for security and they can take whatever security measures they deem appropriate. Our people might be there to assist with our own people, to help identify our VIPs that need access…but we don’t have any authority off-site,” he explained.
A Montreal police officer at the hotel picket line said that “there’s been an arrest, but I can’t comment.”
O’Malley felt that she was not doing anything illegal. She explained that she was informed that if union members receive a ticket, it would be their personal responsibility to pay for it. She did not disclose the amount of the ticket, saying, “however much it is, I can’t afford it.”
“My take-home pay is $502 a week. I’m barely making my rent. So, thank you, McGill, for keeping me on strike, and pointing me out to the police to get me arrested so that I now have to pay a ticket. Thank you very much,” she said.
“I feel that being able to speak out and voice my opinion is worth the cost of a ticket. How much does it cost not to be able to speak out?” she continued. “I really feel I need to take a stand not only for my benefits but…there’s a larger question of social justice.”
Not all union members were escorted out. Gabrielle Kern, another picket captain, made it into the luncheon’s cocktail party and spoke with several alumni. She left after receiving a call that O’Malley had been arrested and Di Grappa was on his way to the luncheon.
Kern addressed members outside and dsecribed her experience inside the hotel.
“We very worried, so when I was able to come down and say that I actually got the message through to [alumni], and they sounded supportive – you could see it in peoples’ eyes – something good came of this,” she said.
Alumni crossing the line on their way into the luncheon included former Daily editor Charlie Clark, class of 1976, who travelled from Washington, D.C.
“I think it’s unfortunate. I don’t really like to cross a picket line but we have no choice, this thing has been scheduled for months and we all travelled here,” he said. “It’s a tough situation and I hope they can work it out.”
Di Grappa and Doug Sweet, director of media relations at McGill, crossed the line shortly after O’Malley’s arrest.
McGill’s injunction against MUNACA, which restricts the union’s picketing activities, was extended on Thursday to January 21.