Clips from BC Labour Heritage Centre oral history interviews, 2018.
Lorri Rudland (Women Against the Budget) [00:00:00] Well on the evening of November 7th, between 6 and 8 p.m., I got a phone call saying, “The teachers want to go out tomorrow and they need help. Can you organize some pickets?” So I, I don’t remember at this time how many schools I was given or allotted, or if I was allotted or whatever, but I organized about 15 plus schools. So, I knew where the “Operation Solidarity on strike” signs were, so I got those organized. I went over, I drove over, I picked up all the signs I needed. Called a couple of friends who had porches and took the signs to two porches or maybe three, I can’t remember. And then I called every lesbian political activist I knew, and, and a few friends, and I allotted all the schools, assigned all the schools and they accepted immediately and unstintingly. And so. And, and, and this was going on all over the province, activists were being asked to help the teachers. This just my, my beat in the Vancouver School District. And so the next morning, bright and early, picket signs were up. You were one of them. And the teachers saw the pickets, refused to cross the line. The rest is history. But I think, from my perspective, I think it’s really cool that about 15 schools, a bunch of lesbians, political activists, helped the teachers join the strike.
Ken Novakowski (Bargaining Staff, BC Teachers’ Federation) [00:01:34] So the very next morning, there were pickets, not teacher pickets, but pickets of other workers at every school in Vancouver, and at every school in every district that had an injunction. And teachers by and large honoured those picket lines, they didn’t go in.
Gary Steeves (BC Government Employees Union staff, Tranquille Occupation) [00:01:53] I was, after that, I was one of the Lower Mainland strike coordinators. Spent a large portion of my time learning where the schools were in Vancouver and setting up picket lines so teachers didn’t have to go to work. Yeah, I was Lower Mainland. I was one of the two Lower Mainland strike coordinators, so I spent the rest of my time just coordinating picket lines and strike activity.
Cliff Andstein (Chief Negotiator, BC Government Employees Union) [00:02:21] We had, since we could strike, we could also picket other places that couldn’t strike, which is what happened initially. Some of the education things. Teachers and BCGEU members cross picketed and worked at it with CUPE. We would picket their work sites, they could picket ours. Nobody gets into trouble. You can’t picket your own work site, but most collective agreements in B.C., people have the right not to cross a picket line. So if the BCGEU puts up a picket line at Burnaby municipal hall, people won’t cross it. Those workers can go off and picket down a government building. Nobody could do anything. So we’re working on that type of a strategy.
Marcy Toms (teacher, community activist) [00:03:00] And people, we were on the phones trying to… Mike Gregory, who was the president of the, our local at the time, on the phones. Ragged, desperate to figure out how we would be able to trade off picketing at our job sites with picketing at other sites. Particularly, I guess, for, for VMREU, the Vancouver Municipal Employees Union which does not exist anymore. And so we were… It was hectic. It was. We were all sleep deprived. We were all running on coffee and glazed doughnuts. So, we had to organize our members to picket other sites, while also being sure that all of our work sites got picketed by other workers. It was absolutely, no, it was horrendously difficult, but it was kind of exhilarating at the same time, because when you’re in the heat of that moment getting stuff done, that’s all you want to focus on. We’ve got to get it done and we did.
Ken Novakowski [00:04:02] What happened?
Marcy Toms [00:04:02] We picketed very… I was responsible for driving around to a variety of sites. When we finally got them all set up, making sure people’s, teachers were finding the sites in the first place. I remember that I was at Langara for a number of hours once, just making sure everybody had coffee, because I had coffee with me and doughnuts to keep that sugar rush going, and was feeling as though things were moving forward and that there was true solidarity. So we did it.