Newsletter – March


Volume 10, Issue 4


President – Liz Mathewson

George Fogarasi

Victoria Maystruk

Table Of Contents

Connections and Reconnections

During March, your union local is focusing on making connections and re-connections.  In this edition of Colloquium and during our “meet the union for lunch” on Thursday March 11, we will highlight connections.

Connections highlighted in the current newsletter include those between faculty and our academic teams whether that is across campus, across programs or within programs and disciples.  It is time to make re-connections.  Enjoy the pictures that have been shared by faculty and counsellors at Fleming.  

The second connection highlighted in this newsletter is the connection between the membership and our bargaining team.  Our elected bargaining team rejected the extension offer from the College Employer highlighting the clear connection between healthy discussion at the bargaining table and a negotiated contract which will result in a sustainable path forward for Ontario Colleges. The most significant connection made at a community college is the connection between faculty/counsellors and our students.  “Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions” is one of the most powerful connections resulting in quality education and success for everyone.

Natural Connections

By Thom Luloff

Amidst the confusion, anxiety, and fear at this time last year, we all took a deep pause.  Without distractions, we were able to focus on the important.

Synchronously with the first lockdown announcement, public health began promoting safe activities.  Without much surprise, almost all of them involved the outdoors and being immersed in nature.  Walking, hiking, biking, roller blading; these merchandise items flew off of shelves just as fast as skis, snowmobiles, and fat bikes did this fall.   

We found connections by connecting with and within nature.

As the lockdown progressed, we celebrated stories showing how the retreat of human impact allowed nature the room to thrive.  Whether it be clearer skies, fewer cars on the roads, or less garbage in nature areas, we could see the human impact.   Yet within almost moments of relaxation of restrictions, our old ways returned.   Our newfound appreciation gave way to the rush for normalcy.

Can we do better than normalcy?  There is much discussion about post-pandemic resets in economies, standards of living, relationships between members of society…and yet we cannot forget about our connections with nature.  

We think of our human normalcy as being set apart from nature.  We live in houses, drive cars, and eat food which is specially grown to feed us; and nature exists “somewhere” else. Somewhere where you can go on your terms.  But there are examples from nature that do provide us valuable insight.

It comes in the form of a fungus, Armillaria solidipes (honey fungus).

Like humans, this honey fungus has enormous potential to affect its local environment.  This single organism which lives in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest covers 3.7 square miles (2,400 acres) and is roughly 8,000 years old and weighing over 34,000 tons, making it both the single largest and heaviest terrestrial organism on the planet.

But interesting, this remarkable fungus is not a product of individual success.  It is a product of connections, where individuals connecting together strengthen and enlarge the whole.

Honey fungi grow in individual networks using fibers called mycelia. Mycelia work in a similar fashion to plant roots whereby they take water and nutrients from the soil. At the same time, they make chemicals that are shared with other soil organisms.  When mycelia from different individual honey fungus bodies meet, they can attempt to fuse to each other. When the mycelia successfully fuse to each other, they link their very large fungal bodies together. This, in turn, has created the largest terrestrial organism on the planet.

All. Accomplished. By. Connections. 

This giant organism plays an essential role soil development and maintenance, with mycelium working to prevent soil erosion.   It also happens to be a parasite, killing and consuming conifer trees, and has wrecked havoc on Fir stands throughout the area.

I can’t help but compare this fungus–built by connections–to us, as humans. We are more connected than ever before and our potential to impact our environment (positively or negatively) has never been greater.

As we eagerly look forward to end of the pandemic, lets challenge “normalcy”.  

Let’s prioritize nature and reap the rewards of those natural connections.

Thom Luloff is the Academic Quality Assurance Lead for Fleming College and a Professor in the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences.  He is also the Senior Wildlife Biologist with Kawartha Wildlife Centre, pictured here testing the equilibrium of leg strength of a Great Horned Owl and medicating a Cooper’s Hawk after head trauma following a window collision.

Our Working Conditions Are Our Students’ Learning Conditions

By Liz Mathewson

Recently, the College’s Employer Council (CEC) proposed a two-year extension to our Collective Agreement (CA) rather than re-negotiating the terms and conditions of our employment at the bargaining table.  This offer came eight months before the end of our current CA and five months before the legal bargaining period begins.  

Why do we need to meet at the bargaining table?  Why wouldn’t we merely extend our existing CA for two-years?  These are all good questions.  I hope the follow summary of the bargaining team’s response to the CEC provides clarification as to why our elected bargaining team took the position they did.  The team advised the CEC that we cannot accept the extension offer, as we do not agree a two year extension is the path forward to stability.  Continuing with the status quo would leave all of us, including the Colleges, in an untenable situation in two years.

In the union’s response to CEC, our elected bargaining team maintained the following position:

  • Ontario’s economic recovery depends upon a healthy College system
  • A healthy College system depends upon making the changes necessary to promote sustainability

Over the past year, all of us have experienced exponential change in how curriculum is designed and delivered. This change has impacted not only our teaching but also our out of class work.  Most faculty are reporting a significant increase in time offered to support students outside of the classroom whether that be additional tutoring, support for academic accommodation or creating solutions for students struggling with mental health and other issues. 

As we move forward, teaching and learning will include many of the adaptations and best practices adopted over the past year.  However, our CA is outdated in many areas and needs to reflect more closely teaching and learning in our current environment. Across the 24 Colleges each union local identified and ranked local demands.  It is clear from the list of demands, faculty, counsellors and librarians recognize that our CA is not reflective of the work we do; rather it is an analogue tool attempting to address a digital environment.

With a shared goal of creating a stronger and healthier public college system, and with the knowledge that “our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions,” the only place to have these critical discussions and negotiate for the future is at the bargaining table.  

By rejecting the CEC’s suggestion of merely extending the existing contract, we can address the local demands voted on by the membership.  Your demands include the following:

  • Appropriate recognition and time on SWFs for prep, delivery, and evaluation of online courses
  • Strengthening Academic Freedom and Intellectual Property language
  • Parity of working conditions for partial load members
  • Improved measurement of counsellor workload
  • Improved measurement of coordinator work
  • Improving time for out of class assistance
  • Improved status for Indigenous Knowledge in the salary step calculation
  • The opportunity to revisit salary increases if Bill 124 is rescinded
  • Adding a step to the top of the salary grid and removing the bottom step
  • Improved benefit coverage for certain medications and alternative treatment

Our Community

A call was sent asking folks to send in photos of their connections with people at Fleming. Here is a short preview of some of the submissions we received. More will be shared in the the Zoom hangout March 11th at noon.

Connect the Dots

By Victoria Maystruk

I’ve started a few articles for this newsletter but finished none. Sometimes the pieces fit and sometimes they don’t, and that’s okay.

Along my creative journey I imagined a satire column featuring a professor seeking connections — away from the campus, their colleagues and student, they begin completing connect-the-dot puzzles. The hobby turns to a passion and they end up becoming a competitive connect-the-dotter.

Perhaps it is better suited for an audio piece…

What I can offer you currently is this connect-the-dot puzzle. Enjoy!

Upcoming Events

March 11, 2021: Noon — L352 Farch Day

This time of year can be difficult for many people.  February and March, or FARCH as it is known at Local 352 President Liz’s house, can be depressing even without COVID restrictions.  Many of us are missing the connections we enjoy when we are on campus, whether in the Tim’s line up, walking in from the parking lot, bumping into someone in the staff lounge, or just in general seeing and being with each other…… we miss being connected.

Please join on ZOOM and eat lunch together virtually (there is nothing like watching people eat while on ZOOM.)  It will be an opportunity to make connections, share some laughs, and take a break together.  

We will organize a slide presentation with any pictures you provide and premier it at our virtual gathering.  If you want to wear a funny hat, wear a funny hat.  If you have a funny t-shirt or mask, wear it.  Let’s have some fun, make some re-connections, and celebrate FARCH.

Search your Fleming e-mail for ‘Lunch Break with the Union’ for the link, or contact a steward if you are missing the invitation.

April 5, 2021 — LEC Meeting

The Union Stewards meet on the first Monday of the month to discuss issues of concern. Please let a steward know if there is anything you would like discuss.
List of stewards

A Short History of Humanity and the Rise of Management Hijinks

Back in what is scorned as “pre-history,” humans were hunter gatherers. We’re taught it was a nasty era of pointy sticks and saber tooth tigers. However, the bones of hunter gathers were stronger than those of early farmers. Hunter gatherers had better nutrition and worked fewer hours than farmers did. Or we do today.

Moreover, hunter gatherer cultures were far more egalitarian than agrarian cultures. Peter Gray notes they valued “sharing, cooperation, and consensual decision-making. Their core value, which underlay all of the rest, was that of the equality of individuals.” 

Agriculture created hierarchy (serfs, barons and management consultants). Exploitation fosters resistance: the first recorded strike was Egyptian artisans demanding back pay three thousand years ago. The response of stunned officials was to send them pastries

There is immense wealth in the world today, but unlike the “original affluence” Marshall Sahlins saw in hunter-gatherer cultures, we see increasing economic disparity. Today’s pharaohs—CEO’s and hedge fund magnates—get an ever-bigger slice of the pie while workers get precarity, stress and bigger workloads. This is new. It wasn’t always so.

In the Sixties, a unionized factory job meant workers could afford a home and cottage. Then, in the mid-Seventies, we were sold a vision of competitive individualism.

Thatcher famously said “there’s no such thing as society.” Reagan fired 11,000 striking air traffic controllers, after which laying people off became acceptable: “anyone could be laid off simply to help balance the books for that year…. Protecting the money, as economic theory, replaced protecting the people” (Sinek, 2014).

We are saddled by this neoliberal legacy—hyper-individualism and the myth that a private sector freed from regulation and taxation benefits everyone. Instead of looking after each other, we focus on ourselves. And when work gets overwhelming, the “solutions” ignore systemic issues, isolate individuals and perpetuate the problem. 

To channel money upwards, neoliberalism squeezes workers past the breaking point. American corporations lose “approximately 300 billion dollars a year from stress-related absences and seven out of ten employees report being disengaged from their work” (CBC Tapestry). The individualized remedies offered assure business as usual. 

“Here’s an abbreviated list of the jollity that will ensue at your place of business if you follow their advice: ‘joy lists,’ koosh balls, office-chair relay races, marshmallow fights, funny caption contests, job interviews conducted in Groucho glasses, wacky Olympics, memos by Frisbee, voice mails in cartoon-character voices, rap songs to convey what’s learned at leadership institutes, ‘breakathons,’ bunny teeth, and asking job prospects to bring show-and-tell items such as ‘a stuffed Tigger doll symbolizing the interviewee’s energetic and upbeat attitude’” (Are We Having Fun Yet? The Infantalization of Corporate America).

Let it be never said that your union newsletter is not above wacky fun. Let’s play a game! Which one of these is from Fleming College? Click on the links to find out!

  • “Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash” (Fleming or Not?)
  • A Chief Mindfulness Officer—official title Jolly Good Fellow (Fleming or Not?)

These are all human choices. McDonald’s workers in Denmark unionized and changed their working conditions. They make $21 an hour and have five weeks paid vacation. Ronald McDonald still makes a profit, but he’d make more if the workers chose colouring alone instead of connecting.

A Special Offer

Johnson Insurance would like to thank the members of OPSEU 352 for their hard work and dedication and for making a difference every day. Johnson is donating $20 to OPSEU 352 for each quote provided to OPSEU 352 members between Feb 1– Mar 31. #JohnsonInsurancePartner

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