Threshold for unlimited general strike achieved

It might have been harder than expected, but a flurry of votes this past week pushed the campaign over the edge: an unlimited general strike for paid student internships will take place in 2019.

Among those student associations that have approved an unlimited general strike (grève générale illimitée, or GGI, in French), the commonly accepted minimum threshold required to trigger it is 20,000 students in 3 regions of the province with a strike mandate of at least one week. That threshold was surpassed on Thursday.

Three student associations from Université Laval in Quebec City voted this week for a general strike: AEEA (anthropology), AEESPUL (political science), and RESUL (sociology). AECSD, representing graduate students in law at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), also voted for a general strike.

But larger associations tended to opt instead for a week-long strike from March 18 to 22, with the possibility of renewal. These include AEEPEP (early childhood and elementary education at UQAM) and AMEBES (secondary education at UQAM) — both constituent associations of ADEESE, which voted against a general strike at its own general assembly on February 5.

afelc montreal campus Feb 20
AFELC general assembly. Photo: Montréal Campus

The 3,800 members of AFEA (arts at UQAM) will also walk out for one week, with the possibility of renewal. Meanwhile, the 2,983 members of AFELC (languages and communications at UQAM) and the 4,100 members of SECMV (Cégep Marie-Victorin) have chosen not to give themselves the option of renewing their one-week strikes.

At Montreal’s Concordia University, the School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association voted to join the Journalism Student Association as the only ones from anglophone institutions to have committed to strike that week.

The achievement of the 20,000 student threshold can be credited in part to some clever tactical readjustment by the CUTE at UQAM. Seeing that its action plan was in jeopardy, it held an emergency meeting after the failed ADEESE vote and quickly determined it would be best to establish a proposed start date for the strike, but one late enough in the semester to give student associations sufficient time to organize: March 18.

SCPA John Hutton Feb 21
SCPASA general assembly. Photo: John Hutton

However, some student associations could very well begin their general strike right away. For example, the strike mandates of the aforementioned AEEA and AEESPUL don’t set specific start dates, but simply propose that the strike be triggered once the prerequisite conditions are met.

For other associations, the situation is even more unclear. For example, AESFQ (midwifery at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières), the first to vote in favour of a general strike way back on January 13, stated as its threshold 20,000 students specifically on general strike — suggesting that those on one-week strikes don’t count toward the minimum.

In total, it appears that about half the students who will be on strike from March 18 to 22 will only be on a week-long strike. How many of those will renew their strike action beyond March 22? Will the student movement demonstrate the resilience, the resolve, and the solidarity needed to sustain the strike for as long as it takes to win all of its demands?

Featured photo: AFEA general assembly (by Éloi Halloran)