The Longer the Picket Line…

Next week, many UCU members will be taking strike action for the first time. Here, some UCU Commons members share what’s worked for them in previous rounds of action: what’s helped to recruit new members, start conversations with colleagues and students, and simply kept us warm (in body and soul) on the picket lines.

Can you complete your striker’s loyalty card?

For a more comprehensive list of hints and tips, see James Sumner’s famous Strike Handbook. Official UCU FAQs on our industrial action can be found here.

Cookie Chatter

I call myself ‘the world’s worst picket’. When I am on duty my signature move is to open up the vehicle barrier for staff driving in to the institution I am picketing. This saves them leaning out and it also gives me a perfect opportunity to pass my colleagues that day’s leaflet, and let them know how the strike is going. I don’t mind doing this at all, because nearly all of them aren’t able to join UCU, and my main aim during industrial action is to recruit more people to the Unison branch. It’s good, it’s fun, I get to chat to people I’m opening the gate for, smile at them, compare notes. And many of them bring us tea. Last time round a comrade from the Nottingham University branch dropped by and gave me a bag of cookies which I was able to offer to the people I was chatting to. One guy stopped for a cookie, we had a chat about the dispute, and he said “OK, I’ve been thinking I need to join Unison—I’ll do it today.” Result!

Keep on Running

UCU pickets invariably fall on bad weather days, but they are still excellent opportunities for getting to know other UCU members and encouraging people to get involved. Running pickets have become popular at several branches. These are particularly good for branches that have picket lines at multiple buildings/campuses spread across a city. And for cities where there are different universities, it’s a great way to meet comrades at other branches. For those who want to stay in one spot, picket line yoga sessions are a good way of warming up. If coordinated well, the running picket can join in too to give their legs a good stretch after running.

Strengthen Your Armbands

Solidari-tea Forever

A few years ago I knew that we were facing a battle for survival in my workplace (which is physically located a distance from where I live). We needed all the help we could get, so I turned to my nearest striking UCU branch (near my house) to ‘raise awareness’ through the medium of hot refreshments. Their branch was revolting—and we needed them to help teach us how to revolt too. Also, they had the best Twitter game in the region and we needed their help and advice. I had this great cargo bike which easily converted into a table, so I filled its racks with some ‘borrowed’ insulated jugs full of boiling water, cups, sugar, a choice of teabags, and an assortment of biscuits. The Solidari-tea Bike was born. I rattled round the various pickets on each gate, offering refreshments and generally chatting about what we were up to. I met some brilliant comrades for the first time, had a laugh, and made sure that everyone was up to speed. And, when it kicked off in my workplace a few weeks later, the help we got back made a massive difference. Solidari-tea will get us through this!

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