Thursday, April 3, 2008

Instructions for handing in CRPs (final term papers)

CRPs are due Friday, April. 4, 2008 between 12 pm and 5 pm. I'll be at my office -- South Ross 710 -- between those hours and you are to come in person and hand in your CRP papers to me any time between those hours. If you have a class between those times, it won't be for the full five hours so I am sure you can all find 5 minutes to come and drop off your papers. If I am not there when you arrive please wait five minutes or so because I might have gone to grab food or something and will return within 5 minutes.

I'll be leaving at 5 pm on the dot, so any papers not handed in to me by then will be considered late and I'll automatically be deducting half a grade per day that it is late. I need to get marks in by early next week and you need to finish the course and move on so it's good for both of us that you all hand in your papers tomorrow.

If you want to receive your papers back with my comments, please also bring along a self-addressed and stamped envelope (manila envelope is best) with your papers so I can mail them back to you once they are marked. If you don't bring me an envelope already stamped I won't be mailing them back to you and you won't receive my comments on your paper, just your final mark for the course. If you hand in your paper late you also won't receive comments back from me, just the final grade.

Good luck!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

CRP now due on Friday, April 4th

Because April 3rd is the last day of classes and is a make up day for Monday classes, I believe, the CRPs will now be due between 12-2 pm in room South Ross 710 on Friday, April 4th. This means you get an extra day with them. Please make a note of this change on your calendars.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

No Sweat Policy Victory!

For immediate release:

Just a few hours ago York University President Mamdouh Shoukri made a
commitment to introduce a No Sweat policy at the university by April.

"The policy will be at least as progressive as U of T and other
universities, if not more,"
said the President. "If other universities have had this policy and
withstood the test of time, I don't see why we can't do it too."

This is the result of a 45 hour sit-in by members of the Sustainable
Purchasing Coalition (SPC) and their supporters. The SPC is a student
group that has been lobbying for such a policy for the past 3 years.
"We are exhausted but overjoyed, this is the commitment we were
looking for and it's great to hear it after all the work that we've
put into it, not only over the last few days but over the past three
years," said Besmira Alikaj, one of the students participating in the

The Sustainable Purchasing Coalition held a rally Thursday asking the
university to adopt their proposed No Sweat policy. Prior to the
rally, the SPC had circulated a petition asking for student support
for the proposed policy. By the end of the rally, over a thousand
signatures had been collected. Immediately following the rally, the
SPC attempted to deliver the petitions to President Shoukri.

Dozens of students from the rally marched over to the President's
office at 2pm on Thursday. When they were told the President was
unavailable to see them, the students decided to stay. On 24-hour
security watch, the students camped outside the president's office for
45 hours.

At 10am Saturday morning Shoukri finally showed up and asked the
students to sit down and talk about their demands. It was at this
point that Shoukri made his commitments to the students.

"We hope this meeting will set a precedent for future interactions
between students and York administration", said Alikaj.

A second meeting between the SPC and President Shoukri will take place

No Sweat Policy at York: The Sustainable Purchasing Coalition

Please read the following communications:

1. A message from the current sit-in outside the President's Office
2. Letter of support from the Ontario Federation of Labour

1. A message from the Sustainable Purchasing Coalition and its supporters

The Sustainable Purchasing Coalition (SPC) has been negotiating a No
Sweat policy with the university for 3 years. Prior to the creation of
the SPC, previous York students had also pushed for the creation of a
policy. Students have been waiting a long time for the York
administration to make good on their statements of intent and
good-will. The University of Toronto has had a No Sweat policy for 8
years while York is still lacking.

It is true that the SPC has been negotiating a draft policy with the
VP Students, Procurement services, and the Office of the Counsel.
However, this process has been led by the Office of the Counsel who
has consistently pushed for the most basic, bare-bones policy, even
though the SPC presented a thorough and workable draft that provides
many more assurances that the workers producing York apparel are
treated in a fair and humane manner. The draft presented by the SPC
was immediately rejected by the Office of the Counsel and was replaced
with an alternative which allowed for forced labour (including prison
labour) and only required licensees to follow the laws of the country
of manufacture in regards to wages, health and safety, hours worked,
and overtime. This is grossly inadequate as many countries have
incredibly lenient laws in these areas.

Furthermore, the Office of the Counsel has indicated that they intend
to sign on with the Fair Labour Association, an industry-led watchdog
group which monitors factory conditions to ensure no abuses are taking
place. While the SPC feels this is an appropriate piece of an
effective policy it is insufficient without also signing on to the
Worker's Rights Consortium, a completely independent monitoring
organization. Using factories that are members of both the Worker's
Rights Consortium and the Fair Labour Association would offer the most
thorough protection for the workers manufacturing York apparel. There
is nothing preventing the university from signing on to both agencies,
but the Office of the Counsel has not given adequate consideration to
the request to sign on to both agenceis.

The sit-in that is currently taking place outside of the President's
office is a product of frustration with the administration's years of
delays which have only now resulted in a basic policy which provides
only the most minimum assurances for the fair treatment of workers.

There is nothing preventing the university from adopting a strict code
of conduct for licensees as presented by the Sustainable Purchasing
Coalition as well as signing on to both the Fair Labour Association
AND the Worker's Rights Consortium (as both the University of Toronto
and Ryerson have).

If York is in fact dedicated to the principles of fair labour, social
justice, and sustainability then it should not be a problem for
President Shoukri to make a statement to the 1000+ students who signed
the petition presented by the SPC calling for these policies to be
implemented. Especially when his Executive Officer informed us that he
was in meetings on campus today.

With respects,

The Sustainable Purchasing Coaition and the many of those who have
voiced their support

2. Support Letter from the Ontario Federation of Labour

March 7, 2008

TO: The York Sustainable Purchasing Coalition

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On behalf of the over 700,000 members of the Ontario Federation of
Labour, I send greetings of solidarity from the trade union movement
in Ontario. I applaud your actions to ensure that all York apparel is
produced in a manner that conforms to high labour standards. In the 21
century, no worker should be toiling in sub-standard working
conditions, and earning sub-standard wages.

Unfortunately, we know that millions of workers around the world still
work in sweatshops or earn shamefully low wages. We also know that
sweatshop labour is not a problem that exists elsewhere. This problem
exists right here in Canada and across North America. Even today, too
many employers circumvent labour standards and deny workers basic
rights and benefits on the job.

York University is a publicly funded institution and as such, it
should be setting the standard for ethical practices. The university
should insist that high labour standards are applied to all products
sold bearing its name. Other universities in Canada have adopted
no-sweat policies; it is disgraceful that York University is resisting
such standards.

Workers across Ontario stand with you in your fight for a substantive
and meaningful "no-sweat" policy at York University.

But we also call on the Ontario government to increase the minimum
wage immediately to $10 per hour and to ensure that it increases every

Your courageous actions are taking place on the eve of the 100th
anniversary of International Women's Day-the Day that commemorates the
fifteen thousand immigrant women garment workers who marched through
the streets of New York demanding higher pay, shorter work hours, the
right to vote and an end to child labour. Today we are calling for
much the same thing-a living wage for all, high standards for
workplace health and safety, pay equity and high quality,
publicly-funded child care.

Your actions are part of the ongoing struggle for justice here and
around the world, without which we would not have made the progress we
have. We salute and applaud your actions and send our heartfelt

In peace and solidarity,

Terry Downey,

Executive Vice President

Ontario Federation of Labour

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Class Presentaton Instructions, Contemporary Research Paper Instructions, and Other Links

I have just posted the instructions you will need for the assignments that you are to work on for the remainder of the semester. You can access these instructions by going here, or to the link in the "Course Requirements" section of this blog.

For the presentation timetables (that is, to see when you are presenting) and more information and instructions specifically related to your presentatons, go here.

I have also posted my optional extended essay on Argentina's worker-recovered enterprises here, or you can access it by going to the link in the "Lecture and Seminar Supplements" section of the blog.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Week 18 Lecture Notes Available

I've made available for you my lecture notes from last week's seminar on Craig Chapter's 3 and 4, also connecting them with Quarter Ch. 2. I've uploaded my notes to the blog and you can download the PDF from here, or by going to the "Lecture and Seminar Supplement" section of this blog.

In the lecture notes I guide you through these two crucial chapters and point out the important parts to focus on, key points you should understand well, and questions you should be able to answer.

NOTE: As I stated to you last week in class, these chapters, as well as Craig's Ch. 2 and parts of Quarter Chs. 1 and 2, and our understanding of the "social economy" to date, are crucial for you doing a good job in your Alternative Firm Analysis paper , as well as for completing your term projects on your firms successfully. So study them using the strategies I've been showing you in class. In other words, as I've been suggesting to you for the past few weeks, you should be incorporating relevant parts of Craig's, Quarter's, and the social economists' analyses (and any other relevant sources from the course) directly into your forthcoming papers and presentation; remember they are tools you can use for understanding your firms better.

So, look over your AFA paper you're going to hand in tomorrow to see if you've effectively incorporated course materials and, in particular, Craig's analysis, into your papers. For example, where might Craig's analysis of values and ideologies and organizational structures of coops (Ch. 2), segmental cooperatives (Ch. 3), or comprehensive coops (Ch. 4) apply to your firm? Again, you can use my lecture notes from last week, as well as the notes I made available to you from Week 16 and Week 17 for guidance.

Good luck in completing the AFA's!

Upcoming Essay Workshops - Centre for Academic Writing


The Centre is offering a number of group workshops dealing with the major elements of effective essay writing. All Arts students are welcome to enrol. We ask that you announce these course offerings to your classes.

A. ESSAY 101

This workshop is a primer for essay writing. It will look at the journey from the writer-focused rough draft to the reader-focused essay, and offer strategies for each step along the way. Monday February 25 @ 1:30 OR Thursday February 28 @ 2:30.


This one-hour session will help you get a good start on your essays. Learn how to develop an effective thesis statement that tells the reader where you are headed. Wednesday February 27 @ 10:30 OR Monday February 28 @ 10:30.


Do your essays come back with comments such as sentence fragment, run-on sentence, comma splice, or short choppy sentences? Learn to recognize and correct some of the most common errors of sentence structure. Monday February 25 @ 12:30 OR Tuesday February 26 @ 12:30.


A sentence rises or falls on commas and conjunctions. This session will reveal what they are and what they do. Thursday February 28 @ 1:30.


This short course is meant to give you some tips for becoming a more concise and effective
business writer, using the principle of plain writing for your audience in American standard vernacular English. Thursday February 28 @ 12:30.

Please turn over . . .


Do you lose precious essay marks due to grammatical and stylistic errors? The Effective Editing Workshop will teach you to analyze your work logically and systematically to improve the quality and consistency of all your academic assignments. You will learn to assess content, correct common errors and proof-read for accuracy. This is a hands-on workshop, so bring a writing sample and be ready to use what you learn right away! Wednesday February 27 @ 1:30.


In this workshop, we will work on search strategies to find potentially useful resources for research papers. We will focus on reviewing some internet searching sites, looking at the basic differences between search engines and directories, and trying several effective search strategies, in particular with Google. Finally, we will suggest some techniques for organizing and managing complex searches. Tuesday February 26 @ 11:30.


This module applies the concepts of bibliographic citation and cocumentation to digital and electronic sources. We offer a basic understanding of the requirements for academic citation. We will provide a number of examples in the two most common referencing styles, MLA and APA. Our presentation will also familiarize students with RefWorks, the online York Libraries-based referencing software. Wednesday February 27 @ 12:30.


In this workshop we consider the effective use of several digital tools and modes offered by Microsoft Word for academic writing. The objective is to explain the benefits of word processing in academic writing to demonstrate the potential of this computer-based medium. We follow the four principles that the process of writing is individual, that successful writers write recursively, they revise their work, and they share their writing. Wednesday February 27 @ 2:30.


In this workshop we will demonstrate successful strategies for evaluating the credibility of internet sources that students will encounter. We will introduce a set of criteria for classification that will enable students to quickly and easily rank the quality and potential usefulness of electronic resources. Thursday February 28 @ 11:30.

Students are welcome to enrol in any one or all of the above mini-courses, but please remind them that their signature is their commitment to attend.

For a copy of this flyer go to

Monday, January 28, 2008

Updates for Week 18's seminar

New Reading for Week
OK, so, as I told you I'd be doing last class, I've made one change for this week's readings (reflected in the updated Lecture, Reading, and Assignment Schedule for Winter 2008): Craig's Chapter 4 is now optional; in its place I've added Quarter Chapter 2. You can download this reading as a PDF from the "Lecture and Seminar Supplements" section of the blog (down right hand navigation bar under "Week 18"), or from here. Give it time to download and download it from a fast connection, it's an 8.5 meg file (apologies, that's what we get for scanning it, but should take less than a minute to download). Let me know if you can't download it BEFORE Thursday and I'll try to send you a zipped copy.

Suggestions for How to Prepare this Week
Here are some suggestions for what you should be focusing on for this week's readings:

*Craig Ch. 3 - a) know what a "service cooperative" is; b) "Contributions to the Economy" section (pp. 93-101) and "Why is the Potential Not Realized"section (pp. 101-102).
*Craig Ch 4 - a) read quickly through pp. 107-115 (you should recognize some of this description from Melnyk); b) spend most of your time in the "Analysis" section (pp. 115-127).
*Quarter Ch 2 - make sure you understand Quarter's 7 "models of cooperative organization". This will be important for understanding where your coop/alt. org. fits into the social economy in Canada.

Lastly, a general reading tip for this course: Read the examples quickly (but DO read these sections too...) and focus on, underline, and think hard about the theories and concepts and analysis put forward by the authors; these will be invaluable for your semester research work on your firms.

Other Sundry Issues

For those of you that I promised I'd talk with on the phone, please give me a call tomorrow or Wednesda and we'll discuss what we need to discuss then. For those of you that want to meet with me to discuss your papers due next week, I'll be available briefly after class, so come and see me. You can also call me all of next week if you need assistance with anything.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Research forms and other documents posted...

I've uploaded the forms you'll need for your interviews on the blog. Go to the new "Required Research Documents" section in the right hand navigation column to download the Word docs.

Also, you'll notice that I have uploaded the two charts, one from last week and one from this week, as promised, in the "Lecture and Seminar Supplements" section. Again, you'll find this in the right hand navigation column.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Alternative Firm Analysis Instructions

Go here to find out the requirements and specific instructions for the Alternative Firm Analysis project due on February 7.

Or, see the "Course Requirements" section in the right navigation bar.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Course kits, books, and articles for Winter 2008

Here is the latest regarding the status of the course kit, books, and articles for the Winter 2008 semester:

The course kit for this semester will be available in the bookstore by the middle of next week. It is $16.00. There are a few copies of the Briscoe & Ward's book Helping Ourselves in the bookstore, more will be arriving by the middle of next week I was told by the bookstore yesterday. John C. Craig's book, The Nature of Co-operation, will also be arriving by the middle of next week. The first reading from these two books is from Craig's book on Jan. 17 (Week 16) (see the Winter 2008 lecture and reading schedule for more details).

As far as readings from the Winter 2008 course kit, there are two readings from it that are for next week, the required Linda McDowell reading "Father and Ford Revisited" and the optional but highly recommended David Harvey reading on Fordism and flexible accumulation (these are readings for Week 15, see the Winter 2008 lecture and reading schedule for more details). Here is a PDF version of McDowell's piece you can download for your reading for next week: McDowell, Linda,"Father and Ford Revisited: Gender, Class, and Employment Change in the New Millennium". I will be uploading Harvey's piece so you can download it as well later on today after I scan it.

Also for next week, you'll find the Louis Favreau piece in the Fall 2007 course kit; it's the last article. And, of course, the Cavanagh & Mander and Ellwood chapters are in the books.

Again, stay tuned for the Harvey piece which I will post later on today.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

January 3, 2008 Presentations

On January 3, 2008 – the first class back from the winter break – we are going to do two things: review in detail the Fall 2007 semester and hear your preliminary ideas as to how the alternative organization you’ve been thinking about for your Winter 2008 term project is informed by the theory and history we’ve been studying thus far. Basically, this means that YOU will be collaborating with your classmates in the review by directly mapping it, albeit in a preliminary sketch, to your forthcoming projects. Don’t worry, you don’t have to have a firm organization in place yet. Just base this exercise on one of the ideas you communicated to me in our meeting that we had late in Fall 2007. And, in light of the fact we did not have a mid-term exam in December, I believe this task is warranted. It’s worth 4% of your final project mark, so take it seriously but don’t sweat over it. Have fun with it. Use it as an opportunity to re-read the texts – or, if you haven’t read certain texts yet, to actually DO the readings. Believe me, you will thank me come March when you have a zillion projects on the go and you need to prepare for your in-class presentation and your final Contemporary Research Paper. Plus, your Alternative Firm Analysis and especially your Contemporary Research Paper will be drawing extensively from the Fall 2007 theory and history, so you’ll doubly thank me come March when you won’t have to pull several all-nighters making sense of last semester.

So, the review/presentation for Jan. 3 will be as follows:

You are all to give a five to seven minute presentation of preliminary ideas concerning the theoretical grounding for your Alternative Firm Analysis and Contemporary Research Paper. I want to underscore the “preliminary” aspect of this. Don’t worry if you’re absolutely right or not, just do it. You are to also hand in to me a ONE-page bullet-point synopsis of your presentation from which you will speak from at the beginning of the class.

You will be drawing your theoretical materials ONLY from the course materials we’ve engaged with (texts, films, the blog, etc.). If you don’t have an actual firm or organization in mind yet, no worries. Just use the loose idea you communicated to me in our meetings to situate an imaginary organization that might fit your idea. For example, if you want to do a workers’ coop, or an alternative power organization, or a housing coop, or perhaps a woman’s rights collective, just go with this idea for the project. You have enough materials from the course to begin to draw a preliminary concept of what, for example, a workers’ coop might be. There are plenty of these organizations to choose from in Toronto. Just do a Google search on your idea and “Toronto” or “Ontario” and you’ll see what I mean. If you want, you can choose as a prototype one of the organizations you discover in your web search. Again, the resources I’ve made available for you on the blog – and that I will continue to update throughout the break, so check back often – will serve you well, so go there first.

Once you’ve selected your organization or your loose idea of an alternative organization, you are to answer the following things to frame your presentation:

1. What is this organization an alternative to? You can’t just say “capitalism” or “private property”, be more specific (see point 3)? What community does it serve/service?

2. Where does it fit into Fontan & Shragge’s “social economy”? Is it mostly reform-minded or utopian?

3. How does it seem to be organized to you at this early stage of your investigation? As a loose collective of autonomous individuals (eg, Anarchist Free University)? As a cooperative (eg, the various examples in Melnyk)? As a not-for-profit (eg, the United Way, any local community centre, etc.)? As a traditional business but with some form of alternative business model that follows some aspect of mutuality (eg, examples in Kropotkin)?

4. Where does it fit into Cavanagh & Mander’s “Alternative Operating Systems” and which of their “Ten Principles for Sustainable Societies” applies to it? You might also want to look at where the organization fits into the alternative “what can be done” model in Cavanagh & Mander’s Chapter 11.

5. Even if your organization isn’t a cooperative, where would it fall along Melnyk’s four traditions of cooperatives (all of his principles could apply to any form of alternative organization)? Why do you think so? You must support your claim here by showing some evidence from the actual organization or the social-political-economic sector it operates within.

6. How is your organization an example of an alternative economic firm that tries to reclaim some aspect of the commons? What aspect of the commons is it reclaiming? Again, not only Cavanagh & Mander is useful here, but also Kropotkin, Thompson, and Hill and any of the readings from Week 8 (Oct. 25)?

NOTE: I’ll be impressed if you also draw on insights from the historical and theoretical essays we’ve considered to show how this organization is a continuation of longer and historically linked, bottom-up worker and peasant revolts.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Take Home Alternative for Last Reading Reflection of Fall 2007

You are to let me know if you decide to do this Take Home Alternative to the Reading Reflection #3 by phoning me or text messaging me by Monday, Nov. 26 at 5:00 pm EST (I've given you a 5 hour extension on making a decision). My cell phone number is 416.940.0340. If you text message me, please also include your name in the text message.

• Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, 12:00 pm (noon) EST

Mode of delivery:

• Email me at Due to the work-to-rule in place (see blog), I will not respond to your email but I will receive your Take Home Alternative by email.


• Like the Reading Reflections, this option is weighted as 10% of your total course mark. Because this exercise is slightly more creative (and more challenging) than the Reading Reflections, I will automatically give a bonus mark of 0.25% to anyone who chooses this option. If you’ve done all of the readings and attended most of the seminars, you should find these questions very doable.


• You are to answer two of the following four questions in the exact same format as you would the Reading Reflections (2.5 pages, double-spaced per question, 5 pages total).
• Directly answer the questions as a mini essay. Unlike the Reading Reflections, you are to specifically answer the questions rather than primarily conducting a summary of the readings. I expect the responses to be tightly argued, drawing primarily from the readings in question. You may also draw from any other relevant seminar materials we’ve engaged with throughout the semester to support your responses. That is, your main goal for the two mini essays is to answer the question I pose using the specific readings I mention. You can then, if you wish, support your answers by using further examples you might deem useful from any of the readings we’ve conducted over the past three months, from class discussions, or from the films we’ve watched.

Please answer TWO of the following four questions. Follow the instructions above:

1) Critique the main themes of Adam Smith’s concept of the “division of labour” using a Marxist approach. In other words, how would Marx critique Smith’s theory of the division of labour and its place for human prosperity? What would he have to say about Smith’s key assumptions? (Hint: You can draw freely from the three Marx readings we’ve looked at throughout the term. I also encourage you to look at my essay on Marx that I have posted on my blog and that I lectured from early in the semester; you should get many hints from reading this essay first before answering this question, but it is not a requirement that you read this essay, only a strong recommendation:

2) What would the Marquis de Condorcet have to say about contemporary neoliberal capitalist society? Do you think he would approve? Why or why not? Is this the future he was thinking about and where he envisioned “progress” taking us? (Hint: Pointing to a few key sections of Ellwood and/or Cavanagh & Mander might help you map out this answer.)

3) Concisely outline where Melnyk’s four cooperative traditions – the Liberal Democratic Tradition, the Marxist Tradition, the Socialist Tradition, and the Communalist Tradition – would fit into Fontan & Shragge’s two major modes of thinking about the social economy? Which tradition do you support for the role of cooperatives in the Canadian social economy? Why? (Hint at answering this question, although you can use a different structure: Use one paragraph to define the two modes of the social economy as an alternative economic model, one paragraph to look at each tradition in light of your definition of the social economy, and the last paragraph for telling me which tradition you would support for the social economy in Canada and why.)

4) Which of the four cooperative models outlined by Melnyk in chapters 2-5 do you think is the most viable alternative economic model for overcoming Marx’s alienation and Hill’s treatment of the poor by property owners? In other words, which of the four models presented by Melnyk do you feel would be the best alternative for the working class to address the tensions and contradictions present in capital-labour relations? (Hint: Remember that “property owners” in a capitalist system, as Marx mentions in the “Critique of the Gotha Program,” also includes those that own the means of production and distribution. Also, Hill’s piece is in many ways mapping out how it came to be that the exclusion of the poor and the non-land owners from “the people” was a precursor – and historical foundation – for how the 19th and 20th centuries’ working classes were similarly excluded from the privileges enjoyed by capitalist business owners.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why I am Joining the Work to Rule Action

Dear ENVS/SOSC 4041.6 students,

This is a letter to inform you that I am currently participating in a work-to-rule campaign launched by my union, CUPE 3903.

During the summer term, FGS stepped up their attack on the quality of education at York University, which has had a direct and negative impact upon the work and learning environment on campus. Specifically, Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) unilaterally cut the summer needs-based bursary program, which many members of CUPE 3903 financially depend upon in the summer months. This bursary was never a “gift” given by FGS to student-workers, but was fought for and won in response to the imposition of radically increased summer tuition fees in the mid-90s. Although a small portion of the bursary has been brought back under increasing pressure by student-workers on campus, it currently pales in comparison to its historical levels, and CUPE 3903 calls for its full retroactive return. Not only is the summer bursary program under attack, but the fall/winter needs-based bursary is also being severely underfunded in comparison to historical levels in order to create second-rate scholarship-based funding packages for incoming graduate students, packages that will take away the valuable benefits (health, dental, tuition rebate, etc.) currently enjoyed by members of CUPE 3903. CUPE 3903 calls on FGS and York University to retroactively fully fund the summer bursary, and to guarantee both the summer and fall/winter needs based bursary at a level that is suited to the real needs of student-workers at York University in the future, as indicated by the student-workers themselves.

While FGS and York University continue to under-fund and attempt to take away the hard won gains made by the student-workers on campus, FGS is attempting to simultaneously institute and expand a “Times to Completion” document that institutes prohibitive and punitive measures in order to rush as many graduate students through the doors of York University as possible in a shameless cash grab at provincial funding. Without thought for the real needs of graduate education as indicated by worker and student groups on campus - an increase in funding, increased numbers of faculty, increased numbers of staff, etc. - FGS and York University are unilaterally undermining the education and workplace of students and workers on campus. Rather than job cuts to experienced Unit 2 teaching assistant and tutor positions in order to haphazardly expand graduate enrollment, and cutting Unit 3 graduate assistants and Unit 1 teaching assistants in favour of paltry scholarship offers, CUPE 3903 insists that FGS and York University must meet its obligation to providing a sustainable quality education and work environment on campus.

In order to further pressure the York Administration to fulfill its obligations, I will be engaging in an escalating work to rule campaign beginning on November 19th, 2007. To begin and as per my rights in my collective agreement, I will be refraining from using internet communication with respect to all work conducted. I recognize that this may place you in a difficult situation. It is also true that the employer will likely claim that members of CUPE 3903 are violating their contractual obligations to York, and are engaged in an illegal job action, although it is clearly stated in my Collective Agreement that I am in no way whatsoever required to use e-mail communication pertaining to work matters. Only the Ontario Labour Relations Board can rule on the legality of this job action and the CUPE 3903 Executive has received extensive legal advice around this campaign and has been advised of its legality.

While admittedly, and intentionally, disruptive, it is paramount that everyone involved recognize that these actions are not being directed towards individual students. CUPE 3903 is undertaking this campaign in part to insure and create a genuine quality educative experience for both undergraduate and graduate students.

I will do my best to keep you posted on developments as they unfold, as well as any escalating job action that may be taken. I very much hope that there will be a timely and favourable resolution to this issue. Questions and comments may be directed to


Marcelo Vieta
Member, CUPE 3903

For more on CUPE 3903's work-to-rule campaign, go here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Part of A Potential Toronto
Initiated by Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry (TSCI)
More info: |
Thursday, 15 November 2007
7:30 - 9:30pm

Toronto Free Gallery
660 Queen St. East
(w. of Broadview, e. of the Don Valley Parkway)

'A Potential Toronto' wrap party immediately afterwards, with DJs Dorian and Dorian.

Go here for more info.

Friday, November 9, 2007


A Conversation with Paul Couillard, Deirdre Logue, John Paul Ricco and Jason

Part of A Potential Toronto
Initiated by Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry (TSCI)
More info: |

Friday, 9 November

Toronto Free Gallery
660 Queen Street East (w. of Broadview)

Go here for more info.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Migrants, Borders, Citizenship

Part of 'A Potential Toronto'
Initiated by Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry (TSCI)

More info: |

Tues., 23 Oct. 2007
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Toronto Free Gallery - 660 Queen Street East (two blocks w. of Broadview)

Fleeing marginality and harm in their native countries, many Torontonians continue to live on the margins in their new one as non-status migrants. At the same time, migrant groups have created and spearheaded myriad safe spaces, deep community networks, and countless cultural initiatives throughout Toronto, transforming established norms of citizenship in the process.

What networks of affinity are emerging between self-organized migrant groups? How are politicized groups of non-status migrants redefining citizenship? How are regularization initiatives addressing human rights and migrant safety? How are legalization campaigns like 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' facilitating new security for Toronto's non-status residents?

Join us on Tues. Oct. 23 as Peter Nyers (McMaster University, Citizenship Studies Media Lab), Cynthia Wright (York University), Patricia Diaz (Colombian Forced Migration Project), and members of No One Is Illegal (Toronto) open a collective conversation about how citizenship is being rethought within the city's migrant communities.

About A Potential Toronto

A Potential Toronto is an event series and exhibition spotlighting alternative economies, minor spaces, and organizing strategies. It is a preliminary step in a longer-term counter-cartography project which would render currents of radical energy visible, audible, and tactile.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Oct 18 Seminar and Beyond...

For Oct. 18th's seminar, we're going to be doing a review of the past weeks and will still be working on materials up to and including Week 6 (Oct 11). Week 7 (Oct 18) will be pushed back to next week. Actually, the entire Lecture and Reading schedule will be pushed back a week, including the next Reading Reflection which will now be due on Nov 8, not Nov 1. The last Reading Reflection will still be due on Nov 29, however.

I will be updating the Lecture, Reading, and Assignment Schedule ( AND the Course Outline ( that you can access off the blog BY LATE TONIGHT (it's not yet changed). We'll go over these changes tomorrow.

So, for Oct 18th's class, we'll be doing the following:
1) Going over the updated course schedules and outline
2) 1 hour or so lecture from me summing up "Part 2: Outlining the Issues" and all readings to date
3) A brief film
4) Group exercise (make sure you're totally up-to-date on the readings) up to and including Oct. 11.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Week 4 Class Excercise: Toronto's "Women Against Poverty Collective", 3 June 2007 Women's Housing Action

Excercise instructions:
As I spoke to you all in class last week, at one point during the seminar on Sept. 27 (this Thursday) we're going to conduct a class debate. We're going to look at the lead up to and the consequences of the June 3, 2007 WAPC squat of an abandoned apartment building in downtown Toronto from the perspective of "reformers" and "social changers," as defined in the Fontan & Shragge reading from last week.

I will randomly divide the class into two groups, one group will be made up of "reformers" and the other, "social changers." You will then convene as a group for about 10 minutes and prepare a "reformist" or "social change" case for the social economy issues that the WAPC action brought to light: poverty, housing, women's rights, the plight of the marginalized, the role of the state in provisioning for our housing and safety needs, and perhaps other related issues that permeate urban Toronto and that were touched on by the WAPC action.

Each group will get 5 minutes to present their case and then each group will take turns rebutting or commenting on the other group's position. We will then have a respectful discussion interchanging ideas and try to arrive collectively at how the June 3 case study helps us understand a bit better the "tensions" with the social economy that Fontan & Shragge mention in their essay.

Here are some questions you might want to ponder from both sides of the social economy debate:

1) What specific issues did the WAPC's June 3 action bring to the surface?
2) How might "reformers" and "social changers" critique or support these issues? In other words, how would each side respond to the social issues that were brought to the surface as a consequence of the direct action tactics taken by the WAPC?
3) How, if at all, might each side support or be opposed to the tactics used by WAPC? (For eg: Would reformers agree with taking over private property in order to secure housing for homeless and battered women? If not, what might their solution be to the social issue? How would social changers respond to the tactics used?)
3) What institutions were affected and/or implicated in the June 3 action? How would each side react to the actions taken by the state (i.e., city hall, the courts, the police) during and after the June 3 squat?
4) How would each side address or seek to change these social institutions in light of the issues brought up by the June 3 action?
5) How might each side suggest we deal with homelessness, poverty, and the plight of the marginalized?

Brief background reading and viewing:

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Potential Toronto | Launch: Thurs. 27 Sept.

More info:


27 SEPT. - 10 NOV. 2007

Fear disciplines. Capital divides. States order. Creativity sells. Cynicism saturates. Against the persisting ethos of the 'Common Sense Revolution' are dots that puncture the city's territory. Where are they? A Potential Toronto is an event series and exhibition spotlighting alternative economies, minor spaces, and organizing strategies. What experiments and proposals are out there for democratizing space, cracking constraints, and co-operating differently? What works, and why? What blocks an alternative from flourishing? What concepts help us think through it? Exploring these questions, A Potential Toronto is a preliminary step in a longer-term counter-cartography project which would render currents of radical energy visible, audible, and tactile.


It has been said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Does the widespread interest in 'commons' by environmental, labour, and open-source activists draw a new line of fight and flight pointing beyond capital? Nick Dyer-Witheford presents a talk on the concept of commonism.

This information graphic tracks Ontario welfare income for a single person against the number of homeless who have died on the streets of Toronto over the past two decades. The year 1995 is particularly striking, the year that welfare income begins to plummet, the year that homeless deaths begin to jump, the year that the Harris Conservatives were first elected.


This design research project focuses on Toronto's Western Rail triangle, an area of urban fabric that suffers from both social and physical isolation from the rest of the city. We argue that this territory acts as Toronto's urban unconscious, divided from other spaces by ravines, railways, highways, and industrial fabric. These seven architecture and urban design projects make use of the area's existing potential to imagine useful and pleasurable spaces for daily life.

YOUTH [18 oct.]
WORKER CO-OPS [10 nov.]

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Capital quote...

The capitalist then takes his stand on the law of the exchange of commodities. He, like all other buyers, seeks to get the greatest possible benefit out of the use-value of his commodity. Suddenly the voice of the labourer, which had been stifled in the storm and stress of the process of production, rises:

The commodity that I have sold to you differs from the crowd of other commodities, in that its use creates value, and a value greater than its own. That is why you bought it. That which on your side appears a spontaneous expansion of capital, is on mine extra expenditure of labour-power. You and I know on the market only one law, that of the exchange of commodities. And the consumption of the commodity belongs not to the seller who parts with it, but to the buyer, who acquires it. To you, therefore, belongs the use of my daily labour-power. But by means of the price that you pay for it each day, I must be able to reproduce it daily, and to sell it again. Apart from natural exhaustion through age, 8c., I must be able on the morrow to work with the same normal amount of force, health and freshness as to-day. You preach to me constantly the gospel of "saving" and "abstinence." Good! I will, like a sensible saving owner, husband my sole wealth, labour-power, and abstain from all foolish waste of it. I will each day spend, set in motion, put into action only as much of it as is compatible with its normal duration, and healthy development. By an unlimited extension of the working day, you may in one day use up a quantity of labour-power greater than I can restore in three. What you gain in labour I lose in substance. The use of my labour-power and the spoliation of it are quite different things.

~Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lecture 1: Marx, Alienation, and Capital 101

Marx’s essay, “Estranged Labour,” a chapter from Marx’s early work written in Paris and known as the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (and only published in the 1930s), is at core about how humans feel as they work within the capitalist system. In a nutshell, Marx claims that capitalism, through its construction and use of private property and the capitalist’s ownership of the means of production, alienates the real producers (i.e., the workers) not only from the very products they produce and the processes of production they work with, but also from themselves and each other.

What does it mean to feel alienated? To be alienated means to be separated from something. Marx uses this to describe how workers feel within the capitalist mode of production. He used the term to “denote the division and separation between the upper class (bourgeosie) and the lower class (proletariat). In recent years, the term has been used to suggest estrangement, powerlessness, and the depersonalization of the individual” within our contemporary society. So why does Marx claim we are alienated within the capitalist system? What is inherent to capitalism that alienates most of those who work within it? Trying to answer these two questions is the focus of this essay. Attempting to answer them also necessarily means we have to understand some of the key structures of the capitalist system, as well. Let’s start by looking briefly at the essay “Estranged Labour.”

Read the rest of the essay/lecture.

Working on the Edge

"Ontario's poorest workers have been denied tens of millions of dollars in wages over the past five years because of the province's outdated and unenforced labour laws. That's the shocking finding of a report released this week by the Workers' Action Centre titled Working on the Edge, which chronicles seven years of employer abuses in the Greater Toronto Area. The violations include wages below minimum pay rates, failing to pay overtime or statutory holiday, vacation and termination pay and denying workers sick leave, unemployment insurance, health, injury and pension benefits."

This is a quote from a June 2, 2007 editorial in the Toronto Star entitled "Protect Ontario's Poorest Workers." The editorial goes on to comment about a recent report entitled Working on the Edge, written by a group of academics and activists and sponsored and released by Toronto's the Workers Action Center.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Social Economy as an Alternative to Globalization in Guatemala

CERLAC and the Guatemala Community Network are proud to present:

---Social Economy as an Alternative to Globalization---

Rosa Garcia Corado
Alianza por la Vida y la Paz, Guatemala

Rosa Garcia Corado is a member of the Alianza por la Vida y la Paz, a
coalition of social and popular organizations, indigenous and ladino
women and men from Petén, Guatemala. The Alianza strives for respect for
life and peace, and fights against economic, social, cultural, political
exploitation and exclusion. During the past years, the Alianza has
centered its efforts on building a People's economy network, as a
counterproposal to the destructive neo-liberal policies being
implemented in the region. This is a real challenge and a process which
has led them to constantly analyze the local, national and international
market economy, and to define their own alternatives at the community
and organizational level.

Rosa will speak on how women participate in alternative economic
projects such as cooperatives and community based initiatives as a means
of building empowerment for women in the social economy.

September 17, 2007
2:30 p.m.
305 York Lanes, York University, Toronto

For more information:, 416.736.5237,

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Course Outline

Course Description
The purpose of this fourth year seminar course is to investigate in detail alternative economic formations which are characterized by some degree of “mutuality”, such as non-profits, co-operatives, worker-owned firms and local economy organizations. This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to this topic by wedding the history and theory of these formations with a critical, empirical, and practice based investigation of the contemporary forms, successes, and failures of these institutions.

While this course is primarily designed for fourth year Business and Society (Honours) majors, and is particularly relevant for those interested in pursuing a career path in the non-profit sector, it is relevant for anyone interested in the history, theory and practice of alternative economics. Therefore, its focus is on developing a keen understanding of the successes and failures of past and current “social economy” formations, and the possibility that the social economy might be integrated into an alternative economic development strategy. We will look at what this strategy might be, why we might need an “alternative” strategy if the current status quo economic system is said to be efficient for delivering us goods and services (is it?), and what the role of the state is in an alternative economic model (do we even need the state?)

The course will be broken into these five broad sections: (I) Outlining the Issue of Alternative Economics, (II) History, Theory and Debates, (III) The Social Economy Today, (IV) Co-operatives, and (V) The Social Economy and Local Development.

With an eye toward the students’ pending entry into the work-world or post-graduate academic study, the course will develop the following competencies:

1) A clear understanding of the history, theories and debates which inspire and mark various forms of alternative economic association
2) A critical understanding of the practical issues which challenge the successful development of alternative economic forms
3) An understanding of the relationship between alternative economic forms and the social, political, and cultural world which surrounds them
4) Critical writing, oral presentation and practical economic analysis

Because of the practical and empirical focus of this course, emphasis will be placed on developing an interface with actual practitioners in the broad field of social economy. There will be speakers brought in from the field to address the class on contemporary issues, concerns and solutions. There will also be at least one field trip to a local co-operative institution in the second term. Finally, students will be asked to develop a concrete strategic analysis of a local alternative economic firm or organization as part of the practical component of the course.