Students Support WFP Workers on Strike

The Selkirk College Students’ Union recently sent a letter to support for workers of Western Forest Products. Nearly 3,000 Western Forest Products employees and contracted workers at six Vancouver Island manufacturing plants and timberlands around the coast have been on strike since July 1. Members working for Western Forest Products (WFP) voted overwhelmingly (98.8% percent) in favour of taking strike action due to the fact that Western Forest Products has not seriously addressed the Local Unions proposals, particularly around health benefits. Furthermore, WFP continues to keep massive concessions on the bargaining table that threaten our members livelihoods.

It appears as of this writing that job action may continue for the foreseeable future despite discussions of returning to the table with a mediator. This comes after the company sent notice mid-August that it would no longer fund premiums to ensure the continuation of benefits for striking workers.

This strike has had wider impacts on labour in BC due to the issue of a hot edict from the BC Federation of Labour – the first in over a decade – which allows unions to strike in solidarity.

Re: ongoing labour dispute with workers represented by the United Steelworkers 

Dear Don, 

On behalf of the students of Selkirk College, we write to address the ongoing labour dispute between your company and the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937. It is our hope that, with the return to the bargaining table, the dispute comes to a swift end and that all parties involved are satisfied with the result. 

After time at Selkirk College, our students go on to careers in many fields across the province. Many graduates from our College continue on to work specifically in forest and lumber works, making them part of the future of the industry. It is our hope that that work is able to support starting a family, receive respect from the company, industry, and in the community, as well as make it possible to further invest in our education as the industry grows and changes. Given recent job action, it is clear that workers at your operation do not think that the current collective bargaining agreement and the offer your company has made so far in bargaining satisfy these conditions. 

Labour unions are one of British Columbians’ only avenues to implement democracy in the workplace. We trust that, if the democratic organisation of workers employed by your company deems your proposal unfit, then the proposal you have advanced is insufficient. Income inequality between the most wealthy in British Columbia and workers continues to widen to increasingly untenable proportions, and students cannot support furthering this divide at such a profitable company as yours. This is especially true given the prominence of forestry both within the province and at the federal level in its contributions to GDP. 

Furthermore, according to WFP’s 2017 and 2018 financial reports, the company made over $1 billion in sales and made a net profit of $74.4 million and $69.2 million respectively. In addition, the salaries of the CEO and Vice-President have steadily increased from $1.5 million in 2015 to $2 million in 2017 for the CEO, and from $500,000 in 2015 to $1.2 million in 2017 for the Vice-President. Students have no sympathy for wealthy corporate executives who ask workers to take a reduction in wages and benefits. 

Students’ Union Announces Executive Director Stepping Down

| Rebekkah Ankenmann |After nearly five years as Executive Director, Zachary Crispin is stepping down from the Selkirk College Students’ Union. The Students’ Union’s Executive Committee made the announcement at its most recent meeting held on the Castlegar campus.

“It has been an honour to work with so many talented student activists across the West Kootenays,” said Crispin, “We have built up the Students’ Union into a strong voice for its members with a focus on real wins that make life better for students.”

Crispin began his involvement with the Selkirk College Students’ Union as an elected student in 2008. From there, he went on to be the Chairperson on the BC Federation of Students and a member of the National Executive of the Canadian Federation of Students representing all British Columbia students.

Crispin was hired by the Selkirk College Students’ Union in 2015 when the organisation had only one staff person. Since that time, the Students’ Union has increased its staff compliment to six. Membership events and political campaigns of the Students’ Union have greatly increased over the last five years.

“A number of years ago the Students’ Union suffered from a lack of organization,” said Santanna Hernandez, Chairperson of the Students’ Union. “It has been great having someone with his passion and knowledge to get us to a place where we as student leaders can properly serve the students who elected us.”

Tough Political Campaigns Bring Big Wins

The Students’ Union runs political campaigns about various issues. The organization’s Constitution requires it to strive for a, “system of post-secondary education which is accessible to all, which is of high quality, and which is centrally planned; which recognizes the legitimacy of student representation and the validity of students’ rights; and whose role in society is clearly recognized and appreciated.”

“As Executive Director, it has been my job to help the Students’ Union uphold its Constitution, which I’ve taken very seriously,” said Crispin.

Many of the Students’ Union’s campaigns focus on freezing or reducing tuition fees, the largest financial barrier to post-secondary education. Each year since 2015, Selkirk College students have asked for tuition fees to be frozen. Over the years these efforts have grown from a few posts on social media to a well-organized effort. During the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years, over 1,000 Selkirk College students signed a petition for a tuition fee freeze.

In 2014, the BC Liberal government implemented tuition fees on adult basic education, high school level courses provided at colleges and universities. The Students’ Union participated in a province-wide campaign against adult basic education tuition fees, which included petitions, lobbying, and presentations asking local city councils to endorse the campaign. Under Crispin’s direction, Selkirk College students secured endorsements from three municipalities in the West Kootenays. Tuition fees for adult basic education were abolished in 2017 as a result of the campaign.

“It has been an honour working with Zachary,” states Samson Boyer, Director at-large of the SCSU. “I have never met anyone in my life who is so committed to an organization and it’s ideals. He has taught me not only about strategy within mass movement organising, but also that you have to passionate in what you believe and to stand up for what you believe to be right.”

Struggles With The Canadian Federation of Students

During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Students’ Union became embroiled in a conflict between students in British Columbia and the Canadian Federation of Students. The resulting multi-year dispute ultimately resulted in all students’ union that are members of the BC Federation of Students, including the Selkirk College Students’ Union, being expelled from the Canadian Federation of Students. This conflict significantly coloured the work of the Students’ Union for several years.

In 2017, the Canadian Federation of Students was scheduled to hold a referendum to allow Selkirk College students to vote on leaving the group. When the CFS attempted to stop the vote, the Students’ Union asked Executive Director Crispin to act as a returning officer and ensure students had the chance to vote. In response, the CFS filed a court application against both the Students’ Union and Crispin. Eventually, the Students’ Union opted not to proceed with the vote at that time to save Selkirk College students from having to pay for an expensive legal battle.

“Zachary Crispin has never been afraid to put the interests of Selkirk College students above his own,” said Hernandez. “When it comes to facing conflict, his resolve is steel.”

New Horizons

Despite the announcement of Crispin’s departure, the Students’ Union’s Executive Committee showed no sign of slowing on its various endeavors. Reports were heard about the success of the British Columbia Federation of Students campaign to eliminate interest on BC student loans as well as the ongoing campaign for better transit in the West Kootenays.

“We are sad to see Zachary leave, but he has prepared the organisation to take on our important work of representing students and we will continue to do that,” said Kim Pham, Secretary of the Selkirk College Students’ Union.

When asked why he felt it was time to move on, Crispin stated, “students are often talked down to by out of touch politicians and bureaucrats, but only students know what is best for students. I recently finished my own post-secondary degree, and I would rather move on and let another organizer take up this important work than get comfortable and become a barrier.”

The Students’ Union has begun the process to find a new Executive Director.


Students Demand Tuition Fee Freeze

At an upcoming meeting, the Selkirk College Board of Governors will be making a decision regarding a 2% increase to Canadian student tuition fees. Since 2001, decisions by this body have led to increases in tuition every year. As these fees have increased over the last sixteen years, they have far out-paced the consumer price index, cost of living adjustment, standard wage scales and the provincial minimum wage.

In the lead up to the pending vote, the Selkirk College Students’ Union has been organising students around the “Put Tuition on Ice” campaign that seeks to showcase the need for affordable education that begins with a tuition freeze. The campaign has garnered 1,100 signatures to date.

Students of Selkirk College state that access to education are imperative to their futures and the future of the BC economy.

“We need affordable education in this province if we are going to have strong economy in the future,” Samson Conner-Boyer, Director at-Large of the Students’ Union explains. “The province of BC, especially in rural areas like the Kootenays lacks doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, teachers you name it! It is no longer possible to get a good reliable job with just a high school diploma. What hope of a brighter future do poor families have if they can’t even afford community collage? This is why we are fighting for a tuition fee freeze because we want a brighter future for us and the province!”

Rebekkah Ankenmann of the Students’ Union states that the Board of Governors voting in favour of a tuition freeze “creates a meaningful statement that we believe that education should be accessible to all students regardless of their financial ability. Every big idea started with a small group of passionate people who wanted a change, and I believe that with our campaign we can make a statement that tuition fees and post secondary educational funding in British Columbia needs to be changed.”

Labour unions, including the Selkirk College Faculty Association, have also signed onto the campaign to freeze tuitions and support the local community.

President of the Selkirk Faculty Association Lui Marinelli states, “Selkirk College is critical to our region in providing education to young and old, to prepare those now ready to work, to those who need to change their work, and to those who just want to learn.  As tuitions increase, an education becomes less and less affordable and available.  The administration needs to do more to find alternative sources of income to offset cost of living increases.  The students have been burdened for far too long.”

The Board of Governors meeting is open to the public and will take place on Tuesday, January 22 at 5:30pm in the staff lounge at the Castlegar campus. Students will assemble at 4:30 in the campus Pit student gathering space to prepare placards and rally in advance of the meeting.

Student Union Directors Discuss Troubling Rumors

| Chantelle Spicer | At its January 8 Executive Committee meeting of the Selkirk College Students’ Union, directors discussed potential attempts to undermine its work by outside organisations who oppose to its current tuition fee freeze campaign and its stance on the Canadian Federation of Students. This includes spreading misinformation about elected directors and staff of the organisation.

Samson Conner-Boyer, Director at-Large of the SCSU states that this does not affect the work or goals of the organisation.

“Fighting for a freeze on tuition is the central goal of the Students’ Union. Though we do take these threats seriously and are vigilant for actions like this against the organisation, we will continue to support access to education and commitment to solidarity between students and workers.”

Conner-Boyer was disheartened to hear of such actions against the SCSU, stating working in solidarity with coalition partners like the labour movement makes the student movement stronger.

The SCSU’s current campaign “Put Tuition on Ice” seeks to affect affordability of education through a tuition fee freeze that could be passed as a motion by the Board of Governors in an upcoming meeting on January 22.


Canadian Federation of Students Approves Motion to Expel BC Member Unions

| By: Whitney Rothwell |

On April 13th, 2018 the National Executive of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) voted unanimously to initiate the expulsion of BC students’ unions which are joint members of both the CFS and its BC provincial component, the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS). The motion will be added to the CFS national general meeting agenda in June and, if approved, will expel 120,000 individual students.

A letter to the Selkirk College Students’ Union (SCSU) sent on April 30th, 2018 from Coty Zachariah, CFS Chairperson, Charlotte Kiddel, CFS Deputy Chairperson, and Peyton Veitch Treasurer of the CFS, states that the motion comes after nine of the twelve joint member students’ unions have petitioned for the CFS to hold referendums deciding whether to stay or leave the organization.

Many students’ unions in BC, including the SCSU, remit their CFS and BCFS membership dues to the BCFS, where they are divided and the appropriate portion is remitted to the CFS. For a number of historical reasons, BCFS continues to withhold the CFS membership fees of local associations in BC while the CFS is withholding BC monies owed to the BCFS. CFS considers the membership dues of the BC member students’ unions as outstanding, so the Ottawa-based group asserts that allowing students to vote on decertification would violate CFS bylaws. The SCSU considers its membership dues to the CFS to be paid up-to-date.

Tensions between CFS and BCFS have been mounting for some time, and the letter also cites a significant distraction from the ability for all involved to serve their core mandates as a consideration in the motion.

SCSU is currently a member of both CFS and the BCFS and therefore will be expelled from the CFS if the motion is approved in June.


Canadian Federation of Students meeting unproductive, Selkirk membership conflict continues

| By: Cohen Dyer |

Despite a motion from the Selkirk College Students’ Union (SCSU) asking to terminate its membership, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) voted to continue fighting to keep Selkirk College students at its most recent meeting. On November 17 to 20, delegates from dozens of students’ unions across Canada met in Gatineau, Quebec to discuss the future and the work of the CFS at its National General Meeting. The SCSU submitted two motions, one to have its membership in the Ottawa-based group terminated, and one to compel the CFS to release a detailed report of secret bank accounts.

“I would characterize the CFS as a very frustrating meeting that accomplished very little,” said Shaun Wiskar, Vice-President Student Affiars for the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU). “The meeting opened with a declaration of this being the “New CFS” and that nationally they had come to an impasse with the British Columbia Component. However, when Selkirk asked to leave, they were told they failed to follow proper procedure.”

Students at numerous colleges and universities in British Columbia have been trying to leave the CFS for at least a year. The August 2017 Executive Committee report of the British Columbia Federation of Students includes a long description of this conflict, and says that eight students’ unions in BC have submitted petitions to leave the CFS. Selkirk College students have submitted two petitions to the CFS asking for a vote to leave the group, one in 2016 and one in November 2017, although the CFS has not held a referendum because it claims the SCSU hasn’t remitted its fees.

The National General Meeting seemed to get through little business other than voting down the SCSU’s proposals. Any motions not resolved at a CFS meeting are forwarded to the next meeting held six months later. A few motions will be on the agenda for the first 2018 meeting that were originally served in 2016 and have yet to be dealt with.

“I heard the phrases ‘point of order’, ‘privilege’ and  ‘information’ an extensive amount, this can throw off the meeting in its tracks and can make the NGM a long painful process,” said Derrick Gagnon, also of URSU. “Some of the points brought forward were valid but others seemed like tactic to use up the little time we have in closing plenary. CFS now has motions on the agenda that have remained on for the last two years, again not enough time to get to these motions. These motions will be on the agenda for next years June SGM.”

Representatives from the SCSU who attended the NGM say the meeting failed to achieve its goals. The agenda for the meeting shows that over the four day conference, there were only a small handful of workshops. None of the workshops focused on post-secondary education at the federal level.

“I would say the meeting was a categorical failure for the Canadian Federation of Students,” said Santanna Hernandez, Chairperson of the Selkirk College Students’ Union. “Their (CFS) business is so backlogged that motions submitted in 2016 were still not dealt with at this meeting, and will have to wait until at least 2018.”

“I met with most of the delegates from Selkirk and they were all very professional,” added URSU’s Wiskar. “We formed a close enough bond with them that I created a snapchat filter in solidarity with them. The #imwithselkirk was the UofR’s response to the lack of action by the national body.”


Students’ Union general meeting scheduled for November 30

| B:y Cohen Dyer |

The Selkirk College Students’ Union has scheduled a general meeting for November 30, say Students’ Union representatives. Notice for the meeting is posted on all campuses. The meeting was scheduled by the Students’ Union’s Executive Committee to be prior to the exam period to increase attendance. While the meeting is scheduled to take place on the Castlegar campus, students from other campuses are eligible to receive travel assistance by contacting the Students’ Union.

The meeting will require a minimum number of participants in order to pass motions. One motion is being presented by the Executive Committee for funding outreach projects. Whether the meeting has high enough attendance to deal with this business or not, the attendees will still hear from Students’ Union Executive Committee members about the organisation’s finances and work over the previous year.

The meeting will include free food for all attendees.


Selkirk College Students’ Union launches book

CASTLEGAR — The Selkirk College Students’ Union has launched a manual for students’ union organizers.

The Fundamentals of Students’ Unionism provides student activists and organizers with a framework to understand students’ unionism and the student movement.

“Students are more in debt now than ever in the history of British Columbia and Canada,” said Santanna Hernandez, Chairperson of the Selkirk College Students’ Union. “This book is part of our effort to inspire student organizing for lower tuition fees and increased education funding.”

Tuition fees are at an all-time high in British Columbia. The Selkirk College Students’ Union advocates for affordable and accessible post-secondary education. As a relatively small students’ union in a rural area, the Selkirk College Students’ Union relies on the solidarity of other students’ unions and umbrella student organizations to have an impact on government policy. Releasing The Fundamentals of Students’ Unionism is part of the Students’ Union’s contribution to this community of solidarity.

The book was authored by Zachary Crispin, Executive Director of the Selkirk College Students’ Union. Crispin is a long-time student organizer who has served as an elected student leader and students’ union staff person. Crispin shares his knowledge and experience with successful campaign planning, student-worker solidarity, and students’ union administration.

“The Fundamentals of Students’ Unionism provides tools for everyone from new student activists to long-time students’ union staff,” said Hernandez. “Everyone fighting for better post-secondary education can get something out of this book.”

The Selkirk College Students’ Union represents over 2,000 students at Selkirk College.