AASUA’s new Job Action Coordinator Brian Gold has plenty of experience with uncertainty.
The Assistant Lecturer in the East Asian Studies and History, Classics, and Religious Studies departments has travelled to North Korea twice in the last decade as part of his work.
“It was fascinating,” Gold said. “I always find it bracing in the sense that it’s not easy to work with North Korea, and some of the experiences there have been nerve-wracking. I often draw upon that if I’m facing a difficult situation; it’s not as bad as facing the North Korean Government.”
AASUA is preparing to begin bargaining for a new Collective Agreement this upcoming winter. The Collective Agreement is the contract that sets out the terms of employment for the union’s nearly 4,000 members.
As part of bargaining preparations, the union has chosen Gold to oversee the execution of a strike, should that serious measure be necessary.
“The more we’re prepared for job action, the less likely — paradoxically — there will be any need for it,” Gold noted. Demonstrating the union is prepared to do what it takes in negotiations shows the Employer that AASUA won’t back down until a fair deal is reached.
The Job Action Coordinator sits on AASUA’s Executive as a non-voting member for bargaining planning, while negotiations are in process, and for any discussions related to job action.
Some duties Gold is responsible for as Job Action Coordinator include organizing information pickets; liaising with the Picket, Job Action Services, and Transportation committees; and identifying and securing a job action headquarters.
Gold is passionate about fostering collective action and has built up skills and experience from his time as a political organizer and campaign manager.
“I think there’s considerable overlap,” Gold said, referencing the new position he’s stepping into and his past experience. “There’s also a fair amount of it that is unique to strikes, and that I’ll have to learn quickly — I’m looking forward to that process.”
Bringing K-Pop to the academy
In the classroom, Gold said a lot of the courses he has been teaching lately have to do with pop culture.
“The soft power that’s associated with pop culture, it’s really another export industry,” Gold said. Soft power is a term describing how others can be persuaded to act instead of forced to through the use of hard power such as the military.
“If you’re talking on a national level, foreigners will voluntarily undertake behaviours or actions that help your country because the pop culture you produce has created an affinity,” Gold said, adding that K-Pop is definitely covered in his courses.
Gold is a member of AASUA’s Academic Teaching Staff (ATS) constituency, which represents instructors on short-term contracts who are often without job security and benefits.
“Those who know are aware of the issue of precarity,” Gold said. “In general, you have more chance of enduring employment if you go get a job at Costco. It doesn’t seem unreasonable for academic staff to seek permanent employment.”
But Gold has faith in change and improved conditions for academic staff and the students they teach. When it comes to addressing these issues of precarity and income inequality, Gold said he is a big believer in the power unions provide for workers.
“Unions are essential to the preservation of democracy,” Gold said. “In an era where Employer power has a monopoly in many labour markets, the only counter to that is workers gathering together.”