SFU’s Teaching Support Staff Union has issued a notice that they will be kicking off more job action tomorrow. On November 7th, the TSSU stood in solidarity with members of CUPE 3338 in a 24 hour picket of Simon Fraser campuses in Downtown Vancouver, Surrey, and at Burnaby Mountain.

Other post-secondary unions had job action today. Members of the Vancouver Community College Employees Union, CUPE 4468, were on strike at both VCC campuses today. Members of the BCGEU and the BC Faculty and Staff Association held picket lines at BCIT.

Last week at UBC, CUPE 2278 members approved their contract, which gave them a 2% wage increase each year for two years retroactive from September, subtracted from which is a $50,000 fund that the union can use to give to members to cover costs related to employment. They also won some wording around hiring preferences, ensuring that PhD students are able to have employment for more of their degree. UBC had originally offered 1.5% for both years.

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Yesterday morning, tenants of non-profit housing near Commercial Drive held a press conference to support two of their neighbours currently fighting evictions. In collaboration with the Vancouver Renters’ Union, the tenants called on the Residential Tenancy Branch to strike down the evictions. They also spoke out against lack of repairs, inadequate pest control and rent increases.

Their landlord is the Housing Foundation of BC, a registered charity which owns and operates 24 buildings across the city with a mandate to provide “income-based, rent-controlled housing to mature Vancouverites in need.” HFBC tenants sign a lease stating that their “rent is based on income,” yet many tenants pay rents above 55% of their income. Most tenants also receive a subsidy from HFBC that keeps their out-of-pocket rents affordable.

Recently HFBC began revoking subsidies from still-eligible tenants, making apparent the problem of landlords ‘subsidizing’ tenants instead of simply setting rent at affordable rates. Suddenly these elderly renters were faced with rent increases upwards of $185, or 28% of their original rent. Even with SAFER grants (Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters) from the province, they could not afford to start paying 60% of their meagre fixed incomes on rent.

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Today the pending eviction of the remaining four households at Little Mountain Housing was officially cancelled. As stated in a press release signed jointly by BC Housing, the City of Vancouver and Holborn Properties, 50 of the planned 234 units of social housing will now be built on the site prior to any rezoning process. This change of plans, after a protracted fight with tenants and organizers, includes the guarantee that the tenants currently living in the four remaining households will be allowed to stay in their current units and move directly into the new housing when it is built.

This announcement closely reflects the tenants’ demands in a campaign that has been escalating since the serving of two-month eviction notices on July 27th, 2012. Tenants, joined by the Vancouver Renters’ Union, neighbors, filmmaker David Vaisbord, as well as members of COPE (Coalition of Progressive Electors), joined together to carry forward the struggle initially waged by CALM in 2009.

Tactics by tenants and organizers in recent months have included a planned rally at the eviction hearing on October 29th, a petition with hundreds of signatures, presentations to city council, a press rally in September, and a September-October film tour hosted by the Renters’ Union with David Vaisbord. More important than these events, however, has been the basic refusal of the tenants to leave their housing.

On Thursday, September 27th, the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) at Simon Fraser University has served their employer, Simon Fraser University, with a 72 hour strike notice.

SFU and TSSU have been in mediation since their June 28th strike vote. The mediator has now “booked out,” thereby ending mediation. “After twenty-six months at the table with negligible progress, it is now clear that the Employer at SFU will not bargain with us unless we take action,” said Derek Sahota of the TSSU.

The TSSU has a 90% strike mandate from its members. Job actions will commence on Monday. The union has not made public what kind of labour actions they have planned.

Sahota says that TSSU will do all they can to limit the impact on students “while doing what is necessary to get our employer to address critical issues facing the University.” The TSSU represents teaching assistants, distance course teachers, continuing instructors, and sessional instructors.

While the average gross income of grad students at SFU has not significantly changed since 2000, yearly tuition has increased by more than 200% — from $2,304 in 2000-2001 to $4,984 for 2012-2013. Fees and the cost of food and shelter are also on the rise.

The world has lost a key thinker and an inspirational person. The geographer Neil Smith passed away in New York early in the morning of September 29th, 2012. Neil’s work on uneven development, the production of nature, gentrification, and neoliberalism provide a crucial map for academics, activists and anyone interested in social justice and the city. Neil was a prolific writer and editor.  His engaging writing is marked by its analysis, its humour, and its conviction. His Uneven Development: Nature, Capital and the Production of Space (1984/2010), New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City (1996), and The Endgame of Globalization (2005) are all books that have pushed critical thinking forward while being useful books that would have a place on anyone’s bookshelf.

Neil lived and worked in New York and Toronto, but he also has a strong Vancouver connection: in the photograph above, Neil is giving a community talk that was organized by the Downtown Neighbourhood Council, VIVO, and Urban Subjects at the Japanese Language School in Vancouver in the spring of 2011. Neil’s intellectual and community generosity were boundless — on that visit to Vancouver he talked on three venues, culminating in a packed talk at VIVO where he elaborated his new work on the revolutionary imperative. His ongoing engagement with Vancouver included an essay in Stan Douglas: Every Building on 100 West Hastings (2003) and A Manifesto for the Poetry of the Future (2011).

This morning, supporters gathered at the Little Mountain housing project to hear tenants speak out about their upcoming eviction hearing at the Residential Tenancy Branch. On July 27th, BC Housing issued a 2-month eviction notice to the tenants, requiring that they leave their homes by October 1st.

In 2009 eviction notices were given to all of the roughly 700 tenants living at Little Mountain. Four families refused to leave and are still living in the last remaining row house on the property at Main and 36th Avenue. The four families — including the blind senior couple Sammy and Joan — refused eviction, arguing that vacating the site was unnecessary and premature. Since then the site has sat empty for three years, with former tenants scattered in sub-standard housing throughout the Lower Mainland.

At today’s press conference neighbors and advocates from around the city stood with the four families in their call for a fair hearing at the Residential Tenancy Branch. The tenants demanded that the hearing be held in person rather than by phone. The main demand of the rally was that the tenants be allowed to “stay on site until a redevelopment plan is in place and the new housing is built.”

Long-time resident Ingrid Steenhuisen stated, “There’s nothing wrong with the building. We were told that this latest eviction was served because of the time frame of starting construction early next year. As we know from being active in the meetings, there’s a minimum ten to twelve months before the rezoning, and a minimum six months for the enactment.”

On Saturday, September 2 2012, the Vancouver Police Department once again demolished the cart of a homeless DTES resident. The cart contained personal belongings and all the necessities for surviving on the streets: clothes, bedding, tools and other essential objects.

The VPD prohibits the demolition of a homeless persons’ property under the Abandoned Property Policy, but officers have repeatedly violated the policy.

Last summer the Mainlander published an article on VPD shopping cart demolitions. In response to a documented VPD removal of a shopping cart in the DTES on June 25th 2011, the Mainlander criticized the VPD’s continued contravention of their own operating guidelines. The article noted that by the summer of 2011, nothing had changed since lawyer David Eby documented the removal of a shopping cart in February 2009.

In response to the complaint of the June 25th 2011 incident, the VPD issued a statement on July 5, 2011, admitting the misconduct: “The Vancouver Police Department has taken steps to remind every officer that if they come across items that appear to be abandoned, and that need to be removed from the street for the safety of the public, or for the safekeeping of the items, the property is to be safeguarded until the owner can be identified and retrieve their items.”

This Saturday’s demolition took place at 8pm near Insite on East Hastings. Against a crowd of protesting DTES residents and neighbors, the officer responsible stated that the removal was justified by the fact that the owner of the cart had been absent for several days. But according to staff at Insite, the cart had been there for less than 12 hours.

The cart contained bedding and tools neatly tucked away into separate containers under a meticulous rain-proof cover. The owner of the cart had been in Surrey for the day and for obvious reasons was unable to bring the cart with him.

Across the street from the cart incident lies an abandoned site owned by private real-estate developer Marc Williams. The site contains garbage and rubble, all of which were allowed to ferment for more than a year despite numerous formal complaints against the smell and presence of rats from DTES residents and tenants of neighboring hotels. The city’s message is that a rich person’s garbage is outside the law, while a poor person’s livelihood is garbage.

From their current actions, it is clear there has been no change in VPD’s practice of handling abandoned property in contravention of official policy. This violation of basic rights should come as no surprise. The city’s aggressive revitalization plan for the DTES is being pushed ahead by city hall, despite overwhelming opposition and protest by residents. Vision Vancouver’s Revitalization Strategy for the DTES is part and parcel of the criminalization of poverty and neither can be considered in isolation. As such the demolition of poor peoples’ homes and property is not only a failure on behalf of the VPD but a systematic failure of the city.