Members of CUPE 3903 and their supporters picket the Main Gate of York University during the 2018 strike.
The following are some questions that YUFA members have asked with respect to the current CUPE 3903 strike.
1. Why is YUFA supporting CUPE 3903 in the strike?
As a faculty association, YUFA defends the central role of collegial governance in assuring quality teaching and learning. As a union, YUFA has a deep commitment to honouring the tradition of solidarity with other unions on campus and in the community, especially when they are on strike.
No one wants to see a strike on campus, especially when it creates major disruptions of academic activities. The University's poor management of this round of bargaining occurs in the context of a larger crisis of university governance, which has invited the concern of all unions on campus and all faculty associations in the province. In particular, the administration's actions to disempower collegial bodies and disrespect their responsibility for academic integrity should worry us all. Other faculty associations and academic unions, including the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), have expressed their concern about these developments and their support for CUPE 3903.
CUPE 3903 members are our colleagues and our students. Some of them have been teaching at York for a long time and have made valuable contributions to the University. York University defines its mandate in terms of innovative education, collegial governance, a healthy balance between teaching and research, and social justice. We share these values with our CUPE colleagues and students, just as we share with them our dedication to the quality of teaching and the reputation of the University.
CUPE 3903 comprises no less than two-thirds of all teaching staff at York and its members conduct 60 percent of all teaching on campus. Yet its compensation is a very modest part of York's budget. CUPE's current, reduced demands are affordable by the University. Many of the union's demands address issues of precarious academic labour. This is a central issue for the future of academic institutions in Canada and beyond. Many of the graduate students we teach and supervise look forward to a professional future of precarity, economic insecurity, and impaired academic freedom because of policies driven by bottom line considerations. The growth of precarious academic labour has profound implications for public institutions that are there to serve the common good. A managerial governance model driven by a business-oriented Board of Governors, which stands at the root of these policies, represents a disservice to the university and our society.
These policies affect full-time faculty as well. Since the last CUPE contract, 800 members were eliminated from the CUPE 3903 membership when the University redefined Master's students' funding packages and terminated their potential status as employees of the University. Faculty were not consulted on this change, which CUPE is seeking to rescind, but it has affected us. Members have been writing to YUFA to express strong opposition to the loss of Graduate Assistantships. This change represents a significant reduction in support for faculty research and eliminated opportunities for graduate students to acquire professional training with any faculty member regardless of external funding. This alteration of graduate funding has had negative consequences for faculty, for CUPE 3903, and for students blocked from seeking opportunities for professional learning in faculty-led research and pedagogical contexts. This decision bypassed collegial decision-making and harmed both YUFA and CUPE 3903 members.
Strong statements of solidarity serve as proof of public support for a union on strike. Such expressions of support can be leveraged during negotiations, resulting in better contracts for CUPE members and for all unions, including YUFA. This is especially important now as the Employer appears to be adopting an approach to bargaining that involves concessionary demands that could be extended to other unions on campus. In this case, the Employer is trying to take back some of the key provisions that CUPE 3903 won in the last strike. It continues to publish misleading statements and expensive ads in order to portray the union as unreasonable and unworthy of support, despite the fact that the University surplus far exceeds the cost of CUPE's remaining demands.
2. Why does YUFA have to take sides in the current labour dispute? Wouldn’t it be better if YUFA stayed neutral?
The administration's hard-line approach to labour relations with CUPE 3903 has become a cause for alarm among all other employee groups at York. In the next few months, a total of five campus unions will be in bargaining with the University. If the Employer takes the same combative approach with YUFA and other campus unions as it has with CUPE 3903, the year ahead could well be marked by ongoing labour disputes that disrupt the academic calendar.
Unions on campus have a mutual interest in supporting each other in order to convince the Employer that there is value in adopting a more constructive approach to labour relations more generally. There is a strong historical precedent for this kind of common support. For example, in YUFA's strike in 1997, other unions such as CUPE 3903 and YUSA provided enthusiastic support for our picket lines. Such an approach demonstrates to the Employer that it can't play different groups against one another.
3. How can individual YUFA members support CUPE 3903?
Participation in support activities is entirely voluntary. For members who are interested in supporting CUPE 3903, please consider any of the following actions:
- Join a picket line and participate in a demonstration. Information about CUPE picket line locations, and how to organize a picket line visit with members of your unit, is available here.
- Attend the weekly Cross-Campus Alliance solidarity visit every Monday at 12:00 p.m. for the duration of the strike. The location of the visit will vary from week to week. Email [email protected] for the location.
- Refuse to do any work usually performed by CUPE members.
- Contact the President and Provost and tell the Employer to get back to the bargaining table as soon as possible.
- Stay informed about the strike. All YUFA updates about the strike are available here.
- Share YUFA updates from the YUFA Facebook page and Twitter profile.
4. How does YUFA as an Association support CUPE 3903?
YUFA supports its colleagues in CUPE 3903 in the following ways:
- YUFA provides financial donations to the CUPE 3903 strike fund, along with other faculty associations and other unions on campus and elsewhere.
- YUFA establishes flying pickets to show support on CUPE 3903 picket lines.
- YUFA provides material support such as food, coffee, drinks, donated labour, and so on.
- YUFA participates in the York Cross-Campus Alliance (CCA). The CCA represents all union and student groups on campus.
If you have any questions, please email [email protected].