Sunday, January 25, 2009

Support CUPE 3903; Oppose Back-to-Work Legislation

The university workers of CUPE 3903 have been on strike since the fall. The university administration recently forced a ratification vote on a lousy offer, which the union soundly defeated. The university has continued to refuse to bargain in good faith, and is now counting on the provincial government to legislate the teaching assistants and sessional lecturers back to work. It is vital for anyone who opposes state interference in free collective bargaining to oppose this measure -- not to mention anyone who is in solidarity with the struggle against the neoliberal transformation of the university and its decisive shift towards precarious, underpaid educational labour.

A good place to start if you live in Ontario is by emailing your MPP. You can use this site to send an email to your representative that gets copied to the Premier. There is some suggested text, which I've appended to this post, but feel free to personalize it.

If you live in Toronto, there are events in the next couple of days:

WHERE: York University
DATE: Monday, January 26
TIME: Three shifts: 7am-11am, 10am-2pm, 1pm-5pm

*In a bid to undermine the strike of CUPE 3903, York University has reopened several classes for 5,000 students out of 50,000. Not only does this violate the picket lines of workers, it discriminates against 45,000 students left out in the cold by York University's refusal to bargain.

We are calling on all allies and supporters to sign up for a shift: 7am-11am, 10am-2pm or 1pm-5pm. To sign up for a shift, please e-mail Jordy Cummings at

WHERE: Ministry of Labour (South of Dundas St at University Ave)
DATE: Tuesday, January 27
TIME: 10am

*We will march from the Ministry of Labour to Queen's Park and express to the provincial government that we stand behind the rights of workers to strike and to fight for better working and living conditions. We stand against back-to-work legislation. Please help us mobilize a strong showing by informing your lists, friends and members. If you are interested in speaking or performing at the rally, please contact Noaman Ali at

Here is some suggested text for writing to your MPP and the Premier:

Premier McGuinty's decision to enact back-to-work legislation against striking contract professors, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants, represented by CUPE 3903, at York University, sets a terrible precedent for education workers and indeed all workers across Ontario.

The CUPE 3903 bargaining team consistently attempted to negotiate a collective agreement not only throughout this 11 week strike, but also during many months preceding the strike. Unfortunately, York University administrators used every possible means to avoid negotiating with unionized workers.

On Thursday and Friday of this week, 22-23 January, the CUPE 3903 bargaining team made substantial reductions to bargaining priorities demonstrating the commitment of the entire CUPE 3903 membership to reach a negotiated settlement as quickly as possible. York University responded by holding firm to its offer that was rejected by the members of CUPE 3903 during the forced ratification vote supervised by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, on 19-20 January.

It was obvious, during the meetings between the CUPE 3903 bargaining team and the mediator, Reg Pearson, appointed by Premier McGuinty, that York University knew back-to-work legislation was imminent. Thus, there was absolutely no incentive for university negotiators to bargain in good faith. The Premier's appointment of a new mediator was clearly a public relations stunt to deflect criticism of the Premier's decision to impose back-to-work legislation. There is no indication the Premier genuinely attempted to resolve this labour conflict by using the legitimate processes of collective bargaining. This public relations stunt demonstrates the Premier's contempt for all workers in Ontario and their right to collectively bargain with their employers.

Back-to-work legislation will reward York University's intransigence and show other university administrations they can also refuse to negotiate and rely on the province to impose back-to-work legislation. Premier McGuinty's decision to impose back-to-work legislation further erodes workers' rights to collectively bargain, a precedent that will have far-reaching consequences for workers throughout the public and private sectors and the Ontario economy as a whole.

As a constituent of your riding, I ask that you and your caucus continue to support the right of all workers in Ontario to engage in collective bargaining by using all means possible to resist the passage of back-to-work legislation against the education workers at York University.

Please take a few minutes to support these striking workers!


Steve V said...

And, not a word about supporting 45000 students.

Just a tad more complicated than simply a debate on collective bargaining.

Scott said...

Yes, it is more I said, it's about the nature of the university. The great success of the York administration in all of this has been to get the mainstream media to swallow the line that it is a bunch of greedy slackers who don't care about students who are on strike, without digging any deeper...the sorts of changes that university administrations, Boards of Governors, and the state have been pushing on universities, which harm both workers and students (not to mention the public good) are largely ignored. Workers and students have far more to gain by struggling together against the ongoing neoliberal transformation of the university. But the background information that would make that appear plausible to students and to the general public has by and large been absent from media accounts.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah...those trying retain the value of education as a public good and protect it from being gutted by myopic market principles are really so NOT supporting students...Have people lost their minds and ability to think critically? Mon Dieu.

James Bowie said...

Thank you for your efforts. Blocking this legislation will ensure (among other things) that the NDP will never come to power in Ontario again.

You are a noble person doing important work. Please keep it up!

Scott said...

First, another word to Steve V: I actually left out something quite important -- yes, you are right that it is awful what has happened to those 45000 students. But why is it in a labour dispute that the failure to reach a resolution is automatically laid at the feet of the union by so many people? You feel comfortable enough with taking that position that you didn't even feel the need to defend it. And thus the stonewalling, exploitative employer who is really to blame gets away with it...

Polly: Yes. Exactly.

James: While your attempt at cutting sarcasm is duly noted, I'm not sure I understand it. You think that one vote in one labour dispute is going to make much difference one way or the other to the NDP's fortunes, beyond the next month? And I can't be sure, but you seem to have assumed I am a New Democrat...check out the site a bit (such as my review of The Shock Doctrine down the main page a bit) and it should be fairly clear that I'm not.

Steve V said...

"But why is it in a labour dispute that the failure to reach a resolution is automatically laid at the feet of the union by so many people? "

I never suggested that, all sides share in the failure. Hampton is free to make the arguments after the fact, but the bottomline, this legislation WILL pass, so why delay and cost students another week?

OCAP said...

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty supports the right to strike by CUPE 3903 and we will continue to be there to support them.

If the McGuinty government enacts a law to force these workers back to work the workers should refuse to follow such an unjust abuse of their human rights!

Scott said...

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