CUPE 3903's Strike at York University is about Control

Friday, January 23, 2009


Written by Chris Eldridge

CUPE 3903’s Strike at York University is about Control, not Fairness. A recent article on CUPE’s Sid Ryan and his attempts to boycott Israeli academic institutions reminded me about another one of CUPE’s campaigns. I’m sure we are all aware of the 11 week old strike at York University led by CUPE 3903 that has left thousands of students in the lurch and no end in sight. These students have watched their academic year disappear before their very eyes with first year students facing the very real prospect of having to re-do first year and students who were planning on graduating looking at the possibility of having to stay yet another year. I’m sure most are aware that the strike has been centered on wage and contract issues. The most contentious one has been contract length; CUPE 3903 has demanded a two year contract while the university is pushing for a three year contract length.

What you may not be aware of is CUPE’s quieter, less well known aims. Their goal is to have all university contract faculty, TA’s and the like have a contract expiry date in 2010 which would put every single CUPE chapter in a legal strike position.

In other words, CUPE is setting themselves up to essentially take control on Ontario’s universities by having the power to shut down much of Ontario’s post secondary education system. The strike at York isn’t about getting paid better, or ‘ensuring fairness in education’ or any of the other reasons being presented by CUPE as a smokescreen. It is another attempt in a carefully orchestrated campaign by CUPE to consolidate their power.

What would this mean? Well, look at York University. People are choosing to drop out and go to other schools and enrolment is dropping. The school is losing money daily and could even be forced to shut down if the strike is not resolved soon and student tuition money begins flowing in again. Imagine this on a province wide scale, Ontario schools could suffer their own brain drain with students flocking to out of province schools as opposed to risking the instability of their local CUPE chapter threatening to strike. Even worse yet, imagine a provincial university system controlled by CUPE (which brings me back to Sid Ryan’s boycott attempts). I can’t imagine we’d see any Israeli academics (among others) on campus after that. Why am I writing this on a University of Guelph website? Because it could affect you. Next time you see CUPE members out and about asking for your support, take a moment to consider what arbitrarily throwing your support behind them in the name of ‘worker solidarity’ really means.

thecannon.ca does not take any editorial positions. The opinions posted on the Cannon reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces even if they are controversial in nature.

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  1. Posted by: allpowertoCUPE on Jan 23, 2009 @ 8:41pm

    Wow. You've uncovered the secret CUPE plot to control our universities. How about the fact that the TA's are paid below the poverty line in TO? And I'd love to go to school in a province that has a stronger CUPE. A stronger CUPE means stronger collective bargaining that will bring increased funding to our chronically underfunded universities. That means quality and accessible education! Too socialist for you? Sorry.

  2. Posted by: itshardtopost on Jan 23, 2009 @ 9:06pm


    Below the poverty line? They get $36/hr! TA'ing is not a full time job and it's not meant to be. With a scheduled 140 hours in a semester, that amounts to little over 11 hours per week. Hardly a full time job.

    If TA's want to make more money, perhaps they should've considered an option other than grad school.

    Anyways, good article Chris, hope to see some more from you!

  3. Posted by: nopowertocupe on Jan 23, 2009 @ 9:45pm

    Great opinion piece Chris. Good to see an alternate viewpoint coming through on The Cannon--maybe there's hope for it yet.

    I don't want to see unions get too powerful by uniting. What a mess they'd make of the economy of this country if that ever came to be. I will fight against it.

    Hope to see more of your insightful commentary here!

  4. Posted by: poor first effort on Jan 24, 2009 @ 12:33am

    1. This is not news. Every major paper has reported on the 2010 concerted bargaining for months.

    2. The idea that students would abandon Ontario in droves is preposterous. Which universities exactly are going to take the 400,000+ students enrolled in this province?

    3. The notion that CUPE would "control" post-secondary in Ontario is the product of confused and childish thinking. The Federal and Ontario governments have been shortchanging universities here for decades, and the legacy is seen in our crumbling buildings, skyrocketing tuition, endemic staff contract disputes, and a lowering quality of education. If CUPE can force the federal and provincial governments to restore the necessary funding to post-secondary in this province, that's a good thing for every student.

    Just think for a second. A "provincial university system controlled by CUPE"? That's the plot of a saturday morning cartoon - not real life.

  5. Posted by: CUPE BLOWS on Jan 24, 2009 @ 3:50am

    I cannot stand CUPE, I used to work as a garbage person for a city in this province, during my time there a full time employee molested a female student temp employee. CUPE actually fought on this perv's behalf and got him his job back.

    It's a sad day when a Canadian union considers the rights of a sex offender over the well being of our children.

  6. Posted by: John L on Jan 24, 2009 @ 10:44am

    "TAs are paid below the poverty line in Toronto"?

    Given that TA jobs are considered a part-time job I'm not suprised. When did these ever claim to be careers? They are, ultiamtely, very well-paid jobs meant to help grad students while they finish their studies and move on.

    On the issue of CUPE manouevering to be in a position to shut down the entire Ontario university system as a contract tool do you really want that, particularly given Sid Ryan's tenuous grip on reality he's been displaying of late?

  7. Posted by: Libertarian_1 on Jan 24, 2009 @ 11:44am

    look at those two assumed CUPE members! with their masks and gun! they are not to be trusted. please put down the gun and take off the masks before you expect to negotiate contracts! it should be university policy not to negotiate with such thugs! my heart goes out to the families of those books.

    here's a novel idea:

    perhaps the CSA could start a petition that the university not negotiate with terrorists! it may sound absurd but then again what isn't when it comes to the CSA these days and i can't think of a better way for the CSA to flex its muscle around campus. rule with an iron fist CSA! don't worry the students will always be here to foot the bill!

  8. Posted by: Jack Frissen on Jan 24, 2009 @ 2:00pm

    so CUPE is a bunch of sexually perverted masked terrorists out to control our education system and destroy our economy? people, please! i am a card carrying member of the Conservative Party of Canada and have been very active in local politics for a long time (mature student here). I sure hope Chris doesn't think he represents my party cause he certainly does not. i have my issues with CUPE but you have to use reasoned arguments that the public will listen to, and right now you come off worst than Scott Gilbert - that's right, I said it. think about perception - well written arguments based on credible evidence win over immature rants based on fiction and petty scare tactics. you are not helping our cause with this nonsense.

  9. Posted by: Greenie on Jan 25, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Jack Frissen,

    a)the author of this opinion piece did not once say "CUPE is a bunch of sexually perverted masked terrorists."

    b)the fact that he "comes across [to some]worst[sic] than Scott Gilbert" is, I think, precisely the point he is making. The author of this piece has gone to considerable trouble to have his opinion heard--despite the fact that "thecannon.ca" proclaims to be a forum for the students and paid for by undergraduate students.

    This author, like all Canadians, has the right to free speech. You may find it ofensive; just as many have found Scott Gilbert's work offensive, but Chris has the freedom to express his unique point of view. Whether you agree with it or not.

  10. Posted by: considered response on Jan 25, 2009 @ 9:50pm

    greenie: "The author of this piece has gone to considerable trouble to have his opinion heard"

    Yeah, badly researched conspiratorial claptrap like this doesn't just bang itself out. It takes minutes.

    greenie: "This author, like all Canadians, has the right to free speech"

    Once again, that right is protected by the Charter from government action, and the courts can revoke it under the Charter anyhow. It certainly doesn't apply to student unions or their websites.

  11. Posted by: CUPE_Member on Jan 26, 2009 @ 11:26am

    There are a lot of poor assumptions that have found their way into this discussion. The coordinated bargaining campaign being undertaken by CUPE is not a plan to “take control of Ontario universities,” it is a plan to use the leverage of bargaining at as many schools as possible to bring the government to the table.

    The coordinated bargaining campaign is an attempt to both raise public awareness of the chronic under-funding of universities, and to pressure the government to inject much-needed cash into the system.

    Finally, the idea that CUPE has the ability to “take control of the University system in Ontario” is laughable and shows no understanding of the structures of power that make up that system. CUPE’s goal is not one of province-wide-domination. CUPE’s goal is to bring much needed funds back into the system, not only for fair and decent working conditions, but more importantly for fair and decent learning conditions for the students that we all serve.

  12. Posted by: CUPE Member on Jan 26, 2009 @ 11:26am

    I’d like comment on the graphic that accompanies this piece. I’m not sure if it was made by the author, or provided by thecannon.ca, but regardless it needs to be said that it is incredibly problematic to visually link armed terrorists with individuals exercising their free and democratic rights. This not only makes an incredibly severe and unfair comment about striking workers, but also trivializes the experiences of those people in the world who live every day under the very real fear of armed attacks.

  13. Posted by: @CUPE Member on Jan 26, 2009 @ 11:44pm

    Maybe your fighting shouldn't include the innocent undergraduates who just want to get their degree and move on. But oh wait, it's more fun to take undergraduates hostage and have THEM lose all their money instead of YOU.

    I'm sick and tired of grad students bitching and moaning over working conditions. It's not a real job, it's getting a degree, it's suppose to be shit. If you don't like it, then grow a pair and join the big scary work force.

    You make me sick to defend the strike at York.

  14. Posted by: sean on Jan 27, 2009 @ 10:08am

    Dear Chris,

    You no doubt hoped to cause a stir by your opinion piece. The picture was an especially offensive touch. It must be cozy writing sweeping generalizations and conservative rhetoric from the warmth of your computer chair.

    Your assertion that CUPE seeks to get a strangle hold on the Ontario university sector is laughable, as is your assertion that CUPE seeks to undermine the entire post secondary education system. I challenge you to talk to someone on strike, or stop by a union office and ask about what problems their members are facing. TA’s are students as well and when they go on strike their education is also on the line. Many grad students, especially sessional professors, also have families and they depend on the meagre salaries they earn – many support families on $15,000- $25,000 per year.

    The next time you go to the doctor remember that nearly all of the major breakthroughs are made by projects staffed and run by TA’s and Sessionals.


  15. Posted by: Wayne Whig on Jan 27, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Hello Chris,

    good piece.

    To those CUPE-y dittoheads posting on this site about `conspiracies' and so on:

    The head of Ontario CUPE, has DEMANDED that Universities stop hiring Israeli faculty `unless they denounce the aggression (sic) against the Palestinians (sic)..."

    Ummmm... just when did anyone give CUPE the power to declare just who is and who is not persona non-grata on Ontario campuses? It's not even covert: Syd Ryan is trying to dictate just is allowed on Ontario campuses. Amazing.

  16. Posted by: response to "@CUPE Member" on Jan 27, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    "If you don't like it, then grow a pair and join the big scary work force. "

    Yeah, great observation. And if you don't being part of an educational system that relies on TAs, grow a pair and don't bother coming to school. There are lots of jobs in the fast food industry waiting for you.

    F***ing spoiled brats. I shudder at the thought of half the emotionally stunted infants on this website ever being entrusted with any responsibility.

  17. Posted by: response to the CUPE Whiners on Jan 27, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    Who are the spoiled brats? TA's who bitch, moan and whine about not getting paid enough in their part time jobs or students who suck up life and work to pay off their schooling or run up loans?

    Since when did being a grad student entitle one to some sort of special level of entitlement? I've noticed it among all my TA's and the grad students I see on campus, sort of a scumbag sense of entitlement and an over-inflated ego. You guys got an undergrad degree and are still sucking the teat of the education system as opposed to growing a sack and getting out into the real world. Good for you.

  18. Posted by: greenie on Jan 27, 2009 @ 3:52pm

    Wayne Whig,

    Good point. And let's not forget the sudden spike in anti-semetic grafitti that(dis)graced surface areas all across the University of Guelph campus directly after Ryan's ignorant, anti-semetic comments--you could say, Ryan allowed the bigots to come out of the closet.

  19. Posted by: greenie on Jan 27, 2009 @ 3:59pm

    Considered Response, if you don't like it, then flie a grievance ... (sorry the world's not more perfect for you!)

    If Mr. Gilbert can call (Ret'd) General Rick Hillier a war criminal, then the barn doors are wide open with regard to free speech in this country.

  20. Posted by: considered response on Jan 27, 2009 @ 4:55pm

    greenie, you seriously have no idea what you're talking about.

    1. there is no unlimited right to free speech in this country. the charter proscribes this right in its first section and judges infringe on it all the time.

    2. what would gilbert have to do with free speech anyway? Do you seriously believe the law changes based on what one writer writes? Do they let you near children with that razor sharp mind?

    flie a grievance indeed.

  21. Posted by: fail on Jan 27, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    So the bad teachers got their union to criticize israel, thereby encouraging racists to post antisemitic graffiti?

    your theory = fail

  22. Posted by: L in M on Jan 28, 2009 @ 4:07pm

    I guess if free speech is ok, then so is being a nazi and proclaiming hatred...which is a completely disgusting idea...free speech has a limit!

  23. Posted by: @greenie on Feb 4, 2009 @ 11:50am

    while I don't condone Ryan's comments, I must point out that it's not acceptable to blame one person for anothers actions. Regardless of whether or not he's influenced the actions of others, his responsibility is strictly to his comments, and the people who vandalized parts of our uni are responsible for that.
    People of our generation really need to absorb the concept of personal responsibility.

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