Trying to find reason in the York strike


I’m trying to collect my thoughts on the York strike tonight. I’m hoping to put together a blog post for tomorrow mid-day. My mind is numb with shock at how little has changed from when I wrote this piece on the first day of the strike:

York U strike is a power struggle, not about wages

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Trying to find reason in the York strike

  1. Guess CUPE 3903 doesn’t care if it end up destroying itself in the process, does it?

  2. My thoughts are with York students tonight, and I’m shocked that TAs rejected this offer. But I’ve got a piece in me intended to remind everyone that the York strike isn’t just about TAs. Career contract lecturers have a pretty rough time in our current university system, where we graduate many more PhDs than there are academic jobs, and undergraduates are increasingly taught by these casual faculty rather than tenure-stream professors. I’d have to look into the details of the offers, and at the current working conditions for sessional profs at York. And it goes without saying that these folks shouldn’t be in the same union as part-time student TAs. But there’s a bigger battle here, about who is going to teach undergraduates and about what place long-term teaching staff have in Canadian universities.

  3. So Joey, your position is still that this strike is not about benefit indexation, graduate student funding, or most importantly job security, but only the two year contract? And the fact that the membership itself rejected the offer last night means that they too share this goal formulated by the sinister CUPE insiders? Give me a break. Tell that to the unit 2 people who haven’t been able to make their last two mortgage payments, or for that matter the CUPE bargaining team which quite clearly has not made this their key priority in their sessions so far, or will in their sessions to come. Is the administration willing to agree on a two year contract? From the muted rumblings I heard this is something they are willing to concede. But if this move could come at the cost of concessionary or non-movement elsewhere, this strike would have been resolved 10 weeks ago.

  4. It’s clear from this result that the union voted along tribal lines. The offer itself is not as important to cupe as the spectator sport that striking has becone.

    The cupe premise was that York would come back to the table and that York would not cancel the summer term. Now that both predictions have turned out to be false cupe has some ‘splaining to do to its members who foolishly bought cupe’s bill of goods.

  5. @JC

    Then CUPE should publicly say what it wants in a three year contract. They haven’t, they’ve stuck to the two year demand.

  6. Joey: CUPE has not formulated a three year framework precisely because they have not yet given up on the two year demand. My point was not to suggest that this isn’t a key priority (it clearly is), but rather to note that the affirmation of this priority is not being made at the exclusion of other essential demands. It is not at all the case that the other key priorities (e.g. benefits, general funding, job security) are, as you write, “just smoke and mirrors.”

  7. JC- Why try to downplay the significance of the contract length? Benefits, funding and job security are always issues in university labour relations. This strike is a special case because of the contract length. Why try to argue it? Look at CUPE’s website!!! They’re not hiding it!

  8. Joey may go a little far in calling the other demands “smoke and mirrors”, but his analysis on the importance of the contract length is bang on. I believe that this strike will only be settled through back to work legislation or CUPE accepting a 3 year contract. Clearly, the first option is more likely. If I need to go through another strike in 2010, I’m leaving York for good!

  9. @Steve

    as I thought I made clear, I am agreeing that the two year contract is a very important priority. I don’t in any way dispute this fact.
    I’m less inclined to agree with you, though, that the York administration has no intention to accept such a contract length. If you look at their current offer, all increases are being made within the first two years of their three year deal, with the last year being largely empty. It’s possible that the offer was formulated in this way so that the specific numbers could be ultimately preserved within the context of a two year framework.

  10. @jc

    I’ve known York president Shoukri for years because of my time at McMaster. When he says he will not do something, he means it.

    There is not a magical money tree growing in the offices of York Administration. I’ve been there, if it existed, I would have taken some money for myself.

    Looking at the damage the current strike is doing to York’s recruitment, the university cannot afford to have parents asking about a 2010 strike.

    Frankly, nor can the union afford a 2010 strike. CUPE thinks contract faculty positions are insecure now, wait till there are less students to teach.

  11. The funny thing is that a 2010 strike is far less likely now than it was when this strike started. Within the past few weeks we’ve seen TAs reject a strike mandate at Carleton, we’ve seen a surprisingly small strike mandate at U of T, and we’ve seen Queen’s graduate students defeat a unionization drive. In the latter two cases, the situation at York has been specifically mentioned as a cause — at U of T, the mention was made by the union on their own web site!

    In the current climate, it is hard to imagine graduate students across Ontario signing up for a potentially lengthy and bitter labor dispute, even if gains are now made at York. Memories of the York strike are going to linger, and will dampen tendencies towards union militancy for the next several years at least. Meanwhile, the undergraduate anti-union movements that arose at York and at U of T will have time to organize and grow.

    You can argue that CUPE’s extremism has set back the university labor movement by 5 to 10 years at least.

  12. JC- We’re basically agreeing on the 2010 mandate. You really have to pull your head out of the sand if you think York will agree to a 2 year contract. I’ll slay a unicorn in the commons before that happens.

  13. Given the Premier’s intervention today it is becoming increasingly clear that cupe is going to have to be led by the nose to a settlement.

    Emboldened by a membership that is clearly as clueless as the leadership it’s only a matter of time before the province brings the hammer down.

    Cupe has taken over six months to get down to 75 key priorities. Does anyone seriously think they can narrow these down to 2 or 3 in a matter of days? They’d have to have perpetual GMM’s and think of all the catering decisions that would have to be made!

    The “Dirty Rat” was cupe’s last chance to avoid the train wreck. It’s BTW legislation for cupe and a historic and ground-breaking humiliation for the Ontario union movement – way to go cupe 3903!