Open letter from former CUPE 3903 officers Reply

An Open Letter from Former Executive Committee and Bargaining Team
Members of CUPE 3903 to Striking Members of CUPE 3903

Sunday 8 March 2015

Dear Members of CUPE 3903,

As former executive committee and bargaining team members of CUPE 3903,
we are writing to express our support and solidarity in the current
effort to maintain tuition indexation.

Tuition indexation—first won by our local during bargaining in 1998—was
a historic achievement for accessible post-secondary education in this
country. Since 1998, the tuition indexation language in our collective
agreements has effectively kept tuition fees frozen for new graduate
student members. Tuition indexation has obliged the university, in every
year that it raised graduate tuition fees, to give graduate student
members of the union a dollar-for-dollar tuition rebate (Graduate
Financial Assistance). In this way, we indexed our tuition as graduate
students to our pay as Teaching Assistants, and later as Graduate
Assistants/Research Assistants who joined the union in 2000. This
prevented the employer from eroding our wages and other compensation by
increasing tuition.

Almost since the inception of tuition indexation, York University has
sought to do away with it. In 2000, York attacked tuition indexation
directly. It offered to maintain tuition indexation for current members,
but to take it away from those who came after. This forced us to strike
in order to maintain for future members the contract protections we had
already won and enjoyed. No one who went on strike in 2000 stood to
benefit personally from keeping the existing tuition indexation language
intact, but we stood our ground for accessible education, and we won.
Faculty, students, and the community supported us, and we maintained
tuition indexation for future student members.

Today, instead of directly attacking the existing contract language on
tuition indexation, York University seeks to nullify it by stealth. In
the past year, they have unilaterally re-interpreted tuition indexation.
They now assert that it applies only to existing students, and not to
incoming ones. In other words, once students begin their studies their
tuition remains frozen, but the university can raise tuition for
incoming students without increasing their tuition rebate. The union is
challenging this interpretation and the matter in currently in
arbitration. However, in the meantime, the university has already used
their new interpretation to raise tuition for international students by
$7000. Since we do not know how the arbitrator will rule, the best
option is to resolve this issue through collective bargaining. For this
reason, the union has proposed contract language that asserts our
original interpretation of tuition indexation, an interpretation that
has stood for sixteen years.

However, York University refuses to accept this proposal. Instead, they
have offered a one-time-only, temporary tuition freeze for the next
three years. Significantly, they have refused to put this promised
tuition freeze in the collective agreement. It appears instead only in
their proposed Memorandum of Settlement, which makes it less binding
than contract language. This provides us with little recourse should
they break their promise. Most problematically, it breaks the strong
linkage that has existed in our collective agreements since 1998 between
tuition fees and our compensation, and it strengthens the employer’s
argument that our tuition fees as graduate students have nothing to do
with our employment as teaching and graduate assistants.

Their current offer will make it possible for them to raise tuition for
each new cohort of Unit 1 and 3 members, if not during the life of this
contract then afterwards.

We applaud your courage to stand up to York University to maintain
tuition indexation for future students, and we call on all faculty and
students to support you the way they supported us through many years of
keeping tuition indexation for graduate students at York.

In solidarity! Strike to Win!

1.    Mary-Jo Nadeau, Chief Steward 1997-1998, Co-Chair Women’s Caucus
2.    Oona Padgham, Bargaining Team 1998
3.    Kate Campbell, Women’s Caucus Co-Chair 1999-2000
4.    Kasia Rukszto Recording Secretary, 1999-2000
5.    Peter Nyers, Chief Steward (Council) 1999-2000
6.    Alison Fisher, Unit 3 Bargaining Team, 2000-2001, TFAC Co-Chair
2002-2003, and Chair 2012-2013
7.    Clarice Kuhling, Bargaining Team U1 2000-2001, TFAC Co-Chair 2002-2003
8.    Alex Levant, Recording Secretary 2000-2001, VP U1 2001-2002, VP U2
2006-2007, and Chief Steward U2 2008
9.    Michelle Lowry Co-Chair Women’s Caucus, 2000-2001
10.    David Camfield, Strike Committee Chair, 2000-2001
11.    James Beaton, Bargaining Team, 2000-2001
12.    Marsha Niemeijer, Chief Steward U3, 2000-2001
13.    Elena Basile, Representative, International Graduate Students
Caucus, 2000-2002
14.    Joseph Tohill, Chair 2001-2002
15.    Kim Fry, Women’s Caucus Co-Chair, 2001-2002
16.    Jesse Payne, U3 Bargaining Team and Chief Negotiator, 2002 U1
Bargaining Team 2005, Chair, 2002-2003 Chief Steward U1 2004-2005,
Recording Secretary, 2006-2007
17.    Colleen Bell, Chief Steward U3, 2002-2003
18.    Tracy Supruniuk, Chief Steward U1, 2003
19.    Julian Arend, Communications Officer, 2003-2004, U1 Bargaining
Team, 2002-2003 and 2008-2009.
20.    Ryan Toews, Chairperson, 2004-2005, U2 Bargaining Team, 2011-2012
21.    Matthew Hayter, U3 Bargaining Team 2005, Bargaining Team
Recording Secretary 2008-2009
22.    Sonia Scott, Bargaining Team U1, 2005
23.    Keith O’Regan, Treasurer, 2005-2006, 2008
24.    Greg Bird, Chief Steward U1, 2005-2006
25.    Jesse Goldstein, VP U3, 2005-2006
26.    Danielle Bisnar, U3 Bargaining Team, 2005
27.    Sarah Hornstein, Recording Secretary, 2005, Chief Steward U2,
28.    Josh Moufawad-Paul, VP U1, 2005-2006.
29.    Rajiv Rawat, Chair 2005-2006 Communications Officer, 2006-2007
30.    Peter Brogan, VP U3 2006-2007, Chief Steward U1 2011-2012
31.    Dhruv Jain, VP U1 2007-2008, Chief Steward 2008
32.    Marnina Norys, Chief Steward U1, 2007, TFAC Co-chair, 2012-2013,
and VP U2 2013-2014
33.    Nathan Cecckin, Recording Secretary, 2008-2009
34.    Noaman Ali, Chief Steward U3, 2008-2009
35.    Amrit Heer, U3 Bargaining Team, 2008-2009
36.    Jesse Ovadia, Bargaining Team 2008-2009
37.    Christina Rousseau, Chair, 2008-2009
38.    Tyler Shipley, Chief Steward U1, 2008-2009
39.    Ritika Shrimali, TFAC Co-Chair, 2008-2009
40.    Healy Thompson, TFAC cochair, 2008-2009
41.    Maria Wallis, Chief Steward U2, 2008-2009
42.    Chelsea Flook, Chief Steward U3, 2009-2010
43.    Ian Hussey, Chair 2009
44.    Jamie Smith, VP U1, 2009
45.    Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen, VP U3, 2011-2012
46.    Karen Walker, Chair 2011-2012
47.    Megan Hillman, U2 Bargaining Team 2011-2012 and TFAC Co-chair
48.    Sidrah Laldin, Chief Steward U3, 2011-2012
49.    Nicole Leach, U3 Bargaining Team 2011-2012, VP U3, 2012-2013
50.    Ryan O’Neill, Grievance Officer, 2011-2013
51.    Richard Aronson, Treasurer, 2011-2012.

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