This is the June 2008 report of the Ad Hoc Investigatory Committee on Freedom of Speech, Academic Freedom and Governance at York University, launched by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) in 2005. See here.
President Lenton, we can see an end to this academic disruption. The incoming Ontario government has already announced it will engage the back to work legislation you have so eagerly sought. What may become a highly troubling right wing government is delivering you your objective. More…
April 12, 2018
I’m Devin Clancy, a student, teaching assistant, and senate representative for CUPE 3903.
First, I’d just like to express my gratitude to the Senate Executive for booking a room that can accommodate the public. It’s too bad that it took a student reclamation of the senate chambers in order for these meetings to even be open and accessible, but I’m nonetheless glad I don’t have to fight off a headlock from security to be here today.
I have a question for President Lenton and the executive, but it requires a little bit of context so bear with me.
While Rhonda has been expensing luxury headphones and first class accommodations, this institution has been under attack, an attack that is painted by the executive as “business as usual.”
But what is “business as usual” for York University?
Recent history suggests that it means cutting 800 GA jobs without warning, and unilaterally tearing $5,400 of TA funding out of our protected Collective Agreement.
It means offering an incoming MA student a unionized job with health benefits, only to deny it once they’ve accepted. It means this student is forced to drop out because of uncovered health costs, and it means that FGS now demands this student payback their fellowship.
It means denying students’ summer pay.
It means empowering a Bargaining Team who doesn’t understand that 2 conversions is less than 8.
It means a final offer that is full of concessions.
It means systematically failing to meet with our union’s health and safety committee and an accessibility office at Glendon that isn’t wheelchair accessible.
It means taking four weeks to respond to complaints of asbestos in our workplace.
It means failing to notify the community of bomb threats and hate graffiti.
It means inviting a dozen toronto police onto campus to violently detain someone using rubber bullets.
It means kicking someone out of Ross in the dead of night in winter for trying to sleep in a sheltered space.
It means a library roof that has leaked for years, a mouse and cockroach problem in Vari Hall, and an unpaid water bill.
It means an administration that spends hundreds of thousands on anything but bargaining in good faith with CUPE 3903.
It means meeting with the crisis management PR firm Navigator to mislead the public and tarnish CUPE 3903’s reputation.
It means purchasing radio ads that misrepresent our union’s bargaining positions and it means buying the back page of Excalibur for months.
It means charging CUPE3903.com to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, a website currently under investigation by the ministry of labour for redirecting web traffic to York’s own labour webpage.
It means spending thousands of dollars on private security to surveil and intimidate striking workers, and students that have reclaimed the senate. So much so, that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association reached out to President Lenton, imploring her to end these tactics immediately.
It means trying to ban metal gates and firebarrels on the picket lines, instruments that are essential to ensuring the safety of our members as they exercise their legal right to strike.
It means reinterpreting the York Act to disempower collegial governing bodies, and it means transforming the Senate Executive into a hollow mouthpiece for an unrepresentative corporate Board of Governors.
It means hiring Hicks Morley, a union busting law firm that gives lectures to employers on how to avoid liability in cases of critical injury or death of workers.
It means forcing workers out in the cold on strike for 40 days. And it means only coming back to the bargaining table for 1 day, only to walk away and force a bogus ratification vote.
And it means providing the ministry of labour with fake employee emails and incomplete membership rolls.
To be honest, I didn’t even know a president could be so corrupt and incompetent.
But let me tell you, workers are fed up with a profit driven corporation that uses “academic integrity” as a rhetorical shield while deepening academic precarity and exploitation.
And we’re fed up with a University that appropriates the language of social justice as a marketing tool, only to entrench unjust working conditions on 60% of the educational workers at York.
This union destroyed your bad offer, and voted 85% to reject the administration’s attempt to impose neoliberal austerity measures on our membership.
And now the Liberal government has abandoned your desire to impose back-to-work legislation.
You’ve lost Rhonda.
You’ve lost the strike, you’ve lost the confidence of the community, and you’ve lost the Senate, literally.
Don’t be foolish enough to lose the summer semester too.
So I ask: President Lenton, when will York University return to the bargaining table?
March 30, 2018
CUPE 3903 members have entered a new phase of the strike: this week, York University requested that the Ministry of Labour supervise a forced vote by the CUPE 3903 membership on York’s latest offer. Through their request, the York administration continues to reject the process of bargaining constructively with CUPE 3903.
We agree with the CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team’s recommendation that the membership vote to REJECT this offer. The BT has explained in more detail why all units should reject this offer. Overall, York’s offer is the worst deal the membership will see. If members reject it, York may be forced to table a better deal out of fear of risking the income from the summer semester. The BT stresses to members that it is better to negotiate a deal through collective bargaining. In addition, York’s offer contains no back-to-work protocol, meaning that there is absolutely no guarantee that members will get paid for the work they do to wrap up the term after the strike is over. The only way to guarantee this back pay is to settle this dispute at the bargaining table, where in the wake of previous strikes CUPE has been successful in ensuring its members receive between 85 – 100% of their pay upon returning to work.
YUGSA is particularly disturbed that the York administration stated in their supervised vote request: “Our graduate students strongly support our Fellowship model.” As a body representing graduate students, we have heard overwhelmingly from our members that they want GAs to be restored. York’s cut to GAs means that hundreds of students do not have access to CUPE 3903’s benefits package, nor the health care plan and support funds that they offer, including their Extended Health Benefits Fund, Trans Fund, Ways and Means Fund, Child Care Fund, Sexual Assault Survivor Support Fund, etc.. It also means that the work previously done by GAs has been downloaded onto unpaid internships for undergraduate students, or, to YUFA members now robbed of their valuable GAs.
These are some of the reasons why CUPE 3903 members ought to reject York’s current offer. What York has done to GAs they are trying now to do to TAs by using the fellowship model of funding to detach funding language from the collective agreement, thereby loosening the union’s ability to bargain over TA funding. This loss will have serious consequences for the York graduate community.
YUGSA Condemns Violence at the Senate Chamber
YUGSA condemns York University’s response to students and workers outside and inside of Senate Chamber on Thursday, March 22, 2018. Seeing the widespread desire for students to enter the Chamber, the York administration had two viable options, which were both ignored:
1) They could have followed the Rules of Senate, which state (in Article I. Principles, 2.) that, “Senate is open to the University community unless it duly resolves to move into closed session.”
2) If the Senate Chamber was filled beyond fire code capacity, they could have resolved to move the meeting to a larger space to accommodate students, which they ought to do going forward.
Instead of pursuing these options, York put members of CUPE 3903, various undergraduate student groups, and members of CUPE 1356 into direct conflict, instructing security guards to keep students out of the chamber. The result was horrific. Senator Devin Clancy was put into a headlock by a security guard upon attempting to enter the chamber; the YUGSA senator was on the receiving end of aggressive remarks and even at one point, physical force by the secretary of senate for protesting the senate executive’s actions and for insistence on remaining at the senate chamber entrance to bear witness to how students and members were being treated. We also heard reports that members of 1356 were injured in the process. There was no security challenge to justify such actions. The students and supporters who were in the hallway, some of them members of the Senate, presented no physical danger to anyone. This highly securitized approach is not welcoming and accommodating — fundamentally, it is not what a university should be about.
Such actions revealed York’s administration goal: for the sake of political expediency, and to forge the strike in their interest, they are willing to put any and all students and workers at risk. They want to pit the members of community against each other: unions against unions, brothers and sisters against brothers and sisters, students against workers, etc. It is only by uniting that we can win our differing but interrelated demands for fair wages and working conditions, collegial governance, the abolition of tuition fees, and more.
How to Engage in Solidarity Actions with CUPE 3903
YUGSA sees three ways that the York community can engage in solidarity actions with CUPE 3903:
1) Sign the petition now to President Lenton and York administration to bargain a fair deal! (CLICK HERE)
2) Join the Cross-Campus Alliance (CCA), comprised of labour and student unions on campus, for their weekly solidarity visit to the picket lines. The next visit will be on Wednesday, April 4 from 12:00 – 2:00 pm on Main Gate (Keele St. and York Blvd.) in conjunction with the Fight for $15 and Fairness’ Day of Action for Equal Pay for Equal Work (RSVP HERE).
3) If you’re interested in organizing further solidarity actions, feel free to connect with us (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org), or get in touch with undergraduate students who have been occupying the Senate Chamber since March 22, which has quickly become a 24/7 organizing space around the demands that York negotiate a fair deal with CUPE 3903. The occupation shows how some students are increasingly frustrated by the York administration’s actions, particularly in disrupting the democratic and collegial governance processes at the Senate. These students are demanding that York be held accountable for their incompetence by immediately refunding the semester’s tuition for all students. York’s move to hire private security to constantly surveil picketers has also been applied to the occupiers, who are being intimidated by over-securitization on campus. You can get in touch with them via email@example.com, or by going to their Facebook page (click here).
March 28, 2018
Rhonda Lenton, President and Vice-Chancellor, York University Lisa Philipps, Interim Vice President Academic and Provost, York University Leslie Beagrie, Senate Chair, York University Lucy Fromowitz, Vice Provost, Students, York University
Osgoode Students Support the ongoing Senate Reclamation at York University
Dear York Administration:
The Osgoode Strike Support Committee endorses the ongoing occupation of the York University Senate chambers by our fellow undergraduate students in support of striking CUPE 3903 members. We affirm the constitutional right to freedom of association, expression, and assembly enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The undergraduate students occupying the Senate chambers demand that the university get back to the bargaining table and find a fair resolution to the ongoing labour disruption. We support these demands and echo their calls. The members of CUPE 3903 are the workers who make York university work; they bear 60% of the teaching load and deserve a fair deal which honours and compensates the labour they put into the university as a centre of teaching and research.
We are in daily communication with the undergrads inside the Senate chambers. We are concerned by the university’s use of private security guards–a worrying trend we first observed during the Aramark strike in 2015. We see this as an attempt to intimidate students, and break the solidarity and support extended by workers and students from across the city. We are concerned by the blatant power imbalance between the undergrads and the university administration.
Students at York and across the globe have always been at the forefront of struggles for social, political and economic justice. Indeed, we are reminded of the successful student reclamation at York University which resulted in the implementation of the university’s first sustainability policy. These were hard earned victories accomplished through successful student mobilization and direct action.
We will continue to lend our political and moral support to the undergraduate reclamation of the Senate chambers. We echo their voices and urge the university administration to get back to the bargaining table.
– Osgoode Strike Support Committee
March 20, 2018
Statement from the School of Human Resource Management on York University and CUPE 3903 Bargaining and Strike
The School of Human Resource Management (SHRM) affirms our commitment to our CUPE colleagues and supports their right to engage in collective bargaining and to strike. We encourage the University to return to bargaining and for both parties to bargain in good faith and reach a collective agreement that is fair and equitable as quickly as possible.
SHRM recognizes that the strike and the decision to continue some but not most courses has created confusion and caused stress for students and faculty. SHRM supports students’ rights guaranteed under the York University Senate Policy not to participate in academic activities during a work stoppage. This includes their right to refuse to cross an actual or virtual picket line without being penalized in any manner for their choice.
Consistent with statements by many other units, SHRM also supports the historical role played by Senate and Senate Executive over matters related to the academic integrity of courses, including decisions about whether classes should be suspended during a work stoppage for reasons of academic integrity.
March 20, 2018
Statement passed by the Department of Psychology:
“The Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health supports the view that Senate, in conjunction with Senate Executive, has the authority to direct and determine whether classes should be suspended on the basis of academic integrity.”
March 14, 2018
We have entered the second week of the CUPE 3903 strike and the York Administration has declined all offers from CUPE 3903 to continue bargaining and reach an agreement. We are incredibly disappointed in this decision, as we believe that if the University bargains in good faith, and offers a fair and affordable package, without setting up pre-conditions, this strike can end. Our paramount concern has been for our members; the undergraduate students, and the impact this strike is having on them, and therefore we strongly encourage York University Administration to continue bargaining with the urgency it requires, as opposed to forcing students to cross picket lines.
Our continued stance is that education is a right, not a privilege. Many of our members work precarious jobs with little, and in the case of un-paid internships: no pay, with zero job security. Even as they work long and hard hours, while balancing classes and completing schoolwork, they live well below the poverty line. Consequently, the YFS supports CUPE 3903 as they demand that their members don’t have to live below the poverty line, that hard work is rewarded with job security, equity and justice in the workplace, and that workers are fairly compensated and not ruthlessly exploited. Workers Rights and Student Rights are Human Rights.
In accordance with York University’s Senate Policy, section 2.2 Fairness to Students, while CUPE 3903 remains on strike, undergraduate students have the right to refuse to cross picket lines without facing any penalties. The York Administration has shown a complete disregard to the plight of undergraduate students by choosing to continue courses, despite the fact that 60 percent of the teaching staff are on strike. The YFS further condemns the ongoing divisive tactics employed by the York University Administration amongst undergraduate students and their instructors: students should not be pitted against themselves and their educators, bullied and threatened to complete course work, nor should they be forced into crossing the picket lines.
The York Federation of Students (YFS) has been a leading advocate for affordable post-secondary education: fighting for lower tuition fees, more grants and greater fairness for international students. Therefore, the York Federation of Students remains undivided in solidarity with Teachers Assistants, Contract Faculty, Graduate Assistants and Research Assistants who have been treated unfairly by the York University Administration, as they continue to fight for a fair, accessible and affordable educational environment.
The York Federation of Students represents over 50,000 undergraduate students at York University and will continue to mobilize for more affordable, accessible education not just for undergraduates, but for all students.
For more information please contact:
Rawan Habib, President, York Federation of Students firstname.lastname@example.org or
Murtaza Ghulam, Executive Director, York Federation of Students, email@example.com
The Department of Humanities held an emergency department meeting on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, to discuss the CUPE strike and its impact. Below are the Department statement on the strike and a motion to the Senate Executive, both of which passed unanimously at the meeting:
1. Department Statement
The Department of Humanities supports the motion passed at LA&PS Faculty Council on March 12, 2014:
Be it resolved that
The Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies take the decision to call upon Senate to suspend all classes within LAPS for the duration of the CUPE 3903 Strike without delay.
We reaffirm our commitment to our CUPE colleagues and recognize their indispensable contributions to teaching in Humanities. TAs and CUPE instructors are integral to our programs and without their contribution, the integrity of our courses cannot be maintained. Like other departments have done, we encourage the university to work with CUPE 3903 to arrive at a fair and equitable agreement as quickly as possible.
We also support our students rights, under York University Senate Policy, not to participate in academic activities, including their right to refuse to cross a virtual or actual picket line without being penalized for whatever reason. In addition, we recognize that many of our CUPE colleagues are also our students who face constantly increasing costs, eroding living conditions and uncertain futures.
As our CUPE colleagues state in their March 11 letter to the Department: the strike has put students in a difficult situation, creating uncertainty for many. Suspending classes would help create some clarity for students. Suspending classes will also facilitate CUPE and the employer to focus on arriving at a fair and equitable settlement to this strike as quickly as possible.
2. Motion to Senate Executive
The Department also unanimously approved the following motion to the Senate Executive:
Following the outcome of the March 8 Senate meeting, the Department of Humanities protests the Senate executive current interpretation of the York Act. In its written presentation to that meeting and in subsequent statements, Senate executive states that decisions regarding the business and affairs of the University are vested in the Board even where they may have an impact on academic policy.
The Department of Humanities asks the Senate Executive to assume its proper authority in all academic matters including the decision to suspend classes for the duration of the CUPE strike.