CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Bargaining Blog
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Strike and Bargaining Update — Day 2

Dear Unit 1 Members,

We want to thank continued strong support on day 2 of our job action. Picketers were strong and determined despite the colder temperatures. By mid morning the strike office was literally buzzing with members eager to contribute their talents to various committees. Our strike is also receiving excellent media coverage. Stories about our struggle ran yesterday and today in major broadcast, print and television news outlets in Hamilton and around the province. Your hard work and strong support is making a major impact!

Today your bargaining team met with the university administration at 3:30pm. We were expecting a response to the position document that we gave them yesterday.

Their response was to hand us exactly the same pass that was presented to us at the end of the last round of mediation–the same pass that members refused to take to ratification at the special membership meeting on Sunday, November 1st . The employer did, however, make one small change; they made the pass conditional upon your bargaining team unanimously recommending it to the members for a ratification vote. Because members have already declined to take this package to a vote, there is no way that your bargaining team could ever offer a recommendation to precisely the same paltry package.

What has become clear is that we are not participating in bargaining; rather, we are being bullied. This is not about bargaining but about trying to break the union, to break the bargaining team, and to break your spirits. We need to keep sending the message that we will not be bullied into taking a package that does not come close to the standard in the university sector. Your bargaining team will continue to represent you to the best of our abilities. We applaud and sincerely thank all of you who are supporting us – it’s you who are making all the difference!

Members on the picket lines have seen the abusive behaviour of a previously invisible senior member of the university administration towards our members and even towards the regional police. Not surprisingly, he is repeating this behaviour at the bargaining table. As such, we have requested the help of the provincially appointed mediator. We hope his presence will result in a return to bargaining, if not decorum, and a new offer from the university. We are planning on meeting with the mediator on Thursday and Friday of this week, and hope that the university will confirm these dates soon. We are still committed to bargaining and to getting a fair deal and will always keep you updated on any progress that we can make at this crucial time.

As we have mentioned in our previous messages, we will be planning another GMM as soon as we can book a space that can accommodate our members. This will allow us to make sure that members fully updated about our progress at the table and are able to discuss the packages tabled by each side.

We continue to assess our childcare needs, and hope to be able to provide accommodations for members soon. If you have children and need childcare accommodations then please contact Alex Diceanu at <>

We have become aware that members are looking for alternative duties to perform. There are a number of different ways that you can contribute your skills to the effort. If you are interested in alternative duties please ask your picket captain. They have a list of positions that need to be filled outside of picketing (especially if you are currently doing double shifts).

If you have not signed up for a picket shift, please drop by the strike office, or go to the lines and sign up there. We can’t wait those who have signed up for pickets tomorrow!

In Solidarity,

Your bargaining team, executive and strike support team


131 Responses to “Strike and Bargaining Update — Day 2”

  1. What is our position on binding arbitration and what is the university’s?

  2. Is it possible to get more details on this incident from someone who was their.?

    “Members on the picket lines have seen the abusive
    behaviour of a previously invisible senior member of
    the university administration towards our members
    and even towards the regional police.”

    • Its actually not just one incident. In the first serious incident (Monday morning) the member of the administration (who has also been at the table the last two days) was yelling and screaming at one of our picket captains at the Cootes drive picket. This incident was reported, written up with files being opened on the incident both by security and the Hamilton Police. The Police Liaisons were called in on Monday afternoon to try to deal with this issue. Incidents similar to this have continued to occur on the lines through today with numerous reports.

      The second serious incident actually involved the member of the senior administration grabbing the arm of a uniformed police officer and yelling at him to: LEARN HOW TO DO YOUR JOB?”

      These incidents both occurred in public spaces in plain view of dozens of people. There are pictures, incident reports and documentation of them.

      This member of the senior administration is willing to do this sort of insane action in public, you don’t want to know what he’ll do or say in the relative private setting of a bargaining session.

      • Public spaces you say? Then you should have no problem posting the pictures on this blog. I look forward to seeing them. Thanks.

      • Assuming that your account of the unnamed senior administrator’s behavior is accurate, is it possible that it was provoked by activity that he viewed on the part of picketers as excessive? I notice that after you met with the university on Monday morning but returned to the picket lines, a “strike protocol” limiting the time you can keep people from reaching their legitimate place of business was put in place. I assume from that the prior to this, you were holding traffic up for, what 20 minutes, half an hour? During the morning rush, probably creating backups and jams on the streets where these entrances to campus are. Would that be an accurate statement of the circumstances early Monday morning?

      • No that wouldn’t be an accurate statement. Holding each car for 20 minutes wouldn’t create the traffic reported in the Hamilton Spectator. You can check this yourself, Take out a book on partial differential equations, look up traffic flow, and you can probably figure out how much time they stopped a car for based on the backup of traffic.

      • Gord H,

        To the best of my knowledge a strike protocol was in place before the strike began. It was always planned that each car would be held at the picket line for five minutes. Back-ups, of course, will occur during busy hours. That is why the union is liaisizing with the Hamilton Police Services. They are responsible for traffic and safety on and about the lines. Regardless, even if this senior administrator was “provoked,” he does not have a right to behave however he wants. Some of the behaviour of which I have heard has been abusive, and no one ever deserves such treatment.

      • So would it be fair that the unnamed administrator was angry because the strike protocol was not being observed by the union?

      • I don’t know where you got that assumption from.

      • No, Gord, it wouldn’t be fair to assume that the strike protocol was not being observed. Picket lines were operating (and continue to operate) according to the strike protocol. Any hang-ups and glitches have been acknowledged by our liaisons with the police department as an expected and acceptable consequence of the first days of the strike as everyone gets used to the situation and working within the protocol.

        I think the fact that the only serious incidents of misconduct being reported have been directed at and felt by the picketers, while most drivers and pedestrians are moving through the lines with no harm, speaks to the professionalism of everyone involved in this strike. If motorists are inconvenienced by the strike then they should pressure the administration to bargain fairly and offer us a descent contract.

        Since the administration has agreed upon these strike protocol and is, therefore, well aware of how the strike will inconvenience the McMaster community, they ought to shoulder the abuse directed wrongly at the picketers.

      • Here is 1 of 3 photos of the incident:
        False accusations

        Please note that the time listed under the image properties was set to Ireland time (I forgot to change it). The incident actually occurred at 10:15am on Monday.

        Also, as a witness, I can say that he was yelling as soon as he arrived and showed complete disrespect to everyone. I did keep my distance in order to photograph the incident, so I cannot say what exact words were used.

  3. Also is there any way to read the admin’s condition on the offer as anything other than attempt to undermine CUPE’s position and insult the B-team?

    • Heather – You could read it as the University believing that a majority of CUPE members would actually vote for the deal if a ratification vote was held. I suspect this belief would be based on the number of TAs/RAs who are continuing to work. The ‘deadline’ is probably designed to motivate those in the union who oppose the strike to force a ratification vote ASAP. These are just my assumptions, but I don’t think they’re unreasonable.

      • But if that was the case, the university could just leave it to the petitioners to get the vote and I have no doubt that the university knows about it b/c the creator of the petition was in contact with someone on the admin’s bargaining team.
        OR the university could just force the vote (they’re allowed to do that once).
        Adding that conditional in means that the petition is totally ineffective because the general membership can’t simply agree to the offer nor can we force the bargaining team to recommend it (I think).
        The condition has to mean something other than what you suggest.

      • These are not unreasonable assumptions but, in this case, they are not accurate. In this case the McMaster administration really is trying to bully us and intimidate us. There is a difference between playing “hard-ball” in bargaining and being blindly vindictive and, unfortunately, the employer’s bargaining team has succumbed to the latter. Were it the case that the administration actually wanted to make sure they “won” a ratification vote, they would “sweeten the pot” as it were, offering a small increase over the last package to entice members to vote for the deal. In this case, they are making the illogical demand that the b-team recommend a package we already voted not to seek to ratify. Their behaviour is not as calculated as it is punitive and I think it is fair to say that, at this point, they are utterly hysterical. Their bargaining team was too arrogant to admit the possibility of a strike and are now seeking to make up for their incompetence through threats and misinformation. It is shameful behaviour for those tasked with managing an institution of higher learning.

      • Replying to Heather – When I read your post, I thought the condition you referred to was the ‘deadline’ as opposed to having the B-team endorse the offer. With respect to the latter condition, I suspect it stems from the fact that the University believes they are winning the strike (based on whatever numbers they have of TAs/RAs working, & the general fact that the University is operating more or less as normal), and thus they can afford to ‘go the extra mile’ & insist on B-team agreement preceding the ratification vote.

      • To Max,

        I’m not sure categorizing the other side as “hysterical” is productive in terms of ultimate goals (getting a fair deal and working together as a whole McMaster community after this is over). I do think it’s vindictive to not allow the other side to save face even if you think they are losing (which is not to say that CUPE is losing).

        Maybe I’m sensitive and an idealist but I want to be able to be happy at McMaster all this is over and sometimes the way both sides paint the other side a)make it impossible for me to see how any agreement can be reached and b)make it hard to not taint my view of the entire debate and the entire community.

        To JC, I now understand your point, thanks for the clarification!

      • Heather,

        I agree that we should avoid any sort of pejoratives when describing other peoples’ behaviour, whether in a strike situation or just normal everyday living. Believe me: I’d be the first to call out the union leadership if I thought they were behaving badly. I see that as part of my duty as a loyal member of the union: to hold my leaders accountable to what I consider an acceptable standard of public behaviour. I believe that throughout this entire process the leadership has met, and more often than not far exceeded, that standard. In fact, I am downright impressed by bargaining team; if I had to put up with what they’re facing, I doubt I could remain so devoted and professional. At the same time, as an employee of and student at McMaster University, I expect the same from the senior administration. Unfortunately, they seem not to be behaving in a way which I could consider acceptable. When I hear the reports coming from the bargaining table, and about the abusive behaviour of the administrator in question, I am appalled and ashamed by my university and my employer. I should not have to feel that way about the place where I work and study.

    • You need to get beyond personalizing the process. If you think its insulting for the university to stand firm in its offer, the university might be insulted that the union is asking for changes that would increase the total cost by, oh, what, 20-25%?

      • Gord H,

        You are right; we want to avoid taking things personally. That does not mean that the administration is not working to undermine the union’s efforts. It certainly does not change the fact that some of the information put out recently by the university is inaccurate.

  4. OED definitions of the verb, negotiate:
    1. intr.
    a. To communicate or confer (with another or others) for the purpose of arranging some matter by mutual agreement; to discuss a matter with a view to some compromise or settlement.
    4. trans.
    a. To find a way through, round, or over (an obstacle, a difficult path, etc.).
    b. To succeed in dealing with in the way desired; to manage or bring about successfully.

    Whether many of us (union member? bargaining unit member?) share the same political viewpoint with regard to the process of contract bargaining, we should at least be able to recognize that the administration’s actions so far can hardly be defined as negotiating.

    • That’s the real issue for me, and the one that really motivated me to get actively involved in the strike. The university’s bargaining team doesn’t seem to be negotiating. They can negotiate hard; that’s their job. However, there is a difference between negotiating and dictating terms; the latter is what they are doing; we, as a union, have to stand up and say ‘No, we won’t take those terms.’ That means withholding our labour and coming out to the picket lines, especially over the next couple of days as a conciliator will be involved. The louder our voice in the coming days, the more likely we are to get a fair deal, and quickly.

    • That’s a lovely abstract definition. But it’s naive of you to think that the university would give you a lot more money than they’ve put on the table in exchange for the union giving up demands for enhanced seniority.

      • Here’s some material realities:
        –If you were a student in my English literature tutorial or if I am a marker for a third year English class that runs anywhere from 70 to 120 students, I could only spend 15-20 minutes grading and commenting on your essay. Once the minutes are up, I am forced to stop–otherwise I immediately fall into overwork.
        –If you needed one-on-one tutoring or some feedback on your introduction but you couldn’t see me before and after tutorial or during my office hours b/c you have other classes or you’re a commuting student, I couldn’t even help you over email b/c I can only devote a few hours per term to answering student emails.
        –If I wanted to improve my skills as a TA by attending professional development seminars (there are voluntary ones held by the Learning center and there are mandatory ones held by our department), I have to subtract 6 to 12 hours away from my set hours of work per term. That leaves me with 127 to 124 hours of work to fulfill my duties each semester as a TA. Even when we had to do Health and Safety training, those hours had to be subtracted from the set hours of work, hours I am to devote to my students.

        Gord H, I understand you are not a fan of CUPE 3906. But this struggle isn’t only about money. This struggle is also about helping me be the most dedicated and helpful TA I can be. There are material realities that need to be addressed. Don’t even get me started on students who need letters of reference from their professors to apply to graduate school. Third year English classes should not run that large (70 to 120). There should be a stricter cap as the classes get more advanced. How are students supposed to make a good impression to the professor in that large of a class? And who are they supposed to get a letter of reference from? Their professor? When a graduate student is grading and commenting on their assignments and two essays?

        I think most people disagree about how our bargaining team is negotiating for changes to our benefits and tuition increase impact on take-home pay. But these issues have material effects on our everyday lives, as do the institutional structures in place that limit and constrain our time and dedication as TAs.

      • Gord H,

        Who thinks “that the university would give you a lot more money than they’ve put on the table in exchange for the union giving up demands for enhanced seniority”? Who has made this suggestion? I have not seen that suggested anywhere? Could you please point it out to me? In fact, we’re asking for the opposite: under our proposal, graduate TAs will forgo an wage increase in favour of increased benefits, tutorial caps, and greater job protection for senior TAs.

      • Malissa, being dedicated to your work is laudable. But I stand by my original point. Derek says that the union’s proposal got rid of the better seniority stuff they were asking for and “almost” moved on a few monetary issues, whatever that means. I’m not at all surprized that the university concluded that the union isn’t serious about bargaining, in that circumstance.

        I appreciate your passion, I really do. But whatever the university thinks about the quality of education, the issues you are pointing to can only be fixed with more money. Or by the university taking steps that would result in a loss of income (cutting back severely on the number of students it has).

        I find it disturbing that the union isn’t willing to say what it estimates its proposal would cost. You might like to think that money shouldn’t matter, but it does.

        If the university reduced its student body so that you would have a smaller class, what else do you suppose they would have to cut given that they would have less funding from the province and less money coming in from tuition. That’s a serious question.

      • Bernie, I’m surmizing that since pretty much everything else the union is asking for has a cost, they expected the university to give them at least one of the things the union was askng for in exchange for dropping the seniority thing. That seems to be the idea of “bargaining” here, and I think you’re setting yourselves up for serious disappointment, to be frank. The asking for things is all on one side.

      • They have announced what they expect their requests regarding benefits and tutorial caps would cost. 1 million dollars, which is very little. It was discussed openly at the last GMM.

      • Gord – some of the issues raised by Malissa could also be addressed by an increase in the hours of work we are contracted for each semester (an issue the employer will not budge on).

        Furthermore, the university would not have to cut back on student admissions if they had more TAs to cover the increasing numbers in tutorials by having more tutorials.

        I am sure guaranteeing upper year Ph.D. positions would surely help to make sure enough TAs are available (another issue the employer will not budge on). The union is offering reasonable solutions for the problems Malissa identifies in her working conditions.

        To add to Malissa’s concerns – I only have two hours a week assigned in my contract for reading and tutorial preparation time. I TA for a cultural studies course that has at least 60 pages a week worth of reading. Do you read 60 pages in two hours and read the material well enough to be confident teaching it to your students? Not to mention this is a light reading load. Have you ever tried reading a 400 page novel in this amount of time? In some courses you can spend almost all of your weekly work hours just doing the required reading.

  5. I know that one of the union’s key issues is a very key issue for me: not losing take-home pay due to the increases in tuition. I remember at the end of the summer, the union sent around a sheet detailing the monetary considerations of their proposal, as well as the employer’s proposal, so that we could easily see the key differences.

    Is it possible to make such a summary, helping us to understand the essence of the position documents from both sides?

    • I’ve actually already done this, I’ll make an effort to get it up tonight, thanks for the reminder.

    • Wouldn’t wage improvements better accomplish that than more money for vision care, $57 dollars more (or less?) for every student +/- 25, etc? And are you really comfortable that you paying less tuition, largely on the backs of the undergraduates you teach, is “fair”?

      • Gord,

        No one is asking for lower tuition. We’re asking for limits to how much our employer, the university, can unilaterally raise tuition rates. If we gain such concessions, not only TAs would benefit. It would give impetus to undergraduate action groups which oppose unilateral increases to their tuition rates. Concessions on tuition would not just be a victory for TAs, but for all students at McMaster, as long as students are willing to look at the bigger picture.

      • And the result of that would be that your tuition stays the same while everybody who isn’t in CUPE sees theirs go up. Ergo, lower tuition than everybody else.

  6. “What has become clear is that we are not participating in bargaining; rather, we are being bullied.”

    Looking at the perspective as the employer, wouldn’t they feel as if they are being bullied too? They “must/have” to give into our demands otherwise they wouldn’t have any employees (well, this is as long as you don’t count those who have crossed the picket line and are continuing their regular TA/RA duties.) Doens’t it make more sense to find some sort of common ground (i.e. a compromise) that would involve a give and take from both parties?

    If both sides are unwilling to move then I can see how this strike will be prolonged for an extremely long time which will just hurt both parties involved as well as all the undergraduates as well. I personally am not sure whether the gain outweighs the cost if this is extended for a long period of time. Think back to last year of the strike at York University.

    • We’ve actually continued to move with every package we make. For instance, in our most recent pass (Monday afternoon) we removed all of the language related to seniority based hiring and proposed just keeping the current language. We almost moved on the Class B wage rate and a couple of other items.

      We listen to what the employer continues to say and try to reform our proposals to address their “can’t do” list. This is how bargaining is supposed to work, with both sides trying honestly to find common ground and a deal that can work well for both parties. The problem is the other side just continues to refuse to negotiate.

    • Compromise requires movement on both sides. From everything I have read–not just looking at the union’s material but also the university–they have not moved substantially on our main concerns. On the other hand, our bargaining team has already conceded many of our initial demands. I would suggest, if you want to see whether we are bullying the administration, come out to the picket lines. See what we’re actually doing. There’s no abusive language or behaviours, just a legal and peaceful strike action being carried out in full view and cooperation of Campus Security and the Hamilton Police Service. In fact, the only abusive language which I have witnessed has come from motorists and passersby, not our members. I witnessed one member almost get hit by a motorist who decided to run a barricade on Monday. Our members, in return, have met this abuse with good humour and a positive attitude. I am proud to be part of this union, and to be part of this action.

      • Jonathon, I think you’re being very idealistic. If a union is asking for, say, 100 new things (only some of which are money) and the bosses aren’t asking for anything, do you really think it is realistic to expect that the union will the same percentage of things it is asking for as it would if it had only been asking for, say 10?

      • Gord,

        Actually, the union is focusing upon a narrow range of issues. We are asking that the university increase benefit funding in accordance with the expanded graduate enrollment of recent years; we asking for a wage increase that would narrow (hardly close) the gap between undergraduate and graduate TAs; we are concerned about quality education, and thus are asking for a cap to tutorial size and greater job security for the most experienced TAs; and a limit to unilateral tuition increases. We are NOT asking for an increase in graduate TA wages. So, I ask you Gord: do you think I am being idealistic, thinking that McMaster could provide better education to its students by limiting tutorial sizes and hiring more senior TAs?

      • Gord,

        Actually, the union is focusing upon a narrow range of issues, not a hundred. We are asking that the university increase benefit funding in accordance with the expanded graduate enrollment of recent years; we asking for a wage increase that would narrow (hardly close) the gap between undergraduate and graduate TAs; we are concerned about quality education, and thus are asking for a cap to tutorial size and greater job security for the most experienced TAs; and a limit to unilateral tuition increases. Given that we’re not even asking for a wage freeze for around two-thirds of our members, are we really being unrealistic? Are we really just greedy for money. Really?

      • Has that been true from the outset? Can we see the union’s initial position? A lot of stuff has been agreed to already, has that all been the union caving in to university demands for concessions?

  7. I agree, Malissa: the administration is not currently negotiating, and that is a real shame. To be given a condition that we now have to say we like the offer on the table is not just frustrating, but after a long shift on the picket lines today I interpret this demand as overly punitive and even abusive. I don’t see why our desire to bring our working conditions up to sector standard is being met with such hostility, and it makes me very sad when I’ve always done my best for this school and its students.

    That said, I’m committed to making this university a better place to work and learn, so I remain hopeful that the university will go back to bargaining with us in good faith. I’ve done my job here in good faith for the last four years, and now I am striking in good faith.

    See you on the picket line tomorrow morning!

  8. Hey guys,

    I’m just wondering if we have any attorneys looking into the employer’s current bargaining practices. Aside from obviously being unfair and dishonest, it’s quite possible that they violate the law. It seems to me that the employer is engaged in absolutely textbook bad faith bargaining, especially surface bargaining. Lateness and refusals to meet, several forms of direct negotiation with our membership rather than bargaining team, and, most important, consistent arrival at bargaining entirely unprepared to negotiate. I am not a lawyer, but it seems the employer is getting into some territory that is at least worth looking at very seriously in terms of violation of our rights.

    • We haven’t gone down that route yet as its probably unproductive to getting a deal quickly. We’d rather try to take the high road and keep the lawyers out of it. But certainly its something that this pattern of behaviour has certainly made us consider.

      • Translation: We don’t really have a case here but dehumanizing the employer helps to build solidarity.

      • I would challenge your translation here. There are a lot of reasons for not taking legal action, only one of which is lack of grounds. One of the most common reasons that people choose not to take legal action is that given by Derek in response to my question. This happens all the time in civil issues, and even happens frequently in criminal situations.

        I’m interested to hear more about why you feel the employer’s conduct has been fair and in good faith. A lot of people on the blog don’t feel that way, so if you could point to some evidence of honest good-faith bargaining on the part of the employer, maybe that would help them to take a more informed position on the current state of negotiations.

      • Dan, not continuing to make concessions isn’t illegal. Let me offer another translation of what actually happened yesterday, based on Derek’s account. The university had agreed to meet if the union would submit a revised proposal. The union’s proposal removed their demands for greater seniority protection but did not reduce any of its money demands (and the union isn’t telling you how much they would actually cost). The university laughed them off because in their perception, this is primarily now about money but the union is still jerking around and holding to demands that they have clearly signalled to the union are far higher than they are willing and/or able to pay.

      • Thanks Gord,

        I asked in the other forum about your legal background, but you never got back to me. I’m just wondering how much experience you have in dealing with the issue of surface bargaining. Have you previously represented clients dealing with the issue? If so, could you take a little time to break down the types of situations which end up being considered bad faith bargaining by the courts, and go into some specifics about why it is your professional opinion that such a situation does not exist here? Since you are evidently a legal professional, I think it would be very helpful for you to be a bit more detailed about this since I don’t think there are other attorneys currently submitting posts here. Also, what is your affiliation with McMaster…I’m just wondering how an attorney got to posting on this site.

      • Dan, I’ve never said I’m an attorney. And I take that as an insult (just joking).

        So let me try to understand you. Are you saying that if a union asks for something and the bosses say no, that’s bad faith bargaining? If that were the case, it would seem to me that there would be no reason to bargain at all, you just hand over your list of demands and if the boss doesn’t give them to you, you take them to court. Somehow I doubt that’s how the process is supposed to work, so I doubt that what you are saying is bad faith actually is.

      • Gord,

        You should know that many of your posts regarding legal matters imply a direct expertise which I now realize you do not have.
        Bad faith bargaining is a legal principle which you can review if you like. In certain circumstances, parties during a labor negotiation might file an injunction claiming that the other side has engaged in bad faith bargaining. I don’t know how this process works, or what it requires, but I do know that it happens. Then it is up to the appropriate authorities (like a judge) to make a determination. Again, I don’t know the ins and outs. Surface bargaining, as I understand, involves pretending to bargain without intention of negotiation. It would be up to a court to determine whether this was going on in any given circumstance, including our own. Issues of this type are never cut and dried.
        As such, I did not accuse the employer of bad faith bargaining. I suggested that it is possible that they are engaging in bad faith bargaining, and asked whether our union had consulted a legal expert to determine whether this was, in fact, the case, and if so how to proceed. As I am not an attorney, judge or mediator, it would be totally out of place for me to offer a judgment on the matter – I merely asked whether legal consultation had been sought from someone who could offer an expert opinion. You stated unequivocally that the employer’s current bargaining practices do not constitute bad faith bargaining, and offered a scenario explaining them which may well describe exactly what happened. I therefore assumed that your legal expertise surpassed my own, and gave you the benefit of the doubt on this matter. Evidently, however, this was merely a different opinion offered by another non-expert.
        Once again, I did not offer an opinion that the employer was engaging in bad faith bargaining, but asked whether an expert capable of offering such an opinion had been consulted. Your comments implied such an expertise. I would request that in the future you do not portray yourself as an expert in matters of law if you are not. This is deceptive and misleading.

    • Dan,
      I expect you’d find that their practices aren’t illegal and are, unfortunately, fairly standard during labour disputes.

      • CWG,

        I would note that it could easily be both illegal and commonplace, as are a slew of issues in labor relations. But, yes, my general assumption would be that action would not be taken on the matter as these types of things are extremely difficult to pursue. I was just wondering if it had been brought up. As I just posted to Gord, I was not making an accusation but asking whether the matter had been considered, which I think is entirely fair.

  9. To Max H,

    I agree with you, in the sense that their behaviour can be categorized as hysterical. The reality of a strike hit them and now they lost the little control they thought they had. Losing this control drove them to an extreme reaction (by bullying picketers). It seems to me that the admin’s last concern is to act in good faith.

    To Heather: Unfortunately that is how things are done in the private industry, in the government, kids at school etc.

    • It certainly looks to me as if the University thinks it is the one arguing from a position of strength.

      Make me wonder just how many people are continuing to work and ignoring the strike call.

      • Unfortunately, some are. It’s really a self-destructive behaviour. If one opposes the strike and wants it over with, the best way to make that happen is at least withdraw one’s labour, and preferably come out on the picket line and tell the employer that they need to get serious about negotiating. Nothing will prolong the strike more than members opposing the strike.

      • It would be interesting to get numbers at the end of this week to see how many RA/TAs are working and to see the strength/weakness of the union and whether this would help end/prolong the strike.

    • Sara,

      I objected to that term in particular because it’s sexist (although I didn’t mention that in my previous post).

      Furthermore, that’s the way things are done isn’t exactly a convincing argument. Things used to be done without unions but things changed.

      You’re not required to take my desires and concerns into account of course but if we can minimize the post-strike impact of mud slinging and name calling and adjective assigning I don’t see that as a bad thing.

      • Those are fair points, all. At the same time, there are real concerns stemming from the behaviour of certain university administrators. Our picketers need to be aware of this behaviour, for safety reasons. They need to know that they might be exposed to abusive language, and know that if they are that they will have the support of their fellow picketers and the union more generally. The best way to respond to abuse is present a united front against it.

      • Jonathon, as someone not campus, I didn’t witness the impact of your picketing Monday morning before the university asked you to come back to the table. Can you tell me how long you were holding up traffic at the entrances?

    • and again I question, if we really think they’re malicious, evil, irrational people, why are we trying to bargain with them at all?

      • I take (and agree with) your overall point. Let’s be careful here though: no one has called them evil or “dehumanized” them as someone else has said. Their bargaining behaviour has been characterized as bullying by several posters, and I have called it punitive and abusive. That’s different from demonizing the administration and its bargaining team, which I agree we should refrain from doing.

      • You don’t think Derek’s sly little heaven knows what this irraational (and violent?) person will do to your poor bargaining team behind closed doors isn’t demonizing? It’s a smear of the first order.

      • Gord. I have thus far kept in check my urge to respond to you because I don’t think answering your questions or acknowledging some of what you write here is actually productive. But I am going to ask you to please refrain from posting information that leads to confusion or inaccurately represents the bargaining process/issues at stake. Most of us would likely not insert ourselves into a labour dispute about which we are not intimately informed; and though I believe community members also have a stake in this, and are entitled to their opinion, until you are familiar with the material reality of being a TA, posting remarks that detract from otherwise honest engagement with the issues is, in my opinion, an unwise use of this resource. That you continue to comment on behalf of both the admin and the union is, put simply, and without judgment, not helpful. Please, stop.

      • I’m not commenting on anyone’s behalf but my own. Sorry my interpretation of Derek’s slur upset you so much. But I sure read that as a slur.

      • Hi Gord. Thanks for your response. I should have clarified that my post was in response to the majority of your posts, not just this particular one (this was just the most recent that I could hit reply to). Thanks for toning it down.

  10. A slight digression: how did the term “B-Team” become the accepted simplified form of “bargaining team” in the comments on this blog? Every time I see it I think “why isn’t the A-Team out there?”

  11. how come only a hand full of science TA are on strike??? come on guys…solidarity

  12. I would like to formally retract my allegations of corruption in our Union leadership and apologise to our leadership and all members for the inappropriate tone I have used in addressing the legitimate grievances of myself and other members who are concerned with violations of CUPE3906 by-laws and censorship.
    I encourage all union members to inform themselves of the state of our legitimate petition to hold a Special General Membership Meeeting to hold a ratification vote available at
    I also ask everyone out there to ensure that our entire membership knows about the content of this petition, especially students in departments (mainly in the humanities) for whom I do not have access to their mailing lists and who I believe have a legitimate concern that they have not been properly made aware of our petition.
    Pat Savage

    • Unfortunately, the problem with these kinds of empty apologies is that what you’re apologizing for cannot be taken back. The bullying and character assassination you’ve engaged in is/was meant to turn people against the exec and b-team, and not only get a ratification vote (that has already been turned down!), but also win that ratification vote. You can’t expect to be as malicious as you’ve been to one side, and then turn around and say that all you are calling for is open democracy. You’re purposely poisoning the well and then asking us all to take a drink.

      As I mentioned in a previous reply about this petition, I think you should be more clear about which side you are on in this fight, rather than couching all of your language in that of democracy. Do you not have an opinion yourself? You and your group will simply follow the will of the majority? That sounds like a cop out to me, and it seems like you are trying to convince people that undue process was followed (wrong!), and you are now ineffectively backtracking on your intimidation strategy, in order to hide your true motives.

      • First: an apology is an apology. Its nature is ultimately known by the one giving it (whether its genuine or not). Obviously anything said can’t be taken back, and that’s hopefully a learning process for many people since this forum is so public.

        Second: bullying and character assassination…well, I haven’t read the comments that seem to warrant the apology so I can’t really say much. However, there have been a lot of people on here with puffed up chests and aggressive tones. It has fortunately faded away a bit and hopefully emotions can be checked at the door. Although, not an easy thing at this time.

        Third: that was not a ratification vote on Sunday. The initial request that was made to have a ratification vote was turned down.

        Fourth: poisoning the well and asking us to take a drink…people have been saying that water smells bad for a long time. I have been at mac for a 5 year undergrad and now a PhD, and since early in my undergrad days I have heard this. You cannot pretend this is an isolated claim.

        Fifth: I don’t understand why so many people who are against the universities most recent offer are so strongly opposed to a ratification vote. The wording should be neutral on the petition (would you favour wording that contained a leading question?). If people feel strongly about this either way, they should want this to happen. They should want to give a loud shout out to the university “your offer is unacceptable!” Nothing could be more effective in both getting a better deal and getting more support.

        I really don’t get the last part. You ask questions about what his opinion are, seem to then answer that yourself with another question (did he say he would follow the majority?) and then criticize him for the answer that you assigned to him. Very interesting. And what might his true motives be? I await your answer for him on this one.

      • Greg,

        I’m a little unclear on a couple of your points, but your last comment is well taken.

        For me the bottom line is that these exact arguments were well articulated at the last SGMM by a number of people. They’re arguments that have to be taken seriously, and I think they were. Most of the people in the room at the last SGMM seemed, to me, to be leaning towards ratifiction at the outset, which is understandable as this is the most openly democratic way to proceed, and who could oppose that? But at the end of the discussion, the membership determined that the current package was not worth voting on by a 2/3 majority.

        I think that that speaks volumes, and that it is very important to keep in mind if the idea on the ratification side is simply ‘ratification would be democratic.’ I’m not sure if you were at the meeting, but my own read was that the attendance was an excellent cross-section of our union. We really had a solid representative sample, and every one of the present arguments was set before them…and they spoke loudly.

        So, a ratification vote would absolutely not be wrong, and I don’t think anyone would oppose it on principle. But we already asked, and our members said no. If the argument here is ‘nothing is democratic until I win,’ then I have to strongly disagree. If the interest is in hearing the will of the membership, that really did happen on Sunday (I hope you were there to know what I mean. I realize that numbers can be misleading, but in this case they are not). So, those who are deeply committed to democracy, I think, ought to respect the loud voice of their fellow members and throw their support behind them.

        I do like your discussion of strategy, and I wish I were hearing more of that from the ratification side. The difficult thing here is that many on the ratification side seem to just want to get their own way, and are using the arguments of democracy even after the issue was put before a democratic body and shot down. Arguments from strategy, however, imply a core level of solidarity and willingness to listen to the membership, while still forwarding a good reason to think about ratification. I want to thank you for that, and I hope the ratification side takes a more ‘yes, but…’ stance on the issue in the future, especially because arguing that the process has not been democratic is, I think, quite unfair to the many people who have spoken and voted on the issue on both sides already.

      • I was helping a friend move to Mississauga on Sunday and could not attend the meeting. As the only stated business to take place was information, I felt that I could seek out the information later.

        I am not aware of all of the arguments that were made for or against a ratification vote, but I do understand that there was a broader representation of people compared to the average union meeting.

        And yes, from what I heard, opinions were changed and people decided against the ratification. There’s nothing wrong with that. I hope people go into these meetings with an open mind and listen to the arguments and make their own decisions.

        But the weekend notification and meeting time were not good for a lot of people.

        I will not continue “to fight until I win”. But, I do not think 9 or 10 % of the membership voting is necessarily representative.

        You seem to suggest I thought this was not democratic – I did not say this. I just don’t think enough people had enough notice and because of this, I think it not a fair representation.

        If this happens again, I will certainly look differently upon things. I think many will. But right now, many people feel another chance is deserved.

      • Greg,

        I continue to think your points are fair and your concerns legitimate. The best course of action for us now is to see how this plays out and try to continue gauging the will of the membership. That’s what we tried to do at the last meeting, and obviously we all have a responsibility to continue doing so throughout this process. We also have a responsibility to make sure our own voices are heard clearly, especially at GMMs since it is at these meetings that functional changes can really occur. It’s great to use the blog, but we can’t vote using the blog. I drove three hours from Detroit cutting short a visit with my aunt who had a heart attack last week to be at the SGMM on Sunday because this university matters to me and there is no way our union can hear me out if I don’t speak up. That’s probably above and beyond, but it makes the point – we all have a share in this.

        My only point of concern is that some members of the union may be setting up a moving target. First we had demands that a ratification vote be discussed, and once it was discussed and voted on, we started hearing that that discussion was not sufficient and another one needed to happen, along with arguments that essentially rely on the fact that no discussion of the vote will ever be sufficient on the grounds that such discussion of the vote obviously does not technically predict what the outcome of the vote will be. This is a point of argument which sounds reasonable enough, but which makes a demand on our union which is not reasonable. This is to say that the only two ways that our decision can be beyond any possible dispute would be to have a discussion on ratification at which 100% of members are in attendance, or have the vote itself. As such, those demanding a vote for these reasons are essentially saying that absolutely anything which is not a ratification vote is not a ratification vote (a tautology) and therefore is insufficient. The membership which most recently voted disagreed with this logic on that question of sufficiency, and that’s where we are. I don’t think this is a good pattern for us to get into as it keeps us from focusing on getting a good contract as quickly as we can. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with me here – I feel like it’s been pretty productive so far.

      • Greg,

        An apology is an apology, sure. However, some accusations, once made, poison the well, so to speak. Damage has been done, which cannot easily be re-done. Personally, I find that actions speak louder than words. Instead of simply apologizing, which is of course an admission of fault, Mr. Savage become actively involved in supporting the strike which he now considers legitimate. By “actively supporting,” I mean to say: come out, and work to undo the damage done by the accusations. Put your time where your mouth is.

      • I agree with Greg, as he stated, not enough people came out for the meeting because the notice was short, it was on a weekend, and because there was no mention of having a vote on a ratification. Had that of been mentioned, I strongly believe more people would have shown up and voted. That’s not to say that the outcome of the vote would be different, we don’t know which way it would swing. All we are asking for is to have a proper announced chance to have that vote and ensure that it is actually the will of the majority. I don’t see why this would be harmful. If more people show up, and we vote not to go to ratification, then we have even more bargaining power, and more support. If we vote to take it to ratification, then the process would be over.

  13. (The petition was formally delivered yesterday but signatures will continue to be collected indefinitely)
    Pat Savage

  14. Pat, I find it a little hard to believe that you think the best explanation for humanities students’ lack of support for your side (and for their much-larger-than-average presence on the picket lines) is that they haven’t been getting your emails.

    It seems fairly uncontroversial, and should be unsurprising, (a) that humanities majors will tend to fall left-of-centre, and that (b) this fact will explain their above-average presence on the picket lines far better than a presumption of ignorance on their behalf (of earlier petition).

    We received your earlier petition just like everyone else (though I welcome evidence to the contrary).

    • I think it is important to make a distinction between left-wing theories of economics (Marxism over capitalism) and left-wing theories of politics (democracy over fascism). As I understand it, there is no theoretical reason why one’s economic and political orientations should have any correlation with each other. (As an aside, I believe that in statistical terms it would be correct to say that there is no theoretical reason to believe that economic and political affiliations are not orthogonal to one another.)
      To be honest, I’m not sure that I know enough about economics to be able to confidently state where my views fall on that spectrum. Let’s say for the sake of argument that I’m in the centre and that humanities students on average fall to the left of centre.
      But I am very confident of where my views fall with regards to democracy vs fascism – the extreme left wing. This is also the official position of the CUPE National Union, whose charter statement makes no reference to theories of economics but specifically states:
      “CUPE is a democratic union in which the members make
      the decisions and set the policies. At all levels, it is the rank-
      and-file members who determine by majority vote what the
      Union does.”
      Pat Savage

      • Pat,

        Are you saying that a labour union such as CUPE has nothing to do with economic theory? “Labour” strikes me as a preeminently economic term. Isn’t the whole point of the labour movement to effect changes in how our economy is structured?

  15. I would just like to thank the people who have been spending time on the picket lines. I know that we are all busy so it is great to find such supportive people out there. Keep up the fantastic work! I would also like to thank the people who are going through the lines and being supportive. We know that it is difficult and appreciate your patience and support.
    Keep warm and stay strong 🙂

  16. In addition to my desire for all our union membership to be on the same page, the specific concern of some departments getting the email about the petition and not others was addressed to me by members of the picket line when I stopped by yesterday to talk to them. I thought it only fair to help try to address it, because I think it is a legitimate concern.
    Pat Savage

  17. Can someone please explain how the unions proposed contract will offset the tuition increases as they claim it will, I have looked over the contract myself and can’t seem to find where this is explicitly outlined.

  18. Here’s what the CUPE 3906 by-laws say about Special General Membership Meetings and ratification votes:

    9(c) Special General Membership Meetings may be ordered by the
    Executive Committee or requested in writing by no fewer than 40
    members. The President shall immediately call a special meeting
    when so ordered or requested and shall see that all members receive at least forty-eight (48) hours notice of the special meeting
    and the subject (s) to be discussed (except meetings called by the
    Executive Committee with regards to strike actions, which shall
    require just twenty-four (24) hours notice). No business shall be
    transacted at the special meeting other than that for which the
    meeting is called and notice given.

    Collective agreements and engagements on behalf of the Local shall be
    signed by the President and two (2) Executive Officers and must first be
    approved following a ratification process which complies with the Ontario
    Labour Relations Act.
    1. A notice of a Special GMM (General Membership Meeting) for
    ratification purposes shall be given in accordance with 9 c) of the
    2. The Bargaining Committee shall review any Memorandum of
    Agreement with the entire Executive prior to the Special GMM.
    3. The Memorandum of Agreement shall be provided in hard copy to
    the members attending the Special GMM.
    4. Voting shall commence that evening and conclude at 10:00 p.m.
    ending with the ballot box being sealed & and signed.
    5. Voting shall continue the following day in the Union office from
    10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (or other designated hours, which
    provide for seven (7) consecutive hours of voting time).
    6. All ballots shall be counted by two (2) members, under the
    supervision of an outside supervisor.
    7. Once the votes have been counted, the votes shall be recorded and
    the official record signed by the 2 members and the supervisor.
    8. All amendments to the collective agreements shall be ratified by a
    majority (50% +1).
    9. The ballots are then returned to the ballot box where they are
    sealed and held by the Recording Secretary until a motion is passed
    by the membership to destroy the ballots.
    10. Results of the ratification vote shall be conveyed to the membership
    by the President of the Local.
    11. There are to be no materials present at any polling station that
    could influence the voting outcome.

    Pat Savage

  19. And in case there is confusion between General Membership Meetings and Special General Membership Meetings, here is what the by-laws say about REGULAR General Membership Meetings:
    (a) The Executive Committee is required to call regular General
    Membership Meetings, and in any case, at least one meeting shall
    be called each term during the academic year. Only members in
    good standing may be admitted to the meeting.
    (b) Members shall be adequately informed of General Membership
    Meetings seven (7) days prior to a Meeting, by means of written
    notice, bulletin boards, newspaper ads, or such other method as
    the Executive Committee deems effective.

  20. For anyone wishing to look into the technicalities in more detail, I have placed links to the CUPE 3906 by-laws, CUPE Ontario & National Constitutions and the Ontario Labour Relations Act at the following website:
    Pat Savage

  21. A big thank you to all my political science colleagues who have come out to the picket lines at Cootes in such force. I know many of you are MA students here for only one year and up to your necks in course work. Your solidarity inspires me everyday to keep going and do what it takes to win this strike.

    And thanks also to my PhD colleagues. I know many of you commute. I know we are all at critical stages in our academic work. You all have my utmost respect and solidarity.


  22. After reflection, I must amend an earlier statement I made. I have come to the conclusion that, as it currently stands, the strike has been legitimately authorized by the members of CUPE 3906 and as such, I no longer feel that it is moral to continue to provide my services as a TA, whether with or without pay. I withdraw these services.

    If our legitimate petition to hold a ratification vote is not acted upon correctly, however, our strike will no longer be legitimate and I believe that myself and any other member who feels the same will be justified in breaking the strike and signing an agreement with the university to provide our services with pay regardless of the official position of CUPE 3906.

    Pat Savage

    • Pat,

      I’m glad to see your commitment to the legal rights of our union members cuts both ways. This shows genuine integrity and rationality, and I know absolutely all of us can get behind that. My expectation is that the petition will be treated properly according to our bylaws, and I do not see how anyone could argue that this should not be so.

      In solidarity.

  23. Hi Folks.

    I want to weigh in on this petition business. I’m a member at large who participates in my union because my union is a participatory democracy. That means the only way it works is if we, the members, are involved, go to meetings, and make decisions. Now it seems as though the problem here, from my perspective, is that that democratic process is undermined when people refuse to participate in the process the whole way along, are happy to have other people do all the volunteer labour associated with taking care of their benefits, etc, and generally ignore the fact that their working conditions and benefits we do enjoy are a direct consequence of being union.

    This diminishes the effectiveness of the union as a whole, and means that those misinformed members then 1) complain about the outcomes they feel they had no part in because they abrogated their responsibilities by refusing to participate, and 2) misunderstand the process and in this case, mistake a ratification vote for democratic consultation. We already voted not have a rat vote yet!

    And yet some people think democracy means they get whatever they want for nothing. As an active member who participated in electing the bargaining team and the executive and has faithfully fulfilled my duties, I feel my rights and the ability of the union leadership to represent me are held hostage by attempts to hijack the process like this. I elected Mary Ellen Campbell, Heather Johnson, Derek, Rebecca and the rest, not Stan and Pat from psychology whom I’ve never seen at a meeting, and who I wouldn’t trust with my dental plan, let alone a strike.

    I care about accessible quality public education. That’s why I’m on the line. (I do think it’s inspiring that so many people are consulting the by-laws, though– couldn’t pay people enough to read those things before!)

    • The thing is though, you can not possibly win this battle relying only on the support of the tiny percentage of people that participate regularly in the meetings.

      If I had a choice to opt out of the union I would take it and you guys could go play in traffic all you want and I wouldn’t say a word. But I don’t have that choice. Instead you come to me and say “You need to come play in traffic with us or else.”

      I could simply say, no, and ignore you and go back to work. This is what the clear majority of people are doing. But I am telling you, the union leadership and the 6 percent of the members that elected them, that if you want our support this is what you need to do.

      If you fail to do that you will not get our support and will be on your own.

      I am about done with putting my time and effort into getting this vote. If this last attempt fails then I will be returning to work, and I will advocate that anyone else that feels forced into this do the same, and anyone that has all ready made that decision has made an entirely correct choice.

      You are free to ignore us if you like, and rely on your core membership to see you through this strike, but it does not appear to be working. You are just not getting the support on the picket lines you need, and too many TAs are crossing the line to work.

      I am telling you how you can gain broader support, take it or leave.

      • Hi Trent,

        I love seeing how concepts like “choice” and “democracy” are thrown around on this blog. Kind of reminiscent of the way the Bush admininistration threw these around when they were in power. Lovely memories.

        You actually did have a choice to opt out of the union, Trent. You could have chosen to go to a university where their TAs and RAs are not unionized. There are plenty of them, and plenty of them are not enjoying the many benefits that have been secured for you by past and current union members who seem to take their rights and responsibilities as a union member somewhat more seriously.

      • Riisa… what kind of backwards thinking are you spewing? You’re suggesting that we should decide where to do our Ph.D.’s based on whether or not that institution has unionized TAs???

        TA’ing takes up 8% or my work load in an average year. I am a FULL TIME STUDENT, and PART TIME TA. It seems to me that the decision on which University to attend should be solely based on the kind of research I will be doing in the capacity of a student!

        I came here for the amazing scientific research going on here, the union is an unfortunate consequence I put up with because I have to.

        Many of us scientists feel the same way, and you will hear us on Monday when we end this mess.

    • Good points. I think if you read my comments closely you will see that I have come to agree with you on everything except for your implication that we are not bound by our by-laws to entertain a legitimate petition request presented by the members.
      Also, neither I nor what I’m guessing is about 1/4 of the members of this union who are new students were here when the Executive was elected or for most of the bargaining process, and students like myself who had to spend their first month here finding and furnishing an apartment, starting classes, conducting research, dealing with immigration, utilities and other bureaucracies (including, ironically, trying to get car insurance when I was unable to transfer my foreign license to a Canadian one due to a DriveTest strike) had a lot of chance to participate in orient themselves to the complex procedural and bargaining processes going on behind the “strike mandate vote”.
      This does not excuse us from not participating in this vote, but I think it makes it reasonable for us to try to use the procedural mechanisms we have access to to allow a more informed democratic representation.
      Incidentally, since I pointed out the inconvenience I experienced due to the DriveTest strike, let’s not forget that this strike doesn’t only affect us members of the Union. I’m not hearing a lot of concern from many people out there about the fate of the students we TA for whose tuition hasn’t changed but whose quality of education has decreased dramatically. I care about these students, and while I’ve now officially withdrawn my services from them, I’m not going to feel bound to do so indefinitely if the leadership doesn’t feel it’s bound by its own rules to let us have a voice in our Union.
      Pat Savage

    • I think you should consider that there is a large group of us who are completely apathetic towards all things having to do with this union. I came to McMaster University because of it’s great science, not because of it’s great union, or to make money from performing TA duties. In fact, a rough calculation puts my TA hours at about 8% or the hours I work in a given year.

      I am a Ph.D. STUDENT, I don’t know about you, but this is a FULL time work load for me. I’m not talking about 40 hours per week, I am talking about 60-70 hours per week.

      If a large number of us feel like we have better things to do with our time, this is our business.

      Now that a strike has been called, many of us are willing to participate in a vote ONLY because it has affected us in a negative way (shipping of important reagents is delayed, some tutorials/labs are canceled and this is not fair to the undergrads who paid for them).

      A vote now will be very different from the strike mandate vote, and the vote on Sunday.

      The strike action will have woken up those previously apathetic, and you will see that this union is running off with a mandate that although legally within their rights to do so, does not actually represent the wishes of the “bargaining unit” as a whole, but rather those like yourself, that have shown an interest in union activities previous to this strike.

      The decision for me to strike-break was easy, I didn’t ask to be in a union, I asked to get a great education. The union was just an unfortunate consequence.

      I am fully confidant that if we are allowed to vote, this will all be over. It happened 2 years ago, and it will happen again.

      The petition is a great idea, and anyone who opposes it must have an alternate agenda.

      • You mention 2006, when a strike was averted at the last minute because the membership voted, at a Special GMM, to vote upon ratification. I was at that meeting, and voted in favour of holding a ratification vote. A similar vote was held last Sunday; this time, the membership voted against a ratification vote. So, no, it is not true that “if we are allowed to vote, this will all be over”; we DID vote, just as happened three years ago, and it did NOT end. If you accepted the results of that vote three years, then why do you not accept the results of the vote this time around? Or do you only accept results which you like?

      • I feel like this has been discussed to death already but I will explain it again. The vote on Sunday was NOT representative of the bargaining unit for the following reasons:

        1. It was scheduled on short notice, on a Sunday evening.

        2. There was no mention that a “vote to vote on ratification” would take place at this meeting, but rather that it was an “informational meeting”.

        3. We were cautioned at the meeting on Sunday to hold off on the ratification vote as a strategic tool, because talks were going to continue into the night on Sunday.

        Do you need any more reasons why we need to STOP pointing to the vote on Sunday as being representative of the bargaining unit’s true wishes on Wednesday? I can keep going if you want… but I’d rather do research.

      • Attn berniejt:

        In 2006 about 300 members turned up for a GMM where we voted against giving the bargaining team a strike mandate…I think…We never voted to ratify a contract

        Someone correct me if I’m wrong – I was a first year M.Sc. when this took place and super out of it in terms of union business

    • Trent,

      I appreciate your phrasing your goal in the way you did in this post. I’d imagine this is much more amenable for everyone involved.
      I think it’s important to consider where the feelings of resistance which you’re encountering are coming from. The fact is that a small number of people have been working extremely hard for the last few years while the rest of us (including me, most of the time) have just gone about our lives and taken our union for granted. I would call on all those who feel this way to set those feelings aside in the interest of solidarity and a successful strike. But I would call on you and others voicing your opinion to try and be understanding of these feelings as well. In essence it feels like ‘you trusted me with your union when you didn’t think it mattered, but now that the stakes are high you don’t trust me any more.’ It’s an understandable feeling, and I think we can all have some sympathy for it.
      The other concern, I think, is that many of the people pushing for ratification are being disingenuous. In other words, there is a feeling that some of these individuals might be hardcore anti-unionists who are going to side against our union no matter what, and are only pushing a ratification vote because they think if that vote turns out the way they expect, they will succeed in severely damaging the union (which could actually be true). Again, your last post indicates that this is not your motivation, and I can only assume your honesty. However, I again think it’s quite understandable that people who have put a huge amount of energy into doing what they earnestly believe is the right thing for all of us, including such anti-unionists, would feel a bit hurt and resistant towards these overtures.
      As I said, we need to put those feelings aside and make these decisions rationally, but we also cannot be dismissive of these perspectives.

      • Here is what it comes down to, McMaster is a closed shop, I as a graduate student have no choice in whether I am a member or not.

        I would like to have a choice but I do not. Since I care little to nothing for the union I stay out of their way as long as they stay out of my way. The union came to me and said, you need to stop working and sacrifice 20 hours of your week and get paid far less than you normally would. The union is asking me to do something.

        So I looked at the situation and came to the conclusion that I needed to see much larger participation before I could do what the union wanted me to. I also saw a LOT of people asking for the same thing. When the union leadership told us they would not give us this chance, and I also saw the huge number of people that wanted that chance I decided I would put some time and effort into finding a way to bridge the gap between the majority members and the leadership.

        I won’t keep doing this for much longer. So those that are unhappy with my efforts rejoice I will return to obscurity soon enough. But just keep in mind that I am the vocal end of a perspective that I think encapsulates the general feelings of a very large number of the membership. Listen to what I say and work towards it and you make a lot of people happy. Ignore me, put me down, fight against my proposals, and you anger and disenfranchise that same large number of people.

        Here it is as pointedly as I can put it: Refusing to listen to us will result in significant damage to the union, and likely a worse contract than is on the table now.

      • Trent,

        A good message, and when you put your money where your mouth is when the chips fall and get out on the lines if the next phase doesn’t go the way you’d like, it will be a powerful sign of your own integrity and honor, and an exceptional demonstration of the democratic spirit in being willing to stand behind the will of your brothers and sisters even when it does not match your own. In that eventuality, I very much look forward to standing on the lines with someone as principled as you.

        In solidarity,

      • So be it then.

        If this ratification vote is held, with proper notice of time, location and agenda, and the membership votes it down I will see you on the lines.

      • Well said, Trent. I feel exactly as you do. I think it’s logical to assume that the 139 CUPE members who have currently signed our petition feel the same way.

  24. I think I’ve said about all I can say on this matter, so now I’m just going to trust in our by-laws and in democracy and get back to the research I should have been doing as a FULL-TIME GRADUATE STUDENT and leave my representation as a PART-TIME WORKER to our elected union officials.
    In solidarity,
    Pat Savage

  25. Can anyone tell me if the current contract that the university is offering is in any way a step back from the previous contract, which we were previously employed under. I am just curious if they are taking anything away or is it just the fact that they are not adding enough additional items.


  26. I just wanted to point out that I just overheard a conversation between two students who are completely furious with what we’re doing and I think they are perfectly justified in feeling this way. I look forward to hearing arguments from others at the Special GMM that I would feel comfortable presenting to these students as to why I think it’s OK for us to be on strike, so that if we truly vote not to ratify this agreement I can wear the CUPE pin I’m wearing today without the feeling of shame it’s giving me right now.
    Pat Savage

  27. I have a hard time hearing people say “if I could opt out of the union I would.” You may be happy with your pay now, and the situation at the university now, but the current situation is the result of past union action, people putting in time to ensure not only that your experience as a “part-time worker” is a good one, but to ensure your time as a “full time graduate student” is a good one. In fact, from my perspective this is what the strike is about. If it’s not our job (as students, workers and future professors) to stand against tuition hikes/pay erosion, increasing tutorial sizes, and corporate-style organization for the university, I don’t know whose it is.

    I am a person who went into the meeting on Sunday with a pretty negative view of the union, and determined to not go on strike. In fact, I personally stand to gain very little from the strike, in terms of pay, etc., as I will not be at Mac for long. But I am trying not to let my personal inconvenience get in the way of supporting my union and fellow students, both graduate and undergraduate.

    It is very difficult to argue against the idea that “most TAs just want to get on with things, let’s put it to a vote and get it over with.” And believe me, I also want to get on with things, get my pay and go home, like everyone else. There is a strategic reason for not holding a vote, as anyone at the meeting would know, or can find out if they ask. It is unfortunate people did not come to the meeting, based on the fact they “wouldn’t get to vote on anything.” I can’t imagine going into this strike, making a decision about strike-breaking, not having gone to single meeting, or having sent a single email to the union representatives. McMaster admin is banking on apathy, and whether or not you agree with union’s position, we can all agree that prolonging the strike (which strike-breaking does) is something that nobody wants.

    • Liz,

      There is another way to look at the strike-breaking issue. Strike-breaking, and making the University well aware of our strike-breaking, might make the University more likely to call us to a vote, where I have no doubt the strike will end. They have the right to do this, although, they can only do it once during the process I am told, and I learned this by the way, at the meeting on Sunday which I attended. Anyways, if the school sees that tutorials and labs are still up and running (which MANY are), this is a way of communicating to them that we want no part in the strike, and they will feel confident that a vote will equal ratification of the current offer. So, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that strike-breaking means strike-prolonging.

      I have chosen the Universities “side” on these issues. Why am I being called a “scab” for not wanting to stand arm and arm with my “brothers” with whom I disagree? This is supposed to be a democratic process, correct? Why then, does it seem that my expected allegiance has been predetermined to lie with CUPE, because I chose to do a Ph.D. at McMaster?

      • I can only say you should consider whether McMaster will hold a ratification vote, if there is any possibility it will fail. They only get to do it once, the union can do it many times. You don’t have to agree with the union, of course! But, you could try (as some of your colleagues are doing) to observe the strike and work within the union’s protocol for holding our own ratification vote. And if you were there on Sunday, you would have seen democracy at work (even if you felt that somehow the numbers were tilted, you must have seen that some people did shift their position, I myself being one). You being happy with the current pay and quality of education is, at least in part, owed to previous union action. I can understand your frustration with the union’s rhetoric, and I hope you can understand my frustration with the university’s. If you are a PhD student, I can only trust you have the intelligence to weigh these things for yourself, and if you think that strike-breaking will end the strike sooner, I cannot but respectfully disagree.

      • I’m not sure that I think strike-breaking will help end the strike sooner, I just wanted that idea to be considered. When it comes down to it, it would not influence my decision to strike-break one way or the other. I simply do not support things I am against. I didn’t vote PC because I don’t like their politics. I am not supporting the union for the same reason. It’s that simple.

        Your response brings up another thing I don’t get though. People keep suggesting that I: “work within the union’s protocol”. I’ve signed the petition to have a meeting where we will propose a vote on ratification, other than that, what protocols are you suggesting I work within? That I observe a strike I am totally against because this will help the union win a fight I am against them winning? Why would I do that? It seems to me like a lot people are somehow being fooled into supporting something they are against, because they are being told this will end the strike sooner.

        I will sleep tight knowing that I stuck to my convictions, and didn’t compromise what I believe in.

  28. No TA I know became a TA for benefits and pay, they wanted to further specialize in their field, get an amazing reference letter, and gain solid work experience mandatory for getting a job outside of their post-secondary education. Why are you convincing people they require such obscene dental plans and such? Most graduate students are here from 2-4 semesters and leave… whose pocketing all this excess money dedicated to the benefits plans – as I’m sure not every TA have a family consisting of 20 children who all need $8000 invisalign braces, wisdom teeth removal, root canals, prosthetic teeth and weekly hygienist appointments at the exact same time.

    I would back the TAs 100% if this was their lifelong career option, and if they were planning to remain a TA for a guaranteed 5 years. Sure, everyone would love a little more money, but this is not the job they opted for, and if you’re going to continue to say that this is not about money, then stop asking for more. In reply to the post I made on the “McMaster Walks Away From the Table” post, someone replied that there might be a tuition rebate to accommodate for the consecutive tuition hike that may be present in next year’s tuition. I sincerely doubt this will happen – and as mentioned, workers should not have to accept a deal in which their net pay would be decreased. But realistically, you really don’t have power over that and you KNOW it. Try really helping the TAs out and give them that tuition rebate now – your reassurances that there will be one come next year is just bullshit to get people on your side, and that’s sad.

    I support McMaster’s right to be a corporation and resist caving into your demands. I’m not saying they’re doing what’s RIGHT as they ARE being stubborn, but consider they have more to deal with than you guys when it comes to allocating funds. If you want increases in any area of your profession you have to understand that in turn it might be one student not getting an entrance scholarship to get in, one less powerful iMac in the libraries, less money geared toward creating the innovations our school is popular for, one less comfortable lecture hall with plugs and microphones for all and overall just a lower quality of education. You’re not asking for something that’s going to be cheap, or the university would have caved since they CANNOT risk having the publicity York University got – remember they loss a huge amount of students the following year and had to rebate any student who wished to complete a consecutive semester of school. Where are all the economics and commerce TAs at? Why are people overlooking the direct consequences of the union’s actions?

    This is opportunity cost guys, if you win here, you’re guaranteed to lose somewhere else as a student at McMaster university. If you really think that McMaster is going to reduce their giant bonuses and whatnot, you’re delusional. You will get a tuition hike. You will not be getting a tuition rebate if the tuition peaks next year as they have to make more tutorials and pay more TAs. If the strike goes in the same direction of York University, you will not be given extra funds to cover the now extra rent you will have to pay in Hamilton or the time lost where you could be working a full-time summer job to anticipate the proceeding years’ accommodation and food costs. And hey, you might even be forced back to work and leave empty handed.

    So pick your battle. Get paid a little extra and have a few less people in your tutorial for the semester or two that you have left here – even then, they probably won’t be able to implement any of their plans until next year, as obviously if they got smaller tutorials they’d have to higher a host of new TAs and rearrange schedules and classrooms and whatnot. Compensate for your abysmal raise and fancy pants benefits plan through a rise in your own personal funds.

    So if you’re not fighting for MONEY like I see some people claiming, and you’re fighting about the principal of being treated unfairly by the McMaster administration, then the students can equally fight about the principal of being treated unfairly by the TAs, who should understand and appreciate our position. We are helpless in this strike to do anything, we clearly have no voice, and CUPE supports us by telling us to go angst at the university administration, not them, who are completely angelic and innocent.

    • Jessica,

      I think a lot of undergraduates share your feelings. Thanks for posting them.

      There are some flaws in your presentation of the collective bargaining process. First, I noticed that your assumption is that any tuition rebate and other agreements for next year would be a non-binding promise, but labor negotations result in binding contracts which must be honored by both sides. I also noticed that you seem to misunderstand how benefits work. The dental plan is an insurance benefit. The other benefits are pool benefits which have been running in deficit consistently, so there is no ‘leftover money’ in either case for someone to ‘pocket.’

      Moreover, it’s important to note that TAs are educators, and that money invested in TAs IS money invested in education. We want you to have the best possible TAs who receive enough take home pay to be certain that they can do great work for you. We need to attract the best grad students, who make the best TAs, and offer them the best opportunity to teach the classes which they are most qualified for. We are all for computers and classrooms, but we think the very most important element of your education are the people in front of those classrooms. Our proposals all address, either directly or indirectly, our commitment to getting you the best possible educators.

      Thanks for the interest,

    • Just to temper a bit of the hyperbole: our dental plan gives us $1000 per year of benefits (not $8000) — hardly “obscene”. The increase in benefits funding is only meant to maintain these benefits in light of the increasing number of grad students/TAs.

      MA students are often here for 3-6 semesters. PhD students tend to be here for 12+ semesters — hardly 2-4, on average. (Maybe the ones you’re thinking of dropped out).

      Most of the rest of your comment seems on the ball, though.

  29. Jessica,

    I totally understand your feeling of being powerless and being treated unfairly by TAs. I myself feel a lack of power in this situation, as it seems that undergraduates do not support our cause, and many think the TAs are somehow being greedy or idealistic or some such thing. I really enjoy TAing, and getting a TAship was one of my motivations for coming to McMaster as opposed to other schools. So it, for lack of a better word, sucks not to be in the classroom. But I can’t let short-term problems paralyze me from addressing long-term problems, even if I personally am not affected by these long-term changes. I will likely not draw from the benefits pool, but I think graduate education should not only be an option for young, single, healthy individuals, but also for mature students, with children, etc. Fighting for benefits on their behalf is my responsibility.

    As for the “cut our losses,” I think to a certain extent you are right. The TAs are obviously not going to get everything they’re asking for. But McMaster has not changed their proposal – at all – since Saturday. Compromise is a two way street. Furthermore, you said we should “take a little extra money” and get out of here. Which is, essentially, the easy choice for someone like me. But take-home pay for TAs will actually be less this year than it was last year. Thus pay is slowly being eroded, and decreases from year to year, due to tuition hikes and increased number of TAs accessing benefits.

    And this leads me to build something onto Dan’s comment. If Mac continues to erode pay and increase tutorial sizes, my academic career IS at stake. You are absolutely right, I did not become a TA for pay or benefits. But I did come to Mac because they offered very good funding. McMaster is not Yale, they need good funding to attract good graduate students, and if they cease to be able to attract good graduate students, my degree is worth less in the eyes of potential employers.

    Though it may seem a bit idealistic to try and change the way the university thinks, if I fail to try then I show an utter lack of concern for the profession into which I am hoping to enter. It does affect my academic career, and is not just a matter of a few dollars in my pocket while I’m passing through.

  30. Hi Liz,

    Your post reminded me of a question someone else raised earlier. Regarding the erosion of benefits, an open letter from the university to the bargaining team states that the total number of TAs has actually remained consistent while the graduate enrollment has increased. According to the numbers, the increase in graduate students with guaranteed TA positions has been compensated by hiring less undergraduate TAs, leaving the total number of TAs accessing benefits the same. This letter is located here:—Setting-the-Record-Straight-1-42.pdf

    I apologize if this has come up before, because if it has I missed it. Have these statements been debunked by the bargaining team at all?

    • Thanks for the link – I would be very interested to ask how the 4% decrease ( I think it was like 15% decrease for international students) is projected, especially in light of this letter (well…”in light” as insofar I have never heard mention of it).

      • I’m pretty sure that the relative disparity between domestic and international students has to do with the different tuition rates (tuition for international students is much higher, so an 8% increase in tuition is a much larger absolute dollar value). I would expect that the results of benefits erosion plays only a minor part in their overall project loss.

    • I hope that someone from the union can prove or disprove this, surely they must have accurate counts of the number of benefit receiving members there are from year to year. Perhaps they could post the counts for the past few years.

    • I too would love to see any official comments on this document.

  31. Hey everyone!

    Just came back from day 3 of the strike. We had way more support today than we did yesterday. Many many cars honked and smiled and waved at us when they were let through. Many also held up their leaflet in the window and gave us a thumbs up. We were again visited by members from other unions and faculty (York students came out to show their support on Monday!). The biggest show of support? We had an entire undergraduate class and their instructor come out to hang out with us and learn about what we’re striking for. Moods are still running high. The music and beagle puppy today bolstered our spirits.

    I encourage my fellow strikers and bargaining unit members to remember the show of support we do receive, b/c believe it or not, we do have support. Undergrad students are refusing to go to tutorials that aren’t canceled. Hell, undergrads are even joining our picket lines. I even heard of a couple of instructors who are continuing to hold lectures but are refusing to speak. So thanks to all my fellow strikers and bargaining unit members and those in support of us for coming out today! It means a lot!

  32. Thanks Malissa,

    I agree- lots of support from the people in the cars, who understand that this is about accessible quality education. Class sizes can’t keep increasing forever.

    Most of the faculty in my department have personally been to visit as well. Even the police and security have been genial in maintaining the protocols that all sides agreed to– only admin has been breaking them.

    • I would like to second that. Both the Hamilton Police Department and Mac’s campus security have been very professional, helpful and respectful. I had the pleasure of coordinating with them today and they were great. Kudos to them for helping us keep this a peaceful and safe protest.

    • I agree that so far I have had a great experience with the police and campus security. Today’s picketing really boosted my spirits and actually reminded me how what we are doing here moves through the generations: I had a great experience meeting a long-time acquaintance on the line today. His father was a professor of mine when I was in my undergraduate at Huron Universtiy College. I taught him and his sister swimming lessons when they were young teens. He was then in a class I TAed for when I was doing my MA at Western. Now he is an MA TA while I am a Ph.D. TA. It is amazing we had the chance to meet up again. This meeting showed me how our pasts have a way of catching up to us and accentuates the importance of our reputations.

      See you on the lines again tomorrow.

  33. In attemps to mediate and alleviate some misconceptions and hatred perpetuated about the union on the generally more vicious macinsider forums, I had given my words to convey some of the concerns our fellow undergraduate students have about the picketing.

    As a don’t-shoot-the-messenger disclaimer, I’d like to first point out I am a supporter of the union and I believe there is merit to the picketing. I am merely a messenger that had promised to compile their concerns on this blog and the following points don’t reflect my objections to the picketing:

    Earlier in the week the major complaint about the picketing was the noise (they have pointed out honking, music and loud speakers). Most of the complaints come from people living in the res. just adjacent to the Southeast side Cootes entrance. While we meant to picket primarily at a work place, this is also where they live and sleep.

    This one is from an environmentally conscious student re: the flyers, in that a lot of it is being tossed away right after they’re handing out. The proposed idea was to hand out the flyers to those that appear to want to at least hang on to them to take a glance first.

    Another point raised was from another fellow undergradute student, whom was approached by different crowds on the picket line in stages, resulting in fraustrations from having to stop multiple times to listen to the same rationale of the union and being offered flyers. (I am not sure if this student was on-foot or driving into campus.) Just pitching in my two cents here, on the macinsider forum my defense argument was I think the picketers are doing a great job bringing awareness to the situation with our presence, and it’s easy to lose track of whom had been approached by the previous stage(s) of the picket line, and that purposely upsetting a person with persistance was never the intention.

    On the bright side, it seems at least like some of the authors of the orignal frustrated comments on macinsider are willing to communicate their concerns in a civil manner. Some of those on the thread are the instigators of the “protest the protestors” crowd that had gone out earlier in the week. I was wondering if the picketers had seen them today and if they had reduced in number if were out there?

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