CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Bargaining Blog
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Special Announcement — Ratification Vote GMM Sunday — BT says “reject this offer”


After three days on strike, Teaching and Research Assistants at McMaster are preparing to take the University’s last offer to a ratification vote, but not to end the strike.  Members will take a formal, secret ballot on the offer that has not changed significantly since August 6th.  The Union’s bargaining team is unanimously recommending that members reject the proposed contract.

“We’ve moved several times on our proposals, but McMaster still won’t meet us half way,” say Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 3906 bargaining team member and teaching assistant Rebecca Strung, “Until last night, they were insisting that we recommend their offer to our members, even though our members already told us it is unacceptable time and again.  Now they’ve threatened to take everything off the table unless we concede to their demands. These aren’t bargaining tactics, these are the tactics of a school-yard bully.”

She adds that the only way to stand up to a bully is to band together and that’s exactly the point of taking a ratification vote.  The vote will begin on Sunday night following a membership meeting at the Hamilton Convention Centre and continuing through Monday from 10am-5pm at the union’s strike office.  Picket lines will remain up through that time.

“We came to the conclusion that McMaster would keep wasting our time, and the time of student, faculty and the rest of the McMaster community, unless we took this vote and demonstrated our resolve,” explained Derek Sahota, another member of the bargaining team and a research assistant, “while the picket lines are a clear enough symbol of our members will for us and for the rest of the campus community, it’s not enough for the university administration.  When we reject this offer, the employer will have no choice but to start bargaining with the honesty and maturity we expect of them.”

While the union has, from the beginning, insisted it doesn’t want any increase in wages, there are four major outstanding issues.  TAs want to protect their income from tuition increases, to maintain their benefits fund from impending cuts because of rising enrollment, to win guarantees that the most qualified and experienced TAs can have access to teaching work throughout their degrees, and to cap tutorial sizes so they can maintain their personal relationship with their students and the quality of education.

“The total cost of what we are asking for is less than 0.001% of the university’s operating budget,” says Strung, “the entire amount we need to just maintain our benefits for 2,700 people is less than a starting professor makes in one year.   The only conclusion we can reach is that this isn’t about money for McMaster, it’s about putting our members ‘in their place.’  It’s bullying, plain and simple.  And with this vote we are going to send the message we can’t be bullied.”

“We are the backbone of quality education at this university,” Sahota added, “we love teaching and research and we are care about our students and the quality of their education.  We provide critical one-on-one teaching and high-quality research and we work long hours and have a lot of training.  But we need the resources to do our jobs and McMaster needs to realize they can’t just take advantage of us.”

Picket lines will continue to snarl traffic at McMaster until the results of the ratification vote are counted on Monday night.  If the vote passes, TAs could head back to work mid-week.  If the vote fails, the union’s bargaining team is prepared to negotiate on Monday night to reach a deal to get their members back to work.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 3906 represents over 3000 members at McMaster including teaching and research assistants, part-time sessional faculty and post-doctoral research fellows.  The 2,700 members of the union’s “Unit 1” who are on strike are teaching and research assistants, the vast majority of whom are also students.

More information regarding the meeting will follow shortly.

In solidarity,

CUPE 3906


288 Responses to “Special Announcement — Ratification Vote GMM Sunday — BT says “reject this offer””

  1. About time you gave us this opportunity!

    Now we all need to work together to get as big a turn out as possible. That is something each and every one of us should be able to agree to whole heartedly no matter where we have stood on the strike action itself.

    • Right on!

      We have to encourage everyone to go and vote. Inform people of this blog if they do not know. If nobody has emailed your department’s grad student mailing list by tomorrow, maybe you should. People must inform themselves and ask questions they have. This is not time for apathy. That has gone on too long.

      I believe that regardless of how the vote goes, if the turnout is significant it will be beneficial. It either brings it to an immediate end, or will severely scare the school’s admins because it would indicate that a lot of people are not happy and they would have to make concessions. And fast.

      A weak turnout will not be good for anybody. I fear what the next offer would be if this vote does not get a large turnout. There is a lot of notice for this and no excuses not to vote.

      • Greg and Trent,

        I could not agree more. In the name of democracy, I would encourage everyone to enthusiastically support the results, even if it’s not the one you personally wanted. If “Yes” is the final word, “No” supporters will just have to accept the membership’s will, and suck up their own personal disappointment; if “No,” I would encourage members to abide by that collective decision, minimally by withdrawing labour and preferably by joining the picket lines. Let us accept this vote as binding, and move forward in solidarity.

    • Trent,

      Hopefully people come out this time. We can’t FORCE people to vote so I hope for all our sakes that this time, people take enough of an interest to make the effort!

      I know you understand as do we all that it’s our responsibility to take advantage of our rights in these petitions. To make informed decisions and hear from all sides.


    • What the union is NOT telling you is that MOST TAs and RAs are working during the strike. If these people go and vote this weekend, then Mac’s offer will be accepted and the strike will be over. Truth be told, the union has little support from amongst its own membership.

      • William,

        Are you sure that most TAs and RAs are working? I know of only one scab in my entire department. Do you have any evidence to support your contention?

      • Science, health, engineering departments all seem to be functioning normally.

        In my department I am aware of only a couple people actively supporting the strike, a few more like me who have withdrawn our work but aren’t actively supporting the strike, and the majority appear to be back to work.

        I would imagine that those that have withdrawn their work will be back to work next week for the most part.

        I have communicated with far more TAs that are working than not. My sample is probably biased to that end, but it jives with a lot of peoples experiences.

  2. Thanks for bringing this back to quality education, guys. And for bending over backwards to bring people together and make sure this is what we, the members, want. Personally I didn’t want to have a ratification vote now, but I respect your decision and I’ll be there to vote this stinky contract down!

    • This further demonstrates the democratic nature of our union, it’s up to the members to decide what they want to do. Personally, I didn’t want to go on strike but I’m more and more appalled by the Administration’s actions and their unwillingness to bargain. They’re trying to push us around and I know for one I’ll be voting down the contract.

    • I agree that nearly all of our bargaining priorities are mainly about quality of education. This is an ideal we should all agree on in principle. During the vote, let’s not compromise on this ideal, even if it means some short term hardship!

      • What if it means some long term hardship? Don’t assume that this will be over quickly; that McMaster will just capitulate.

  3. Hopefully the executive or bargaining team are watching the comments. Derek’s last name is misspelled as “Sahorta” in the 4th paragraph.

    • I am pleased that finally the democratic opportunity to vote on the present contract is being offered to all members of CUPE 3906 and that full knowledge of meeting / vote time and place is being well publicized. This is the correct process.

      Below is a article published in Tuesday of this week, November 3rd in the Globe and Mail. It certainly is thought provoking. Everyone, please take the opportunity to read.

      Elizabeth Church

      From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Nov. 03, 2009 8:33PM EST Last updated on Thursday, Nov. 05, 2009 2:23AM EST

      The union local that shut down York University in one of the longest strikes in Canadian campus history has been taken over by the national executive because of “serious financial issues,” including a ballooning debt pegged at more than $1-million and a failure to keep adequate records.

      The York local, which represents 3,300 contract faculty and teaching and research assistants, was placed under the administration of the national wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees last week at the request of the local’s executive. A forensic audit is planned, as well as an investigation into charges of intimidation and harassment of local members.

      The move comes as campuses across the country brace for what is shaping up to be a period of labour unease as universities look to cut costs in response to growing deficits. Teaching assistants at Hamilton’s McMaster University went on strike this week, and contract faculty at the University of Toronto will be in a strike position on Monday.

      In Ontario, the York contract has long been seen as a benchmark for other campus negotiations. A failure by the local to get its financial house in order before its next round of bargaining in less than two years could weaken that position. Problems at the local also come as CUPE is hoping to increase its clout at the bargaining table by co-ordinating campus contracts. There are now 27 CUPE locals on Ontario campuses with contracts up for negotiations in 2010.

      The troubles at the York local follow a bitter three-month strike that threatened the school year of more than 50,000 students before it was ended by the province in February with back-to-work legislation. A new local executive was voted into office after that dispute and soon discovered problems with the local’s accounting practices, including its strike records and receipts for expenses, according to an internal e-mail obtained by The Globe and Mail.

      Last week that executive group voted to ask the national wing of the union to step in.

      Lynn McDougall, appointed by the national union as administrator of the local, said the financial difficulties stem, in part, from the lengthy strike, but also involve “financial practices.”

      “There are very serious financial issues,” she said in an interview yesterday. “There has been a great deal of speculation and certainly there is documentation that is lacking in several areas.”

      Ms. McDougall said she also has received several reports of harassment and intimidation from local members since taking her post last week and will be examining those concerns.

      A group of union members opposed to the move by the national union are attempting to take back control of the local.

      Ms. McDougall said the national wing must get approval from the labour board to keep the local under administration for more than one year. “Administration in our minds is a very serious move and it takes very serious reasons for an executive to contemplate requesting it and for national to do it,” she said.

      Ms. McDougall did not rule out the potential of wrongdoing, saying anything is possible, but that the audit will answer that question.

  4. working to get a big turn out to a meeting, trent? what are you, some kind of union guy or something? (just teasing).

    i don’t want to be bought off by this wage increase, i think i get paid fairly for the work i do. i want the contact the bargaining team put forward, with caps on class sizes to protect both overwork and quality– i can’t have personal conversations with my students or even know their names when there are 120 of them.

    the offer we’re voting on still doesn’t address any of our main concerns. vote down the rat.

    • Despite the various labels that have been thrown around I have never been “anti-union.” The only thing I have ever argued for is more representation by having just this vote.

      I am glad we are finally getting this opportunity.

      • Trent, I hope to be walking with you on the picket lines on Tuesday. I haven’t agreed with much of what you’ve posted on this blog, but respect the fact that you will support the will of the majority. In Solidarity!

      • Trent picketing? Really?

  5. Keep up the good work bargaining team! I can’t wait to cast my vote against the admin’s current offer! Their behaviour at the bargaining table has been shameful in every respect, and it is time to show them once and for all that we cannot be pushed around.

    And to those who have been calling for this vote: now is when we need you most! United we stand or united we fall!

  6. I’m glad the union administration has decided to rally the entire membership together at this crucial point. A huge turnout will produce a strong voice on the issues, and regardless of the vote’s result that’s something I think a lot of TAs can get behind. I know that if the offer is resoundingly turned out by the membership, I’ll be the first one out there to support our bargaining team for the duration.

  7. I am looking forward to voting down this contract and showing the administration that we really mean business. Keep up the good work on the picket lines!

  8. Lists of phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the University’s bargaining team members, president, 29 or so vice presidents – and whoever else really makes decisions – should be better distributed to those getting union information via signs or pamphlets at slowdowns. A simple non-moralistic description of the university’s current bargaining stance and few statistics of the size of our demands compared to other expenditures coupled with a request that the reader call these people and tell them what they think of the current situation. That and picketers should have signs with the president’s phone number and e-mail on it. Even if it’s not everybody idling with a phone is pro-union, a large flood of info puts pressure on the administration to end this mess. Also, where are the NDP MP and MPP at the picket line? Surely we’re not passing up that opportunity for a positive media story before Friday newscycle?

  9. I wasn’t one of the people who wanted a ratification vote at this stage, but now that we have one, I’ll happily tell the university to take this unacceptable contract off the table.

  10. I look forward to voting down this contract

  11. I think that our cause would be improved if TAs were informed about the history of union activity at Mac, particularly the fact that health benefits we enjoy today were secured by the efforts and strike action of 1999. While this was a different union (a much smaller and less experienced chapter, from what I’ve been told) it is because of their strike effort that I was recently able to go to the dentist for the first time in five years, and to secure affordable physio for a back ailment.

    I therefore feel obliged to participate in the current action, both because I believe in the importance of maintaining our current level of health benefits (not to mention the important issues of tutorial caps and 5th year positions), and because I feel a responsibility to the TAs who will come after me not to leave them with a worse deal than I currently enjoy. Putting the current situation in this historical context has helped solidify my comitment to the current action. See you on the picket line!

    • Well said! I couldn’t have expressed what I’m thinking better. See you on the picket line!

      • I completely agree as well. The tactics of the administration continue to strengthen my resolve in this strike with each passing day, and this is the sense that I am getting from the TAs who I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking to on the picket lines for the past three days.

        I did not want a ratification vote to be put to the membership so soon, but I will be there on Sunday to vote against this terrible and insulting package that the administration is trying to push through.

      • It may be “well said”, but alas it isn’t true. You have health benefits through the Graduate Students Association, not through the union. This is easily verified by looking at both the Grad Student Association website and the current collective agreement. Although former graduate studenst having voted in a majority to get this benefit at cost to themselves, the union is now trying to get the university to pay for it.

      • Gord, I’m pretty sure Simon was talking about health benefits in general. He mentions dental, and doesn’t mention eyecare. Quit playing semantic games in order to confuse people. Since you have absolutely no stakes in the bargaining process at McMaster, your ideologically motivated and childish behaviour have no place on this blog.

        Also, his main point remains the same, and, in my opinion, really gets at the heart of what’s going on. Maintaining our benefits package is our responsibility both to those who initially fought for it and to future members of our local. Again, well said Simon!

      • Nick,

        You’re public employees paid out the pockets of taxpayers like me. So I do have a stake in this. You can pretend all you like that there are no significant costs to what you are demanding from the university. But if you had any notion of reality, you would realize that it has to be paid for somehow. I see two ways – for the university to cut elsewhere, or the province to increase taxes.

        Most taxpayers don’t have somebody else paying for their glasses, and many of us aren’t thrilled to be asked to pay for yours.

      • Gord, if your worried about taxpayers money going to pay for university issues, you should be more worried about how much the admisistratives are getting in bonuses each and every year, and not the fraction that the CUPE is asking for

      • I said I was going to withdraw from posting on this board, but I can’t leave this misinformation (or is it disinformation?) out there. Every penny made by university employees who earn over $100,000/year is public information. There are no “bonuses”. Where do you get this stuff, or do you just make it up?

      • Gord, you should try becoming informed before you spout off around here. Some medical benefits (our absolutely *pathetic* drug plan for example) are administered by the GSA while others, such as our dental benefits, are administered through the union.

        Personally, I wish the union would administer all of our health benefits so that we could get out from under the useless drug plan we are currently forced to take.

    • Exactly. Without CUPE efforts and past strikes we will end up getting $7 per hour! Thanks Simon!

      • Riiiiiiight, you wouldn’t even be making the legal minimum wage.

      • “Riiiiiiight, you wouldn’t even be making the legal minimum wage.”

        Gord, you joker: you make it sound as though you’re unfamiliar with hyperbole, rather than a master thereof.

      • Infact, at many universities in Canada where RAs and TAs are not unionized (for instance, when I did my undergrad at Saint Mary’s) they receive between $1000-$2000 per year (not term) as an “honourarium” for performing their duties. At 10h/w this would come out to roughly $3.85-7.70/h This is legal because the work is not classified as employment.

      • Max, that’s all very nice, but you won’t find any governed by Ontario labour law where that is the case. I believe that there are nonunionized TAs in Ontario, though. Do you know how their pay stacks up against yours?

      • Just talked to a former Queen’s (non-unionized) masters student. In the faculty of science, he made $39/hour.

        You may all proceed to call me nasty names if you like now.

      • Trent TA’s are non-unionized and their undergraduate TA’s make minimum wage. I’m not sure on hoe their graduate TA pay stacks up but one could make an educated guess (or do some research I suppose).

      • If all of Trent’s TA’s feel that minimum wage is not enough… then why do they not seek work elsewhere? If McMaster offered me minimum wage, I’d decline their TA offer and seek work off campus. I wouldn’t accept the job then immediately begin complaining about how I’m not paid enough.

      • Mac TA, if anyone thinks like you then McMaster will be one of the worst universities soon and that’s one of the reasons why CUPE is fighting, to keep the quality. If TAs are getting paid shitty that they have to find another job, then they’ll not be dedicated to their TAship, which means low quality of the school! I don’t know any high-ranked university that treats TAs and grad students very bad. All the top schools will try their best to get the best grad students to keep the quality of the education of the school! Reasonable?

        In Solidarity, V!

      • Indeed McMaster would be one of the worst universities around. And believe it or not, the administration doesn’t want McMaster to be a bad school either. Hence why they offer what they believe to be a competitive wage. I believe their wage to be competitive because I accepted my TA-ship. Had I not believed it to be competitive, I’d have declined their TA offer and sought work off campus.

      • When I was at Queen’s in Humanities we made 18/hour as a Masters TA (the scholarship was much bigger than Mac’s though)

      • I would hardly say that what McMaster pays us is in any way unfair, or not enough. I challenge you to go find a part time job else where that pays you almost 40$ per hour and offers the same benefits. You won’t find one. And as an employer, it’s not McMaster’s job to ensure you’re financial stability as a “student”. You pay tuition for a service that you receive, just like you do for any other business. At the same time, the university pays you as an employee for the servies you provide to them. Just because tuition increases for you as a student, doesn’t mean your wages as an employee should match that. They’re separate.

      • @ SepSep: I would say that McMaster has a vested interest in maintaining quality. They’re in the business of providing an education and advancing research, and the reality is that most of the grunt work of both is done by graduate students. Obviously if they didn’t pay well they’d either not get enough grad students or not ones good enough for advancing their goals. Remember that in addition to money earned from TAship departments also offer scholarships, often in excess of the yearly earnings of a TA. It’s the total package of TA + scholarship that’s used to compete with other schools for graduate talent.

        What data do we have about the total packages being offered to students? I would think those are more relevant when discussing the overall quality of education.

      • Trent graduate TAs and RAs are unionized, we went through a round of contract negotiations last year when I was there. Just FYI.

      • To add to what David said; how many people looked at the TA wages and benefits before choosing a university. Likely very few, because most of us will choose a school based on the education that we will receive, not by the jobs that they can offer us.

      • @David: Definitely McMaster is one of the best schools in Ontario and Canada (yeeaaah). But the point is that if we want to keep the quality or not? Do we want to make it better or worse? For example, I am getting paid $516 at the end of the month including scholarship and bursary. Since I came here I have seen different schools and other departments that are paying waaaay better. That has been one of the reasons for me not to be dedicated to mac and always trying to find a part time job or tutoring to be able to pay my bills! And I would not definitely stay here if I get a better financial support even if the ranking of that university is a bit worse than mac. I should be able to live or not? I know a lot of people now don’t care about the strike because it hasn’t touched them yet and it’s terrible that people are so selfish!

        @SciTA1: I have to remind you that quality of education has different factors and one of the most important one of them is the research that is done in it and the publications. Profs are so important but grad students are mostly carrying this burden. You forget that the university without the students is like a country without it’s people, empty and useless! So the people or here students are giving the value to the school.

        So if you try to keep a good quality you have to get good students. As a good students 😀 one of the 3 main factors for me to choose my grad school is financial support.

        In Solidarity, V!

      • SepSep,

        You’re exactly right, what attracts people to the university is the quality of education and research, and in most cases, it is the grad students who perform the grunt of the work, with advisement from their supervisor. So yes, we do give value to the university through the work that we do. However, as an EMPLOYER, the university is not obliged to make sure you are financially stable enough to study here. The are only obliged to pay the TA’s for the service they provide for the university. I believe, what you should be looking for is an increasing in funding, be it scholarships or bursaries, in YOUR particular department (whatever that is), not the university as a whole, and certainly not through the union.

      • @SciTA1: Well I believe that it is better that university supports some basic financial support for everyone (grad students mainly) so the can live with and be able to be dedicated to the school. Extra scholarships should be for more convenience for grads.

        How should I live in hamilton with $516 per month? As I said somewhere else I’m an international student and most of the scholarships are not for me so what should I do? I’m not counting on it cuz I have enough money to live myself, but a lot of people do.

        In Solidarity, V!

  12. Although I was not originally in favour of having a ratification vote, I am glad that this will resolve some of the memberships concerns about having their voice heard. Come Sunday I will vote to reject the administrations offer and I hope others will be persuaded to do likewise. I will see everyone on the picket lines tomorrow.

  13. Why can’t we do this on a weekday? Friday, Monday? NO! It has to be Sunday.

    • Karl: don’t forget we get to vote on Monday, too.

    • I just read that we will still be voting on Monday (10 am – 5 pm), so that helps but these meetings should be held at more accessible times.

    • I’m sure there are many people for whom weekend meetings are inconvenient. However, I’m also sure (based on the situations of the many TAs I happen to know–the TAs you happen to know may have different circumstances) that there are just as many people for whom weekday meetings are similarly inconvenient.

      We are complying with the university’s request to have the vote by Tuesday. We need to have ratification polls open for a day (following the meeting and throughout the next day). As has been pointed out again and again on this blog, we should give as much notice to our members as possible. Given all this, I can’t really think of a time that would suit our needs better.

    • What do you mean that Sunday is inconvenient? That’s an important meeting amidst a strike and scabbing and all that! If you don’t show up on Sunday, that’s your problem and then don’t complain later. Besides, we are either grads or undergrads during the year => means we are on work? I guess. Anyhow, we don’t ask you to move to GMM everyday!

      • Well, it’s not just my problem; it’s everyone’s problem. Do you want another 11% turnout at the meeting? My main concern though is being able to vote. In so far as the vote will take place on Monday near McMaster, I’m satisfied. If you want to make the trek on Sunday night to downtown Hamilton then by all means be my guest.

      • Many, many, McMaster TAs LIVE downtown. Again to reference the TAs I know, I’d say at least 80% of them live downtown. Your personal inconvenience is not shared by everyone, not in the least. And I’d say it’s worth a trip downtown, if you don’t happen to live there. You seem to care quite a bit, and downtown isn’t all that far from campus!

    • Karl, as a person who commutes I agree that Sunday is a pain in the ass but I’ll go – as I did on Sunday last week. I’m staying informed so I can make the best decisions. Only be being active and part of the process can a person truly say they made an educated decision.


  14. Its unfortunate that there was such a small turnout at the original vote of whether or not to strike. Sadly many TAs did not support the strike and did not vote, now they are still working with permission from their professors and are aggressively against the strike and will let their opinions be known to the picketers. Many of these picketers in faculties such as social work and labour studies cannot scab as it goes against the ideals of their degree. I do not support the strike but support these vocal non-voters even less. Hopefully soon enough they will realize that at the very least you should vote, rather than just complain when it is too late.

    • They don’t necessarily against the strike. IMO more people don’t believe in strikes and unions. Some segment represents a mix of apathy and lake of education.

      • BTW, I meant education on strikes and unions etc. I by no means implied insulting their general education!

  15. The tactics of the admin by refusing to negotiate are unbelievable and as a result is further building unity among the rank and file. Let’s all participate and vote down this terrible offer which is an insult to every TA and RA.

  16. Great post Simon! I agree it is an unfortunate symptom of the kind of membership our union has (since some of us move in and out of the university fairly quickly) that much of our membership has a short memory with respect to the kinds of advances our unionization has made.

    Even more unfortunate is that the university administration has a significantly longer memory. In the past, they have seen how they can mobilize the fact that many of us are stressed by our workloads (personal and professional) and our frequently precarious financial situations, and they use these conditions to bargain in bad faith and to weaken our belief that we can successfully use strong tactics (like striking) to make sure we get a fair contract. They count on TAs and RAs being fearful of ending up with a worse deal to bully us into accepting a bad deal. This is an intolerable relationship. Our striking sends a clear message that many of us are fed up.

    I was happy to stand by the decision we already made at the last GMM to not hold a ratification vote, but I will certainly be there to vote down this crap currently on the table!

    I am proud to be walking the lines with those you out there with us!

    • Has the university bargained in bad faith? Do you know that bad faith bargaining is a formal term in labour law, and it is really not a good idea to throw around allegations like that without evidence.

      • I think the answer is: yes. They’re stuck on their same proposal and are not bargaining. They have in no way made a reasonable attempt to arrive at a collective agreement.

        Incidentally, would it be a good idea to allege that blog posters such as yourself engage in bad faith commentary?

      • Standing firm on one’s principles is not bad faith bargaining. Hasn’t your side been standing firm on certain of its positions?

      • Gord, you want to know what bad faith is? Read again these posts:

        You have missed one and haven’t posted any valuable comment, so sad! But in the other you have more than 10 comments but I guess you need to read and listen for a bit instead of talking and writing forever!

        It’s not useful for you anyways since you’re probably paid by admins to be here to destroy the blog. I’ve been living all my life with people like you and I know your way better than you know yourself!

      • SepSep,

        I appreciate your frustration. However, in all fairness, do you have actual evidence that Gord H is a plant?

      • Did I say anything about being a plant? I guess somewhere else someone said something about him/her/them! But we have some people in the lab working on this spectacular phenomena!

        In Solidarity, V!

      • “It’s not useful for you anyways since you’re probably paid by admins to be here to destroy the blog. I’ve been living all my life with people like you and I know your way better than you know yourself!”

        Again, with the allegations. Do you have any proof of this or are you just blindly throwing this out? We get it, you follow CUPE to a tee. Gord doesn’t. Why the allegations?

        Go ahead, SepSep, call me paid off. I can take it.

      • I would actually like some simple clarification on this bad faith idea before I vote. Does the University have to negotiate further amusing they have already given up some concession to their original offer? Now this could work both ways and I am just using it as an example but say (it is unrealistic on purpose to just illustrate the question):

        Say the University asks CUPE to take a paycut of 20% and CUPE say ‘no’. CUPE refuses to budge and will not come back to the table would we consider that bad faith as they will not meet half way? What is the University said well let’s make it 10% to make everyone happy and CUPE still (rightfully) says ‘no’. Is it bad faith then?

      • SepSep, the two examples are very informative. Your bargaining team’s boasting about how honourable it has behaved is actually a great example of what would have, had they not pointed out the misunderstanding to the other team, constiuted bad faith bargaining. Accepting an agreement to something from the other team when you know or strongly suspect that they haven’t realized or have misunderstood its implications is one kind of bad faith bargaining, which would vitiate any gain obtained by it.

        I wonder if there were any cases where the university did the same for your team? I’m sure we won’t hear about it here, if there were.

      • Sorry Gord, I’m allergic now to your comments and I have to remove them right away from my mailbox and I’m so sorry that I cannot reply, I just wanted to let you know to don’t wait patiently for me to answer and reply right away with your rich misinformation!

        In Solidarity, V!

  17. Family commitments prevent me from being able to make the meeting on Sunday, but I most certainly will drive into town on Monday to vote down the university’s current offer. I’m so thoroughly impressed by the many thoughtful, encouraging, and informative posts on this blog. I hope the GMM proves just as respectful and engaged for those who have their doubts about this whole process. Thanks again team for working tirelessly on our behalf!

    Until then, see you on the picket lines!

  18. When I vote on Sunday, it will be in absolute agreement with our bargaining team’s recommendation to reject this offer. Again and again I have been impressed by our bargaining team’s thorough knowledge of everything involved in the long bargaining process, the issues, the documents, the figures, etc. I appreciate their tireless efforts to communicate information and to explain (expertly and helpfully, from what I have seen) points of confusion.

    For me, to accept the university’s current offer would send the message that I accept their utter refusal to negotiate with us at the table and that their divide and conquer strategy is effective. And that’s not the message I want to send.

    I’ve been encouraged by the show of solidarity on the picket line these past three days and I am proud to be a part of it.

    • I was heartened today by talking with a fellow TA whose experiences growing up under a totalitarian regime had convinced him of the importance of banding together to support our collective rights against the “divide and conqour” tactics being used by the university administration. While I have had the luxury of growing up in a “democratic” country, we forget how important it is to fight to maintain these rights. See you on Sunday!

      • I will stand together when it is for something that seriously matters. Have a little perspective, please.

  19. I have been incredibly fulfilled by the strong will shown by my fellow picketers standing under the rain and the cold weather fighting for a fair deal that would benefit us all. They all deserve the greatest recognition.

    I would also like to use this opportunity to express my gratitude towards all the people working hard behind the curtain ensuring everything work as expected, to them my bests wishes.

    I will definitely be on Monday for voting down the pathetic offer presented by the University (which at the moment I believe could not care less about our situation) to send them back to the table to bargain fair and seriously.

    Stay firm, and I hope to see all of you (and more) tomorrow at the picket lines.

    In solidarity.

  20. All of these posts appear to be written by the same person.

    • Same old conspiracy theory! Dude, do you watch a lot of FOX News, Glenn Beck or O’Reilly? Can’t you put up with the fact that more and more TAs (grads and undergrads) are in solidarity and are pro-CUPE and pro-strike? It’s a legitimate thing to support your union and go on strike if your monthly pay checks reduce from $791 to $610 and even $530!!

      Thanks to all the guys posting here in solidarity! Keep rockin the picket lines regardless of the haters!

      • The comment on paycheques assumes one views ones TA duties and academic duties as inseparable. Many undergraduate and graduate students without TA-ships don’t have the luxury of deciding if they’re inseparable and only deal with increasing tuition costs. I cannot in good conscience contribute to raising those students tuition costs, and as such will be voting to ratify.

      • Well…if there was a guarantee that tuition costs would not rise, then the deal we’ve been offered might appear more acceptable. Unfortunately, Mac has been raising tuition, and is planning to raise tuition, to the maximum or near maximum levels that they are legally allowed. This is part of what we’re upset about!

  21. I spoke against the ratification vote last week, but I’m pleased that we are proceeding this way at this juncture. Last Sunday was a precarious moment, and many of us really expected some serious movement from the administration if we voted down ratification then. We thought sending a strong signal would force movement. The administration didn’t move, so we now need to send an even stronger signal (I was shocked that a 2/3s majority wasn’t strong enough for them, but I guess it wasn’t). So, this is our chance to do it. It was about both strategy and democracy before, and it’s still about both those things now – and this is our best bet. Kudos to the bargaining team, and to everyone for this decision. Let’s go out and show our strength and make a big push for a contract we can accept.

    And, I hope people make a major effort to attend the meeting and not just vote on Monday. We need to hear each other out, and discuss the matter publicly and democratically. It’s good that members will have as much opportunity to vote us possible, but let’s take it upon ourselves to listen to each other and vote informed, rather than simply deciding beforehand.

    • 199 members voting against a ratification vote is approx 7% of a total membership of 2700. 91 members (approx 3%) voted for a ratification vote, and the other 90% didn’t voice their opinion.

      Those are the numbers. Decide what you will about the 90% that didn’t vote.

      • Look, it’s 69% whether you like it or not.

        7% is a despicable lie. Since when we report votes in terms of participation? The 90% didn’t show up, and that’s their fault. They don’t care about the vote that’s why the are not counted.

      • “Decide what you will about the 90% that didn’t vote.”

        Fair enough, but keep in mind that more than 40% of the electorate didn’t even bother to vote in the last federal election.

        I’m just hoping for a turnout as large as we had at that massive CUPE meeting three years ago. It was probably more like 20-25% of the total possible voters, but was a respectable showing (especially given the previous fact).

      • You’re free to “report” the numbers as you see fit. I stated nothing other than fact above.

      • “I stated nothing other than fact above.”

        And it should simply be stated, on the other side, that democracies weren’t really designed to account for the preferences of the apathetic (except maybe in places like Australia, where there’s a fine for not voting).

      • To which I’ll finally add some opinion.

        A large chunk of that 90% apathetic were earning TA pay until it got cut off this week. They want that money flowing again, and won’t be apathetic for much longer.

      • “Report”? So by your esoteric metrics Obama ‘ve got 33% popular votes instead of 52%. Interesting!

        Anyhoo, can anyone from humanities, social sciences etc tell us more about plurality vs turnout? and the possible correlation?

      • “They want that money flowing again, and won’t be apathetic for much longer.”

        The university has been more than forthcoming with information on how one can be paid if one really desires to cross the picket lines.

      • And Mustafa, if 2 voted against a ratification vote and 1 for, out of a membership of 2700, I guess you’d interpret that as 67% rejecting a ratification vote. And I then guess you’d believe THAT to be a strong indication of the union’s resolve, too.

      • So what would work for you? I pitched 20-25% as a good ballpark expectation.

      • It would be better if these missing and apathetic voters came out, listened to the issues, and decided for themselves.

      • That’d be the ideal scenario, I agree.

        Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. And the bargaining team took an extreme risk in assuming all these apathetic voters would remain apathetic.

      • I think you’re putting words in the bargaining teams mouth by saying that. Its possible the bargaining team wants to know how the “apathetic” people feel now after a week of a strike, and will bow to a democratic position. Is this not also a possible interpretation?

  22. Solidarity? Get back in the classroom and stop wasting undergraduate education hours. If TAs spent half as much time teaching properly as they do complaining about tutorial size and benefits, maybe I would be able to see some actual results. It’s absolutely disgusting that CUPE won’t bend in the slightest. The school is facing huge deficits next year as it is. Almost all Engineering TAs crossed the picket line; makes me proud to have almost none of my classes in the Arts Quad.

    • It’s disgusting that Engineering TAs scabbed! Again and again and again, if your monthly pay check reduced from $791 to $610 or even $530, and if you are (on top of that) not allowed to work off-campus, then you will go on strike forever.

      Neither you or any other person can tell us to go back to work or not. Do you all understand that?

      Only the CUPE votes can decide that for all of us. If our voters say go back, we will go back. If they say strike, we will strike. That’s how we do our biz. K?

      • Correction:

        The Ontario Labour Relations Act states that ratification votes are presented to members of the bargaining unit, not just members of CUPE 3906. Any and all TA’s that continued working through the strike action are allowed to participate in the ratification vote. To deny them access is in contravention of Ontario law.

      • We don’t have to get smart! May be I need to rephrase:

        The dude is an undergrad and ordering us to “Get back in the classroom and stop wasting undergraduate education hours.” What I said was: only “the voters” can tell us to get back or not. Obviously “the voters” include all the members of the b-unit.

      • No Mustafa; instead it’s admirable that the Engineering TAs put the interest of their undergraduate students ahead of their own self-interest. I was an undergraduate student for 5 years and a graduate student for 1 year. Hmmmm, I wonder where my loyalties will lie…

      • Karl, the social contract is not (and should NEVER be) broken between TAs and undergrads. We are striking against the university administration. It’s not against Mac itself (I recall that person behind me in the meeting reciting to her friends that “Derek Sahota is so anti-Mac; he hates Mac so much”!) nor against undergrads.

        We will be more than happy to make up for those classes missed. But we can’t accept that the university’s offer; neither can we accept that they walk away from our table. We are in a position to send a strong message to the university that we withhold our services till better CA — unless the plurality votes go the other way.

      • Yeah, but to get to Mac, you’re taking the undergrads hostage and I’m opposed to that on ethical grounds. Not much separates us from the undergrads; we are all students. We already have it so much better than them and yet we want more.

        If I told you that whatever concessions we extract from McMaster will results in less bursary money for the least privileged segments of the undergraduate population, would you still feel the same way about all this? Some of us do genuinely believe that the benefit structure we have in place right now is more than fair.

      • How can you blame an Undergraduate for being angry that TA’s are striking. Do you think the university is giving them tuition back because you took away an hour a week worth of education from them? Are YOU going to give them money for the trouble you are causing them. No.

        You have a right to have your voice heard, but they have exactly the same right, and they have the right to be upset if that is how they feel. You are not in that situation.

        Please be respectful, if it is truly the quality of education of the undergrads you are fighting for then I would argue there would be feelings of sympathy for them at this point, because as Karl said they are suffering as a result of this action.

        Try and look at this from their perspective. Additionally did anyone survey the undergrads who have labs or tutorials asking them if they felt they were not being given the devotion they deserve from their TA’s due to class size?

    • CUPE has bent over backwards in bargaining. We are on strike because we can bend no more. We have reduced our offer many times since we began bargaining. The employer’s proposals today are, on the key issues, pretty much what they were on August 6. We ave conceded a great deal to avoid a strike and our bargaining proposal was extremely modest to begin with, taking into account the poor economic situation. Yet McMaster is in surplus this year and senior executives continue to rake in huge bonuses.

      • Anyone who works as a TA (including undergraduate TAs and RA-in-lieu-of-TAs) will be permitted to vote in this ratification. In our union local there only a semantic difference between a “member of the bargaining unit” and a “member.”

      • Bent over backwards? How many concessions have you made (a concession is giving up something you already have)?

      • I don’t know if there are actually surpluses this year but if there are then surpluses this year doesn’t necessarily translate to surpluses next year. The university like all organizations and firms need to hold onto surpluses for emergency situations.

        I also don’t know about what senior executives are receiveing or not receivng but we are not comparable to senior executives so that shouldn’t be a major factor. (Senior executives MAY be getting bonuses because that’s what needed to keep them at our institution, otherwise another institution may offer them a better deal and we would lose out on top execs at our school. Of course this is all speculation but I don’t think it’s that far from reality.)

      • 1.4 million to Peter George is under that category? And all the other moneys that are being spent up there? Cutting pennies given to TAs is better than cutting anything of themselves? Money is so sweet for these people.

      • SepSep…1.4 million is only half of the equation. You also have to specify how much extra he brought in to McMaster over and above what your average Joe six-pack would be able to muster. I am willing to bet that the university got it’s money’s worth (plus more). So to reiterate, don’t quote his salary; that’s irrelevant. Instead, quote his net contribution. That’s what matters.

      • If it’s recession time and they don’t have money then they don’t have money! Your justification is lame! The problem is that people might think that university doesn’t have money to give TAs 1 something million to just cover the same f***ing tuition increase, they don’t even want to make a single penny out of it! I don’t know why you try to justify admins’ money spending for themselves. Are you getting something out of it?

      • SepSep, if McMaster cuts into Peter George’s pay, another university will come along, offer him more money and he’ll leave. And he’ll take his superior ability to raise tens of millions of dollars for the university with him. And the university will not find someone as capable as Peter George for less than $1.4 million. Fundraising goes down, and though the university saves in salary, it loses more in lost revenue.

        So forgive me, but your justification is lame.

      • “I don’t know why you try to justify admins’ money spending for themselves. Are you getting something out of it?”

        Why is it that every time someone disagrees with the strike, they always get labeled as either being paid off, a fan of fox news, or a george bush fan? (all of these insinuations have occurred on this blog)

        Please understand that different people are allowed to hold different beliefs on the whole strike issue without either side necessarily being bad or evil.

      • @Mac TA: well it is the same for TAs. They’re not paying for them to even live here. Other universities get these opportunities, so easy, I’ve seen it myself and I won’t definitely stay here for my PhD if I get a better financial support from another university, you think I can live 4 years with $800 per month? Or I can find a job while I’m working at mac?
        And Does that 1.4 million has anything to do to keep him at mac? If they have to pay all the profs extra to stay then every year all the profs will go to the other schools.

        @Avery: Cuz indirectly they’re supporting the failure of unions which are one of the most important things that Canada has and you’ve got it from your ancestors but you don’t know the value of. I hope you never face the problem of some developing countries, that you have to fight for a pinch of freedom and having a union to support you.

      • Sorry I forgot this:

        In Solidarity, V!

      • SepSep. Thanks for assuming about the developing country bit. I know full well what happens when freedom is taken away. My great grandfather was shot dead on sight by communists because he was a land owner. My aunt had to swim to hong kong for freedom, while my uncle hid inside of a suitcase. So don’t tell me about freedom.

        My dad was a PhD student and TA at Mac 30 years ago. He had 2 kids and a wife that didn’t work. He never once asked for other people to pay for his choice, and he thinks it’s disgusting that this strike is happening now. This is coming from a man who was born in China, and educated in a communist school (and still has many sympathies for the govt of China).

        You think unions are important, and I think they are outdated. That is an opinion that neither of us is going to change any time soon.

        Further, I fail to see how being forced to pay $30/month to join a union is ‘freedom’. I’m not saying there’s no benefits to the union, but forcing someone to be a part of it and then getting insulted for disagreeing with that union is not my idea of freedom.

      • To add to what Avery said, I personally was born in communist Poland. I don’t remember much (I was 5 when the whole thing imploded), but I will say that the word ‘SOLIDARITY’ meant something quite different to me and others back then. (So now, when I hear the word ‘solidarity’, instead of thinking of the “broad social movement that brought about the end of communism in Poland”, I will instead associate it with the “CUPE 3906 TA strike of 2009″…thanks a lot guys, I owe you one!)

      • Avery,

        Accept my apologies if I was offensive. But I’m not a Canadian that thinks he’s living in the best part of the world. I’m an International Student! If you had all those stories back in time and you haven’t felt them yourself and just heard from them, I have been here just for a year and I’m coming right from a developing country and I have felt and seen everything you’re talking about.

        I prefer to be polite and not offensive in answer to your disgusting word. I just want to know if your dad was TAing or just studying PhD? I know a lot of people who are paying for their school but none of them are in a university like mac that is proud of absorbing good students. Do you think working and getting paid is lame? Do you think we’re rich people here trying to invest on university or what? Does your dad think that we can study and do our TAship for university and still have to go and work and make money for that crazy Tuition Fee?

        I am from a place that people like your dad had the power 30 years ago after dictatorship. They thought people should be so hard working and strikes are so stupid and they should appreciate everything they have. But they didn’t know that after them destroying the system and leaving no place for people to go on strike and complain about the employees, they’ll have another dictatorship. Cuz you don’t have the control of the people who are getting power after you even if you’re so dedicated to do your best. That means destroying labour movement and I wish you would learn about labour movement and how Canada has become such a free land. Then you would appreciate labour power and you would know how beautiful it is to be able to have strikes and unions to support people against crazy employers.

        Your last point about “freedom”, I agree with you but this is how the society is structured and you cannot say I want the union to take care of me and not caring of the other people. I want it just to be for me and if it’s not useful enough for me I don’t want it! Union is for everyone and it supports all the people that are gathered there not just one person or persons. That’s why you need to know about solidarity!

        In Solidarity, V!

      • SepSep. You apparently missed the point where I said ‘PhD student and TA’. I don’t know how you got to assuming my dad is a rich elitist, but you should note that he was in the exact same situation 30 years ago with regards to TA’ing, researching, and trying to feed his two kids and wife. And yet, he still never asked for other people to pay for him. So the fact that you just called my dad one of the members of an elitist power block is kind of laughable, and I think is a stern reminder that assumptions can lead to misplaced conclusions.

        “That means destroying labour movement and I wish you would learn about labour movement and how Canada has become such a free land.”

        I’m sorry, but I *have* learned about labour movements in my undergrad. You think that unions are great and that if I had only learned about them, then I’d see how great they are too. But the ‘goodness’ of unions is an opinion. It’s not like math where 1+1=2, always. Saying that learning about unions makes you like them is a bit like saying ‘well if you learned about (sports team X) then you’d see why they are the greatest’. It’s an opinion. You are entitled to your opinion. I am entitled to mine.

        “you cannot say I want the union to take care of me and not caring of the other people”

        Did I say I wanted the union to take care of me? I’ve made it pretty clear that I *don’t* want the union to tell me what to think.

        This mentality of ‘you’re either with us or against us’ is dangerous.

      • I’m sorry for my mentality, I try to fix it.

        Your words about asking for money is so offensive. Does people who go on strike are all asking other people to give them money or they’re asking for their rights? These are different. Are you saying that all the workers in every unions around the world are begging when they’re on strike? I don’t see it like that.

        And I didn’t say your dad was elitist, the point is that all the people should care and believe about the labour power or some minority of people take all the power and rule the others easily.

        I’m saying again that one of the main issues about developing countries is the lack of being unionized and not having anyone to echo your voice. I don’t like to see Canada like that cuz now you have a very beautiful system that supports people who are opposing the employer and can go on strike and protest without being killed and tortured like my country! That’s why people should keep the power not to be respectful to their master and shut up and say nothing for whatever they’re getting paid.

        I hope it’s a bit more clear now. And I respect your ideas too. Sorry to be a bit offensive I’m so tense because of arguing with people like Gord that are just trying to misinform TAs and try to force them to stand agains the CUPE and support university! You’re not like them and you’re reasonable!

        In Solidarity, V!

      • “Your words about asking for money is so offensive. Does people who go on strike are all asking other people to give them money or they’re asking for their rights? These are different. Are you saying that all the workers in every unions around the world are begging when they’re on strike? I don’t see it like that.”

        The concept of “right” appears to have been badly muddled here. Unions have the right to bargain, and to strike. But they don’t have the “right” to get everything they ask for anymore than an individual person does. The Charter of Rights doesn’t guarantee you freedom from tuition increases, benefits from your employer, or a job that meets your every expectation. I hope I’ve misunderstood what you are saying.

      • So it’s important for the University to compete for the best administrators, but not to compete for the best grad students and TAs? In other words, the only people that are really worth competing for are the people that organize the people that actually produce our product? Does this really make sense?

      • Dan,

        The university believes its current wages do attract the best and brightest students to be TA’s.

        You accepted McMaster’s TA offer. If you consider yourself to be among the best TA’s out there, then you must consider McMaster’s wage to be competitive because you accepted the TA offer.

        If you consider McMaster’s wage to not attract the best TA’s, and you still accepted McMaster’s offer, then it must follow that you don’t consider yourself to be among the best TA’s out there. In which case you don’t deserve a wage as high as those who are deemed to be the best.

      • Actually McMaster already knows the compensation packages they offer for graduate students do not attract the best and brightest. Many of the Engineering and Sciences departments fell far below their recruitment targets for this year. Some departments even shrank while anticipating significant growth.

        McMaster is falling behind. I personally came here due to the significant amount of flexibility I would get in running the lab I work in and absolutely not for the money. McMaster was the worst monetary offer I received by almost $7500 / year, but I figured I could make it work by relying upon my credit line and some savings I had after working for a little over a year after my undergraduate degree. With $400 additional year being taken out of my pocket due to tuition increases, there’s no way I can make that work to continue on to my Ph.D here. By the end of my Ph.D. I’d be looking at less than $900 / month in take-home compensation for my typical work week of 100 hours. That’s simply pathetic.

      • Then go work elsewhere.

      • You obviously don’t understand how PhD’s work

      • This is the type of exaggeration that frustrates me about the union’s position and many of the arguements against the university especially when I hear them complain of the university doing the same thing. You typically work a 100 hours per week do you? Thats over 14 hours a day, every day. Noone in their right mind works that many hours unless they are forced to and even then the only reason they do so is because they are paid by the hour which our research is not. As for the money issues you bring up I find this interesting since myself as a PhD candidate in science and everyone else in my dept takes home considerably more than this a month without having any external scholarships. I also know many other science students who take home more than this. I also have to ask…if mcmaster was offering so much less than other schools you were accepted at why on earth did you come here? If you are being truthful about liking the research flexiblity (I assume thats what you mean when you say “running the lab”) then that is the tradeoff you accepted when you came here. More flexability, less money in the pocket. Besides, comparing money from other universities is not necessarily valid. The cost of living in places like Edmonton and Toronto is considerably more than Hamilton so naturally they would have to pay more in order to get students.

        I’m actually quite glad I came here and the hardships I face I have accepted as being a student. Noone forced me to come here and I believe being here and getting any money from TAing is a privilige. Not a right.

      • @Mac TA: you’re even worse than Gord 😀

        “the best and brightest students to be TA’s.”? Are you joking? It took me 2 years to find McMaster in a valid ranking but I couldn’t find it yet 😛

        I’ve already explained my idea you can read it elsewhere if you’re interested.

        In Solidarity, V!

      • SepSep,

        If you don’t believe McMaster to be a good school… then why are you here? Why don’t you choose another school that you believe offers you a higher quality education and better TA conditions? If McMaster can’t attract bright young minds such as yourself, they will respond by increasing their wages until they can attract you here. The fact that they did attract you here means their wages do attract bright people (… well, either that, or you’re not very bright, but I don’t believe that to be the case – you do strike me as well informed and passionate about what you believe in).

      • hello sepsep, i believe McMaster ranks 143 in the world, i think thats pretty good. You can check the world rankings if you are unsure, its pretty easy to find online

      • Yes it does, what we’re worried about is the drop of 26 spaces that occurred this year, notice the dailynews story on the world rankings left that part of the story out.

      • It doesn’t appear to be pay for TAs that explains McGill’s ranking – they get less than $25/hr.

      • Quote from McGill’s website: “Cost of Living
        Apart from tuition fees, we estimate that a single student will need, on average, $12,000 per year to live in Montreal (note that the apartment rents in Montreal are usually 50% less than in Toronto and Vancouver). Nature Magazine featured an article on graduate student salaries, including comments from McGill graduate students.”
        What are you comparing with what?
        FYI, my friend with the same situation of me at McGill is getting paid twice of me per month (take-home money) and the cost of living is less than here.

        In Solidarity, V!

      • SepSep,

        It sounds like your friend’s TA doesn’t cover his cost of living any more than yours does. It also sounds like your friend got a bigger scholarship on top of the TA than you did because you can’t spin $25 an hour into 2x$38/hr. I was attempting to respond to the argument someone made that you have to increase the worth ofTAs to attract the best students. But usually the best students get scholarships (and if I were one of them, that’s what I’d be looking for).

      • Sorry Gord, as I said I cannot even read your comments!

        Have fun!

      • We actually tried to propose what is effectively an increase in scholarships through something called “grant-in-aid.” We wanted that because its a much more effective way to get money into student’s pocket (no EI/CPP/EHT/WSIB deductions). It means the money the University has is about 20% more effective. Unfortunately the administration had a “ideological” problem with doing this, we tried to fight for it for quite a while (most of the summer), but eventually had to drop the proposal.

      • Derek, can you comment on this document:—Setting-the-Record-Straight-1-42.pdf

        “The ‘University’s bargaining team has communicated to you on more than one occasion that it has received legal advice indicating that the carve-out approach you have proposed at McMaster would be in violation of current income tax rules and laws. ”

        So, was your version of grant-in-aid not even legal? And if so, was that the real reason you dropped it out of the proposal?

      • We have a prepondence of evidence showing its legal (including numerous other places that have done the exact same thing). However, the University apparently has got a legal opinion that would question the legality of those carve-outs (some of which have been around for quite a while). We decided during mediation that it was an issue that was unresolvable through bargaining, instead we’ll have to take the next couple of years to convince the University that it is legal.

      • The ranking sways yearly. Considerably.
        This drop is irrelevant when compared to the general rise over the last few years.

      • If you look at other Universities in Canada, changes on the order of 5-10 spots are pretty typical, a change of 26 spots is not typical. Only two Canadian Universities in the top 200 dropped significantly: SFU and McMaster. Both of these Universities have prioritized research (a recent move in SFU’s) over teaching and the world is noticing. So while swings do occur, its the magnitude that’s troubling.

      • I’m not sure of the relevance of the ranking on the Times Higher Education Ranks.

        The metrics have little to do with the situation of the TAs. The composite score a university receives is based on things such as an ‘Academic Peer Review’ (a subjective survey), ‘Citations per Faculty’ (which we aren’t), and the ‘Faculty to Student Ratio’ (again, not us).

      • I think that you clarification is even more confusing. The ratification vote will certainly not end the strike if the University’s offer is rejected.

        A ratification vote is a vote for accepting or rejecting the offer the University has made no more than that.

        What the outcome of the vote will be I do not know, however, I strongly encourage people to vote against it. The University must start bargaining seriously and the way of sending that message is with a strong reject to their offer.

        It is important to stress that the aforementioned offer was one side conceived, without paying any attention whatsoever to any of the major issues presented by our representatives from the Union.

        Thanks everybody for being well informed,

      • I did not say a ratification vote would end a strike. I said a vote to ratify would end the strike. As you say, a vote to reject would keep the strike going.

      • Anonymous Mac TA,

        You are right: a vote to ratify will end the strike. However, it will also result in lower take home pay, and reduced benefits per student. It might achieve peace, but probably not achieve justice–and without justice peace is nothing but salt covering the taste of spoiled meat.

      • The the offer is accepted it achieves the will of the majority.

        In a democratic institution, what more “justice” can you want?

      • Have you ever read 1984? An ill-informed majority can conceivably desire an ill-results without even realizing it.

      • I guess you wanted to refer to Animal Farm instead of 1984

      • An UBC, who people have complained about on this board, is 34. There is no correlation.

      • Take a look at these:

        in just canada:

        According to times (at
        we were 117 in 2008
        now 143 in 2009
        probably will be over 200 in 2010 with this system that is going on! But we deserve better.

        @Mac TA: I am an international student and as you probably know, applying from a developing country to come to Canada to study masters is not easy at all. I didn’t deserve much better than mac for sure and I am pretty thankful of mac giving me this opportunity to be here. But in a short time, I’m going to be a PR and then it’s way easier for me to go to any university that I want. If mac was smart enough, they wouldn’t let 2 years of funding me as an international student (about $23000 per year) go in waste and they would just pay a bit more to keep me here, instead of making people like me upset and running away and right when they’re ready to do serious stuff as PhD student go to a better school!

        I’m so sorry for all the profs at mac that are working so hard here and this admin committee is wasting all their efforts. FYI, many profs at mac hate them, I’m just telling you what a prof told me about them: “they are the most stupid people on earth”.

        In Solidarity, V!

    • Hi Matt,

      First, I’d just like to get some logistical points out of the way: Could you clarify what you mean by “actual results”? You seem to suggest both that you’re glad that your TAs crossed the picket line, but that you’re also dissatisfied with the work that they’re doing, so I’m a little confused. I think that the issues that we are trying to address with the strike may also speak to your concerns. Also, you’ve been misinformed about a couple of important points that you’ve raised (as others have pointed out): Mac is in fact in a surplus, and we (CUPE) have bent considerably.

      Second, I’d like to address the level of frustration that seems to be provoking your post. I guess the most important thing to my mind to communicate is that TAs (generally, from what I know) really enjoy their jobs. I certainly do—it’s my favorite part of the 3 years of grad school that I’ve attended so far. Many of us want to go on to teach at the university level, so we are quite invested in learning to be better teachers (that’s not to say that all TAs are perfect—I’m not trying to idealize us—but most TAs that I know are emotionally and intellectually invested in their jobs).

      The reason that we are striking is that the university is making it impossible for us to do our jobs as well as they need to be done, something that I (and many TAs that I know) find incredibly frustrating. And this goes not just for the tutorial sizes and overwork, but also for the benefits (a TA with access to decent healthcare, who’s not having to decide between paying for groceries or a dental appointment, say, is going to be a better TA). And certainly, the tuition increases that we (and you) are facing have a considerable financial impact as well. And last, of course, while it’s not a hard and fast rule that more experienced TAs are necessarily better TAs, experience can’t hurt, and the most experienced TAs should at very least be eligible to work as TAs! All told, the things we are asking for are not unreasonable, and I can assure you that we’re not enjoying the strike and would much rather be back at work! Our bargaining team has called a strike because we have no other choice at the moment.

      So, really, we are trying to be very conscious of the needs of undergrads, but we’re trying to think long term—can you imagine what an undergraduate education would look like in 20 years if there are no caps on tutorials?! I shudder at the thought. This process has to start somewhere, and it’s right here, right now. It would be ideal, of course, if the university’s administration took care of these quality of education issues itself, but if it doesn’t, I understand it to be my responsibility to address these issues with the support of my peers and my union. That means that it’ll be difficult for a while for all of us, but that we’re really trying to fight for what we understand to be better conditions for everyone—both undergrads and TAs. I guess the big distinction I’m trying to make here is between our experiences as individuals and the larger institutional/structural issues that are informing the impact on individuals. That is, currently, we are risking the short term inconvenience of ourselves and others on an individual level in order to address the long term structural issues that are shaping the university.

      Given that we’re not going to stop striking until a deal is reached, I would encourage you to get in touch with Mac’s administration to voice your concerns with them as well and to encourage them to come back to negotiations. I would also encourage you to stop by one of the picket lines to chat with us—it sounds like you have a number of questions and have perhaps been misinformed on some key issues. We are happy to answer any questions and to clarify!

      My last suggestion would be for you to consider putting together an undergrad organization that considers the impact of the university’s policies on undergrad education and that offers suggestions for improvements, perhaps one that could even work in solidarity with CUPE. I can say, for example, that during my undergrad I didn’t have TAs at all because class sizes were so small, so there are definitely different ways that universities can operate. (Maybe something like this already exists and I just don’t know about it… If so, someone please post some info!) Either way, I think it’s important to hear everyone’s concerns with the shape of the university at all levels, and I would encourage you to share your concerns and those of your peers. I know that there’s already a group of undergrads that is supporting the strike (again, I don’t have the info—could someone please post it? Sorry!), and they may have some information that you would find useful.

      I hope this has clarified things a little, but let me know if it hasn’t. (And sorry for being long-winded–these issues are really complex!)

      In solidarity,


  23. Is their a minimum number of voters or percentage of voters required for a ratification vote?

    • No, I understand that it is decided on a simple majority of those who choose to vote. So if 300 people show again, all it takes is 151 to make a decision for all of you.

      • Gord,

        You are more than welcome to participate on this blog as an informed member of the public. I know you not to be a member of this unit though I have not yet had the pleasure of learning your occupation or relationship to the matters at hand. You do, however, enjoy the right to anonymity, even if it undermines the credibility of your submissions to our forum here. Many believe you to be in the employ of McMaster. I disagree, but perhaps you shoudl clarify.

        In any case, I would ask you (and only ask you) to
        a) refrain from answering factual question directed towards the bargaining team or other union representatives
        b) limit your comments to sharing your opinion and do so in such a way as not to dominate every single strand of our discussion

        I respect your eagerness to share what you present as an encyclopedic knowledge of the intimacies of our union and bargaining process and I envy you the rich abundance of time and energy you chose to dedicate towards our cause on this blog, but this is not your personal chat room.

        I would personally appreciate it if you could limit yourself to fewer, longer and less editorial comments. Again, this is a friendly request.

      • “b) limit your comments to sharing your opinion and do so in such a way as not to dominate every single strand of our discussion”

        Hear, hear!

      • I won’t censor myself. If I get any facts wrong, I’m happy to be corrected. Unfortunately, I think that you (the union) are spreading misinformation among your members. The statement earlier that MUFA is a union that cannot perform other bargaining unit members’ work is a blatant example, and something that is easily verified by public documents so I find it difficult to believe that it was a mistake (doubly so, given that it hasn’t been corrected by any of the – many of them also anonymous – people who you do permit to post “facts”.

        So I’ll close with an opinion, and then leave you to your echo chamber, disinformation and all. In my opinion it is very odd that questions (from others) “any idea how much all of this will cost” don’t get an answer. A look at your proposal, and a bit of knowledge about how things work, suggests to me that the answer to that would be “a lot”. I don’t know – 10% more? 15, 20?

        Look around you at what the cost of settlments reached in the last 6 months by CUPE have been.

        In my opinion, you’re dreaming. And damaging a lot in the process.

        Oh, and one last thing. I think it was you who asked me earlier how I know so much about unions etc. Well, when you’ve out working for a while in the private sector, you may find that there are actually a lot of jobs that you require a person to know a bit about things in order to do their jobs properly. And if it isn’t you, it could be your wife or a good friend.

        I’d say good luck, but my heart wouldn’t be in it.

      • Gord,

        I am happy that you post on this blof regardless of who you are, and so should the rest of you. He is simply posting information, and giving his opinion on the situation. If you don’t like that, don’t read his posts. But don’t tell him to stop because there are people on here who do wish to hear what he has to say. You could all benefit by educating yourself from either side of the strike. It’s not going to kill you to read a few post that are not in your favor.

        Keep it up Gord!

      • Gord,

        You have consistently represented yourself as an expert and your opinions as solid and factual. I’m glad that I finally received a response regarding your qualifications in another forum. The readers of this blog need to know that you are not an attorney, and have demonstrated absolutely no special qualifications with regard to labor relations other than your own self-confidence. You have made numerous statements which reveal a lack of understanding with regard to labor relations and the legal system. Virtually all of these constitute the parroting of common misconceptions regarding labor relations rather than intentional falsehoods, and that is a comparatively good thing. Because of this, however, you have been asked yet again to please refrain from presenting yourself dishonestly as an expert. Any readers of this blog should be forewarned that Gord has not demonstrated any expertise exceeding that of any other poster, and that his opinions should be judged in this light.

      • Dan, where I come from, it’s called bad faith blogging to lie about someone who has said they aren’t going to post any more messages. So I’m breaking my word.

        How can I have lied about my expertise when I have NEVER said what it is? I have never claimed to be a lawyer and I defy you to prove otherwise. It hardly requires a law degree to google “Ontario labour law”, find the ontario labour relations act summary on the government website, and read parts of it.

        Are you management at the union, Dan? If so, can you tell me why you can’t answer a member’s simple, straightforward question about the cost your latest proposal? If you haven’t figured that out, you should. And if you have, why would you want to keep that secret from your members? You can’t possibly think that the university hasn’t done an estimate. So the only other reason I can think of for the secrecy on something so fundamental is that you don’t want your members to know what it is because too many of them might realize how far off the map you are given the size of settlement CUPE has obtained in the past 6 months.

    • A ratification vote is carried by 50%+1 of unit members casting ballots. No minimum.

  24. I agree with you all. We need as many people to show up as possible. Then if it is carried or turned down, we can all be rest assured that the majority has spoken!

    • I wonder who would vote Yes. There are two groups of people now in the union:
      1. People who scab and are satisfied with what university was paying them at the beginning of the term.
      2. People who are picking everyday in the cold weather and under the rain and think the university’s package is ridiculous.

      Well, the second group are all voting No. First group, they’re satisfied with their contract, and the new offer is because of the hard working of the CUPE to force the university to offer a new package. So if CUPE was not there for them to fight, they wouldn’t have this new package now, it is better to leave it for them to decide now cuz these people are happy with their current payments and university is so kind that is supporting scabs very well and pays them their money completely!

      In Solidarity, V!

      • The break down is far more complicated.

        For example, I do not support the strike action abut have not gone back to work.

      • By this logic there would be >2250 scabs. Surely you can’t really believe this, it would be an overwhelming majority of the bargaining unit.

      • I know better than you how many scabs here we have. I’ve been picketing and I know how many people showed up, I don’t need you to tell me that. But what does it have to do with my logic?

        Let me tell you that 300 people showed up last sunday and vote was %69 and the rest of people (> 2250) were not counted cuz they didn’t care or couldn’t be there.

        In Solidarity, V!

      • You stated that there were two groups in the union, those that scab and those that are picketing everyday. The ~450 figure I used was my own rough estimate of how many people may have picketed (though not necessarily everyday). By your logic, I would have to assume that the remaining ~2250 members of the bargaining unit are scabbing. You claim to know better than me how many scabs there are, though, so I’d be interested to know what’s a more realistic figure.

      • @SepSep,

        Those 2250+ people that didn’t show up on Sunday were blissfully and ignorantly receiving paycheques up until this Monday. Now having had their income cut off, they won’t be so blissfully ignorant any more. And it’s extremely risky to assume given their ignorance they’ll suddenly side with the picketers.

      • Hey smart Mac TA,

        The people who are blissfully careless about the social life, they’re always. And if you’re saying that they don’t care until it touches them, shame on them! Social Responsibility is a term very unfamiliar to them I guess.

        And you think that they would have been expecting paycheques now? I wish you were a TA and you knew that they pay us at the end of the month. And I wish you were a TA and you would know that university is still paying them since they’re going back to work and doing their stuff like before, just a simple form they need to sign!

        I wish undergrads would just sign as their own name or undergrad instead of Mac TA.

        In Solidarity, V!

      • You seem to be convinced I am an unemployed undergraduate.

        At the risk of further harrassment, I will self identify as a economics graduate student WHO IS A TA.

  25. I look forward to again vote down this insulting offer. See you all on the picket lines tomorrow!

  26. we need to stand together!. today i saw a few of my fellow science TA (wont take names) going lab to lab , telling people to accept the universities proposal and basically badmouthing CUPE. Its horrible, how can u even think about accepting and unfair offer like this?
    This is a general trend i have noticed, that MOST SCIENCE TA ARE AGAINST THIS STRIKE AND CUPE. they just dont see how unfair the uni is being…

    • Perhaps you should take some time to see why so many people do not see it as unfair?

      Knee jerk reactions on either side should be minimized. There are many reasons that this offer isn’t that bad.

      The way CUPE presents it is also not really accurate, there “net loss” numbers are worse case scenarios that only effect a tiny minority of members. The average potential loss is much, much lower.

    • People are all free to their own opinion.

      Those people are standing together because they do not support the strike and are speaking to each other as an outlet of their frustration. Similarly, there are those here who clearly very much support the strike and are echoing their sentiments over and over again- those who aren’t in support of the strike will wonder why people here are supporting it.

      Hence, I do feel that the GMM on Sunday will be extremely beneficial because everyone will have an equal vote and then we can see where exactly the union stands.

    • Unfair, in your opinion. We all have the right to make our own decision on what is fair, and what isn’t fair.

      I’m glad you didn’t take names though, because ultimately persecuting someone for a difference in opinion is something that should never happen at a place of higher education.

    • Fortunately everyone is almost Free in this land.

      I just read this:

      “Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.”
      – Jawaharlal Nehru

    • “today i saw a few of my fellow science TA (wont take names) going lab to lab , telling people to accept the universities proposal and basically badmouthing CUPE.”

      Well, people shouldn’t be doing this. You need to tell people to go and vote. But just point them to information if they say that they aren’t sure how they are going to vote.

      But how does this compare to folks who go around telling people to reject this offer and bad mouth the university? This goes both ways. Anyone pretending it doesn’t either hasn’t seen both sides or worse, doesn’t care to see the other side of things.

  27. In spite of a similar inccident at York University which caused huge delays and ruined the lives of students, the working structure at Mcmaster continues to repeat history. I am dissapointed in both CUPE and the Administration’s way of handling the situation; my only objectivity being a neutral bystander apathetic to both sides needs. As an active student participating in a program at Mcmaster, I see no compensation for lost services or damages incurred from lost oppertunities which otherwise could have been offset had both parties been in any respects competant enough to settle this simple work dispute. I am largly dissapointed in the university as a whole due to this inccident. I wish that all students academic intrests be furfilled for the good of the institution as a whole. One of the reasons I did not consider York as my first year was because of the strike and break down in labour relations. It is unfortunate that this situation had to manifest itself here, as like minded individuals can and will forego an oppertunity to come to an insitution such as this one because of a decline in reputation due to perceptions of labor relations and management.

    • X3RO,

      You are right: people will think twice about coming to McMaster next year, as a result of this strike. However, I take issue with your suggestion that the union is responsible for this situation. The administration canceled SIX (!) bargaining days after the last three months, and showed up several hours late on the last two days of bargaining before the strike. Our bargaining team was there, in place, ready to go; the employer never showed up. They tried to reach a deal, to avert a strike, but it takes two to bargain. If the other side doesn’t show up, what can we do about it? You want the strike to end: tell the administrators to get back to the table and deal honestly and fairly.

    • If you know what you think you know about the administration’s handling of this from readding this blog, you might consider that you are hearing only the union’s perspective on how the administration has acted. No university in its right mind wants a strike for exactly the reasons you give. But at the same time, no university wants a union consisting of some of its students dictating what its pedagogic standard ought to be. And TA unions are always dominanted by very biased segment of the student body, largely humanities students whose approach to life is to “resist” anything or one they consider an authority figure. University administrations, governments unless they are NDP, for example. It may be that York leans more in that direction than most big universities because it doesn’t have engineering or a medical school and is numerically weak in the sciences. Those fields appear have a greater tendency to attract people who are less interested in student activitism and more interested in getting an education and getting on with life.

      • I am in Science and your comments leave a bitter taste in my mouth. As a Scientist I also take an active role in my rights as a citizen, as a student, and as a Union member. I vote because I can, and I inform myself appropriately. Please don’t bulk students by faculty – it’s insulting!

        Everyone from every faculty needs to be aware of their rights and both offers. I use the union benefits as a mature student not still covered by my parents and I enjoy teaching and getting to help and know my students.

        Each of us has a responsibility to inform ourselves and take part of this process as a whole. Do not go into this lightly, and look hard at what is being offered.

        I will vote on Sunday or Monday for TAs and RAs as a whole and don’t discriminate based on faculty or political view points. Please leave your generalizations at the door ‘Not and NDP voter’!

        Erin – Biology

      • on a side note – If I had gone to York for Science I’d be thoroughly insulted by your statement “weak in the Sciences”. Again these statements cloud arguments. Leave them off the blog please.

      • You take offence very easily, and perhaps don’t understand the meaning of the word “tendency”. It says nothing about the position any individual has, but about the statistical probability that they are more likely to hold one rather than another. What I said seems to be borne out by complaints by some here that so many TAs in science are “scabbing”, and information also posted here that indicates that engineering TAs are all pretty much working. Not only that, there are numerous studies that talk about this tendency in universities across North America. If you have evidence that contradicts the argument beyond your personal experience, I’m listening. Perhaps rather than take offence, you could take pride in running against the grain.

        It is indeed admirable to vote because you can. But there is an ideological perspective, represented by a few messages here and found more often in people who are not left-leaning, that considers it a violation of individual rights to be forced to be a member of an organization which then harangues those who do not share its leftish perspective on the world. And CUPE does not limit itself to collective bargaining; the union takes a stand on political issues that have nothing to do with unions, at least some of which may be highly offensive to some of its constituency.

      • NNDPV,

        This is pretty brutal stuff. Broad stroke ad hominum attacks? Really? Insulting your colleagues at another university in Ontario? The implication that the democratic process, including legal trade unions, is not in any way part of ‘life’ here in Canada? I would request that you be a little more respectful of the opinions of those who have devoted their lives to studying humans, their society, psychology, history, art, religion and literature. You just might find that these areas of inquiry offer a lot of insight into what is going on at our university, and a critical perspective on what we all should do.

      • You might brush up on your reading. I said NUMERICALLY WEAKER in the sciences. That refers to the proportion, not quality.

      • Where is the ad hominem attack? Unless you consider it an attack to be said to be “left-leaning”?

      • “And TA unions are always dominanted by very biased segment of the student body, largely humanities students whose approach to life is to “resist” anything or one they consider an authority figure. University administrations, governments unless they are NDP, for example.”

        You made a universal statement about unions and a broad-stroke statement about students in certain fields which accuses them directly of bias and makes absurd assumptions about their feelings regarding authority, and included an absolutely ridiculous implication about the party alignment of these people. You have constructed a case which attacks the character of a certain segment of the university population (this is ad hominum), and even worse have provided absolutely no evidence whatsoever for this case.

      • Sorry for the spelling error which I’m sure you noticed.

      • I made a sweeping statement about a particular kind of union, not about unions in general. Do you think McMaster is atypical?

        As I said, I’m open to evidence that contradicts the studies which have shown that North American universities as a whole tend to be more left leaning than North Americans a whole, and that this is even more true of what is generally called “the arts”.

        I’m puzzled by why you think that saying that left-leaning people are biased is unacceptable. I did not say anything about political party affiliation, although someone here has expressed pleasure that Andrea Horvath might join you on the line. All political perspectives are biased, in the sense that they are rooted in a favoured ideology. Those who lean right are equally biased, in that sense, and what one considers the centre is also a product of bias.

        My comments about the devotion to “resistance” are based on my understanding that it is a basic element of political ideologies on the left side of the spectrum. The anti-administration rhetoric prevalent here seems to support the idea that these are correlated.

      • NNDPV,

        You did not cite any studies, and as such I cannot respond to the studies which you are claiming to have consulted.

        You absolutely did make a direct statement about political party affiliation: “anything or one they consider an authority figure. University administrations, governments unless they are NDP, for example.”

      • Sorry, bumped the submit button.

        You did not make a sweeping statement about unions, you made an absolute statement using the word ‘always.’ Unfortunately this means that even a single exception makes you simply wrong. You need to be careful about this stuff in your argumentation.

        Yes, McMaster’s CUPE local is very atypical, even if one is operating under the skewed assumption that there is such a thing as as ‘typical’ union. This is a highly conservative union in my experience, and that is appropriately reflective of its membership.

        If you’d like to get into a fair, and therefore self-reflexive discussion on bias, I would imagine you will find that it generates no forward motion once you consider your own biases. As such, yes, accusations of bias without any evidence to prove a serious breach of rational disinterest do constitute a ad hominem attacks. In other words, you cannot simply accuse just one party in a dialog of bias, especially without providing specific examples, and then hide behind the argument that ‘everybody is biased.’ This would be like me saying ‘you’re a liar!’ and later saying ‘Why would you disagree? Everybody lies sometimes.’

        I think I have sufficiently highlighted the logical and argumentative problems with your initial post. As far as I can tell you have not meaningfully addressed them, and will not be able to. As such, I will consider this conversation over.

    • How many unions (to move to generalizations) have endorsed the Conservative party in elections in the last 40 years? You can treat that as a rhetorical question because I suspect we all know the answer. I don’t know whether CUPE endorses political parties or specific candidates in elections. Perhaps you can tell me. As for universities in Canada as a whole, how many Conservative political candidates speak on campuses? Based on my experience, few if any at all. How many honorary degrees do Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney each have (both were prime minister for comparable periods)? Mulroney has one; if you count only those awarded since he started as PM, Chretien has
      seven from Canadian universities.

      To suggest, as you appear to, that CUPE is not a creature of the left, unlike the vast majority if not all unions runs contrary to common understandings of the role of collectivism in unions (solidarity, remember?) and its relationship to the left. By extension it seems reasonable to surmise that people who are attracted to union activism share the leftist ideals of collectivism. And this ideal is a prominent theme in many posts here – exhortations to think consider the common good in how one votes instead of one’s own preferences, to stand together, etc.

      There are numerous sources on the relationship between the political left and American universities. Ben Shapiro’s Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth and James Piereson’s The Left University (in the Weekly Standard) are 2 that come immediately to mind.

  28. I would be cautious about passing judgment about the 90% that did not show up. Personally I couldn’t be at the GMM on Sunday because I was still contagious with the swine flu. I don’t think that I can be called “apathetic” for taking into consideration the health of other people.

    • Far point, Christa. I, too, stayed home because I was nursing a cold. I wanted to make sure that I was in the best shape possible before the picket lines went up. Since then, I’ve been on the line everyday, and also been working at the strike office. So, yeah, missing a meeting does not necessarily equate to apathy. At the same time, though, I cannot believe that everyone who did not make it was sick.

  29. I asked this in a previous thread but got no reply,

    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 addressing our “priorities”.


    • That’s true, their offer is still better than the one you’re working under. But the point is that we have this offer on the table because CUPE asked them for US! If we didn’t have CUPE we wouldn’t even have this offer now. But they are playing hide and seek with the bargaining team and don’t address “priorities” and don’t offer a fair deal!

      In Solidarity, V!

      • Actually, if we didn’t have CUPE we would have no collective bargaining agreement whatsoever, and the University would be free to pay TAs whatever it wished with whatever benefits it chose so long as it complied with the standards of Canadian employment law.

      • Yes, and you’d also be free to reject that offer and seek employment elsewhere. And when you see that few to no other employers offer flexible part time work anywhere near $38/hour with benefits, you’ll see that McMaster treats us pretty good after all.

  30. This strike will only make CUPE look like a joke. In all honesty, both sides should’ve been doing much more extensive talks during the summer as to avoid this situation. This being said, quality of education surveys are being conducted every year, highlighting problem areas the university can correct. Tutorial sizes, at least in science and engineering are suitably sized. They meet the needs of most undergrads I’ve spoken with. In regards to humanities/social science programs; if this is the problem area, then this should be made BLATANTLY clear. It is not fair to group all TAs together.

    Here’s the biggest issue (as I see it). Graduate TAs feel as if they are supposed to be allowed to TA. This is absolute bullsh*t. The best TAs should be TAs, not based on their degree status. I have had several terrible grad TAs while undergraduate TAs have been much more in tune with students. Perhaps if CUPE promised a level of screening for TAs that goes beyond the fact they “deserve” a job, the quality would increase.

    From my experience, half of my TAs couldn’t speak english (properly), were unwilling/unable to answer my questions, could not communicate concepts at all, and were more focused on their graduate studies than my concerns about my course.

    What is CUPE, as a union, going to do to remedy these types of situations?

    • Math,

      1. not all of the Grads are TAs.

      2. regarding to “From my experience, half of my TAs couldn’t speak english (properly), were unwilling/unable to answer my questions, could not communicate concepts at all”
      be happy that here’s a virtual place, but if it was out of this sh*t, I would be the first one suing you for being racist!

      3. regarding to “were more focused on their graduate studies than my concerns about my course.” That’s because you do not have time to spend because of the stupid offers of the university, and that’s one of the “priorities” of the CUPE’s package to fix this problem so TAs can spend decent amount of time for their students.

      4. Regarding to “It is not fair to group all TAs together.” I with you as a happy canadian would know a bit about labour history of your land and the power and importance of unions and how it ended up as a beautiful place to live that you can go to university that easily. And I wish you would know what solidarity means!

      In Solidarity, V!

      • Some of your replies SepSep are not helpful, this student has valid concerns about the strike and although he hasn’t voiced them well I think we all need to sift through the personal stuff, ignore it as much as we can and answer these questions with honesty.

        We as informed individuals (as I’ve seen you are in past blogs) can inform these people and try and sway them in the favour of not ratifying the current proposal. Lets keep up the information!!!! Work with the people who are confused and frustrated.

    • Matt,

      From what I can see from your comments you’ve gotten away from what we can do right now to try and solve issues TAs and RAs are facing. As a Science TA I can guarantee we see the same issues creeping up as the Humanities do. Mostly I don’t think that we should be separating the issues by faculty because we all do use the benefits and need smaller classes.

      I empathize with some of your frustrations regarding the idea that this doesn’t seem to effect you but if you did look through all of the information and truly educate yourself about what the bargaining team is trying to get you – you’d see that it does effect you. And if you become a PhD it will definitely effect you. I appreciate whatever your vote will be but PLEASE READ AND INFORM yourself. Don’t brush this off – it’s very important.


  31. Please everyone!

    Take the time to inform yourself of each offer on the table both the Union and the University. Think of your colleagues who use the benefits and who need smaller class sizes. READ and educate yourself, as grad students it’s what we are good at! Do not show up and blindly cast a ballet with the statement “none of this stuff effects me”. Think of the messaging the university sends when it offers little bargaining to it’s TAs and RAs there is more to it then you think!

    When you show up at the polls to vote and cast your ballet you need to be informed properly, and if you are then everyone will accept the outcome. See you there,


  32. Hi everyone,

    Just wanted to post this letter of support I received from an ex-Mac grad student:

    “Dear fellows,

    Before going to Mac, I did a MSc in UBC. There I was also a TA and we had no union, or at least none that I knew of. In UBC at the end of every term each student had to pay their own tuition fees, and at the end of every term I would spend 24 hours during which all the money I would had in my bank account was 50 dollars…. that was all the money I could save for the whole term…. I was also an international student, so every year I had to ask money to my family so I could go to visit them. Fortunately, my family was able to provide me that money. TA economical conditions in UBC were terrible.

    When comming to Mac I was very happy to see that TA’s could actually have a decent life style. But Mac is slowly going to UBC standards. I am very happy that you are not letting this happen. Keep up the fight! Remember that only two years ago TA’s at Mac had a better life standard than what you have right now.”

  33. Hey everyone!

    I’m heading out to the picket lines pretty soon. Rather than only voicing your confusions and frustrations on this blog, come out and chat with us on the picket lines. The downside to blogging is that emotions run higher than if we spoke with one another face to face in a calm manner. Does the administration have real people willing to chat with you in person about these issues? Please come! Undergrads, undergrad TAs, grad TAs & RAs, international students, Mac community members, and union members who are continuing to work–all of you are welcome to come and chat with us! If you think that our strike is totally off base, then please come out and chat with us about it. We’ll be out there from 7:30 to 7:30.

  34. Hi, does anyone know when this vote will be?? Is it today at 2pm? or is that just a general meeting?

  35. Just to clarify, the union strike office where voting will continue on Monday is the off-site/campus office, right? NOT the normal office?

    • Yes its at 17 Paradise Road S, right across from the Metro. The on campus office is closed.

      • That info should really go out in a mass email.

      • I agree with Kate. Further, there should be (if it’s not there already) a sign on the CUPE office on campus saying ‘we’re closed, head 10 minutes that way’ and showing a map to 17 Paradise Road. I think this is in the best interest of everyone involved so that we all can go out and vote.

      • There’s about 100 big orange signs on the windows and door of the CUPE office on campus which say the office has moved to 17 Paradise Road S and with the new phone number. There’s not maps at the moment, but I’ll try to get someone to put a couple of those up this afternoon.

      • Kate, that info did go out in an email to CUPE members -on October 28th we were notified, by email, of the Paradise Road location that the office would move to in the event of a strike.

      • Surely, a reminder cannot hurt. Not everyone is following the events of the strike as closely as those of us who post on this blog. Apathetic people’s vote counts just as much as yours or mine, so why not eliminate any ambiguity? A simple e-mail saying: “Vote on the offer on Sunday after meeting, or on Monday from 10-5 at 17 Paradise Rd”. Short, sweet, to the point and benefits us all.

      • We’ll definitely send a reminder, if not several reminders.


      • Derek,

        I respectfully request that future communications not be as confusingly worded as the initial posting.

        “After three days on strike, Teaching and Research Assistants at McMaster are preparing to take the University’s last offer to a ratification vote, but not to end the strike.”

        Many of my colleagues were confused by this wording, as I had to explain to them that a vote to ratify will indeed end the strike. You can understand that the wording I’ve quoted could lead one to believe that isn’t the case.

        Thank you.

      • Understood, I’ll pass the message along to whoever writes the reminder message.

      • I think that you clarification is even more confusing. The ratification vote will certainly not end the strike if the University’s offer is rejected.

        A ratification vote is a vote for accepting or rejecting the offer the University has made no more than that.

        What the outcome of the vote will be I do not know, however, I strongly encourage people to vote against it. The University must start bargaining seriously and the way of sending that message is with a strong reject to their offer.

        It is important to stress that the aforementioned offer was one side conceived, without paying any attention whatsoever to any of the major issues presented by our representatives from the Union.

        Thanks everybody for being well informed,

  36. As a phd student at Dalhousie University, I think what CUPE 3906 is asking for is entirely reasonable and fair. Indeed, I think 3906 could legitimately ask for a lot more.
    Even if CUPE were to win many of their demands as they stand now, MA and PHD students would still face the problem of massive debt loads—debt loads larger than at any point previously. There are serious concerns that we are creating an education bubble, not unlike the housing bubble responsible for our recession.
    Some might respond that students shouldn’t pursue higher education if it means assuming serious debt. However, with the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, workers are increasingly being encouraged to pursue higher and higher levels of education. We are constantly being told that our economy now relies on a new, emerging class of highly educated information workers. Universities, however, are making this increasingly difficult by funding grad students less and less.
    As such, I think that it would be in the interest of the general public to see 3906 win these modest demands, even if it means, god forbid, Peter George taking a pay cut. I hope CUPE 3906 rejects the university’s insulting offer on Sunday.

  37. I will not be here on Sunday or Monday. Will it be possible to vote via proxy?


  38. We still have not seen a response to the open letter from the university regarding the number of grad students.—Setting-the-Record-Straight-1-42.pdf

    Any one from the union care to refute the letter?

    • I apologize I may have gotten the link wrong,

      a quote from the letter:

      “The plain fact is that during the Term of the current collective agreement (2006-2009) the University‟s contribution to TA benefit funds increased by 50% from $100,000.00 to $150,000.00, with no overall increase in the TA population accessing those funds:

      Year Graduate TAs Undergraduate TAs TOTAL
      2006-07 1696 845 2541
      2007-08 1974 540 2514
      2008-09 1992 509 2501
      NET CHANGE (40)”

      Could someone from the bargaining team please comment on this letter,

      • These numbers are completely wrong, we’ve told the university that and yet they still refuse to accede that their payroll tracking information is incorrect. The way we count TAs is by the membership lists (which is comprised of the members who are having dues deducted) sent to the union by payroll. Based on those lists we had 2700 TAs last year, and already have 2350 for the fall semester alone. We expect this year’s total could easily hit 2800-2900 once we get the spring semester list.

        This example is a great demonstration of just how poorly managed McMaster is: their own payroll database gives contradictory numbers on how many employees they have. Its pathetic that we have to argue about how many TAs there are, as that should be a piece of easily obtained factual information.

      • Do you have the data on the number of TAs that are receiving benefits, rather than just the total number of TAs?

      • Given that the university is supposed to be making EI, CPP and etc payments on behalf of its employees (in this case, TAs), it’s a very serious allegation that they don’t even know how many employees they have. I’d imagine there are tremendous legal consequences for making errors in these payments, but unfortunately these kinds of things are outside my locus of knowledge.

        Thanks for responding, though. I was really curious about the union’s position on the information in this letter.

      • They do know how many employees they have pay, the problem is actually more one of categorization. They don’t have them labelled correctly in the payroll system (RAs especially aren’t coded properly). In my first semester at McMaster I was incorrectly coded into the payroll system as an RA scholarship, rather than the RA employee I was supposed to be. So in this case, McMaster indeed didn’t pay the proper CPP,EI etc amounts that they should have. From my experience working in the union office, I’ve seen this is not an uncommon problem.

      • As someone whose roll ID classifies him as a temporary employee rather than a graduate student, I can believe that payroll has its share of problems.

    • Yes, unfortunately this has remained unanswered for some time. All new comments on the blog are now going through moderation, so hopefully this post will be a reminder.

  39. So far I’ve been hesitant to strike, but not wanting to scab – but no matter what McMaster’s PR department does to play down the validity of this strike, the fact that they are threatening our bargaining team with further concessions speaks for itself – this is a power struggle, not contract negotiations. If I’m going to be bullied either way, I may as well be out on the picket line. It certainly seems like those organizing this strike care more for my well-being than my employer… so, strike it is.

    • Agreed! I initalliy voted no for striking….but based on how the admin has been treating me personally and locking me out (which they said they wouldn’t!) I have been on the picket lines!!!!

      • Jen, can you provide more details? I’m surprised that the university administration is locking you out, it seems counter to their strategy.

      • I know! They have disabled ELM for all TA’s until the strike is over. For the course I was TAing, my submissions were all online via ELM. As of Friday evening (wee hours of Oct 30th) the university cut all TA’s off of this service….as decided by the admin until the strike is resolved (you can check the ELM site for further clarification, as they have posted this now).

        So basically….while the admin says that they won’tlock out TA’s, they in fact have! Basically they have decided the make a decision for me….super annoying!!!

      • I’d really like to hear the justification for this. In my opinion, this directly contradicts the statement from Human Resource Services that it’s up to the individual to decide to keep working or not.

      • As would I. I have contacted ELM support about this….they cannot/will not give me an answer. They said they have orders from admin in the higher ranks that has asked this of them. I have asked for the contact info, as I am curious and wish to speak to them. Unfortunately…they are useless and refuse to give me that information as they “are not able to disclose that type of personal information”. Yes….that is EXACTLY what the ELM staff/coordinator said to me on the phone.
        Im hoping the bargaining team reads this and is able to ask this of the employer, since I am apparently not worthy enough to speak with “higher up admin”.

        So yes….totally in contradiction. Basically…this has changed my view of the admin! A horrible experience that is making me think twice about accepting their latest offer. I feel very cheated….and well down right lied to!

      • Just as an aside if people want to see for themselves:

        Here is the ELM (E Learn….pretty much WEBCT) link:

      • One of my faculty member friends tells me that during the last TA strike, which occurred at the end of a term, many TAs who chose to strike had not turned grades in to the professors for the entire term and considered handing them over to be work that they couldn’t do. This seriously messed up many students’ ability to get into some courses in the next term

        The university might be concerned that some striking TAs might mess around with the grades based on this previous experience. It is unfortunate that such precautions are seen as necessary, but the university’s first responsibility in all this has to be to its students, doesn’t it? But my faculty member firiend tells me that professors can give access to ELM for their TAs who are working, if they choose to.

      • I guess my comment to that rationalization by the university is that is unfortunate, but not all people act that way. It’s really irritating to have them make that assumption on my behalf.

        And while you can ask your prof to be reinstated….its very uncomfortable. It puts people in a sticky situation. I just wish the university would butt out on this!
        Again, I’m hoping someone from tha bargaining team is able to get some solid answers to these questions. While I appreciate your faculty members information….I’m wondering if there was also another reason behind this? Unlike the university….I’m not making any assumptions as to why they did this. I would just like some answers from them….and thus far have been unsuccessful!!!

  40. Hi Derek,

    I’d be interested to see the recruitment statistics that you’re referring to. Are they open somewhere that you can direct me to?

    Being familiar with minimum compensation given by our department, I believe that in your calculation you’ve made the assumption that tuition will rise by the maximum 8% per year for four years without any offsetting raise in the research scholarship. Obviously when projecting that far in to the future nothing is guaranteed, but given past history I have reservations about the validity of that assumption.

    Also, if the take home compensation is really an issue, then why does CUPE’s offer include a wage freeze? I understand that CUPE’s offer involves increases to benefits, but it has been pointed out that unless everyone is taking advantage of all these benefits (including childcare and professional development) then it’s difficult to include them when evaluating actual take home pay.

    • Hi,

      a) The recruitment stats haven’t been made public, they’re from my personal conversations with department heads. This is definitely one area where’d I’d like to have something written on paper, I’ll work on getting that.

      b)There are a couple of problems with assuming research scholarships will increase
      1) we know lots of departments where this hasn’t been past practise and so it definitely won’t be future practise
      2) the budget model at the University is changing which will result in more money flowing out of departments which take up a large amount of space, this may significantly change the ability of departments (such as Chemistry and Engineering departments) to offset the tuition increases.

      c) we have a wage freeze because wages are a less effective way to offset tuition than trying to get a bursary style reimbursement. If the University has $100 to put toward each TA, then if they put it into wages $10 is lost towards employer deductions (EI,CPP,WSIB,EHT) and 9% is lost on employee deductions (EI,CPP,Union dues). So effectively that $100 becomes $81. If its put into a tuition rebate, then $100 of money ends up as $100 of rebate. Since we’re trying to achieve break even, we’re actually proposing a way that costs the University LESS than just putting it into wages. Tying things to tuition also has the advantage of giving a disincentive to the University to increase tuition for all graduate students. We can’t directly bargain for non-TA grad students, but we can work to achieve the same effect through disincentives.

      • Unfortunately we’ll have to agree to disagree on the subject of research scholarship increase. Like I’ve stated above, I believe that McMaster has incentive to keep their graduate student compensation competitive because they’re in the business of doing research and providing education. TA pay is only a part of the total compensation package.

        I agree that the bursary style reimbursement is a more effective way of offsetting the tuition increase for the exact reasons you’ve stated. Of course, increasing scholarships would have the exact same effect. If I’m interpreting the union’s position on this issue correctly, they are trying to guarantee what I’ve argued would be in the university’s best interests to provide anyway.

    • Where does this 8% figure for yearly increases in tuition come from? The articles I read on line said something about a higher increase for 1st year entrants to a program and considerably lower (4%? I can’t remember) yearly increases for them after. Can you direct me to something that lays out this 8% figure?

  41. ‘Go work elsewhere’ is a simplistic, dismissive, and unconstructive response to a legitimate concern about the declining quality of working conditions at McMaster. By that logic, if workers’ rights are being abused somewhere, we should tell residents and citizens to ‘go live somewhere else’ rather than try to improve their conditions? Part of why this strike and these negotiations matter is that they will set a precedent for events at other universities, so in the end there won’t be anywhere to go where grad. students and TAs can support themselves. Not a long-term solution, just leaving the battles to others.

    I am a former CUPE 3906 member and fully support this strike and the bargaining team. The administration’s disrespectful, arrogant behaviour in so-called ‘bargaining’ is indicative of the general scorn they hold for their workers. Keep on.

  42. I can’t wait until this contract is accepted when everyone who appreciates the opportunity to have a TA position puts this strike to an end. I think the “bargaining” committee has done nothing but launch smear campaigns while putting themselves up on a pedestal. Stop finger-pointing and get this thing done. I’m fine making $22 an hour. This isn’t a career it’s a job. Deal with it.

    Solidarity my ass.

    • McMaster Science TA,

      I think I would have felt the same way as you do when I was an undergradute, however, as a graduate student my PhD studies IS currently my career. I may be in a low paying starting position, but it is still part of my career. I do very much appreciate having a TA position because it allows me to get the experience that I need to further myself in my chosen field as an acedemic. My studies keep me too busy to work somewhere else (you’ll see if you continue in academia) and there are also restrictions on how many hours I can work elsewhere. I’m glad that you are happy to have a TA position, but please remember that you are only making 22 dollars an hour because union members of the past have fought to get us all a decent wage. We need to keep fighting for TA rights. We do so much work in the university and we desearve as well as earn every penny that we get.

  43. I would like to say thank you to the TA’s. I am a humanities student and the treatment that the arts receives from McMaster has been terrible and is dwindling even more so. It took me 9 phone calls to the university in the summer before I could get into my required course for my degree. There have been talks about Mac wanting to cut out humanities and social sciences slowly but surely and this is seen in the HUGE class cuts to areas like women’s studies, gerontology, etc. There are people who are standing at the back of my classes because it’s so crowded that even though there are enough chairs for everyone, tiny TSH and many of the other art buildings are so crammy that it’s hard to respect your neighbour’s space. I hate McMaster for the fact that they judge a person’s intellect on the program they are in and this has spread to the students as well, pitting students against other students, faculties against faculties. Engineers call the humanities students “lazy” and judge our intelligence based on our courses. I had the marks and ambition to get into health sci or engineering if I wanted to, I chose not to because I chose to follow my heart and my desire to learn and experience something that I truly loved, rather than worry about the size of my wallet. Has McMaster forgotten that they are first and foremost an educational centre?

  44. Will a recent pay stub be required to attend the meeting? What about to vote? How do we know if our name is on any list or not. I have undergrad TA friends that want to attend the meeting but I don’t know what to tell them.

    • You will need something to verify that you are a member. This can be a copy of your contract, copy of guarantee, or a pay stub. Undergrad TAs are encouraged to attend the meeting as well but also need something which will verify that they are a member.

  45. When the university says it is their “best offer”, I believe them. Any other deal from here on will be worse.

    • This is merely propaganda on the University’s part. In the CAW negotiations they tabled a final and best offer, and yet just a few weeks later the CAW signed a better tentative agreement. In our Unit 2 negotiations last year, we received a final offer near midnight of a strike deadline, only to agree to a significantly improved deal just a few hours later. In the Unit 3 negotiations this year, the exact same thing occurred. Its merely a scare tactic by the university. They budget 5% / year for each employee group for improvements in wages and benefits. At the moment they’re offering us 2.6% in year 1 and 1.6% in year 2 combined in wages AND benefits. On top of that, they took over a million dollars (5.6%) from our members in increased tuition. They can easily afford to offer a competitive package in line with the rest of the sector. I’ve sure they’ve spent more money on the consultant they hired to lead their bargaining team than the entire cost of funding our benefits deficits.

      • But in your case, the university hasn’t come up with a significantly better deal, have they, even though you’ve been on the picket lines for 4 days. I would think that if they were willing to do so, they’d have done it before Monday morning. But that’s just my opinion. I heard a rumour that CAW didn’t have a strong enough strike mandate to carry a strike.

    • Alan,

      It’s like saying when Walmart says “save money, live better” you say sure I live better 😉 Or McDonald says: “I’m lovin it” and so on! Are you unfamiliar with advertisements?

      And most important thing is to interpret BEST! Best for who and in which conditions and …? Who believes that? It’s funny, even a 5 year old kid will laugh at you if you say to a kid “When the university says it is their “best offer”, I believe them. Any other deal from here on will be worse.”

      In Solidarity, V!

  46. I just wanted to pass something on I just read in a e-mail from the chair of my department:

    “the University will be supplying shuttles to take students to and from the polling station on Monday”

    I am not sure if this has been talked about on here yet, but it should help with getting people out to vote on Monday!

  47. Just a note to say that I find the new strike site (the link to it appears in the upper right-hand corner of this blog) really excellent! Very well-organized, informative, and up-to-date. I have had profs ask me if we had any information addressed specifically to faculty members, and it is great to be able to refer them to this website which does include a section addressed to faculty.

    I was also encouraged to see the letters of solidarity we’ve received from other locals and from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and to learn about the United Way’s gesture of support for us. A big thanks to all those behind setting the site up for us and making this information so accessible!!!

  48. Just a note to say that I find the new strike site (the link to it appears in the upper right-hand corner of this blog’s home page) really excellent! Very well-organized, informative, and up-to-date. I have had profs ask me if we had any information addressed specifically to faculty members, and it is great to be able to refer them to this website which does include a section addressed to faculty.

    I was also encouraged to see the letters of solidarity we’ve received from other locals and from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and to learn about the United Way’s gesture of support for us. A big thanks to all those behind setting the site up for us and making this information so accessible!!!

  49. Did not mean to send my last post twice. Apologies.

  50. How many people do you expect to trek to the Convention Center to vote?
    It certainly is inconvenient.

    • Hopefully many people will be willing to make the trek. There aren’t many locations in Hamilton that can house 1000+ people, and that sort of range is the expected turnout based on similar meetings in the past. The only other real option was the gymnasium on campus, and since that would require crossing our own picket lines, that would be a little preposterous.

      • Why would that be preposterous? People are “crossing the picket lines” all the time to attend classes, do their research, meet with their supervisors, etc. Members have other business on campus besides simply TA/RA positions. Having the vote/meetings would not only make more sense, it would be more convenient for the membership.

      • Dave Arthurs,

        You are right: on-campus would be a great place to meet. It would make a lot of sense. However, as I understand it, we cannot hold the meeting on-campus, at these facilities belong to the employer.

  51. Why are all comments now going into moderation again?

    • My understanding is that in a previous spirited debate directed comments that had breached the equity statements were made, and moderation mode was subsequently reinstated…

  52. Hello,

    I am an undergraduate student that has attempted to remain fairly well-informed throughout this strike. However I have a few points I would like to add to a certain number of recurring conversations, as well as a few thoughts on my current perspective on this strike. To preface this, my purpose for writing is to ask why I should support this strike. I ask that this be answered with regards to the points I end up making.

    First, on the theme of democracy: A surprise vote cannot be considered representative, regardless of past attendance or whether you believe it is the responsibility of the membership to be there/make the time to be there. This appears to be less of an issue now that effectively the same vote will be reoccurring and so may be moot at this point, but it boiled my blood to see such close-mindedness. There are a variety of legitimate reasons that members may have been unable to make it on such a short notice, more so when one considers the fact that a vote appears not to have been on the stated agenda. Whether or not such people would have shown up is beside the point. This sentiment hurts the legitimacy of such a vote, and cast the union in a bad light, at least in my eyes.

    Second, on the theme of improving the quality of education. While I admire the strategy of the union in equating monetary bonuses for large tutorial sizes with an attempt to ensure the quality of my education, I am frankly cynical, and rather tired of hearing the union tell me that this strike is about the quality of my education. It’s a nice spin, I’ll grant, but surely it is a happy coincidence not the goal. If this is such a key issue for TAs, why is it a monetary cap? Would it not make more sense, purely from my perspective as an undergraduate student, for TAs to simply petition the university for a hard-cap on the number of students per tutorial? To sweeten this deal and encourage the hiring of more TAs (To ensure all the tutorials would be able to run rather than just being cut) would the union be willing to take a wage decrease? I rather think not, and so I
    would kindly ask that the bargaining team stop telling me how this is about the quality of my education. Bargaining doesn’t need some higher, nobler cause than getting the best deal possible/reasonable. This is true of both sides.

    Further in these regards, the quality and intent of a tutorial varies not just from faculty to faculty but course to course. I would argue that there are tutorials I have suffered from having a large size, but at the same time I would point out that there are times when having a large number of my peers brainstorming and asking
    questions has resulted in pertinent, important questions being asked that I personally may not have thought of, and may not have been asked in a smaller environment. Not only this but how does the supposed inaccessibility of TAs fall in line with TAs holding office hours which are largely not attended by students? If one-on-one is a
    necessity for quality education should not the TAs, or better yet, the professor’s office hours be filled with inquisitive students from start to finish? I do not see lines outside these office of students unable to meet their TA.

    In regards to comments made by my fellow undergraduate student I feel the need to echo his sentiments on academic experience not equating with ability to lead a tutorial. While I have on the whole had a generally positive experience, I too must highlight some very well-educated TAs I have had that frankly were not very good teachers. Language barriers also do exist at times. To respond to a point mentioned above, I do not think this is a racist remark. If I were to teach in a country with a different official language I expect that I would need to know how to speak it at a level that removes understanding barriers between myself and those I teach. If simply writing equations on a board is all the TA is able to do then the necessity of the TA is removed as I have an expensive textbook I must purchase that does effectively the same thing. (Though I must point out that this remains a dissatisfaction I have more so with my professors on the whole than TAs)

    Specific points aside, the general point remains, I believe, that the experience level of a TA within a graduate program does not translate to an ability to teach or TA well. (Previous experience TAing I would grant should help). If this union has my best interests at heart, rather than working to guarantee that graduate TAs are hired over undergraduate, they would be working to set metrics to test one’s ability to effectively teach and apply them in the hiring process. This would go a long way to engendering good will in the student body these TAs are set to teach. If this were impossible, petitioning the university to provide substantial training in how to lead a tutorial would also be great.

    Having commented on how I don’t truly believe this strike personally has my best interests at heart I do not mean to sound selfish. I need not be personally benefiting to support such an action. In fact my initial reaction was to support any form of sticking it to the university. However when I consider that any monetary benefit gained here is likely to come back around to me in the form of raised tuition (or at the least less money for the university to spend on a variety of other things) I feel obliged to try to understand the event.

    My understanding, and I do hope someone can correct me should I be wrong, is that this revolves in large part around three things: the erosion of take home pay due to tuition increases, the larger number of TAs actually using their benefits packages (so necessitating an increase in the contribution to this fund), and a perception of overwork amongst TAs.

    On the first point I have mixed feelings. I can sympathize with not liking how high tuition is, but I do not understand how it is fair to link one’s work to this. My understanding is, this is a part-time job that students take on to help pay for their schooling. I do not know of any part-time job as well suited to study and work at the same time, nor any part-time job available to students that gives them such a premium wage. I feel disinclined to support a union petitioning for a pay-raise on the basis of increasing tuition when a large part of the student population is unable to secure adequate part-time work, let alone at a similar wage. To summarize, I do not see how I can support this strike on the basis of increasing tuition. I have not been convinced that these two things should necessarily be equated just because the same entity is in control of both.

    On the second point I have no qualms except that I do not understand why a part-time job entitles health and dental coverage. For the most part, however, I suppose I do not have any qualm with an attempt to insure this remains should this be a good faith attempt necessitated by an increase in members/usage, as long as the usage is necessary (not, for example, simple teeth whitening or other ‘vanity’ coverage). This is not to imply that this is the case, I simply do not know.

    On the final point I cannot help but feel that the current disincentive system is an obfuscating measure aimed at attempting to secure a wage increase when the university is unable to meet these size demands due to either scheduling or other issues. This feels similar to classic case of a vendor making an exceptionally low bid, but hiding language in the contract that calls for exorbitant fees should there need to be any changes.

    I feel this is not about overwork because I do not see a direct correlation between tutorial sizes and amount of work, or number of students one is responsible for marking and the quality of work. If one is marking the same math question for a large number of students it seems to me that this may require the same amount of hours or effort for a TA marking a smaller number of in-depth essays on varying research topics. I believe this would be a disservice to your own members and not address the issue of overwork. Surely the bargaining team could be pursuing a more rigorous system of recording and reporting hours, with a clause allowing overtime to be paid when it is reached, or else require the university to employ another TA to finish the job (at no loss to the original TA who
    still worked the hours they were contracted for). Issues of overwork or management expecting a TA to do a certain amount of work in a ridiculously small amount of time could be taken up on a grievance basis by the union on a case-by-case basis as they occur.

    I believe a system to prevent overwork as mentioned above will have other benefits than just perhaps requiring the university to think about large class sizes. It may also make instructors think about how they streamline assignments and make them easy for a TA to quantify and mark. I believe this is a benefit for an undergraduate student as well, as it likely means more assignments that have more well-defined answers rather than relying on a subjective question which may receive a variety of marks based on the TA or instructor marking it.

    Finally I think the system above would also help in allocating funds to and protecting TAs who actually are overworked by requiring a strict set of recorded hours. Not to name any specifics but it has come to my attention that there is a practice of leading what is a 1-2 hour tutorial on paper, finishing up early, but still claiming to have worked for the full hours. As an undergraduate student it is hard to approach a TA and tell them I’d like to see more examples when the rest of the class has left and the TA acts as though I’m impinging on their time, rather than the time they’ve been contracted to teach me. This is perhaps a personal issue that is isolated, however, so I hasten to point out that it is not a motivation for the suggestion above.

    As it stands the above are the issues I have with the union’s side of the strike. Corrections are welcome.

    I hope nowhere have I given the impression that I am supporting the University’s bargaining methods, attitude, or even working conditions. As a third party affected by both sides of this strike I have the luxury of being able to disagree with both sides in this matter, though this does not provide much comfort as my studies are disrupted.

    I apologize for any typos, grammatical errors, and of course the length of this post. Any misunderstandings that occur I hope will be seen as having happened during a good-faith attempt to understand the union’s issues from an undergraduate student’s perspective.

    Finally, in light of the questions posed above, why should I and my fellow undergraduate students support this strike?

    Thank you for your time in reading this and I look forward to your reply,

    Paul K.

    • Paul.

      I am sorry no one has of yet responded to your extremely intelligent post. Thank you! You make many valid points, and I probably won’t be dealing with them as systematically as you have laid them out, but I will do my best.

      Re: Tutorial sizes
      I understand that smaller tutorial sizes does not automatically guarantee better education, though it would certainly be a help (at least from my perspective). Also, while it is true that tutorial size may vary from faculty to faculty I can speak to this directly from my own experience. I am TAing a social sciences course, where the main feedback is a 2500 word paper. There are 60 people in my tutorial. According to the hour breakdown, I am only “allowed” to spend 15 minutes marking each paper. I will obviously spend more time than 15 minutes, because giving someone a fair grade which will affect their GPA, and giving feedback in this time is impossible. I would love for the uni to hardcap at 30, but I don’t think the uni would accept that sort of thing in the offer (as it is logistically difficult and a very strong demand). The monetary compensation is sort of like a “disincentive” for them to go over 30, rather than directly in compensation for the TA. Although, granted, perhaps I should be paid more for marking 60 papers than my neighbour who marks 30, but that is not the primary concerned being addressed by this disincentive.

      By the way, your suggestion of streamlined assignments is interesting. I don’t know how much more they could be streamlined, without making the course pretty easy (at least from the more humanities side of things, where papers are kind of necessary). We do already have to fill out forms for our work hours, but I am not going to stop answering student emails when my 10 hours is up. Your comment about short tutorials is also duly noted, but hopefully this is the exception and not the rule. And it would be great if TAs were paid if they went overtime, but I highly doubt the university will budge and start paying for more than 10 hours. This allows them to know exactly how much money they’re putting out for TAships; I don’t think how many hours it actually takes is really that important to them. That is why the $35/hour thing is a bit misleading. While it is true, we get paid only for 10 hours regardless of the work and cannot hold a job outside of TAing. TAs make about $9800/year, which is decent, but of course not really workable if you win no outside scholarships and pay half of it back to the university in tuition (not to mention books, food, etc.) Which leads me to my next point…

      Re: Tuition hikes
      Your point echoes some of the university’s issues with “tuition is a student issue not a TA one.” On the surface, I think this is very convincing, but think about it this way. If you work at McDonalds and your employer gives you a $1 raise, but then makes your uniform cost 5x as much, but then claims they are unrelated, would you be convinced? I must pay tuition to be a TA, therefore they are integrally related. In fact, as I have stated before on this blog, trying to separate my being a TA from my being a student is not possible. The TA position was offered to me by the university as an incentive to be a student here, and is one of the ways they attract graduate students to the university. But then, when we get here, we are told they are unrelated, though my guaranteed TA position was offered in my graduate student’s admission package.

      Re: Qualitiy of Education
      You have rightly identified that this is a strong line the union is taking on the strike, and one that resonates with me strongly. I wouldn’t be on the picket line for the sake of a few hundred bucks in my pocket and benefits I will never collect. It is not just smaller tutorial sizes, and PhD students being better teachers (which you have rightly questioned, though as a first year MA, I can say that a 5th year PhD, even if a worse teacher than me, is probably still a better candidate for the job). It’s the principle of eroded pay. I came to Mac because the funding is good. If the funding is decreasing over the years, then they can’t attract the same quality of graduate student. Thus, the reputation of the university goes down, and the value and quality of my degree (and yours) goes down. Also there is a fundamental principle at work here: where does Mac choose to spend its money? They have been in a surplus for many years, and what the TAs are asking for is, effectively, pocket change. (I’m sure you’ve heard this all before, but Peter George makes 600,000 +, while 2700 TAs make about 1 million together. The difference between our package and theirs is about 250,000). So why are they refusing? They should just throw us a bone and send us back to the classroom. It’s because it is the principle of “giving in” to TA demands for better education, because they believe everything is fine as it is, and would prefer to spend even such small dollar amounts elsewhere. I wouldn’t assume our extra money comes out of your pocket, but hopefully out of admin pockets. Perhaps this is idealistic, but I for one must (try) to maintain that the university should spend its money to maintain its reputation through graduate funding, making tutorials a reasonable size, discouraging massive tuition hikes, etc. I don’t think the union’s demands are by any means unreasonable numbers-wise, and I think that the university must be refusing on principle and not because they are hard-up for cash.

      Re: Benefits
      A quick note on benefits – I too asked this question when the strike first came up; do I need benefits? The answer is no. I am healthy, young and unmarried. But there are people who are not healthy, young and unmarried and I think that graduate education should not only be limited to my demograph. There should be at least some benefits offered in order to allow all people to at least have a chance at higher education, if they want it. Also a $150,000 benefit pool for 2700 people is hardly an exorbitant benefit plan. ($55/person if my math is right).

      So why should you care? Well 1) You may find yourself in my situation one day, or your children, or your nephew, or your friend. You would want them to be treated fairly. 2) Smaller tutorial sizes, but more importantly, challenging the way the university thinks about how it spends its money, is good for the quality of education and for every student. Also, I have not mentioned here the university’s “strategy” in bargaining, which I have had a hard time not taking personal offense to. I think it is in the interest of all students to be heard by the university, and responded to with respect. Universities, in my view, are not money-making instituions. Tax-payers and private citizens help them out because they educate the future workers, parents, etc. of the world. Therefore, at least some of the surplus the university is making should filter back into the hands of the students, even if it is only 250,000 extra in the hands of graduate students.

      I hope this sheds some light on my position. You are well informed and I appreciate that immensely, and I understand the frustrations you must feel (I did my undergrad at Mac). If I were you, I would be worried about my immediate education as well. But hopefully, even if you don’t agree with everything I have said, you can see what the strike is about, at least for me. If every undergraduate took the time you have to understand the issues, this strike would probably cause a lot less tension and a lot more discussion! 🙂

    • Hi Paul,

      As a TA who sees herself as BOTH an educator and a researcher, I will give you one scenario that addresses why you may want to support at least part of our proposal (A fair negotiation between the union and the university, which hasn’t happened yet, will inevitably change and modify our current proposal). If you were an undergraduate student in my English tutorial or a third year English/CSCT course, did you know that I can only spend 15-20 minutes reading and commenting on your essay? I find it unethical to spend only that amount of time per essay, so I always volunteer at least an extra 10 minutes of my own time per essay. In each term, I am only paid for 130 hours of work. I am supposed to work no more than 10 hours a week (a pretty typical part-time job, right?). But that is never the case. (BTW, yes, it is odd that a part-time job like ours would have benefits, but the only reason we have benefits now is b/c of our last strike in 1999. I’ve never had dental before, even when I worked a full time job in the past. So I’m willing to fight to ensure that our current benefits do not become eroded for the TAs who follow me and for the two years left of my degree).

      As for your concerns as to whether we are qualified for the job, at the beginning of the year and throughout the year, there are professional development seminars available (voluntary ones for advanced and beginning TAs put on by the Learning Center and mandatory ones put on by the department). But the hours put into this training (as well as a Health and Safety training) are pulled out of the 130 hours. So realistically, I only have 124 to 127 hours per term to dedicate to my students. If the disincentive part of our proposal doesn’t seem to be the best solution, we have also been asking for an increase in our hours of work, which I personally think is the more realistic route to address this problem. We don’t need to be paid another $1.40/hr. We need more hours to do our work properly. And when we tell our instructors that we are maxing out our hours, some of us have been advised to cancel tutorials, cancel office hours, spend even less time on students’ emails, or stop attending lectures, etc. This must be what the administration means in their ‘best’ proposal that they have ensured that our working conditions will remain ‘enhanced’ and ‘flexible.’

      And as to the comment about TAs not speaking English properly (not your phrasing), I think such comments should be more carefully contextualized. Do these TAs really speak English improperly or are their students unaccustomed to an English spoken properly but with a non-Canadian accent? As far as I know, international grad students have to pass an English proficiency test in order to become a student here, let alone a TA. This complicated issue about speaking ‘proper’ English reminds me of a classic experiment in which two undergraduate classes were given an audio lecture and were asked to rate the lecturer’s proficiency on a questionnaire. In class A, the audio lecture was accompanied by a Caucasian woman’s photograph on the screen. In class B, the lecture was accompanied by an Asian woman’s photograph. Who do you think was rated as significantly more comprehensible as a lecturer? Class A. Who do you think spoke and recorded the lecture? The woman in the photograph displayed in class B.

  53. This is not meant to come across as anti-union (although it may sound like it) but how does the union expect the membership to follow their suggestion and vote ‘no’ when all across campus there are tutorials and labs running? This is probably because I am in science and only really see that side but the first year Bio labs are starting to run because more than half the TAs are working (I have been told it is almost 80%). Many of the TAs in Economics (where first year tutorials are running); Kinesiology (same thing) and Physics are working. When I say many I don’t mean 10% I mean 50-75%. Please don’t tell me this isn’t the case as it is and I know it is and everyone else in science does as well. Go onto something as simple as Mac Insiders and listen to the conversations from the undergrads and they have lists of what is running or just ask around.

    What is it like in social science? What is the TA distribution across campus are their more social science/humanities TAs or science/engineering TAs? That might be the deciding factor in everything.

    • Mac TA,

      We’re killing ourselves to inform people. Still most of those TAs don’t know what’s going on and still a lot of people don’t care and don’t come to vote.

      And most of my friends in eng. that are international students (like me), are afraid of strike and especially financial problems, but they’re understanding the situation. They don’t have anyone here to support them (any family or friends) and losing 200-300 bucks a month means a lot for them. They cannot risk it and come to picket. And sadly some of them don’t understand solidarity and think that they’re going to finish the school soon and they’re not going to be here forever and it’s not even their land, why should they try to change something that is not theirs!

      In Solidarity, V!

    • I can’t speak for all the faculties, but in my department (in social sciences) I think all but 1-2 of the TAs are on strike. I also can’t speak for the reason people are working through the strike – be it apathy or informed protest, which will also affect the vote.

      • That is informative Liz, thanks. I guess the reason for my question was from a science/engineering position it was hard to figure out who was on strike. I drove through the picket that had 12 people in it and I figure is I just multiply that through that is 36 people walking the lines. I realize other are doing other things but it seems like there are many more people working than picketing (again from my perspective).

        One thing I do worry about is after this is over, if the deal is ratified, what is next for the union? Will the union start to realize they are out of touch with the regular Mac Science/Engineering student? Maybe it is time to split the union and have a Social Science and a Science side. That sounds extreme but maybe that would lead to actual solidarity.

      • I couldn’t agree more Mac TA. I think having separate contracts for Sci/Eng would make a lot of sense, considering the needs and priorities of the Sci/Eng is different, on average, from Humanities/Soc Sci. I think that way, resentment on both sides of the pro/anti union argument would be greatly diminished and we could all really focus on what the membership wants.

  54. Dear CUPE 3906 Members,

    I think it is TOTALLY reasonable that the bargaining team is asking for protection from overwork. As someone who supervises TAs, it is VERY important to me to protect them from having to go over their 130 hours per term, and it is my job to pick up whatever work remains, if they do go over.

    However, I just still honestly don’t understand how the current CUPE request deals with this adequately. By asking for more money per person in a tutorial/lab/group to be marked, how does this protect from overwork?

    The argument seems to be generally, the more people being taught, the more work for a TA. Therefore, TAs who teach more people should get paid more. However, there are just so many complications with this. As many people on this forum have pointed out, there is no straightforward relationship between number of students in a class and amount of work per TA. A conscientious instructor SHOULD be arranging the hours to be worked so that no matter how many students, the total number of hours worked should add up. This means spending less time on some things, and more time on others.

    In addition to that, and I think this is an even more important point: were this item to go through, would TAs who do have larger classes still be expected to sign a legal contract stating that they would work only 130 hours per term? If I had TAs who had larger class sizes than I had hoped for (and believe me, larger class sizes don’t make me that happy as a professor, either), if my TAs are getting extra money because there are more people, can I EXPECT them to work more than their contracted hours? They are legally signed on for 130 hours, AND they are getting extra money than other people who are also legally signed on for 130 hours. What on earth as I am an instructor to do?

    My impression is that given the wide range of different types of TA-ships across campus, the ONLY fair thing to do is to stick to the legal number of hours. Which means that anyone who is being required to work MORE than their contracted hours NEEDS to grieve their contract. And that is what the union is a tremendous resource for. If you feel you can’t do an as good a job as you’d like of TAing given that amount of time, well, that is probably true. You could probably do better by your students by putting in 260 hours per term. And even better for them if you were to put in 390 hours per term. And the same thing goes for professors. And this IS a real issue for quality of education, and one that needs to be addressed more generally. But I just don’t see how the current proposal actually addresses it at all.

    In the end, members need to vote on the actual proposals, not the overall goals. And professors need to decide whether to support this strike based on what the union is actually asking for, not the overall general goals. I mean, sure, you’re striking for better education! How could I not support that? And yes, I am definitely for better education. But the question I need to answer for myself is whether the items CUPE is striking for are ones that actually address the issues I care about as well. (Like fairer treatment for TAs, and quality undergraduate education).

    Class-size caps are one thing, extra money per person in a class is a whole separate thing, and I think the confounding of the two is part of the disconnect between what CUPE wants, and what the administration can possibly agree to.

    • Mac Professor,

      I don’t even have to start reading your message to know that you’re trying to mislead people here and give misinformation like Gord does and some bunch of stuff against the union.

      Please stop posting crap with the sign of a Prof! No single mac prof is free to read this blog and read all the comments and post a long comment.

      I wish the weblog’s admins were going to moderate this blog and keep it clean.

      In Solidarity, V!

      • and it is surprising why there might be problems building solidarity with the faculty given the level of dialog with us so far…

      • btw, I really am hoping for actual dialog with members who wish to discuss issues in a rational manner…

      • sorry, one other thing I wanted to add. From my point of view as a RESEARCH supervisor, I really don’t want my students to have to be working more than their contracted number of hours. I would MUCH rather protect them (or, have the union protect them) from going overtime while teaching, given that they need to complete their own degrees, than to get them extra compensation for going overtime.

      • SepSep: Did you seriously just admit to not even reading his post and then calling it ‘crap’?

        This is a forum for open discussion, whether you agree with it or not. That is the ‘freedom’ that you speak so highly of. I fail to see how his post was disrespectful, and I certainly don’t think the blog admins need to delete this message to ‘keep it clean’. Does clean only apply to opinions that match your own? Are you now going to make insults related to me because I want to keep an open discussion instead of just one-sided pro-union opinion?

      • Sepsep,

        First of all I am the Mac Prof you called a liar earlier. The person above is not me and if you actually read the post you would see it is a different style all together. To be honest I really don’t care if you think I am a faculty member or not that can be up to any individual to decide.

        Before you assume all faculty sit in their offices and/or labs and do nothing else why don’t you try to get to know some of them. Many of us are involved and like to know what is going on at the University. We care about this strike and why it is occurring but when you are an outsider looking in with nothing riding on the strike ‘in terms of financial loss/gain’ perspectives are much different.

        Lastly, I am not responding to you Sepsep. I keep an open mind about all of these issues and I do have to say if everyone in the union acted like you with that many unintelligible phrases and lack of understanding I would have no support for it at all. That said most people here that have intelligent arguments (on both sides) and I wanted to let you know the faculty does read this blog. Maybe not all, maybe even not most, but more than you may think.

      • @Mac Prof: I believe that faculties read this but they won’t try to read 270 comments and answer. I’m still calling you a liar and I would be more than happy if you accept me or anyone here to your office and let us discuss our views face to face? Why are you so afraid of telling your name? You’re not saying anything against university that might cuz you trouble or sth!

        I hate liars and that’s what it is.

        @Avery: I’m again appologizing you because of my harsh comments. “Freedom” is not that you can go in the street and kill someone, “Freedom” is not that you can go and tell everyone anything you want or lie as you prefer. Canada has to some extent a great “Freedom” but can you publish any lie in the newspaper or someone might sue you if you do?

        I’m saying that this blog should be open but people register with their mac email addresses so people have their identity kept to the admins but not published and they can check if someone is trying to mislead members by pretending that he’s a prof or a TA or sth. People that are not in mac can also post but under no member names to be clear. This is the matter of trust and we want to have a blog that we can trust on the comments not any random one.

        If it is going to be like that and anyone pretend that he’s a prof or a TA or someone that he’s not I know these funny games better that everyone!

        In Solidarity, V!

      • SepSep: You have zero evidence for ‘Mac Professor’ being anything other than what he claims to be. Again, you are making an assumption, which has lead to an accusation. I would also watch your use of the word ‘liar’, as I don’t think that is either appropriate or warranted, unless you have specific evidence. You mentioned that in your home country that people were not allowed the freedom to speak their mind. How is this any different? If you disagree with someone’s opinion, then please state why that is so without the vitriol.

      • SepSep,

        How are you anymore of a CUPE member than anyone else in this blog. I don’t see you divulging your name either. You can’t just go around accusing people of making false statements, if that were the case, then the same could be said about you as well. You could be anyone off the streets, but no one is accusing you of that are they? You need to relax. This is an open blog and if you don’t like it then you should leave. Otherwise, unless you have something useful to post, then don’t post at all.

      • Hi guys,

        Please try and keep it respectful. There’s no real way we can verify anyone’s identity. However, even without verification of identity, we can still have a lively and respectful debate. Please try to keep it clean and concentrate on the issues, rather than personal situations.

      • Thank you for that Derek. I think that we all have the right to make our opinions known without being labeled a ‘liar’, or ‘disgusting’ and I think that is the first step towards a true democracy.

      • I’ve already stated my point I guess and I’m saying again that here people should be verified and these games of calling ourselves Profs and etc. is a wicked game and doesn’t have anything to do with “Freedom”.

        The problem is that people against the strike are bombarding the blog with comments that are not informative and based on no real facts, and mostly trying to mislead members! Everyone is free to state their idea and discuss though.

        In Solidarity, V!

      • @SciTA1

        I’m not using any TA or these kind of names, everyone knows me by that and if you want you can meet me everyday at Sterling gate (most probably) picketing when you’re crossing the picket line. I’m done, have fun and right as much as you want here, I don’t think anyone who wants to be informed can find anything useful among 300 comments! I’m just wasting my time here.

        In Solidarity, V!

    • Hi Mac Professor,

      Thank you for your supportive comments and for this important question.

      As I understand it (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong!), the notion of the extra money per student is not what we were asking for earlier in the bargaining process. Originally, we wanted a hard cap on tutorial numbers, but it was outright refused. As a response, we have moved considerably on this issue, from the hard cap to the disincentive of the university having to pay TAs extra money for any students added to a tutorial over the capped amount (I think it’s called a ‘soft cap,’ or something like that). It’s not a perfect system, and it’s not the option that we would’ve gone with if we had another one—the complications that you mention are something that have been considered—but it seems as though it was this option or dropping the issue altogether, which we were not prepared to do. And because we aren’t prepared to drop it, it remains, though in a modified form that we’re not completely happy with to be built upon in future bargaining sessions. (If you have a suggestion that you think would work better and/or that you’ve heard about working at a different institution or anything, please let us know!). To speak to the impact of this policy on instructors: as far as I know, the extra money is meant to partially account for the extra time that extra students will require, though I’m not sure what this means for the hours of work form. I suspect that the ins and outs of the implications of this kind of policy will still have to be worked out in the bargaining process, but I can’t say for sure.

      To turn now to your comments about the hours of work form: there’s a big part of me that agrees with you about sticking to the 130 hours and grieving anything over that in principle (that said, I have no experience with the grievance process, so again, if I’m misrepresenting anything, someone please correct me!). In practice, however, I (and I think many of my peers) feel rather differently about it: First, doing so is a lot of work that (most) TAs don’t have time to do—the extra TA work will have already been completed, and if a TA is in a time crunch, then taking on the work of a grievance is less likely; second, there’s the whole thing about inadequacy—we are told regularly that we need to manage our time better, and so a TA would feel (and risk being perceived as) an inadequate TA if they filed a grievance; third, professors tend to be pretty great people who are conscientious about TA labor (at least in my experience), and it seems unlikely that a TA would file a grievance if the work they are being asked to do does not seem unreasonable (particularly given that we know that many instructors are badly overworked themselves); fourth, there’s no denying the power differential between instructors and students, and though any grievance would not be anything personal, there is always the risk of repercussions.

      Complicating these issues is that TAing is a kind of work that it’s difficult to monitor (as, undoubtedly, is the work of a professor). I, for example, am a fairly slow reader, so grading takes me longer than it might for one of my peers. The hours of work form, though, doesn’t account either for these kinds of variations or the manifold other similar variables, which make visible the fact that the hours of work form is a blunt tool for addressing the intricacies of these issues. Combine that with how easy it is for a TA to not record the hours they’ve put in to their TAing duties, and with the obligation that they feel towards their students, and relying on the hours of work form alone seems insufficient. To be clear, though, I’m not suggesting here that we throw the baby out with the bath water—the hours of work form is among the best tools we have to try to account for this labour. Rather, what I’m trying to say is that, at the end of the day, we as TAs are responsible for the hours that we work over those allotted, and we do have the option of grieving any additional hours that we work, but this responsibility needs to be contextualized with the numerous other factors that influence this issue, particularly that the grieving overwork is also a blunt tool (though also a critical one) for dealing with the complexities of these issues.

      I would also like to address a point you make about voting: I’m not sure I agree with you when you say that our membership has to “vote on the actual proposals, not the overall goals.” On one hand, I can see where you’re coming from. But on the other, I think people need to vote knowing that the issues that we are fighting for have a history and a future, and though this step isn’t a perfect one, it is a step towards more manageable tutorial sizes that CUPE plans to continue to build on.

      As well, with regard to whether or not you support the strike, you say that “the question I need to answer for myself is whether the items CUPE is striking for are ones that actually address the issues I care about as well. (Like fairer treatment for TAs, and quality undergraduate education),” and this speaks directly to the critical importance of solidarity between faculty and TAs. I would strongly encourage you and all other faculty members (individually or maybe through MUFA?) to get in touch with us about your concerns, because I’m positive that there will be a great deal of overlap in our concerns. And, along the same lines, it is important that we make the same efforts to get in touch with you! I would encourage you to support our strike because even if the issues that we’re taking up (and/or the concessions that we’ve made) may not fit your concerns exactly, from what you’ve said here, we do have very similar goals in mind. (And I should mention too that there is a lot of diversity in terms of our membership’s responses to the decisions of the bargaining team—while those of us who are for the strike are 100% behind the team and know that they are doing their best—we are not all on board with all of the concessions, etc. that they have made, which, of course, would be impossible, as not everyone is going to be happy with any decision. The point I’m trying to make, I suppose, is that you wouldn’t be alone with your questions by any stretch!)

      Thanks again, Mac Professor. I hope this has helped to clear things up a little, but let me know if it hasn’t. I feel compelled to stress again that this is my understanding of things—I’m a CUPE 3906 member, but I’m not on the exec or the bargaining team or anything—but I think that many (hopefully most!) of my peers would agree with what I’ve said here. I would also like to extend an invitation to you to join us on the line to discuss this and any other questions you have!

      In solidarity,


      • Thank you, I really appreciate the thoughtful reply, and I think those are some good points that I need to think more about. I think one of my remaining concerns is that there is just so much logistical difficulty of the soft caps on class sizes (not just in terms of money from the university, but in terms of how one can then justify the legal hours of work form, e.g. how can I legally expect someone who is being paid more to exceed the 130 hours?, etc). Similarly, I am extremely uneasy about the prospect of first year graduate students losing out on TAships to fifth year PhDs.

        Given this, it isn’t really so surprising to me that the admin has just said, no way, we can’t give you anything on this one, that’s impossible. I do see your point about how this is something that would need to be worked out on the bargaining table. But I actually haven’t seen that point of view put forward elsewhere (so again – thank you for your reply!). It has been my impression up until now that this is something the union has drawn a line in the sand over, and the admin has taken that at face value, and so, for real reasons, has just had to say no way, we can’t move on this.

        Then, I can also see how that union interprets that as a slap in the face, and a lack of respect. The disconnect is between the people who believe that “the admin is unwilling to negotiate on ‘quality of education’ issues”, vs. the people who believe that this item “more money per student in tutorial, etc” is impossible, so they just have to say that it is not up for negotiation. This is one reason why I think it is really important to stick to the actual items being voted on, not the overall goals. We need to TALK about the overall goals, but you can only vote on implementations of them.

        Closely related to this is how everyone’s intentions are being interpreted by the other side. It is really easy to misattribute people’s motivations, ESPECIALLY when things get heated. (See, for example, SepSep’s response to my post above. I of course realize that SepSep doesn’t speak for everyone here, but you can see that when I read that, it raises the question for me of how should I take other people’s descriptions of the admin’s “bullying behaviour,” aggressiveness, disrespect at face value. If MY post gets pounced on as an attempt to mislead people, it makes me think twice about when CUPE tells me similar things about the admin’s attempts to mislead people.)

        So right now, people are feeling insulted and disrespected for the admin’s refusal to negotiate on some items. So if the admin won’t talk any further about a GOAL (quality of education, and work conditions) that you see as important, that seems reasonable to be insulted. On the other hand, if the admin is refusing to negotiate further about some particular item (e.g. the extra money per student in tutorial item, or the 5th year PhD TAships), because that proposal is just impossible from their point of view, no matter how you decide to finesse the actual dollar figures per extra bum-on-seat, well, that’s NOT so fair for people to take that as a signal of disrespect. The same behaviour can be interpreted different ways, and until we are all mind-readers, it probably isn’t helpful for ANYONE to spend a lot of time ascribing motives.

        I think it would be an unfortunate outcome for the ratification vote to proceed as a referendum of whether or not people are pissed off at the university. Instead, it needs to be voted on as an actual proposal, independent of how many steps backwards it is from where the union started, independent on how many steps forward the university has taken. (As a piece of hyperbole, compare: “we asked for the moon! and they haven’t even met us half-way!” NOT that I think the bargaining team has capriciously been asking for the moon, but maybe you see my general point.)

        I think there are good reasons to vote no on the contract, and good reasons to vote yes. But voting no on a specific proposal IF you think it is actually a fine one, as a signal of how pissed off you are at the university, seems to me like it is just cutting off your nose to spite your face.

        Good luck to everyone trying to make their decision on this one. I don’t envy you your situation. Plus, I’d very much welcome more discussion on the specific merits of the various proposals. (thanks again, Shar, for your helpful points)

      • Hi again Mac Professor,

        My pleasure—and thank you!—as you say, dialogue is critical to this process! You raise a lot of points that I want to respond to, so forgive me if the following is a little disjointed—all of the issues are so closely intertwined, so I’ve tried to separate them as best as I can!

        To begin, just a small point of clarification with regard to the 5th year TAships: As I understand it, 1st year graduate students are not in danger of losing their TAships to 5th year students. Originally, we had asked that the TAships be guaranteed to 5th and 6th year students, but we have moved on this issue to just ask that 5th year students be eligible to apply for them. Basically, this addresses the university’s use of undergrad TAs for cheaper labour (they currently earn 57% of what grad TAs earn)—we’re talking about the TAships that get posted for which only undergrads are eligible to apply and are asking that 5th year PhDs be allowed to apply as well.

        To turn now to your comments: I’m really not sure what to say about the logistics of the soft cap. From what I have seen and heard, though, our bargaining team is willing to negotiate on these points, but the university is not willing to consider them at all. What I mean is that we’re not drawing hard lines. It’s a tricky thing to manage—on one hand, we need to stand strong and refuse to be bullied (and make sure that that is clear in the strike sound bites, etc.), while on the other hand, we need to be flexible enough to hear the other side and come to a mutually-beneficial agreement. I think this is the tension that you’re pointing to—in sound bites this issues seem very hardline, while in reality, we are very conscious that they aren’t. This is again the problem of the blunt tool for a complicated issue.

        At the end of the day, I think our bargaining team is doing its best to insist upon the needs of its membership and is refusing to back down, but is doing so with the knowledge that CUPE and the university need to come to an agreement (and so both sides need to give). I’ve heard the bargaining team discuss their negotiation strategies on several occasions, and they’ve always seemed to be more than willing to be flexible—it’s been the management side that has been unwilling to entertain ideas and/or suggest compromises (again, I haven’t been at the table, but this is the sense of things that I’ve gotten). From what I’ve seen, the bargaining team is very eager for compromises (and, if I recall, Derek Sahota, a member of the bargaining team, has posted things to this effect on at least a few occasions on the blog). This all comes back to the good faith bargaining in which CUPE seems willing to engage, but in which the university, unfortunately, hasn’t been. It is, of course, quite possible that the sides have misunderstood each other, but I think that’s what the mediator’s position is designed to address. And the breakdown of talks despite the presence of the mediator in addition to what I’ve heard from the bargaining team makes me have that much more faith in the representation of talks that the CUPE bargaining team has given. (I realize that this may sound like I’m idealizing the bargaining team—I’m not trying to—as I mentioned in my last post, not everyone is thrilled with all of the decisions they’ve made, but I have a lot of faith in them based on what I’ve seen and heard.)

        I also want to mention that I think that there’s a little more to the ‘slap in the face’ feeling that you discuss—though, certainly, the issues you raise contribute to it. The bigger issue, I think, is that the university has refused to bargain, and thereby has forced us to strike: it has cancelled approximately half of the bargaining dates, while we’ve never cancelled a single one; it has consistently stalled (ie: the CUPE bargaining team waited about 8 hours for a pass that the university should have long had prepared, and all this happened less than 48 hours before the strike deadline); and the university has offered things and then pulled them back (for example, on Friday, the 30th, hours before the strike deadline, the university offered to put some money into benefits—and if you go back in the blog, you’ll see that the bargaining team was really optimistic that things were moving in the right direction—but then passed another offer that had returned the benefits funds to what they were). From what I’ve seen, CUPE’s bargaining team has gone in with good faith and an earnest desire to negotiate, and the university has stonewalled them and/or has tried to divert attention away from our real concerns, by, for example, offering pay increases to grad TAs when we haven’t asked for any. (I should mention that my numbers may be a little off here, but that this is the gist of what has gone on—again, someone correct me if I’m wrong.) So I think that the ‘slap in the face’ feeling is a result of 6 months or so of this kind of treatment combined with the refusal to negotiate on the issues that are most important to us when we can get them to the table.

        I see what you’re saying more with regard to the importance of “stick[ing] to the actual items being voted on, not the overall goals. We need to TALK about the overall goals, but you can only vote on implementations of them”—I’m still a little on the fence, but I can imagine myself voting against a proposal that I generally agree with if I couldn’t support its implementation. Here’s the thing, though: if what we were asking for is impossible, I would like to hear why. If the university could give good reasons why what we’re asking for cannot work, I (and I think all of us) would be willing to listen—so much the better if they would offer reasonable alternatives to what we’ve suggested! I haven’t heard about anything along these lines. All I’ve heard is that they refuse talk about it. (Again, if I’m wrong, someone please explain!)

        You’re right too about the heated discussions. It is so easy to simplify these issues and proceed as though there is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and then, when stakes are high and things get heated, to pounce, especially given that many of us have faced a lot of negativity on the line and are probably feeling a little defensive—not that it’s an excuse. (As an aside, I hasten to add that we’ve gotten a lot of support too, which I emphasize because the negativity seems to stay with you longer). At any rate, a number of us have been discussing the dangers of simplifications for a while now, and I think it gets back to the tension I mentioned above with regard to the need for strong sound bites, but the complexity that underlies them. There hasn’t been much of these attacks on this blog (though, that said, I haven’t had the time to read every post), but you are definitely a person who took the brunt of some of that hostility—I’m sorry about that—I am pleased to see, though, that there are also posters who are responding to inappropriate and/or disrespectful posts with an insistence upon respectful comments, etc., regardless of the poster’s political position. Thank you for understanding that your experience isn’t a reflection of the position of the union as a whole and for continuing to engage—I can definitely see why this experience would make you question what you’ve heard CUPE say! I have to say, though, that while I agree that it’s dangerous to attribute motivation to people’s actions, it is difficult (for me and, I know, for others as well), not to take the university’s behaviour as a sign of utter disrespect. I’m open to the possibility that I’ve misunderstood their motivations, and I would be more than willing to listen to their reasoning—indeed, I would be thrilled to hear that there was a reason that didn’t involve their level of respect for us that explained their treatment of our bargaining team (and, thereby, their treatment of all of us)—but their silence on this issue seems to support my initial reading of the situation. (That said, I recognize too that I’m mired in the situation and may feel differently and/or may be able to be a little more articulate about it with a little critical distance that I don’t have right now.)

        I think you point to another important tension—the one between the quality of education and the financial aspects. And, of course, as you indicate, they can’t really be separated: the improvements we are asking for surely come with a cost. One of my colleagues put it to me in a way that I find really compelling, though: we’re asking the university to consider their funding priorities. The university has this money—it’s a matter of them deciding where it gets spent. So that is why we’ve been trying to put the cost of our demands in the broader context of the university’s other expenditures.

        You’re right, too, about the absurdity of cutting off our noses to spite our faces, but I don’t think that that’ll be an issue. I haven’t heard any talk along those lines at all—everyone I’ve spoken to who advocates the “vote ‘no’” position advises we do so because the offer is not a good one, not because of the ways in which the university has treated us or the bargaining process. To phrase it another way, the “vote ‘no’” positions that I’ve heard have not come from a place of anger or resentment, but from the knowledge that a better offer is possible. Yes, many of us are angry at and/or hurt by the university’s treatment of us, but that’s not what this vote is about, and I haven’t heard anyone suggest otherwise. I do hesitate, though, when you say “it needs to be voted on as an actual proposal, independent of how many steps backwards it is from where the union started, independent on how many steps forward the university has taken,” though. I do think it’s very important that we consider where we’ve started and where we’re going—how else can we know if we’ve made gains or losses or remained approximately the same? That said, I don’t think that this should be the sole focus on our decisions (and I think this is the point you were getting at)—we need to take a variety of considerations into account as we cast our votes: hard, uncomplicated lines can be very dangerous.

        I look forward to your thoughts, Mac professor, and thanks again. (And sorry for the lengthy reply! These issues are so complicated!)

        In solidarity,


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