A Request for Support from the Graduate Student Union at York University

We received this request by e-mail. I don’t know any of the specifics of this labor impasse, but it does not seem as if the graduate-student union is asking for anything extraordinary.


The CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) 3903 strike at York University in Toronto is in its third week. York University is the third largest university in Canada.

In the last several weeks, graduate students at both York University and the University of Toronto have gone on strike for better salaries. University of Toronto graduate students are currently voting on a second offer from their administration.

The CUPE local at York includes graduate student T.A.s, G.A.s, and R.A.s, as well as our very large contingent of contract faculty. The unit representing contract faculty ratified their first post-strike contract offer, but the units representing all graduate student employees voted to refuse the offer and to remain on strike.

Their strike issues include earning a living wage that raises them above the poverty index, restoration of tuition indexation (which ties tuition raises to salary), and an equity statement for LGBT candidates.

In response to CUPE’s proposals, and their placing a new offer on the table last week, York administration has continued to refuse to negotiate and has recalled all classes. A number of picketers have been injured or threatened on the picket line and several have been hospitalized.

Many of the Liberal Arts Departments at York University have moved not to resume teaching out of a concern for pedagogical integrity, safety, and fairness. The leadership of CUPE anticipates a protracted standoff as the administration holds to its neoliberal agenda against the needs of both students and teachers and seeks to sever non-teaching contact between faculty and students.

We are writing to ask for support. I have attached our petition letter below.  It demands that President Shoukri settle the strike.


Dear President Shoukri,

We, the undersigned faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and members of the public, urge you to settle now with CUPE 3903.

CUPE 3903 has tabled on Thursday, March 19, a serious proposal at the bargaining table. It has demonstrated that it is intent on finding a reasonable, equitable settlement. CUPE 3903 has proposed consolidation of tuition indexation (in its collective agreement since 2000), inclusion of LGBTQ language as an employment-equity category, and a guarantee of a minimum of $12,500 in funding per year for full-time Masters’ students who teach. These proposals have minimal cost in relation to the University’s budget and the enormous fiscal and social cost of continuing the strike. They also ensure fair opportunity, compensation and stable tuition rates for members of CUPE 1 and 3, who deserve our full respect as students working and studying at York University.

Protracting this strike has brought incalculable harm to York University, its faculty, students and staff. The resumption of the majority of remaining classes on Monday March 23 will further divide the university community and escalate the damage to teaching and learning. We have serious and valid concerns about safety, internal divisions and tensions, and impaired academic integrity. We have heard the confusion, frustration and distress about the violation of trust expressed by both faculty and students.

It is time to end this nightmare. This is your time, President Shoukri!



If you wish to express support for the striking graduate students—and, more specifically, If you have ever taught or studied at York University, accepted their students, conducted research with York colleagues, or thought of sending students to York– please sign this petition.

You can read, sign and view comments at this site. It currently has about 1,450 signatures.



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