Melissa Martinez, Eli Ridder | The Post

The union representing contract faculty, teaching assistants and others launched its strike on Monday with a large rally at the entrance of York University, bringing hundreds of staff and students that support them to the Keele Campus. 

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903 and York negotiating teams failed to meet over the weekend after a deadline passed last week for a new deal between the union and university.

The union said they were open to find an agreement but the university said the two sides were too far apart for a last minute agreement on Saturday.

A CUPE 3903 spokeswoman told the Post last week that the main areas where the union seeks improvements for its staff are in wages, benefits, funding, job security, health, safety, and pedagogy.

“Our cause is just, we are united, we will not back down from the fight,” union bargaining team member Chelsea Catherine told rallying union members, who make up some 60 per cent of faculty at York.

“#StriketoWin” has been the hashtag used on social media by the union and its supporters, who say that job security and funding for teachers assistants are core issues that York offers are not addressing.

Members of the union voted to reject the last offer by York last week and in favour of going on strike if their demands were not met by the university.

Other faculty and staff at York are represented by the York University Faculty Association, who says it stands in solidarity but is not on strike itself.

Analysis: Energetic, hopeful

Much like the beginning of the faculty union strike last fall with the 24 public colleges across Ontario, the first day of this strike came across as energetic and hopeful.

Several speakers took to the grass beside York Blvd. at the Main Gate entrance to the university, news broadcasting crews set up cameras facing from Keele St. and hundreds marched in a counter clockwise circle in the road.

There was nothing less then high spirits from those in attendance, creating a warm, bustling scene in stark contrast with the somewhat deserted campus.

Classes are still on for students, at least the ones that can be taught with the faculty not currently on strike, who are largely represented by the York University Faculty Association that claims 1,500 members made up of faculty, librarians and others.

However, many students and faculty members have criticized the move to continue some classes, saying that it will bring chaos to schedules post-strike.

According to York’s Senate policy, students can not be academically punished if they “choose not to participate in academic activities owing to a strike or lock-out on campus.”

Student support

Melissa Martinez | The Post

During school strikes often those that are most effected are the students. Although most students might initially feel angry towards faculty protesting and temporarily suspending their paid classes, some students took to the rallies to fully support the CUPE 3903 movement.

Students for CUPE 3903, is a group of students that support their faculty’s choice to protest in order to shed more light on the issue.

The Post was able to exclusively interview Susanna Hermanns, a 19 year-old political science student and representative for Students for CUPE 3903.

“They are asking for an end to precarious labour,” says Hermanns as she delves into the reasons behind the strike and why York’s faculty deserves job stability and better working conditions.

Hermanns discussed the issues faculty members face including not enough childcare resources for faculty members who are parents, job stability and insufficient salaries,

“At the picket line yesterday, I learned that one of my TAs is making $11k a year,” claims Hermanns.

“To contrast that I believe that the poverty line is around $30k annually.”

The Students for CUPE 3903 emphasized the importance of unfair treatment of the faculty by the University and claims that the issue is not solely found in York University but in all educational systems in North America.

“My TA’s struggle is not an isolated event. The education system in North America is on life support despite the cure to its illness being in only arms reach,” claims Hermanns as she describes the business portion of Universities protocol.

“The institutions of education are simply treated as factories for profit.”

Students for CUPE 3903 is only one of many students groups that support the faculty strike and will continue to do so until decisions can be made.

More details to follow. Image of Keele Campus sign from previous files. 

Written by Eli Ridder

Eli Ridder is a freelance journalist. He founded The Avro Post in October 2017. He writes for Breaking911 and Guelph Politico, among others. Feel free to connect at ELIRIDDER@ICLOUD.COM or at ELIRIDDER.CA

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