The York University administration is preparing the grounds for carrying out reprisals against members of CUPE 3903 as well as undergraduates and other campus workers who supported the strike movement. The York University’s “Code of Conduct” is being mobilized as a tool to repress democratic dissent.

CUPE 3903 members have already been contacted about Code of Conduct violations for sending critical tweets to the Twitter accounts of public figures. These tweets are now being construed as creating an “unsafe” workplace. Undergraduate students who participated in the sit-in or “reclamation” of the Senate Chambers have received threats of disciplinary action by the administration.

CUPE 3903 is trying to bargain a “return-to-work protocol” that includes a commitment for no reprisals by the administration. The top administration has refused to budge on such a clause. It should be noted that such clauses are very typical in the resolution of strikes or lockouts, and are a way in which the union protects trade union activists from being targeted and victimized by the employer after a strike comes to an end.

The administration has said that it will not punish workers who participate in “lawful strike activities”, while the union wants to ensure a commitment to no reprisals whatsoever. As we have seen by their actions, the administration views peaceful sit-ins and the expression of opposition on Twitter as unacceptable, and has responded with threats of reprisals.

In fact, the employer included specific language on undergraduates who supported the strike in the collective agreement reached with “Unit 2” of CUPE 3903. The actions of undergraduate students in support of CUPE 3903 will be “subject to a review on a standard and process established by the Interest Arbitrator.” In the previous offer, which was made by the employer in May, this clause wasn’t included. The addition of this clause shows the intentions of the administration.

There is a real danger that the administration will try to make an “example” of left-wing undergraduate and trade union activists. It is using threats, intimidation, and preparing the grounds for reprisals after the strike comes to an end.

Socialist Fightback Students unequivocally condemn all threats of Code of Conduct or criminal charges being brought against students and campus workers. This would represent an attack on the entire labour and student movement. All political trends on the left would become potential targets of reprisals. If the administration is able to victimize even a small handful of activists today, they will move towards even harsher anti-democratic restrictions in the future.

We think this attempt to repress the democratic rights of workers and students exposes the real intentions of the top administration in this prolonged strike. The capitalists, represented by the Board of Governors and top administration, want to assert their domination of the campus. Their aim is to break CUPE 3903 in this strike, and to continue their offensive after the strike against the broader student and labour movement on campus. Part of this strategy involves creating an intimidating environment on campus to prevent future activism.

Defend democratic rights through mass action

The only way to prevent the administration from engaging in reprisals is to fight back with mass action of workers and students. The administration believes it can engage in reprisals because it feels strong, and can see that the movement is becoming weakened, especially the student “reclamation”. This shows the importance of left-wing undergraduate activists adopting a programme and strategy that can connect with the broader student population.

The key lesson is to raise demands, such as free education, that can draw in the broader layers of students, and to actively welcome them to participate in the movement. The “reclamation” unfortunately denied voting rights to people not involved with their small group. Indeed, a wave of bans and anti-democratic maneuvers at the occupation led to many students and workers being pushed out or leaving. There was little attempt by the activists in the “reclamation” to get the undergraduate student union to mobilize students into the struggle. As a result, the movement remained isolated, disconnected from the students, and therefore weakened. This isolation creates the context where the administration feels capable of intimidating and carrying out anti-democratic reprisals against left-wing students.

The Socialist Fightback Students firmly defend all those students supporting the strike, including both those involved and not involved in the “reclamation”, and members of CUPE 3903 against anti-democratic action by the administration. Students and workers on campus must have the right to organize, protest, hold occupations, and strike without fear of repression. We call on all organizations representing students and workers on campus to oppose the anti-democratic actions of the York administration, and to mobilize in defence of those who come under attack.