We, Socialist Fightback Students, have stood shoulder to shoulder with our lecturers since the beginning of the strike at York University. Many of our profs have endured hardships and sacrifices fighting for retirement benefits, a first-of-its-kind sexual violence survivors’ fund, living wages, and many more things to improve our campus life. It was despicable to hear that two members of the Bargaining Team (from Unit 2) defected to the side of the administration by holding a secret meeting where it was decided to initiate a ratification vote on a concessionary agreement.

This proposed agreement puts sections of the collective agreement in the hands of an arbitrator, it ensures no protection for strikers and pro-strike students, and it leaves teaching and research assistants in the lurch. We urge all course directors in Unit 2 to reject this agreement by voting NO to the ratification vote happening later today.  

Binding arbitration in Doug Ford’s Ontario will be nothing short of a disaster. Arbitrators would be heavily biased against the union, especially given that the contract at York is one of the best in the university sector, and the core demands of workers are deemed to be unorthodox by typical collective agreement standards. It is better to fight, in large numbers, on the picket lines than to have the collective agreement broken apart in a back-room with lawyers, bureaucrats and arbitrators. The best contract course directors can win is a contract that is negotiated while on the picket lines.

The “Return to Work” protocol that these two cowardly bargaining team members signed, behind the backs of the union, does not protect members of CUPE 3903 or community members from disciplinary actions for pro-strike activities. We have already started hearing of reprisals initiated against pro-strike students by York’s administration. We strongly condemn these unwarranted disciplinary actions by York, but we must place credit where it is due. Not only have these two bargaining team members thrown every Unit 2 member under the bus with concessions, but they are opening a door for undergraduate and graduate students to be disciplined and even expelled.  

A strike can only be won through the power of solidarity and militant organizing. Most importantly, if Unit 2 goes back to work with these concessions, it means that Unit 1 and Unit 3 members would be left out on the lines themselves. This would severely harm solidarity in the union, and could have an effect for years to come. It would enormously weaken the bargaining power of Unit 1 and Unit 3 members. This could break the back of the strike.

If course directors go back to work with concessions, it would be much harder to halt the cuts to PhD student funding and to reverse the elimination of 700 jobs for Masters’ students. Accepting this deal is not an “easy” way out for Unit 2 members. Having undermined solidarity in the union and forced concessions, the top administration would certainly press their advantage and continue their offensive after a strike finished.

CUPE 3903 has fought long and hard. To stop now would be disastrous. Vote NO, kill the rat!

Alex Moldovan is a member of CUPE 3903 (Unit 1)