Wednesday, January 21, 2009

CUPE 3903 Rejects York's Offer; Union Leaders Get LA Gear Shoes Re-Soled

I should've pointed this out before: I'm not a member of CUPE 3903. But as an English graduate student I know York TAs and contract faculty, so I've been allowed some insight into what's happening in the community.

Last night CUPE members voted down York's settlement offer. I watched coverage of the Novotel vote, and I swear that I saw a guy wearing LA Gear shoes.

York's position is actually pretty interesting: They're happy to pay their tenured and tenure-stream faculty six-figure salaries. They're happy to do it. But as far as their contract faculty go, they won't back away from this 9.5% three-year pay increase.

Consider that the average contract faculty member makes around $25,000/year. That's a 3% raise in Year One: $750. A 3% raise in Year Two: $772.50. A 3% raise in Year Three: $795.66.

That's still not even a third of what tenure/tenure-stream professors make for doing the exact same job.

And what's the strike really about? Opening up the hiring process so that contract faculty can actually become professors. But then the university says, "Publish. Publish. Then we'll hire you."

That's a crock.

But the problem is that as the economy turns to shit, no one has much sympathy for intellectuals. And intellectuals can't seem to help themselves. Remember a few months ago when Maple Leaf tainted meat was killing people? Well, Michael McCain, a good-looking man, a man with a nice chin, came out and spoke to the press. Food produced at his plant was actually causing people to die, yet the public had great sympathy for him. The man is a millionaire selling dangerous meat, yet he's beloved.

Now you've got a bunch of people fighting for very reasonable contract demands, and people want to throw paint on them.

Who does CUPE march out for the media? A couple of guys who cut their own hair. A guy who collects Betty Boop keychains? A guy who goes on the radio, on a very popular station, on a very popular show, and iterates and re-iterates the importance of adverbial connectors.

Even the letters to the editor published in Toronto's dailies have been darling: auxiliary verb, adverb, main verb. Check. Let's see some goddamn hacking and chopping. Mamdouh Shoukri won't bargain, but he spends $100,000/year on a chauffeurred limousine. He wouldn't typically spend that much money, but his SSHRC grant came through.

In terms of public relations, this strike's been a fucking disaster. My grandparents, who live in Toronto, keep asking me how the union has the balls to strike for more money when so many people are being fired, laid off, etc. I have to keep telling them that it's not about money; it's about these contracts and conversion schemes. But they can't understand what I'm talking about. The papers mention money; the six o'clock news mentions money. You wouldn't think that this strike was about anything other than three grand over three years. Bullshit. It's not about that at all.

These union leaders, these union negotiators...Great job. You've spent three months negotiating, you've received almost no concessions, and you're this close to splitting your membership. You get a 70% turnout on a key vote, and your TAs and research assistants are heading in different directions. Professors are signing petitions to get you back to work. Sure, they're making five times as much as you are for doing the same job, but they've got the benefit of condescension on their side. And they deserve to judge you; they've placed articles in The Journal of Eastern Produce, and Stubb's Review.

And the public hates you. Don't you have anyone with a sense of humour? Don't you have anyone with new clothes--a toqueless person who can speak without hitting on talking points. It's just pathetic to see a good cause fail so miserably. Why is it that the university looks so clean, and the union looks so dirty?

I love the cause, but the execution's terrible.

2 comments:

OCAP said...

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty stands behind the striking CUPE 3903 works until the bitter end, just as you have supported us morally and financially for more than a decade.

And if the province were to force back to work legislation I hope CUPE 3903 would not follow such undemocratic laws.

JoVE said...

Same kind of thing is happening up here in Ottawa with the transit strike. Folks really can't understand that something other than money might be important. And the union leadership thinks talking to the media (much less getting good press coverage) isn't in their job description.

 
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