Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Letter sent to Ontario Parliament.

I am pissed, folks. I sent this to my MPP (David Zimmer), as well as a bunch of other folks (in the CC line). I will be mailing a hard copy to all noted as well.
Dear Mr. Zimmer,

I am a graduate student, but neither a TA nor a member of the contract faculty, at York University. I have recently been informed of Mr. Shurman's Bill to require the Legislature to not only legislate an end to the strike by CUPE 3903, but legislate a three-year contract. I urge you as my representative in the Provincial Parliament to vote against this bill as an unreasonable and unjust use of legislative power.

In my view, this Bill, if passed, would represent an irresponsible interference by the Legislature in the negotiation process between the University and the Union. While the negotiations have been difficult and many students, undergraduate and graduate alike, have been adversely affected, for the Legislature to intervene and force a contract on the striking workers would do nothing to resolve the outstanding issues between the two parties. Graduate funding at York would still be inadequate and would become more inadequate as more graduate students are enrolled. Contract faculty would still be underpaid and treated as disposable labour. The tensions between the two sides would still exist. And, in three years, the process would repeat again, with greater militancy on both sides. It is clear to those who do not see this strike as a chance to force an ideological agenda that a forced agreement is no path to labour peace at York U.

Furthermore, if the Ontario Legislature passed this Bill, then the Legislature would be in clear violation of a reasonable understanding of the rights to peaceful assembly and association spelled out in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as Canada's international commitments to human rights. As noted by Associate Professor David Doorey of the York Faculty of Law (

"'Back to work' legislation is controversial because it is a violation of Canada's obligations under the International Labour Organization's Convention 87, which Canada has ratified. Therefore, if the Liberal government orders the York employees back to work, it will likely also then face a ILO complaint, and a rebuke by the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association. ... it is an embarrassment for Canada that it's [sic] governments keep violating international human rights laws by limiting the right to strike through back to work legislation. ... It undermines Canada’s ability to speak with credibility to other countries about the need to respect human rights."

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23) also clearly states that all workers have a right to just and favourable conditions of work and to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. None of these rights, recognized in Canadian and international law, would be served by a Bill which compels members of a trade union to accept contract terms that they have already overwhelmingly rejected.

Once again, I urge you, as my representative in the Provincial Parliament, to vote against this Bill and to ensure it is defeated in the House. It is not the right of government to force citizens to accept a labour contract that they do not want to accept. If the Legislature is serious about attempting to use its power to resolve the York University strike, I am sure there are more productive methods, consistent with basic principles of justice.

Yours truly,

Adam Rawlings
Willowdale, Ontario

CC: Peter Fonseca, Minister of Labour
Dalton McGuinty, Premier
John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities
Elizabeth Witmer, Opposition House Leader
Robert Bailey, Labour Critic (PC)
Jim Wilson, Training, Colleges and Universities Critic (PC)
Peter Kormos, Labour Critic (NDP) and Third Party House Leader
Rosario Marchese, Training, Colleges and Universities Critic (NDP)
Peter Tabuns, Greater Toronto Area Issues Critic (NDP)


Catelli said...

I am a vocal critic of unions, and the right to strike.

But its the system we have, and this bill is a blatant attempt to change that through force. So you're absolutely right, the legislature has no business imposing anything in this labour dispute.

BTW, thanks for posting your side of things. Its proving to be quite illuminating.

ADHR said...

Fortunately, it's just a private member's bill at this point. What worries me is that Shurman claims the PC caucus supports the bill. As the opposition, they could bring this before the House as a whole.

That said, if you oppose unions and the right to strike (the sense I take of "vocal critic"), do you also oppose powerful and wealthy corporations (like universities)?

Catelli said...

do you also oppose powerful and wealthy corporations (like universities)?

Nope! I trust em more than I trust unions, and yeah, I've had experience with both.

But those aren't absolute black and white positions. There's the world I want and the world that is. There are times that worker's rights get trampled, and through your blog I'm seeing that this is one of those times.

So keep it up. Fight the good fight, and no, I'm not being sarcastic.

ADHR said...

Hm. I tend to think that view is inconsistent. On the one hand (corporation), you have people coming together to consolidate wealth and power; and, on the other hand (union), you have... people coming together to consolidate wealth and power. I don't see much of a distinction. As long as we're not in Adam Smith's ideal world of independent craftspeople trading with each other, then we do need unions to protect the folks who would otherwise get the crap kicked out of them by corporations.

As is currently happening at York, and possibly U of T. By February, U of T TAs (and, I believe, contract faculty, too, but I'm not sure if they're the same union) may be out as well. If York isn't back by then, that'll make Toronto really fun to be in.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zimmer is also my MPP. I have sent him an e-mail urging him to vote FOR the back to work legislation. I am an undergraduate student who should be graduating this year. This strike is hurting my future. If Mr. Zimmer does not support the students by ending this strike, I will never vote Liberal (provincially) again, and will always vote Conservative.

Adam Rawlings.... fuck you! I hope you fucking die!

ADHR said...

Greetings, anonymous coward. I find your ignorance and inability to reply to a reasoned argument greatly amusing. I'm sure the Liberals in Willowdale are in great need of your vote (given that the riding has gone Liberal in the vast majority of all elections since the riding came into existence).

I also find your belief that back-to-work legislation exists greatly amusing. There is no such legislation, and there likely will not be.

Incidentally, I have reported your threat to Rogers Cable in Toronto, your ISP. (And, seriously dude: Firefox 2? Get a real browser.)