Thursday, January 29, 2009


If I'm understanding the current framing correctly, Liberals defending Ignatieff are claiming that he's a strategic genius who's going to hang the recession around the neck of the Conservatives, followed by a triumphant return to power at some unspecified point in the future. Right? Is that the deal?

Then, given this refusal to try to enhance EI payments, eliminate new tax breaks, keep pay equity in place as it is, and so on and so forth -- in other words, actually do things to, y'know, help people -- I think it's quite fair to say that the Liberals also want to make sure that Canadians really suffer through this one. That way, they'll be ever more likely to vote Liberal at that unspecified point in the future.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not with a bang but a whimper.

So what was the fucking point of even suggesting it? Either CUPE lawyers told them that it wasn't enough of a sure thing, or it was pure posturing to begin with. Pathetic.

The right to strike needs to be recognized in Canadian law; back to work legislation is a ridiculous violation of personal freedoms. Unfortunately, as of now, there is still no union that's willing to try to convince the Supreme Court to recognize this.
York U won't bargain

CUPE 3903 takes the high road, will not pursue lawsuit

to allow a resumption of classes

TORONTO, Ont. – After waiting in vain for the past critical day and a half for York University to negotiate an eleventh hour settlement, the union representing striking contract professors and teaching, graduate and research assistants says it is shifting gears and preparing for members to return to the classroom.

"It is obvious that the York administration has no desire, indeed has never intended to reach a negotiated settlement," said CUPE 3903 spokesperson Tyler Shipley. "We have done everything in our power to stand up for the quality and accessibility of education at York in this round of negotiations but, for now, it's time to get our students back to class. Our local has decided not to pursue a legal challenge to Premier Dalton McGuinty's back-to-work legislation at this time."

CUPE 3903 Chair Christina Rousseau noted that the local's 3300 members "have fought a courageous fight against an administration who put their own narrow vision ahead of the interests of students, academic integrity, job security and workers rights."

Shipley added, "Our members have shown tremendous determination, but they are tired of waiting for York to take the process seriously. Undergrad students are looking for some assurances. We aren't going to let the university's game continue. It is time for someone to take responsibility for getting campus life back to normal."

The Liberal government should not imagine that back-to-work legislation resolves any of the key issues in the strike, particularly the reliance of universities on underpaid, contingent workers to do most classroom teaching.

"Our concerns are not going away, they are systemic and go well beyond the York campus," noted Shipley, adding that the local will continue to address the trend to insecure teaching jobs, the need for minimum funding guarantees for graduate students, and the value of coordinated bargaining through other channels.

"These issues are still alive at York and across the province. We'll be working with our sister locals to make sure they are addressed in ways that protect the interests of workers, students and hardworking parents who are being asked to shell out more tuition fees every year," said Rousseau. "Unless administrators change their priorities and the Ontario government invests in our universities, they should brace themselves for more job actions in the coming years."

The grand coalition continues on.

Just saw Ignatieff on the news channels. He says that he'll support the budget, without substantial amendments, but the government is "on probation". Which means it's business as usual: the Liberals will talk a good game about opposing the Conservatives, but won't do anything of significance to actually oppose them. Harper has shown, repeatedly, that he can't be trusted. And what the Liberals have come up with is "regular reports" -- from the guy who can't be trusted.

This also shows, I think, that any hopes of a lasting coalition with the Liberals can only be premised on electoral reform eliminating (except in the rarest of circumstances) the possibility of majority government. Otherwise, the Liberals will say "coalition" until they think there's an advantage in not saying it.

I'm not particularly surprised by this. Ignatieff has shown, before he even came back to Canada, that he's quite gifted at looking out for his own interests, regardless of what might be good for anyone else and regardless of the behaviour that would actually be right. And switching Dion for Ignatieff hasn't made the Liberals into a different party, so it was probably hopeful to believe that they would change their ways.

My current bet is we'll be back at the polls again within six months, three at the inside. Harper's now in the driver's seat, and will ask the GG to drop the writ when he thinks he's back in majority territory. I also expect to see the Conservatives start to rev their ad campaign back up, and start fighting the next election now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CUPE 3903/York strike overview for today.

Bit of a linkdump.

York President Shoukri and other senior administrators answered questions at a "community forum" on January 22, 2009. Watch them duck and weave:

McGuinty claims he wants to push the York admin to negotiate during the legislative debate, but he won't withdraw the back to work bill. So, why should they bother? He's going to get them off the hook no matter what. (link).

Police arrested 4 at a Queen's Park demonstration today. Why? It's not entirely clearly. Allegedly they committed assault, assault on a police officer, and obstruction of police. So, the only reason for police to be there would have been that first assault charge. Question: who did they assault? Answer: no one's saying. Something's fishy here; it certainly wouldn't be the first time that York had called the police on its own students while demonstrating. And, again: why were police called in in the first place? Who was assaulted, justifying getting the police involved? (link)

CUPE Ontario has gone public with the threat to challenge the back to work bill if McGuinty passes it. (link) I don't want to rehash the argument here, but, suffice to say, the law is not clearly settled here and CUPE could win this (it's not a slam-dunk, though). If they can establish a plausible case before a court, they may even be able to get an injunction blocking the legislation from taking effect.

Oh, and, McGuinty is either an idiot or he believes the public are idiots:
Mr. McGuinty said he will move ahead with the bill and do everything he can to get 45,000 students back to class."How long are we supposed to wait? What if they don't want to talk for another month?" he asked. "At some point, we blow the whistle and say, 'Time's up.'"
Seriously? You're the Premier, and the best you can come up with is "how long are we supposed to wait?" Ye gods, it never occurred to him to personally get involved in the negotiation? Or send in one of his Ministers? Maybe pick up the phone? This "how long are we supposed to wait" business is such obvious bullshit.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ontario Federation of Labour statement on York back to work legislation.

Original here.
Withdraw back-to-work legislation, OFL tells Ontario government
(TORONTO) -- The Ontario government must change its course of action in the York University strike, says the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).

Meeting in Toronto today, the OFL executive board said the government should withdraw its back-to-work legislation, and facilitate a return of management and union representatives to the bargaining table.

In 19 of 20 cases, labour and management bargain collective agreements without a strike. To end a strike without addressing its causes is to invite returns and repeats of what led to the disruption of service in the first place, says OFL president Wayne Samuelson.

“Universities are underfunded, and it’s unreasonable to think that ending the York strike will end the conflict over inadequate pay and job security for teaching staff at Ontario universities,” says Samuelson. “The collective bargaining process is not the problem, and back-to-work legislation is not the solution.”

CUPE Local 3903 represents contract faculty, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants who have been on the strike since November 6.
Samuelson makes a good point. Back to work legislation won't solve anything. Even if York gets its three-year agreement, then in three years, we'll go through this all over again. Nothing is going to be solved by this -- all the institutional problems at York that lead to protracted labour disputes will still exist. And, as has been said very eloquently by the ONDP, the problems in Ontario higher education are now going to be swept under the rug. Again.

Well done, Dalton.

I get letters.

From Jesse Doehler-Knox, Constituency Assistant to Rosario Marchese, NDP MPP for Trinity-Spadina:
Thank you for your correspondence on the York University strike. We support you on this issue and will strongly oppose back to work legislation.

New Democrats acknowledge and appreciate the genuine concerns of all those affected by the strike. Students are concerned it will have a significant impact on their education. We share that concern, however, we cannot support the back-to-work legislation.

By refusing to return to the negotiating table to consider a significantly revised offer made by the striking workers, the York University administration has put the academic year further in jeopardy.

The grounds for the back-to-work legislation is that there is a negotiating deadlock. There is no deadlock.

The York University administration, aided by the inaction of the McGuinty government, has exacerbated the crisis. The back-to-work legislation provides them with a convenient crutch that strips away the rights of workers to collectively bargain.

York's Teaching Assistants, Graduate Assistants and Contract Faculty are seeking fair compensation for the work they do. They perform more than 50 per cent of the teaching at the university, yet they have little in the way of job security.

New Democrats believe the chronic hiring of mostly part-time and casual workers at low wages has become a deliberate strategy on the part of York University and the McGuinty government, which refuses to properly
fund universities to the point that Ontario is now ranked dead last among all provinces in per capita university funding.

We believe that Ontario students deserve quality education and uninterrupted instruction in higher education. This will not happen until the provincial government provides adequate funding.

We also believe that the long-term interests of the workers and the students are best served by a fair and equitable agreement negotiated by both parties through free and open collective bargaining. The McGuinty government has a responsibility to encourage and facilitate such bargaining. The legislation allows the government to duck that significant responsibility.

We want to see York students go back to their classes: Classes that are taught by workers who are treated fairly and compensated adequately.

Bob Runciman is a douchebag, too.

What is with the Ontario PC party containing so many utter douchebags? Bob Runciman, the Leader of the Opposition ('cause John Tory can't actually win a sit) just blamed the NDP for -- wait for it -- wanting to have a full debate on the back to work bill. That this is actually a bad thing, in his eyes. I would've thought that it was the role of the Opposition to hold the governing party's feet to the fire, but apparently, in the eyes of the Ontario PCs, the Opposition is there to make few critical points and then bow to the will of the government. I'm not sure what idea of governance they have in mind, but I have a hard time considering it "democratic".

Oo... Liberals not playing smart.

Someone on the Liberal benches just called out something about Bob Rae. Bad move. Hampton pretty successfully mocked that. After all, Bob Rae's a Liberal. Why aren't Liberals liking Bob Rae?

It just amused me that someone was stupid enough to try to play that card. It might have been effective coming from a PC member, but from a Liberal it was monumentally dumb.

Go Hampton: The Sequel

Hampton is now raking the university bargaining team over the coals. Pointing out that they only negotiated for 12 days out of a 77 day strike. That they refused to bargaining over the winter break. That they wouldn't bargain after the forced ratification vote failed. That they refused to even look at the union's proposal tabled last week. And yet, York claims that it wants to get students back into the classroom and resolve the dispute with a negotiated collective agreement.

He's also, correctly, indicating that the bill is now a reward for York's intransigence. It now gives public sector employers the perfect excuse not to bargain: the government will solve the dispute no matter what.

This is news to me: Hampton has reported that the mediator, Reg Pearson, apparently told the union that he couldn't get a response from the York bargaining team. And apparently Pearson said that he thought the York team was playing for time.

Go Hampton.

Howard Hampton is speaking now, and pointing out, correctly, that many in CUPE 3903 are students, are taking on teaching responsibilities equal to (or greater than) those of full professors, and yet many live below the poverty line. And yet the Liberals are the ones who "care" about university students.

I'm still waiting to see if any Liberal will stand and try to defend themselves. That could get very interesting.


Paul Miller (NDP) just kicked ass and called the PCs and the Liberals on their anti-union bullshit. It needed to be said: does anyone have a real right to strike if the legislature keeps pulling this sort of nonsense? Why should we even allow people to have unions any more? If you think there should not be any unions at all, anywhere, at least be honest about it.


I'm watching the CPAC coverage of the debate on the York back to work bill. The PC members are speaking right now, and it's interesting to see that they're providing coverage for the NDP. That is, they're endorsing the same basic position: post-secondary education is underfunded, and it's the Liberals' fault. And they are explicitly saying that the Liberals can't blame the NDP for their own inaction and errors.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ontario NDP statement on York back to work legislation.

Original here.
McGuinty taking easy way out, ducking real issues

Dalton McGuinty is taking the easy way out and ducking the real issues behind the York University strike by trying to ram through back-to-work legislation, says NDP Leader Howard Hampton.

“Dalton McGuinty’s chronic underfunding of Ontario’s universities is at the root cause of not only this strike, but the real possibility of further labour disputes at other Ontario universities,” said Hampton, noting Ontario ranks dead last among all Canadian provinces in per-capita funding for universities.

“Rather than scrambling to bring the legislature back today to force through back-to-work legislation that strips York workers of their right to collectively bargain, the McGuinty Liberals should take steps to ensure all of Ontario’s universities are properly funded. University workers and all students and parents across the province deserve nothing less.”

Hampton also slammed the McGuinty government for not doing more to avert the crisis at York.

“We didn’t need to reach this unprecedented stage, but the McGuinty Liberals chose to sit on the sidelines for nearly three months while York students and workers suffered through this strike,” said Hampton.

“Dalton McGuinty looked the other way as the University refused to negotiate in good faith, putting the academic future of 50,000 students at risk. Now the Premier is at his clumsy best trying to clean up the mess he created and providing a crutch for a University administration unwilling to negotiate with its workers to give students the educational experience they've paid for.”

York’s striking workers perform 54 per cent of the teaching at the University yet only receive 7.5 per cent of the University’s entire annual budget in salary and benefits. They also have little job security.

“Where is the fairness when senior University administrators make almost half a million dollars in salary, benefits and perks alone?” asked Hampton.

“These workers, many of them students themselves, are demanding fairness. That’s why we will stand with them and vote against Dalton McGuinty’s back-to-work bill,” he said.

Draft of back to work legislation.

David Doorey has the draft of the bill here. Some points I found interesting.

The legislation has very little in terms of teeth. These are pretty minor fines. They accumulate by the day, so they could get more significant, but note that each offence -- because it is a seperate offence -- would have to be determined to be an offence by a court.

The mediator must be decided upon within five days of the Act receiving Royal Assent; the mediator then has 30 days to get going, and 90 days to reach a final decision. However, those periods can be expanded by agreement of the employer and the union. This means that it could be up to 3 months before CUPE 3903 workers have a new collective agreement. Which would mean they'd have been without a contract for almost a year.

The provisions in the bill governing what the mediator must specifically take into account (although other features can be dealt with) are outrageous:
1. The employer's ability to pay in light of its fiscal situation.

2. The extent to which services may have to be reduced, in light of the award, if current funding and taxation levels are not increased.

3. The economic situation in Ontario and in the Greater Toronto Area.

4. A comparison, as between the employees and comparable employees in the public and private sectors, of the nature of the work performed and of the terms and conditions of employment.

5. The employer's ability to attract and retain qualified employees.

6. The purposes of the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act, 1997.
Except for the last one, these are pretty blatant indications that the province wants the contract rolled back. Since the York contract is good in comparison to the rest of the sector -- it's still shit, but that's because the sector as a whole is vastly undercompensated -- there's really no way in which this doesn't roll the contract back. Also note the second point, which disavows any governmental responsibility for the underfunding of Ontario universities.

The third point is interesting, though, as CUPE 3903 could make the argument that cost of living is a relevant piece of information about the economic situation in Ontario and the GTA.

It's also worth noting that, as far as I can tell, there's nothing here which dictates the length of the collective agreement.

So, overall, the process that the Premier is proposing is pretty clearly biased in favour of the administration. Which suggests to me that the Board of Governors successfully worked its Liberal Party connections. The question now is whether the NDP can negotiate for sufficient concessions to apply some sort of penalty to York for stonewalling the process for the past three months. Right now, the bill suggests that university administrations can do that -- and get away with it, with government providing cover.

CUPE Ontario statement on back to work legislation.


January 25, 2009, TORONTO, ON - Premier Dalton McGuinty should be telling the York University administration to go back to the bargaining table instead of introducing back-to-work legislation to end the strike by members of CUPE 3903, says CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan.

“We are firmly opposed to legislation that ends the collective bargaining process,” said Ryan. “There is no reason to bring that process to a close when the union has tabled a much altered position.”

Ryan welcomed the decision by the Ontario NDP to refuse unanimous consent for introducing legislation today (Jan.25).

“The NDP is standing up for the rights of workers,” he said. “And, they are creating additional time that could be used by the parties to negotiate a settlement before the bill is passed. McGuinty should be telling York’s administration to get back to the table immediately instead of relying on the provincial government to do their work for them.”

If McGuinty truly wants to help resolve the key issues in the strike, said Janice Folk-Dawson, chair of the CUPE Ontario university workers coordinating committee, he should put adequate funding into the province’s postsecondary sector.

“With adequate funding, York wouldn’t have to deny job security and decent incomes to contract faculty who do more than 50% of the teaching. The same applies at all other universities in Ontario,” she said. “It’s time to address the issue of contract work in a serious way.”

Sid Ryan will address a rally today by CUPE 3903 members and supporters at 12 noon at Queen’s Park.

Jan 24th statement from CUPE 3903 Executive.

Original here.
To the members of CUPE 3903:

In the very early hours of Saturday morning, January 24, 2009 the Bargaining Team and the Executive of CUPE 3903 held an emergency meeting. We voted, by a substantial majority, to reject binding arbitration and to offer to continue to bargain.

York University made it clear that they had no intention of bargaining. The mediator indicated that York held their position on the basis of both “economic feasibility and principle.” Although we significantly lowered our demands, York made no movement and offered the same pass that members rejected by 63% in forced ratification.

At midnight, the mediator made it clear that if 3903 did not accept binding arbitration, then they would be contacting Premier Dalton McGuinty, and the outcome would be back-to-work legislation.

We feel that it was inappropriate for the mediator to set us this impossible choice between binding arbitration and back-to-work legislation, with a 7:00am deadline. Although we have no way of knowing how the employer was treated, from our point of view, the responsibility fell on our union to decide between two unpalatable choices.

The Bargaining Team and the Executive feel that our demands are fair. The mediator asked us to reduce our demands to a few key priorities. We dropped our demands on wage increases in response to feedback from the membership at the January 21 General Membership Meeting. We withdrew over 40 outstanding proposals. We continue to emphasize that minimum guarantees, job security, and child care funds are essential to our members. Because York offered a three-year deal with a two-year funding structure, with poor back-to-work protocol, we were unable to accept their offer. At the same time, York has made it clear that regardless of how often we lower our demands, they dismiss the value of our members, and refuse to give our members the respect they deserve.

We are convinced that by rejecting binding arbitration, we are keeping members’ best interests in mind. We lose very little by refusing binding arbitration. We have rejected binding arbitration since bargaining began, and it would be inappropriate to accept it now. We considered carefully the larger political implications of our decision. We want to continue to bargain on our own terms. We refuse to undermine the dignity of our members by accepting an offer that our members already rejected.


Members of the Executive, CUPE Local 3903
My read is that the mediator realized pretty quickly he wasn't going to get any movement from York on anything. So, he tried to push the union into a way of ending the strike. That's his job, so I'm not blaming him for this unfolding debacle. But, clearly, York never had any intention of trying to settle this on their own. In the entire strike, there has -- being generous here -- been about two weeks of actual bargaining. The rest has been press releases, stone-walling, and outright lies by the administration. It's not particularly surprising that this pattern continued this week. It's disappointing, though, to see McGuinty pretend that the blame can't be laid entirely at the feet of the York administration. They've had multiple chances to present offers that would go some way to address the priorities that the CUPE 3903 bargaining team made very clear, and they have wasted every single one of these chances. And every single one of them is making six figures to do it.


Saturday, January 24, 2009


The ONDP will not be supporting back to work legislation in the York strike, forcing McGuinty to go through three readings. The earliest it could pass, I'm hearing, is Wednesday. Both Howard Hampton and John Tory claim, though, that McGuinty didn't bother to contact them personally in order to plan out the legislation. This suggests to me that either McGuinty isn't all that serious, or this is a last-minute decision. I wonder if he was taking heat from the Liberal caucus? That might explain his sudden change of heart, and also why he didn't consult with the other two parties.

I'm also hearing word that the ONDP might try to push for the legislation to explicitly require "last best offer" binding arbitration. There's nothing official from media yet, nor anything from either my CUPE or York sources, nor from the ONDP themselves. However, that form of arbitration would require the arbitrator to split the difference between the last offers the two parties have on the table. It's a little fairer to the union than the other common form, which considers sector averages and would thus likely rollback CUPE 3903's contract. (And, for anyone who thinks that might be a good thing, let me ask: have you considered how nasty the next strike will be?)

A question.

Still thinking about the back to work legislation in the York strike. What changed? Previously, McGuinty seemed to be very concerned about the possibility of a Charter challenge. Now, he's saying that he has no choice and has to legislate CUPE 3903 back. What's happened in the past few days? Did he get a decent constitutional opinion which suggested he could win a Charter challenge? Did someone in CUPE Ontario or CUPE National tell him that they weren't going to file such a thing? Did the NDP come on board with the legislation? Is he just a huge wimp who can't stand up to any public pressure?

Inquiring minds (well, mind) want to know.


...assuming McGuinty's disgusting little bill passes, anyone who has and can afford to lose a Winter term contract should think about resigning it. Good luck on York replacing everyone on two weeks' notice.

Back to work legislation proposed in York strike.

Original here.


On Wednesday, I asked Ontario's top labour mediator, Reg Pearson, to make one final attempt to resolve the ongoing labour dispute at York University. Since that time Mr. Pearson has met with both sides and worked to resolve the strike through mediation and discussion.

Earlier today I was advised by Mr. Pearson that there is no reasonable prospect of a negotiated settlement between York University and CUPE Local 3903. The sides are in a clear deadlock, and despite our best efforts to bring the sides together, that has not changed.

The strike is also at the point where the academic year is in jeopardy for York students. In challenging economic times, when we need all our people at their best, we simply cannot afford to delay the education of 45,000 of our best and brightest young people.

Having exhausted all other options, I will be recalling the legislature as of Sunday at 1 pm for the purposes of introducing back to work legislation. I am asking MPPs from all parties to provide unanimous consent for immediate passage of the bill so that students can get back to school this week.
Here's hoping three things. First, CUPE 3903 defies the order. (See here for how.) Second, the NDP do what they can to block the order. (Although I'm not holding out a ton of hope. The ONDP MPPs seem to wilt under the slightest public pressure and thus give up their commitment to collective bargaining. Which makes one wonder what kind of commitment it really is.) And, third, McGuinty loses a Charter challenge. (See This last would be particularly entertaining.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

David Doorey is the man. Again.

Read this. It's long, but entirely worth it.

For those short on time, the gist is this. In 1987, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled that the freedom of association section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Section 2(d)) did not include the right to strike. In 2007, SCC ruled that this decision had been partly mistaken and Section 2(d) includes a right to collective bargaining. Doorey suggests that SCC is slowly expanding its reading of Section 2(d) to match more closely Convention 87 (C87) of the International Labour Organization (ILO). C87 has been interpreted to include a right to strike. Thus, if SCC continues to expand its reading, sooner or later it will find the right to strike in Section 2(d). The ILO reads C87 to allow for back to work legislation only when life, personal safety or health of the population are at risk, and has specifically censured Canada for legislation in cases such as teachers' strikes. So, if SCC keeps pushing its reading forward, it may one day strike down the power of provincial governments to order, say, striking teaching assistants and contract faculty back to work.

Therefore, the stakes are much higher than douchebags like Peter Shurman and idiots like John Tory believe. (Sorry, that was me editorializing.) If McGuinty passes back to work legislation, he could (probably will, given what I'm hearing) face a Charter challenge. And he might lose it -- which would strip the province of its ability to end things like transit strikes with legislation. It would also (Doorey doesn't trace this connection) cause problems for premiers of other provinces, who would now likely face similar challenges -- once it works once, it'll be tried again. McGuinty might still be able to pass such legislation if it is held that Section 1 of the Charter allows for back to work legislation, as justified "in a free and democratic society". But he'd probably like to fight that battle over something big (Doorey suggests a hospital or TTC strike, but maybe an elementary teachers' strike?).

Overall, then, back to work legislation looks like a long shot at best. Which means either the union will just wilt -- unlikely; if they were going to cave, the forced rat would have done it -- or the university is going to have to up the offer. Unless, of course, the university decides to get ideological about this and tries to continue on without TAs and contract faculty. (Good luck with that one.)

My guess? Give it a week, ten days at the outside, and the university will move. Maybe not a lot, but they'll move.

Fun phrase

"Arrogant pontification".

You can't say it without doing it. (Think about it.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Shoukri is an asshole.

See this video, especially the end when York President Shoukri ran from the room and refused to talk to CUPE 3903 members. What a pompous, frightened little twit:


CP24 is currently broadcasting from the bargaining room for the York/CUPE 3903 strike. CUPE 3903's bargaining team is sitting across from a row of empty chairs. Pretty clear who's taking this process seriously and who isn't.

Tyler Shipley, CUPE 3903 media rep, was just asked whether they'd heard from the university today -- he said they hadn't. Ouch. Although, Reg Pearson (the new mediator) is apparently nowhere to be found. CP24's reporter is also looking for him.

She also asked Tyler about back-to-work legislation, and he pointed out -- correctly -- that if the government legislates CUPE 3903 back, then that declares (in -- and this is me talking -- the most cowardly way possible) that public sector workers really don't have the right to strike. Whether they should or not is not the issue; right now, they do, and taking that away in the middle of a strike is really unjustifiable.

Oh, and...

...Thornhill's douchebag MPP, Peter Shurman, is now on CP24 and ranting. Seriously, ranting. He's not making any sense, and is just throwing around random anti-union viciousness. I mean, the guy's really unhinged here.

He just suggested that people should be lucky to have a job. Ontario PCs are apparently fans of feudalism. And he's also said that CUPE 3903 is living in the past! I'm literally laughing at him.

Wow, what a great closing line: "It's raining in Ontario, and no one has any umbrellas!" Hilarious. The man's a clown; maybe I should send him some greasepaint so he can look the part.

Okay, so, crisis is temporarily averted. Now I'm off to do my actual work.

McGuinty on York U strike.

McGuinty didn't say much about the York strike, and moved on to talk about the recent deaths in an Ontario nursing home fire. But, he did say that he will send in his "top mediator", apparently named Reg Pearson (apologies if this is misspelled) to "bang a few heads together". He refused to set a deadline on these mediated negotiations, noting -- correctly -- that any deadline would likely lead both sides to dump the issue in his lap by waiting out the deadline, whether a week or two days. He did not comment one way or another on back to work legislation, but did mention the NDP in passing, saying that he hadn't yet talked to them, which suggests (although he didn't confirm it when asked) that the NDP might be a barrier to getting back to work legislation passed quickly.

Thus far, then, I'm still sort of okay with McGuinty.

So, what I anticipate happening, given what I know of these things: there will be maybe a week of tough negotiations ahead. The mediator will be taking into account how much movement each side makes at the table (so, if York just stonewalls, that will probably work against them). After this negotiating period, McGuinty will likely call the legislature back and try to push through a legislated end to the strike plus binding arbitration, with the arbitrator being Reg Pearson.

That's pretty much how it happened at UBC in 2003, save for the fact that UBC's CUPE 2278 was only out for about two weeks before the neocon Campbell government passed an insane (because it legislated back campus workers not on and not able to strike) piece of back to work legislation.

So, CUPE 3903 needs to be bargaining seriously and openly, needs to be sure they don't just stop and insist on any particular point, and keep in mind that any proposal they put on the table could become the final proposal put before an arbitrator.

As far as I can tell...

...York's current stance is that they're happy to sacrifice the summer term and force fall and winter students to go to school during the early summer months in order to avoid negotiating. But, remember, they really care about undergraduate education.

Back to work legislation?

During the last TTC strike, I wrote a little backgrounder on back to work legislation and essential service legislation -- how, to my understanding, they actually work, regardless of the hype. Here's the relevant chunks on back to work legislation for those who are concerned McGuinty might set the terrible precedent of interfering in a university labour dispute:
Back to work legislation, to many people's surprise, is not part of the criminal law. (There's a good CBC backgrounder here.) Hence, you can't be arrested for not obeying such a piece of legislation. It is, on its own, completely toothless. It's more a PR thing than anything else: "look! look how we're trying to protect the poor, innocent hoi polloi!" If back to work legislation is defied, then someone has to go to court and get an enforcement order. Which can also be defied. You can't be arrested for breaking an enforcement order. However, if you break an enforcement order, and someone goes again to court to complain about it, then someone -- usually the union leadership -- can be arrested for contempt of court. But, unions have pretty good lawyers, typically, so don't expect the leaders to spend much time in jail before trial.

On the whole, it's a stupid idea. If you have a genuinely pissed-off union -- which is hard to gauge in this case [applies to the TTC and York U strike], but since the membership has broken with the negotiating team in a fairly significant way and they struck in such a way that people were left stranded, I expect they are [this part, of course, is TTC-exclusive] -- they will just flip off the government and keep striking. And there's a number of hoops that would have to be cleared in order to punish them for doing just that. And even then, they may decide the punishment is worth is [sic]. All back to work legislation in such a circumstance really accomplishes is causing both sides to dig in their heels and prolong the dispute.

Oh, good.

So, York is refusing to negotiate and wants CUPE 3903 to accept the offer they rejected over the last two days. McGuinty is holding a press conference this morning. We'll see what he says.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh, the hilarity never ends.

Now the York fools have got our asshole president Shoukri to do... what, exactly? I'm not sure; the original is here. I'm genuinely perplexed by what the point of this is. They can't force another vote. They don't seem to want to negotiate. So... they think that, after surviving a pretty sustained campaign of vilification and intimidation, CUPE 3903's members are now going to roll over and die for them? I wonder what colour the sky is in their world....
TORONTO, January 20, 2009 -- All three units of CUPE 3903 voted against York University’s offer for settlement in a supervised vote that took place today and yesterday.

“We made it clear before the vote that we were making a fair, reasonable and comprehensive offer to settle the contract, especially in this worsening economic climate,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “The Union characterized our offer to its members as a negotiating tactic, but it was not. We have no intention of negotiating for the sake of appearance. This is our offer for settlement. Now it is up to the Union and its members to reconsider their demands and step back from the brink.”

Shoukri said the parties are at an impasse and the summer term is in jeopardy.

“We know this is extremely hard on our students. At the same time we simply cannot sacrifice the University’s long-term academic future, or its financial stability, for short-tem goals. Nor are we prepared to subject our students to another strike in 2010.”

After six months of negotiations and eleven weeks on strike, CUPE 3903, representing contract faculty, graduate assistants, and teaching assistants, continues to seek increases totalling 15.8% over two years (7.9% per year). This is more than double the University’s total offer of 10.7% over three years (3.6% per year).

The Union is also demanding that the University convert contract faculty to full-time academic positions based only on seniority, without review and without evaluation of their academic and research capabilities.

To date the University has not received any comprehensive offer from the Union to settle the strike. When negotiations ended January 9, the Union still had more than 75 separate demands on the table.

“The clock has run out on CUPE,” Shoukri said. “I will be working with the deans and Senate Executive to prepare plans to further extend the academic calendar to ensure that students complete their fall and winter terms. This will mean reducing or, if need be, cancelling the summer term.”

The University will issue a communication to all students and their families explaining the University’s contingency plans for the academic year and the detrimental implications of conceding to CUPE 3903’s contract demands.
Gotta love the "the clock has run out on CUPE" line. Hey, Shoukri: you don't have any bullets left. The gun's empty, dude. Keep pulling the trigger all you like, but nothing's going to happen.

I wonder, though -- paranoid that I am -- whether he's gotten some news from the Premier's office....

CUPE 3903 Executive Statement on Forced Ratification Vote Results

Original here.
We, the executive of CUPE 3903, are pleased that 1466 of our teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty have voted against the employers' latest offer in a forced ratification vote. This number represents 799 in Unit 1, 363 in Unit 2, and 304 in Unit 3, for a total of 63% voting NO to this offer. The membership of this union has stood strong against an employer who has done the bare minimum in terms of bargaining and who has refused to recognize our key demands during a strike that has so far lasted 77 days.

This deal has been recognized as one that is not adequate in terms of addressing the priorities as outlined by our members, and we are disappointed that York University's administration felt the need to waste 11 days of bargaining on an offer that they knew our members would reject.

The defeat of forced ratification is a victory, but our work as a local is not done. Our challenges are real and many. They will not be met easily, but they will be met. We need to get back to the table so that we can all go back to work with a deal that is fair and equitable. Our members have outlined key priorities again and again: We will not give them up for the sake of expedience.

There are some who have questioned the scope of our demands and the scale of our ambitions. They think we are asking too much. But these criticisms fail to take into account all that this union has already accomplished through years of collective bargaining.

But there is much yet to be gained

For contract faculty we want to see the integrity of our conversions program maintained, and also have job security for these members.

For teaching assistants and graduate assistants in our local we need to see the issue of graduate funding addressed in a way that takes into account the needs of our members.

For all our members we need to see an Extended Health Benefits Fund that takes into account the real and serious health issues that our members face each day. We need to have a fund that is ample enough in terms of assisting our members with childcare needs.

All this we can do, and all this we will do.

Over the course of this strike we have been amazed at the level of commitment our members have shown to this local and to our key priorities. We have been awed by all the hard work and countless hours people have put in day after day. We are confident the solidarity that has been shown over the past few months will remain through to the end and beyond the strike.

This is the source of our confidence – the knowledge that we as members will stand strong in solidarity and win a fair settlement through the democratic process of collective bargaining.

Solidarity Forever,

The CUPE 3903 Executive Committee

York got pwned.

Forced ratification results from the York U/CUPE 3903 strike are in. Folks, it wasn't even a contest.

Unit 1 (TAs): 61.7% rejected the offer

Unit 2 (non-student contract faculty): 59.3% rejected the offer

Unit 3 (GAs): 70% rejected the offer.

So, what we've learned: if you try to cram a contract down the throats of a group of intelligent, motivated people -- with the ham-fisted coercive attempts of the deans and some full-time faculty -- it doesn't work. Colour me shocked.

Now York is in trouble, as they've just blown their one opportunity at a forced ratification vote. Their only hope, apart from actually doing that "negotiation" thing, is to beg the province to do what the university couldn't: force a contract on the union. I'm not persuaded that McGuinty wants to do York's (or John Tory's) dirty work.

This is getting annoying.

John Tory needs to shut his fucking mouth. And the Toronto media should do likewise. Here we find some imbecile -- it's hard to tell if it's Tory or the wire reporter -- suggesting that, if the forced ratification vote passes, then classes could resume on Thursday of this week.

It's not happening. The word I have out of the admin -- I'm on the course directors email listserv, so I get the notices -- is that if the vote passes, then Monday is the first day back. No way in hell is Thursday in the cards.

I'm still holding out hope that the "no" voters will be out in force and the "yes" voters too anemic to bother, thus defeating the rat. Results should be available tomorrow night -- current word I hear is by 9pm.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What Robert said.

John Tory is an idiot.

But you already knew that, right?

Here's the money quote:
Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said that while he also hopes Monday's and Tuesday's vote will resolve the impasse, McGuinty should take action to bring classes back.

"Mr. McGuinty should make it clear – and do it now – classes will be resuming at York University not later than Monday," Tory said.
The problem, as anyone who knows anything about the academy can tell you, is that the York Senate has to declare that and when classes can resume, in order to ensure academic integrity. And, depending on when the vote's results are known -- probably Tuesday night -- and the relevant back-to-work protocols, next Monday might be too soon for the Senate to pull everything together in time.

Not that Tory cares, of course. He's sufficiently blinded by his hatred of unions that he's no longer capable of talking sense or informing himself of the most basic facts. (There's a lot of that going around lately.) Must be nice to be able to insert yourself into the legislative process without all that tedious "winning an election" business.

Here's hoping Rick Johnson kicks his ass in the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock byelection -- and that McGuinty strings him along for a while before calling it.

Oh, honestly.

Is this the best that York's propaganda arm can churn out these days?

A selection of errors:
A 1997 professors' strike at York University that stretched the school year into May caused an estimated loss of summer earnings to students of $12 million, or about $630 per student, according to a study conducted at the time.

The landmark survey of a sample of about 540 undergraduates by York social science professor Paul Grayson – one of the only studies in North America to look at the impact of a campus strike on students – shows that 37 per cent of students were worried about getting a late start on their summer jobs.

When contacted five months later, the students were asked to estimate how much they had lost by missing up to a month of summer because of making up classes, and the average was found to be $630 per student, said Grayson, of York's Institute for Social Research.
So, two points. First, we have no idea how these students were selected. Randomly? In a representative fashion? Or were they self-selected? Without that piece of information, there's no way to tell whether we can generalize from this sample to the population as a whole.

Second, the number reported is an estimate from the students. It's not based on any consideration of past earnings, labour market conditions, or anything beyond their subjective impressions. Given the number of cognitive biases that could distort this sort of estimate, there doesn't seem to be any reason to take it seriously.

Now, watch this one:
During the strike, three out of four students said they had "major concerns" over not knowing how long it would last, and 61 per cent had major concerns over how their assignments and tests would be changed when the strike ended. More than half were afraid they would have forgotten important information over the seven weeks.

"The strike had a very significant impact on students," said Grayson, citing senior students in particular who were applying to graduate school, education students whose practice-teaching in schools was disrupted and science students, who worried that gaps in their coursework would hamper them in years to come.

Yet when asked five months later whether the strike truly had disrupted their academic year, most said no, which Grayson said could be linked to the human tendency "to mellow our recollections over time."
Catch that? When the students say that they were worried, Grayson takes the concerns seriously. When the students later said that their worries seemed unfounded, Grayson dismisses the impressions completely.

The bias speaks for itself.

Oh, and, let's not forget: Grayson is talking about the 1997 strike, which was by YUFA members -- the same tenured and tenure-stream folks who recently signed a petition urging CUPE 3903 members to end their strike.

CUPE 3903 forced ratification vote

To any in CUPE 3903 who are reading this, the forced ratification vote is being held today (January 19th) and tomorrow (January 20th) between 9am and 1pm, and 3pm and 7pm. The location of the vote is the Novotel Hotel at 3 Park Home Ave in North York, near the North York Centre subway station.

Get out there and vote "no".

Saturday, January 17, 2009


According to this, 15% fewer high school students are picking York as their first choice, and 10.8% fewer overall (whether as second or third choice). However, 1.1% more students are applying to Ontario universities, and every Toronto area (so, including McMaster and Guelph) university has seen increases of at least 2%. Which means the drop in enrollment is not typical, and is likely due to the prolonged strike.

So, in other words, enrollment probably would have gone up, if the administration had actually dealt honestly with CUPE 3903 and not pretended that they didn't have any money to improve the contract. And now it's biting them in the ass.

Of course, the administration, some full-time faculty, the deans, etc. will be spending the weekend busily concocting excuses as to why it's really the fault of the people who haven't been lying their asses off throughout the strike.

Now it's getting nasty.

I just heard tell that some graduate students in my department have been getting personal emails from faculty members telling them to vote "yes" to the forced ratification vote "for the good of the department".

I think that sort of behaviour really speaks for itself.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Forced ratification becoming more of a joke.

The York/CUPE 3903 forced ratification vote is taking place on Monday and Tuesday at the Novotel above North York Centre Station. Which is not accessible. So, York has agreed to provide shuttle buses from various campus locations to get people to the voting location.

However, the shuttle buses are not accessible.

Seriously. You couldn't make this shit up if you tried.

Oo... interesting note on Deans' letter to CUPE 3903.

David Doorey, who's been back-and-forth over the York strike, has posted something very interesting regarding the legality of the Deans' letter I posted below. I've clipped Doorey's blog just to the minimum, but go read the whole thing.
Have York Deans Violated the Labour Relations Act? ...

Keep in mind that for most of strikers, their de facto employer–the person they take orders from and must answer to–include the full-time professors (a minority of whom have also taken it upon themselves to lobby the strikers to accept the employer’s offer) and the Deans of their faculties. So the question for the law school exam is: Does the notice from Deans amount to a violation of:

(1) Section 70, which prevents employers, or persons acting on behalf of employers, from interfering with the administration of a union, but does not prevent the expression of opinions that are not threatening or intimidating and that do not amount to “undue influence”.

(2) section 72, which prohibits employers, or persons acting on behalf of employers, from making any kind of threat that intends to compel a striker from exercising the legal right to strike;

(3) section 73, which prevents employers, or persons acting on behalf of employers, from bargaining directly with unionized employees, and thereby by-passing the union; or

(4) section 76, which prevents anyone from intimidating an employee for the purposes of compelling them to cease engaging in a lawful strike. ...
My money is on a combination of (3) and (4).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

CUPE 3903 on York faculty petition

Fred Ho of CUPE 3903 wrote the following in reply to the recent petition (see earlier today) circulated by, apparently, our old friend Bernie Lightman. Worth a read.
Dear all,

I was very dismayed to read a second letter being circulated by Bernie Lightman with regard to current labour dispute. I am asking that you consider my thoughts below prior to consenting to make public your support of the letter.

Today, I am writing to you not under direction of the union but as a staffperson who has been advocating on behalf of individual 3903 members over the last eight years. The distinction is important to me because I believe I have a more intimate understanding of our members as I have represented a broad cross-section of the union. With that said, I acknowledge I am far from a unbiased member of the York community although if Bernie Lightman who worked for Employee Relations for years can circulate the letters that he has, I think it is fair to request that my reply be duly considered.

First, whatever your views on the strike, I think you need to weigh the good you think you are doing by signing such letter against the effect your signature will have on your working relationship with your graduate student and/or contract faculty colleagues. While my observations are far from scientific, my sense of how some graduate students reacted to the sight of many familiar names on the first letter was a certain sense of despair. Comments such as “don’t even show that list of names to me, I just don’t want to know who is on that list if I am going to continue my degree here” or “I just don’t know who to work with given that ‘x’ signed that letter” were not uncommon. And rather than arguing that there is an abuse of your positions of relative authority by signing this letter as some are, I ask that you consider whether the poisoning of these very important relationships is in anybody’s interest.

Second, please do take a step back from the rhetoric and consider the other messages you are sending beyond what is being literally communicated in the letter. I have heard from a number of faculty who seem to have little or no sympathy to the ‘living wage’ arguments that the union has made for the graduate student members. But do any of you doubt that funding is not an important factor in the horrific attrition rates amongst doctoral students (that is the percentage of those who enroll who do not finish)? While the issue of why doctoral students do not finish is complex, my view after hundreds of conversations I have had with graduate students over the years is that the tyranny of ‘living like a grad student’ (e.g. shared housing well into your thirties, delayed life choices, accumulating debt) combined with the incessant (and sometimes paralyzing) pressure of doing something brilliant due to the very competitive academic labour market are easily the two most common themes. As reasonably privileged members of the community, my opinion is that your public agreement with the York administration’s view that this is a fair deal is going to be read as a negation of their very experience and will not be well received.

Third, whatever your views with regard to the contract faculty job security issue, please do acknowledge their contribution. The fact of the matter is that the bulk the funding the university receives is through undergraduate tuition and grants and many contract faculty teach the largest courses at York. As an example, it is not at all unusual for contract faculty to deliver without any teaching support a class of 50+ students generating tuition and grants of approximately $100 000 for the institution. Their salary for this course is just over $14 000 with vacation pay. The rest of the monies no doubt go to fund necessary things for those students to receive their education (clerical and maintenance staff, upper administration, utilities). But this difference between what they are paid and the revenue generated also goes to support your faculty salaries and benefits. Many of you may rightly protest that that is simply the flawed funding formula in which the government is supporting research performed by full time faculty in the universities, but please don’t try to convince any contract faculty who have spent their working lives in this system for a decade or more that they don’t deserve a bit of the permanency and better working conditions that you work under that what they are asking for is unreasonable.

Last, whatever happens with this labour dispute, I ask that you save some of your energy and ask how much the administration has contributed to a situation in which their ‘fair and sustainable’ offer resolves none of the issues above. Questions I would put to them include whether the financial problems have anything to do with the fact that they have been constructing buildings on a fifty cent dollar from the government and mortgaging the rest out of the operating budget. I would also ask whether they feel their inability to convince our members that their offer is fair in difficult economic times have anything to do with the upper administration’s lack of accountability in how much money they pay themselves? Finally, I would ask why they decided to present this offer for ratification in January rather than in December? If they indeed think that it is a fair offer and the only thing that stands in the way of ratification is the CUPE 3903 leadership, could they not have put this very offer to the membership a month ago or more? On this last point, I suspect if they answered honestly they would say they wanted to wait until the CUPE members felt the gloom of a third lost month of pay and they might be right to guess that their only possibility of ‘winning’ was in a war of attrition. But at least this honest answer would counter-balance the claim that it’s simply CUPE intransigence which has done the harm that the Lightman letter suggests.

Yours Sincerely,

Fred Ho
Local Staff
CUPE 3903

Such bullshit.

And now the York deans are getting in on the act. Really, how fair is a forced ratification vote if the people who are going to be voting are subject to these sorts of crude intimidation tactics by faculty and administrators? (Particularly given that one of the administrators -- Bob Drummond -- signing the below letter is also on the university bargaining team.) If the vote fails because of this bullshit, I will gladly blame those who caved to the pressure rather than freely voting their consciences; but those who exert the pressure clearly also bear a heavy burden of blame (and should bear a burden of shame, but I suspect "shame" is foreign to at least the signatories of this one).

Suffice to say, I'm -- again -- unimpressed by the willingness, even eagerness, of the powerful to take unanswered shots at the powerless. Courage and principle would require allowing the members of CUPE 3903 to make their decision without these hamfisted attempts at coercion. Unfortunately, courage and principle seem to be in short supply at York these days.
January 15, 2009

Message from the Deans to the York community

When CUPE 3903 went on strike in November, we all undertook to seek the suspension, with limited exceptions, of academic activities in our Faculties. In so doing, we acknowledged our reliance on the work of our CUPE colleagues in helping to carry out the academic mission of the University. In addition, we continue to recognize the importance to our graduate students of financial support for the successful completion of their “apprenticeship” in our profession.

At the same time, we have had to recognize the unusually severe budgetary constraints that currently characterize all universities in the country in the midst of a worsening economic crisis. And we have had to consider the significant negative impact of a continuing labour disruption on all of our students, as well as on the reputation and academic development of the University.

Having all these considerations in mind, we have reviewed the offer for settlement tabled by the University administration (and indeed have been consulted as negotiations were underway). We believe that the offer is a responsible effort to meet the needs of contract faculty and graduate students in an extremely difficult economic climate. Familiar as we are with the budget situation in our own Faculties, we do not believe that more can be responsibly provided. We hope CUPE members will recognize the gains they have made, and put an end to this debilitating strike by accepting the settlement offer.

Cynthia Archer
Nick Cercone
Robert Drummond
Dezsö Horváth
Rhonda Lenton
Kenneth McRoberts
Patrick Monahan
Doug Peers
Alice Pitt
Barbara Rahder
Barbara Sellers-Young
Harvey Skinner
In other words: ratify, or we'll go whine to the province to make you take the deal. Cowards, all of them.

This, incidentally, is why the forced ratification provisions in Ontario labour law blatantly favour employers. The resources of the employer are sufficiently vast that this kind of pressure can be expected to continue until the vote is actually held.


So, some members of YUFA -- the York University Faculty Association, representing long-term contract lecturers as well as tenure-stream and tenured profs -- got together and signed a little petition "encouraging" CUPE 3903 members to vote "yes" in the upcoming ratification vote.

It's worth noting that, in doing so, they break with the executive of YUFA, which passed the following motion a few days ago:
13 Jan 09 – CUPE 3903 Forced Ratification Vote

The following motions were passed unanimously at the YUFA Executive meeting of 12 January 2009:

1. YUFA Executive re-affirms its support of free collective bargaining and does not endorse a ratification vote of CUPE 3903 members as forced by the Employer.
2. YUFA Executive strongly urges all YUFA members to respect individual CUPE 3903 members’ rights in the forced ratification vote to vote freely and according to their conscience. We urge all YUFA members to respect CUPE members’ rights to vote freely.
3. YUFA Executive, recognizing the power relations implicit in the roles of YUFA members and CUPE 3903 members, does not endorse any YUFA member attempting to influence how a CUPE 3903 member might vote in the forced ratification vote.
They can, of course, disagree with their Executive all they like -- indeed, that's exactly what they're trying to get CUPE 3903 members to do to their Executive. But this is really the coward's way of doing it. The principled way would have been to insist on a full meeting of all YUFA members and try to get a counter-motion passed. But that's hard.

Here's the letter. I've highlighted philosophy department members who signed it -- regrettably, including two members of my own committee. But first, a rousing game of "Spot the Fallacy".
January 14, 2009


We, the undersigned retirees and full-time faculty members of York University, urge our colleagues in CUPE 3903 who have been on strike since November 6, 2008, to end their labour action by accepting the current contract offer of the York University administration. Why?
Oo, tell us, please.
• The current offer of a 10.7 per cent increase to the overall cost of the contract over three years with a substantial package of wages (9.25% increase over three years) and benefits is fair and reasonable, and consistent with the most recent agreements of other unionized employees at York. The university offer appears especially positive in light of chronic government underfunding and the current economic environment.
  1. Fallacy of irrelevance: the appeal to the other agreements of unionized employees at York.
  2. Fallacy of irrelevance: chronic government underfunding (which is surely the York administration's problem to bear).
  3. Fallacy of what-the-bloody-fuck (possible ad misericordiam, possible special pleading): the appeal to the "current economic environment". As if the "current economic environment" were some external factor which weren't composed of the individual decisions of organizations like York. (Aside: want to make a recession worse? Step 1: give people less money to spend. Step 2: don't pay them enough to live on.)
  4. Proof by assertion: use of "fair" and "reasonable" stripped of any principled standards for same.
• A continuation of this strike will damage the academic reputation of the university, and diminish the perceived quality of its graduate and undergraduate degrees.
  1. Ad baculum fallacy: a pretty blatant threat. Also possible ad misericordiam.
• The potential loss of undergraduate enrolments in 2009-10 (in quality and quantity) resulting from the continuation of the strike could lead to a reduction in the number of teaching assistantships and part-time faculty positions in the future. CUPE members will best serve their own interests, and those of the university at large, by ending rather than extending the strike.
  1. Ad baculum: obvious. Also, although I don't think it's a fallacy as such, note that it's supposed to be entirely CUPE's fault that the strike is continuing. Last I checked, bargaining required at least two parties; maybe I need to check again?
• CUPE’s demands include a substantial number of full-time YUFA appointments for long-serving contract faculty, a proposal that would lead to automatic full-time status for a select group of part-time faculty without requiring them to demonstrate scholarly achievement or potential. This runs counter to two fundamental principles of the university: open competitions for available positions among all qualified candidates and the cultivation of a scholarly research culture. In the past, the university has demonstrated its commitment to addressing the interests of long-serving contract faculty by establishing two programs unique in North America: the conversion program (in 1988) and the SRC program (2000). Since 1988 the university has made a total of 138 appointments through these two programs. The current offer continues that commitment by offering a reasonable number of appointments for long-serving contract faculty through 17 new teaching intensive appointments (in a new “teaching stream” appointments program), and 5 conversion appointments, providing the appointees with job security.
At last, a non-fallacious argument (two, actually). However, it's still pretty shitty. The meritocratic ideas appealed to here only work insofar as hiring is actually meritocratic (which is the ideal, but clearly not the reality) and those who have merit actually get hired. That is, this argument assumes that those who are hired deserve to be, and those who deserve to be hired are -- so, the classes are co-extensive. The former, as said, seems to be a declaration of an ideal, not a statement of fact, which immediately undercuts the claim that these are co-extensive. The latter is laughable. It's not difficult to find good scholars who merit full-time positions and just can't find them (throw a cat on York campus; you're bound to hit one). So, the two classes are not co-extensive, and thus the argument fails.

When it comes to the university's "commitments" to addressing the needs of long-serving contract faculty, the word "commitment" is thrown out without any explanation -- even a cursory one -- of what would constitute a commitment to these needs. Why is 138 appointments over 20 years supposed to be impressive? The letter doesn't say; I suspect this is because it's actually pathetic, and only looks good in comparison to what everyone else in the sector is(n't) doing. Which only proves that if you drive the standards low enough, anyone can be a saint.
• A continuation of the strike takes the university into uncharted territory: the potential loss of at least the summer term and, conceivably, the entire academic year. The impact of the latter on the lives of tens of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students will be immeasurable. Furthermore, if the summer term is lost, there will be considerable cost to CUPE members in teaching positions and income.
  1. Ad misericordiam and ad baculum: two-hit combo! Also what looks like a possible variation on a "base rate" fallacy, i.e., the fallacy of calculating a probability without taking into consideration prior probabilities. It's asserted that the summer term and the academic year would be lost without ratification, but how likely is it, really, that York (or the province) would let things go that far?
• In their own interest and that of the entire university community, we urge CUPE members to end their labour action and help the university resume expeditiously the provision of its full academic programs.
Why is it CUPE members that have to take the interests of the "entire university community" into account? Why is that their problem, exactly? I've yet to see an adequate explanation for that which doesn't turn on some nonsense about students being the light of a teacher's life or similarly saccharinity (I made it up; deal). Here's a thought: it's been suggested to me that the conversions shouldn't exist in CUPE, but in YUFA. So, why don't these YUFA members try to make that happen? That would remove a pretty big logjam in the negotiations. Oh, wait, forgot: that's hard.

The list of signatories follows. Remember, philosophers are highlighted in bold; such folks should be particularly ashamed of themselves for affixing their names to such a ridiculous hit-piece. Seriously, folks, we're supposed to be good at reasoning; this is embarrassing.

Oh, and, about a week back or so, the head of the Philosophy Department sent a note around asking grad students to meet with himself, the undergrad program director, and the grad program director, so that everyone could discuss the issues raised by the strike. The meeting was then called off on the, IM-never-very-HO, spurious grounds that some grad students had expressed concerns that this would be "divisive" within the department. (Seriously. Methinks everyone needs to sack up. I've also read about some crybaby grad students in other departments who feel they're being "railroaded" by the union. Again, sack up. Sub-rant over.) I wonder, though, how "divisive" they think it might be to sign this letter, as all three have. Or is that somehow not supposed to be a problem? It's divisive to meet with people, but not to sign a letter after canceling the meeting? I do not see how this amounts to a coherent position (polite way of saying it doesn't).
Thabit A. J. Abdullah, Department of History
Mokhtar Aboelaze, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Jean Adams, Schulich School of Business
Scott A. Adler, Department of Psychology
Monique Adriaen, French Studies
Ahmet Akyol, Department of Economics
Gabriela Alboiu, DLLL
Robert Allan, Department of Chemistry
John Amanatides, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Aijun An, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Mahmudul Anam, Department of Economics
Kristin A. Andrews, Department of Philosophy
Paul Anisef, Department of Sociology
Marcia Annisette, Schulich School of Business
Elie Appelbaum, Department of Economics
Eshrat Arjomandi, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University Professor
Preet Aulakh, Schulich School of Business
Gerald Audette, Department of Chemistry
Paul Axelrod, Faculty of Education
Kee-Hong Bae, Schulich School of Business
Judith Baker, Department of Philosophy, Glendon
Ian Balfour, Department of English
Norbert Bartel, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Distinguished Research Professor
Mark Bayfield, Department of Biology
John Beare, Department of Economics
Chris Bell, Schulich School of Business
Samuel Benchimol, Department of Biology
Markus Biehl, Schulich School of Business
Ellen Bialystok, Department of Psychology, Distinguished Research Professor
Diethard Bohme, Department of Chemistry, Distinguished Research Professor
Sammy Bonsu, Schulich School of Business
Deborah P. Britzman, Faculty of Education, Distinguished Research Professor
Shirley Ann Brown, Atkinson and Fine Arts Faculties
Matthew Brzozowski, Department of Economics, Atkinson
Bob Burns, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Gary Butler, Division of Humanities
Amila Buturovic, Division of Humanities
Radu Campeanu, School of Information Technology
Melanie Cao, Schulich School of Business
Tuan Cao-Huu, Multidisciplinary Department, Glendon College
James Carley, Department of English, Distinguished Research Professor
Donald L. Carveth, Department of Sociology and Social and Political Thought
Nicholas Cepeda, Department of Psychology
Archishman Chakraborty, Schulich School of Business
Shin-Hwan Chiang, Department of Economics
Hugh Chesser, Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering
Janne Chung, Schulich School of Business
Avi Cohen, Department of Economics
Jennifer Connolly, Department of Psychology
Wesley Cragg, Schulich School of Business
Julia Creet, Department of English
Wade D. Cook, Schulich School of Business
Robert A. Cribbie, Department of Psychology
Douglas Cumming, Schulich School of Business
Luiz Marcio Cysneiros, School of Information Technology
Peter R. Darke, Schulich School of Business
James Darroch, Schulich School of Business
Abdullah Dasci, School of Administrative Studies
Joseph Francis DeSouza, Department of Psychology
Gwen Dobie, Theatre Department
Dale Domian, School of Administrative Studies
Logan Donaldson, Department of Biology
Ming Dong, Schulich School of Business
Gail Drory, Schulich School of Business
Suzanne Dubeau, York University Libraries
Claudio Duran, School of Arts and Letters, Atkinson
Andrew W. Eckford, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Carl S. Ehrlich, Division of Humanities
James Elder, Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Dept. of Psychology
Maurice Elliott, Department of English, University Professor, emeritus
Paul Emond, Osgoode Hall Law School
Berta Esteve-Volart, Department of Economics
David Etkin, Disaster and Emergency Management, Atkinson
Raymond Fancher, Department of Psychology
Ilijas Farah, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Moshe Farjoun, Schulich School of Business
Elizabeth Farrell, Schulich School of Business
Trevor C. W. Farrow, Osgoode Hall Law School
Seth Feldman, Department of Film, University Professor
Leila Fernandez, Steacie Science and Engineering Library
Ida Ferrara, Department of Economics, Atkinson
Eileen Fischer, Schulich School of Business
David Flora, Department of Psychology
Joshua Fogel, Department of History
Wm (Bill) C. Found, Geography and Faculty of Environmental Studies, University Professor Emeritus
Ed Furman, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
William Gage, School of Kinesiology and Health Science
Benjamin Geva, Osgoode Hall Law School
Jacqueline A. Gibbons, Sociology and Social Science
Michael Gilbert, Department of Philosophy
Jerry Ginsburg, Department of History
R. Darren Gobert, Department of English
Vinod Goel, Department of Psychology
T.J.A. Le Goff, Department of History
John M. Goodings, Department of Chemistry
Doba Goodman, Department of Psychology
Verena Gotschling, Department of Philosophy
Cameron Graham, Schulich School of Business
Jorg Grigull, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Silviu Guiasu, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Geoff Harris, Department of Chemistry and Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry
Michael C. Haslam, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Jagdish Hattiangadi, Department of Philosophy and Science and Technology Studies
Walter Heinrichs, Department of Psychology
Michael Herren, School of Arts and Letters, Atkinson, Distinguished Research Professor
Wai-Ming Ho, Department of Economics
Richard Hoffmann, Department of History
Shelley Hornstein, Department of Visual Arts
Sara R. Horowitz, Division of Humanities & DLLL
Sylvia Hsingwen Hsu, Schulich School of Business
Huaxiong Huang, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Jimmy Huang, School of Information Technology
Geoffrey Huck, Department of English
Katalin Hudak, Department of Biology
Allan C. Hutchinson, Osgoode Hall Law School, Distinguished Research Professor
Ann M. Hutchison, Department of English, Glendon
Christopher Innes, Department of English, Distinguished Research Professor
Richard H. Irving, Schulich School of Business
Jacques Israelievitch, Department of Music
Neita Israelite, Faculty of Education
Henry Jackman, Philosophy
Hanna Jankowski, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Gary Jarvis, Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering
Joann Jasiak, Department of Economics
David A. Johnston, Schulich School of Business
Joanne Jones, School of Administrative Studies
David Jopling, Department of Philosophy
Ashwin Joshi, Schulich School of Business
Hansraj Joshi, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Joan Judge, Division of Humanities and School of Women’s Studies
Mark Kamstra, Schulich School of Business
Mariana Kant, Computer Science and Engineering
Mustafa Karakul, School of Administrative Studies
Rekha Karambayya, Schulich School of Business
Kerry Kawakami, Department of Psychology
Muhammed Ali Khalidi, Department of Philosophy
Lois King, School of Administrative Studies
Ruth King, DLLL
Matthias Kipping, Schulich School of Business
Stanley O. Kochman, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Murat Kristal, Schulich School of Business
Sergey N. Krylov, Department of Chemistry
Terry Kubiseski, Department of Biology
A. Kumarakrishnan, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, Department of Economics
Patricia Lakin-Thomas, Department of Biology
Peter Landstreet, Department of Sociology
Sam Lanfranco, Economics, Atkinson
Michael Lanphier, Department of Sociology, Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar
Eric Lawee, Division of Humanities
Fred Lazar, Schulich School of Business and Economics/Arts
Jos Lennards, Senior Scholar of Sociology, Glendon
John Lennox, Department of English, University Professor
A. B. P. Lever, Department of Chemistry, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus
Lee Li, School of Administrative Studies, Atkinson
Sheng Li, Department of Biology
Bernard Lightman, Division of Humanities
Varpu Lindström, School of Arts and Letters and School of Women’s Studies, University Professor
Martin Lockshin, Division of Humanities
Heather Lotherington, Faculty of Education
Paul Lovejoy, Department of History, Distinguished Research Professor
Bernard Luk, Department of History
Suzanne MacDonald, Department of Psychology
Joanne Magee, School of Public Policy and Administration
Maynard Maidman, Department of History
Elliott Malamet, Faculty of Education
Kim Maltman, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Christian Marjollet, French Studies
Nadia Massoud, Schulich School of Business
Colin R. McArthur, Department of Chemistry
Marshall McCall, Departments of Physics and Astronomy
Jack McConnell, Earth and Space Science and Engineering, Distinguished Research Professor
James Mckellar, Schulich School of Business
Steve McKenna, School of Administrative Studies, Atkinson
Robert McLaren, Department of Chemistry
Kent McNeil, Osgoode Hall Law School
Ikechi Mgbeoji, Osgood Hall Law School
Alan C. Middleton, Schulich School of Business
Moshe A. Milevsky, Schulich School of Business
Gareth Morgan, Schulich School of Business, Distinguished Research Professor
Richard Murray, Department of Psychology
Robert Myers, Department of Philosophy
Gerard Naddaf Department of Philosophy
Dorit Nevo, Schulich School of Business
Janice Newton, Political Science and School of Women’s Studies
Doris Olin, Department of Philosophy, Glendon
Phil Olin, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Christine Oliver, Schulich School of Business
Jonathan S. Ostroff, Computer Science and Engineering
Ron Owston, Faculty of Education, University Professor
John Parkinson, School of Administrative Studies
Sarah Parsons, Department of Visual Arts
Ronald Pearlman, Department of Biology, University Professor
Chun Peng, Department of Biology
Theo Peridis, Schulich School of Business
Peter Peskun, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Lisa Philipps, Osgoode Hall Law School
Bill Pietro, Department of Chemistry
Marilyn L. Pilkington, Osgoode Hall Law School
Andrea Podhorsky, Department of Economics
Michael M. Pollard, Department of Chemistry
Carol Poster, Department of English
Pierre G. Potvin, Department of Chemistry
Robert Prince, School of Engineering and Department of Physics and Astronomy, University Professor Emeritus
Eliezer Prisman, Schulich School of Business
Huw Pritchard, Chemistry Department, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus
Norman Purzitsky, Department of Mathematics
David W. Reid, Department of Psychology
Buks van Rensburg, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Jill Rich, Department of Psychology
Julia J. Richardson, School for Administrative Studies
Marie Rickard, Film Department
Paul Rilstone, Department of Economics
Paul Ritvo, School of Kinesiology and Health Science
Ian Roberge, Département de science politique
Michael De Robertis, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Gordon S. Roberts, Schulich School of Business
Chris Robinson, School of Administrative Studies, Atkinson
John Robinson, Department of Economics
Hazel Rosin, Schulich School of Business
Hamzeh Roumani, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Parissa Safai, School of Kinesiology and Health Science
Jan Sapp, Department of Biology
Candace Séguinot, School of Translation, Glendon
Lauren Sergio, Kinesiology and Health Science
Stuart Shanker, Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology
R. Shayna Rosenbaum, Department of Psychology
Jochen Rudolph, Department of Chemistry
Ahouva Shulman, DLLL
Pauline Shum, Schulich School of Business
Phillip Silver, Department of Theatre
Yvonne Singer, Department of Visual Arts
K. W. Michael Siu, Department of Chemistry, Distinguished Research Professor
Adriano Solis, School of Administrative Studies
Minas Spetsakis, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Colin Steel, Department of Biology
Martin J. Steinbach, Department of Psychology, Distinguished Research Professor
Jennifer Steeves, Department of Psychology and Centre for Vision Research
Andrey Stoyanov, Economics, Atkinson
Bridget Stutchbury, Department of Biology
Dennis Stynes, Department of Chemistry
Paul Szeptycki, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Anthony Szeto, Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering
Linda Thorne, Schulich School of Business
Malcolm Thurlby, Department of Visual Arts
Yisong S. Tian, Schulich School of Business
Christine Till, Department of Psychology
Andrew Toms, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Karen Valihora, Department of English
Claudine Verheggen, Department of Philosophy
Peter Victor, Faculty of Environmental Studies
Michael Wade, Schulich School of Business
James Walker, DLLL
Marshall Walker, Department of Mathematics & Statistics & School of Information Technology
Byron Wall, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Mary Waller, Schulich School of Business
Steven Wang, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Duff R. Waring, School of Arts and Letters
Carol Anne Wien, Faculty of Education
Eleanor Westney, Schulich School of Business
Henny Westra, Department of Psychology
William Wicken, Department of History
Laurie Wilcox. Department of Psychology
Frances Wilkinson, Department of Psychology and Centre for Vision Research
Paul Wilkinson, Faculty of Environmental Studies
Deanne Williams, Department of English
Barrie Wilson, Humanities and Religious Studies, Atkinson
Carol Wilson, School of Kinesiology and Health Science
Hugh R. Wilson, York Centre for Vision Research & Computer Science and Engineering
Maxine Wintre, Department of Psychology
Bernard Wolf, Schulich School of Business
Stepan Wood, Osgoode Hall Law School
Gillian Wu, Kinesiology and Health Science
Xueqing Xu, DLLL
Xiaohui Yu, School of Information Technology, Atkinson
Mike Zabrocki, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Joyce Zemans, Schulich School of Business, University Professor Emerita
Carol Zemel, Department of Visual Arts
Brett Zimmerman, Department of English
Cynthia Zimmerman, Department of English, Glendon
Hongmei Zhu, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
If this is what it's like being in the academy, I'm not sure I want to do it any more. (That's "I'm not sure". Not "I quit". Some folks are having a hard time with reading comprehension lately, so I thought I should make that one clear.) Seriously, WTF? Everyone who signed this letter is still getting paid, right? So what's their problem? Christ on a fucking picnic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Course evaluations time.

Just got my course evaluations for the Fall in. Not much there that's news to me: some of the little snowflakes want a big song-and-dance number every class, and some want everything spoonfed to them; most, however, thought the course was decent. What's intriguing this time around, though, is that one class was conducted in a fairly spacious lecture hall for 2.5-2.75 hours in the evening, and the other was conducted in a (much) smaller classroom on two mornings for 1.5 hours at a time. The manner of presentation was not altered between the two (I've done this material a number of times, and my patter is pretty much set). Guess which one they found more difficult and less interesting? Points awarded if you said "the first one".

So, what this demonstrates -- shockingly! -- is that people are tireder in evening classes and thus less able to concentrate on difficult technical subjects like philosophy, that smaller classes (and rooms) are better, and that 1.5 hours is probably the ideal chunk of time in which to be taught anything. I'll wait for confirmation of this after this term, as my current class is another 1.5 hour, 2 times per week class. But I suspect I'm right.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Christ...York gets what it wants.

Forced ratification vote is being held on Monday and Tuesday of next week. So, a week that could have been spent trying to get a negotiated settlement together is going to grind its way along with more vicious attempts at union-busting on York's part.

Interesting note, though, is that the vote is being held pretty near to where I live. So, maybe I'll drift on by and see if I can get a feel for the mood....

Are you kidding me?

York's even dicking around with the date of the ratification vote? Good lord. CUPE 3903 wants the vote ASAP -- Thursday or Friday of this week. York wants the vote next Monday or Tuesday. Technically, the Ministry gets to pick, but what the hell? Why does York want to delay for another week?

Poor, helpless York.

I have no real interest in responding to York's latest bullshit, nor the Toronto Star's laughable anti-union rhetorical flailing. Suffice to say, they're at it again, and no amount of appeals to facts and reason will change their minds about anything. It may be that, once the ratification vote fails -- as I expect it will, although possibly narrowly -- CUPE 3903 might want to seriously think about binding arbitration. There's no real will to resolve this on the other side, and the public is so appalling ignorant and, frankly, stupid that genuinely fair negotiations seem impossible.

It's a terrible option, but back to work legislation is far worse, and I'm still not sure how long McGuinty will want to hold off setting a viciously illiberal precedent.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Another thought

If a coalition government is illegitimate because not broadly supported by the populace in opinion polling, despite being in accordance with all relevant laws and precedents, does it follow that any government not supported by the populace in polling is immediately defeated? If not, why not? Selective appeals to polls are arbitrary and unprincipled; either opinion polls (as contrasted with elections) rule everything -- including both the formation and the dissolution of a government -- or they rule nothing.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

CUPE 3903 ratification vote... apparently scheduled for Wednesday.

Oh, and, the admin walked out of bargaining yesterday. Again: so much for good faith.

Friday, January 09, 2009

From CUPE 3903 on the forced ratification vote.

Original here.
Yesterday (Thursday, January 8th) at a general membership meeting, the bargaining team and executive presented the employer’s latest offer to the membership. The offer was resoundingly rejected by the membership, with 90% of members in attendance voting to refrain from sending the offer to ratification. In response, instead of bargaining at the table, the employer has notified CUPE 3903 that it has begun the process of holding a forced ratification vote.

What is a forced ratification vote? A Forced Ratification Vote (what they refer to as a “supervised vote”) is, essentially, a loophole in the labour laws that gives the employer the power to circumvent the
bargaining process—to contact striking members directly and compel them to vote on a deal of the employer’s own choosing.

The employer is only legally allowed to use it once. The forced vote is a powerful instrument that the employer uses in order to maximize confusion and minimize the need to make meaningful movements at the

Needless to say, the union is disappointed that the employer has once again walked away from the bargaining process. This disappointment is compounded by the fact that the deal does not adequately address our three main priorities:

Job Security (Unit 2)
Graduate Funding (Units 1 and 3), and
Funding (All Units).

The union is encouraging all members to reject this offer by voting no. The employer is counting on our members settling for a concessionary offer.

Unions that are able to beat a forced ratification find that they are able to put the bargaining team in an immensely strong position. Your no vote will signal to the employer that the offer is not adequate,
and as such, they will need to table an offer that addresses our three main priorities. In future negotiations, their forced offer becomes the floor for a settlement, as they cannot avoid bargaining at the table any longer.


Tom Flanagan pwned.

Not surprising, but still disappointing.

So much for good faith negotiation. York has called for a forced ratification vote. I suspect they believe that a majority of the graduate members will vote in favour and swamp the contract faculty -- or, less likely, they might believe that the graduate members are divided and the contract faculty will swing in favour of ratification.

This means, though, that negotiations are probably over until the ratification vote is held. It also means that the University never had any serious intention of negotiating past this offer. More duplicity; why am I even surprised any more?