May 21st Action: Video

On Thursday, May 21, many members who were at the Solidarity BBQ opted to walk up to Faculty Relations and the Faculty of Graduate Studies to protest the employer’s blatant misinterpretation of the tuition offset provisions of our collective agreements. The fact that the employer appears to be dragging its feet on scheduling a meeting with our Labour Management Committee was another reason the membership decided to target those particular administrative bodies.

The employer is adamant that they do desire to meet with us. Yet, no meeting has been scheduled.

Would you like to be part of actions like these in the future? There are a wide range of actions that can be taken. International students who are impacted by tuition fee increases should appeal their offset funding (you have until June 19th to do so), demanding to know what was counted towards their offset. All members could join us on Thursday for another action, attend Stewards’ Council, or just keep an eye out for announcements.

CUPE 3903 Strongly Condemns Recent Communications from FGS

A pink sign in the snow reads "Education is a right! Keep tuition indexation".

A pink sign in the snow reads “Education is a right! Keep tuition indexation”.

Around 5:00 pm on Friday, May 22, members who are international students from the 2013 and 2014 cohorts received an email from the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Considering that the employer confirmed that only 27 out of approximately 140 members who were affected by the international tuition fee increases are getting any additional funding, we can safely assume that most received the following message:

This message is with regards to the Tuition Offset Letter of Intent provisions in the CUPE 3903 Unit 1 and CUPE 3903 Unit 3 Collective Agreements that are applicable for International graduate students who have received a CUPE 3903 Unit 1 and/or CUPE 3903 Unit 3 position.

After carefully reviewing your record and the funding that you have received during the 2014-15 academic year, we have determined that the full value of your tuition offset is met as per the provisions outlined in the CUPE Collective Agreements.

Should you require any further information or assistance, you are welcome to contact your Graduate Program Assistant.

Thank you and have a nice day.

Faculty of Graduate Studies

The few members who got messages informing them that some level of additional funding was forthcoming were not given a specific amount.

These messages are not a complete surprise, as we had been warned of the employer’s re-interpretation of our tuition offset language. Nonetheless, the inadequacy of these messages is profoundly alarming.

There is no explanation of what process the “careful review”  has taken. In fact, the employer has yet to give an in-depth answer to CUPE 3903 in regards to what was and was not counted towards the offset amount.

An international student from the 2014 cohort told CUPE 3903: “Even students who have been awarded the York Graduate Scholarship or YGS (which is a one-time entrance award worth $3000 for the Doctoral level) have been told that the full value of their tuition offset is met. In the worst case scenario, students who hold such small scholarships should get a rebate to cover the difference between 2012 and 2014 tuition fees that is approximately $7000. In case of YGS, for instance, there must be a $4000 rebate, but FGS has decided to rebate nothing”. It is unclear from what sources the employer considers its obligations to be met with regards to the more than $4000 of the increase left uncovered for members in this situation.

Furthermore, it is completely inadequate to direct irate and confused students to their Graduate Program Assistants when it is doubtful that they have any more information than we do. As FGS enforces these policies, they need to assume responsibility for them. Accountability is not optional, especially when it is a matter of people’s livelihoods, as is the case with funding.

Clearly, the strategy is to create as much confusion as possible in order to make it near impossible to verify the amounts people have received.  We will not play the employer’s game of arguing the point of what is and is not merit-based and non-employment funding. Our position is clear: any international student being charged above the 2012 tuition rates should be receiving additional funding in the amount of the increase. We went on strike for that principle. The employer should be very aware that we will not back down now.

Collective action to put pressure on the employer has already begun. Further action is needed. The Stewards’ Council is meeting on Wednesday May 27 at 1:00 pm in the union office to discuss further strategies.

Also, on Thursday May 28 at 4:00 pm, Dean of Graduate Studies Barbara Crow is hosting a “Dean’s Cafe” where graduate students are encouraged to “have their voices heard”. Since Dean Crow so kindly wants to hear our concerns about graduate education at York, we should oblige her in great numbers.

CUPE 3903 BBQ and Collective Action a Resounding Success

Members walk towards the FGS lobby.

Members walk towards the FGS lobby.

On May 21st, the Stewards’ Council held its Solidarity BBQ on the lawn in front of Atkinson building. Many members came to enjoy the food and company – so much so that we had to send someone out for more burgers! Thank you to all who attended, and we hope to see those of you who couldn’t make it at our next event.

BBQ plotting

Several members sit and stand outside during a BBQ, discussing strategies of resistance.

This event was a great opportunity to discuss the employer’s misinterpretation of our tuition offset language in regards to international students, and the employer’s stalling tactics in regards to scheduling a Labour Management Committee meeting. At the close of the discussion, roughly 30 members opted to take an impromptu march up to Faculty Relations. Barry Miller, executive director of Faculty Relations, refused to see us, and so we moved on to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. After a short occupation of the space outside the FGS offices, two members were allowed inside to meet with an Associate Dean.

Despite being told repeatedly that collective action was not “the proper channels” with which to secure a meeting, CUPE 3903 received word from Barry Miller this morning. We have received a commitment that our information request will be answered at the latest by Monday, and that a meeting will be set up.

This is only the beginning. The employer clearly expects that they can stall until our members scatter for the summer holidays. We will not let them. We must keep the pressure on to protect the gains of our new collective agreements.

We will post more detailed information as soon as we can.

A Letter of Response and Support from the Executive to Silence is Violence

On May 6, 2015, the working group Silence is Violence released an open letter to CUPE National condemning the lack of response and policy surrounding sexual and gendered violence both in our local and our entire union. CUPE 3903 has failed its members and the broader community by failing to establish a comprehensive policy regarding sexual and gendered violence in our local.

While the local should provide assistance to survivors going forward with criminal charges, we also acknowledge that the legal system is woefully inadequate and often harmful in its dealings with sexual violence. This is especially true for racialized people, disabled  people, LGBTQ people, people with precarious immigration status, or any other systematically disadvantaged group. We acknowledge that sexual violence disproportionately affects women-identified people. As a social justice union, we cannot wipe our hands of responsibility by directing our members to the court system. Our responsibilities include survivor-centric policies and support mechanisms, guaranteeing a safer work environment, education that confronts rape culture, and a long-term commitment to battling misogyny in all its forms. Without action on these things we are not serving our members, or the wider community, in addressing issues of sexual violence at systemic levels — let alone individual ones.

Sexual violence does not happen to women because of what they wear, or where they go, or who they trust. Sexual violence occurs because perpetrators commit these acts. Most importantly, sexual violence occurs because we, as a society and as a local, allow misogynistic beliefs and behaviours to thrive, and we expect women and women-identified people to “cope” with or address them privately. We see those beliefs at play in York University’s use of a quasi-judicial tribunal process as the only recourse in cases of sexual violence, putting this kind of violence on par with such offences as academic misconduct. They are also evident at the level of CUPE National, where there is a code of conduct which includes harassment, but not sexual violence. This shows to what extent the institutions we are a part of conceive of sexual violence as a problem between two individuals, rather than a systemic problem which permeates our society and is bolstered by the rape myths we all participate in when we refuse to acknowledge they exist.

Sexual and gendered violence are real. We have a duty to address not only how we handle cases in which it has occurred, but also to put in place policies that contribute to lessening the frequency of such violence.

At our Annual General Membership Meeting on April 22nd, our membership voted to allocate $20,000 to the Trans Feminist Action Caucus, earmarked for sexual violence response. Clearly, this issue is of the utmost importance for our membership, and the executive looks forward to facilitating this most essential work. We are looking to collaborate with Silence is Violence, TFAC, and the Tri-Campus Coalition to Stop Sexual Violence.

CUPE 3903 will be pushing for reforms to our own by-laws, as well as changes to the National Constitution and Code of Conduct. The current Code of Conduct does not name sexual harassment; only harassment, and is completely silent on the larger issue of sexual violence. It also has a limited reach as it only applies to behaviours occurring within CUPE events. We seek to displace the CUPE National’s trial process with an accountability measure that is survivor-led and addresses the trauma that survivors of violence must endure. We also seek to make a clear distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault. While they are both on a continuum of misogyny, conflating the two is synonymous with refusing to acknowledge the true nature of the violence committed against women. Adequate naming practices are an important part of addressing not only events between individuals, but also the whole range of systemic forces which enable these events to occur. As such, it is imperative that we name these behaviours as what they are: sexual violence.

Improving our support to survivors is not sufficient: both CUPE 3903 and CUPE National need broad-based educational campaigns as well as long-term research to ensure that the educational efforts and having the intended results and help us fine-tune and target our efforts to end sexual and gendered violence.

We are looking forward to CUPE National’s response to our request for money and time to develop a proposal which would then be placed on the agenda at CUPE National. National claims it is currently reviewing its policies. We strongly encourage National to involve locals in this initiative; CUPE 3903 particularly strongly desires to be a part of this process.

CUPE 3903 and CUPE National have an important opportunity at present to lead the way in creating functional and adequate policies to address sexual violence. Trade unions played a large role in increasing women’s role and status in the workplace – it’s time to build on that tradition.


Interim Elections Officer Needed

The CUPE 3903 red-star logo

The CUPE 3903 red-star logo

One of our Elections Officers will be out of the country for a large part of the summer, Consequently, we need one Interim Elections Officer to serve from June 16 to August 31, which will include overseeing the by-election for the Grievance Officer position.

While our bylaws do not include explicit instructions in regards to temporarily replacing a committee member who is absent, past practice has been to pro-tem them at an executive meeting.

Nominations for the Interim Elections Officer position will open at the May 26 General Membership Meeting. The position will be filled at the executive committee meeting on June 9 at 10:00am in the union office. The regular EO honorarium will be pro-rated.

If you would like to nominate yourself for the position, please email

May 26 GMM: Tentative Agenda

A graphic image of many small fishes uniting to take on one big fish

General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, May 26
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Senate Chambers
Ross N940
York University

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Tentative Agenda *

  1. Roll call of officers and Oath of Office (5 mins)
  2. Reading of the Equality Statement (3 mins)
  3. Reading of the Mississauga Land Acknowledgement (2 mins)
  4. Approval of Agenda (5 mins)
  5. Reading and Approval of Minutes (10 mins)
  6. Matters arising (5 mins)
    1. Motion to destroy ballots
  7. Secretary-Treasurer’s Report (20 mins)
    1. Notice of motion for budget amendments
    2. Updated budget approved at AGM
    3. Update on Funds
  8. Nominations, elections, or installations (10 mins)
    1. GO nominations
    2. Committees
    3. Nominations for National
  9. Unfinished business (30 mins)
    1. By-law amendments
      1. Treasurer’s proposed by-law amendment
      2. Communications committee
      3. Working groups: Free School, Electronic Voting Implementation

Break (10 mins)

  1. New business (45 mins)
    1. Trial panel selection
    2. Tuition Offset Language
    3. Notice of Motion for By-law amendment for Listserv moderators
  2. Communications (10 mins)
    1. Silence is Violence letter
  3. Reports of Committees and delegates (15 mins)
    1. Stewards Council
    2. TFAC
    3. Others
  4. Executive Reports (10 mins)
  5. Good of the Union
  6. Adjournment

* Please note that this is only a tentative agenda. It may be slightly amended/updated by the Executive Committee in the days before the GMM.

Please contact Sheila Wilmot at or at 416-736-5154 ext. 3 if you require any of the following: ASL interpretation, reimbursement for childcare/caregiver/attendant care, and/or transportation costs for members who are unable to secure Wheel-Trans, or other requests for accommodation.

Come to the Solidarity BBQ!

Unite the Fight march leaving Glendon campus on March 27

Unite the Fight march leaving Glendon campus on March 27

On Thursday May 21st, from 1:30pm to 4:30 pm in the Atkinson parking lot, the Steward’s Council is hosting a BBQ and rally in celebration of our solidarity and the gains of our collective agreement. Here is the flyer for the event.

Come reunite with your friends from the picket lines and enjoy a free BBQ with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. There will be guest speakers, music, and plenty of opportunity to socialize and enjoy good food.

As we go forward from our shared strike experience, it is time to build upon our collective achievements and mobilize around the fair implementation of our Collective Agreements. This BBQ is also a great opportunity to discuss the employer’s resistance to implementing our collective agreements and share ideas on how to go forward.

Can you help with set-up? The Stewards’ Council needs as many volunteers as we can get to unload the van, set up the grills, prepare food and the tables, set up the speakers, etc. If you can help, please email

CUPE 3903 is Hiring

cupe logo

Job title: Data Entry Assistant

Location: CUPE 3903, York University, Toronto

CUPE 3903 is a local of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing Teaching Assistants, Contract Faculty, Graduate Assistants, and Research Assistants. For more information about CUPE 3903, please visit

We require the assistance of between 1 and 3 data entry assistants who can complete strike related data entry.

The data entry assistants will be responsible for processing data into our strike pay database. We are immediately hiring one assistant for a contract of approximately 50 hours of work during the month of June. We foresee extending the contract and hiring two additional assistants for between 100 and 150 hours of work in the months of July and August, pending budget approval. We will rank all applications and offer the immediate position to the most qualified candidate and then contact subsequent candidates once funds become available. Total hours available for all three positions will not exceed 450 hours. The positions will be supervised by the Treasurer in conjunction with the Executive Committee.

Abilities and qualifications include:

  • Ability to type 45-50 words per minute with accuracy
  • Proficiency with MS Office (particularly excel)
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Ability to work professionally and efficiently with minimal supervision
  • Ability to work in fast-paced environment

Responsibilities include:

  • Produce timely, accurate and integral data entry / processing into strike pay database
  • Ensure all information is complete and valid for each member
  • File system maintenance and records management
  • Keep up with work flow and prioritize daily data entry work.

This is a non-unionized short-term position in a unionized workplace in which staff are members of CUPE 1281.

The total length of all contracts associated with this project will not exceed 450 hours.

Remuneration will be the same rate of pay as the CUPE 3903 Marker/Grader rate of $35.05.

There shall be no contracting out/sub-contracting for any of the work described in the job posting.

Please submit your resume and cover letter by 5:00 pm on May 22, 2015 via email to:
Subject: Data Entry Application


CUPE 3903
(Attention: Data Entry Hiring)
143 Atkinson Building
York University
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

Interested applicants may direct any queries to

CUPE 3903 is committed to employment equity and encourages applications from women and men (regardless of sexual orientation), visible minorities, aboriginal people, and persons with disabilities.

Vacancy on the Executive Committee

The CUPE 3903 red-star logo

The CUPE 3903 red-star logo

The Grievance Officer, Lydia Dobson, has resigned. Nominations to fill the vacant position will open at the May 26th General Membership Meeting and will be closed on June 9th.

Nomination forms will be available at the GMM, and then in the CUPE 3903 office, 143 Atkinson.

All members in good standing may be nominated. In order to be nominated, members must:

  • Clearly sign and date their nomination form
  • Have it signed and dated by two other members in good standing
  • Deposit it into the nomination box at the CUPE 3903 office before Tuesday, June 9 at 5:00 p.m.
  • Clearly sign and date the nomination register in front of the nomination box

For more information, please contact the Election Officers at

The nomination and election of Executive Committee members is governed by the bylaws of CUPE 3903, available here.

Call-Out for Interim CUPE 3903 TFAC Co-Chair

The TFAC logo, a graphic image of a black cat

The TFAC logo, a graphic image of a black cat

The nomination period for the executive position of TFAC co-Chair is currently open and ends May 26th. If the position is contested, a campaign period will run from May 27th to May 10. Members of any unit are eligible for this position. To nominate yourself or ask questions, please email elections officers Marnina Norys or Émilie Pigeon Please see below for a full description of the position responsibilities. Voting will commence June 10th at a scheduled TFAC meeting 1pm – 4pm (location TBA), and will also take place June 11th at both York University and OISE from 11 am – 3 pm (location TBA).

All women, trans, gender queer and gender variant members of the local are automatically members of the Trans Feminist Action Caucus whether or not you have ever attended a meeting. All TFAC members are eligible to nominate themselves for the position of co-chair. The Caucus was formed under the Constitution of Local 3903, which states that the members of any group discriminated against on the grounds enumerated in the Ontario Human Rights Code have the right to form exclusionary caucuses within the local (see Article 12, CUPE 3903 Constitution and Bylaws).CUPE 3903 is strongly committed to equity within our union. We welcome and encourage involvement of persons with one or more disabilities, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, queer and trans persons, persons from racialized groups, and Aboriginal persons.

Collective Responsibilities (All Executive committee members)

  • Attend executive committee (EC) meetings.
  • Call, organize and attend General Membership Meetings (GMMs) and provide monthly reports to the general membership.
  • Participate in Fall orientation sessions and familiarize new members with TFAC
  • Become familiar with the constitution and by-laws of the local, the policy manual, the Collective Agreements (CA) of all units, the member’s manual, Bourinot’s Rules, the constitution of CUPE National and the CA of 1281.
  • Pull together proposed annual budget of the local for presentation and the Annual General Meeting (AGM).
  • Chair meetings of the executive and the local.
  • Subscribe to lists of the local including NEWS and Stewards Council.
  • All EC members should participate in anti-oppression training.

TFAC co-Chair Responsibilities

  • Oversee Caucus list serve; approve over-sized messages; add members to list
  • Respond to list-serve postings/questions where appropriate
  • Conduct conference registration and payment for members attending conferences
  • Record minutes at TFAC meetings and distribute to members for approval at subsequent meeting
  • Organize regular TFAC meetings at an accessible location
  • In the absence of volunteers, chair TFAC meetings
  • Act as a point of contact for local equity groups to advance the work of the Caucus
  • When donations are approved by the Caucus, the co-Chairs are responsible for ensuring that paper work for donations is submitted, and where appropriate, letters are written and mailed
  • Write letters on the request of the Caucus
  • Attend meetings of the Executive Committee and General Membership
  • Provide periodic updates (once per month or less) about the work of the Caucus over the list serve.
  • At the TFAC AGM to be held in February/March each year, propose a budget to the Caucus for discussion and debate
  • Oversee and help with the formulation and carrying out of Caucus projects
  • Ensure that TFAC brochures are available in the union office (this may involve updating brochures over time)