1. How should I respond to professors who ask me to return to work?
If you feel comfortable, you can refer them to York’s Senate Policy 2 and let them know that employees represented by CUPE 3903 are not invited or permitted to cross the picket lines or otherwise perform work or be paid during the labour dispute for work related to CUPE 3903. You could also just ignore them.
2. Can I continue my thesis research without resuming my teaching assistantship?
Yes! Please continue to do your academic, non-union work. You should also know that, as a student, you are protected from having to cross the picket lines in order to attend your graduate courses (see Senate Policy 2).
3. What kind of repercussions could I face if I cross the picket line to work as a teaching assistant? Could I lose health benefits?
If you do return to work, you will put yourself and CUPE 3903 in a very awkward position. Anyone crossing a picket line to do work that undermines the strike is considered a strike breaker, more commonly referred to as a “scab.” Scabs can be sanctioned by CUPE and lose their good-standing in the Union, though this is a decision that would be made by the membership as a whole. If you return to work, you are ineligible for strike pay.
4. But the university offered to pay me to return to work!
If York is hiring you to do work during the strike, they are doing so under a new contract and without any of the protections offered by our Collective Agreements. This includes: health-and-safety guarantees, overwork protections, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment language, a progressive discipline process, guaranteed pay and benefits, etc. This means that CUPE 3903 would not be able to protect or represent members should they have trouble with these new work assignments. It is a risky move that individualizes our work and makes us extremely vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment.
5. I can’t afford to live off of what I am earning with strike pay. What can I do?
We understand that being on strike can present people with financial hardships, and we’re doing our best to ensure that we help each other out. A strike hardship fund has been set up to supplement strike pay and cover expenses like transportation, childcare, rent, food, etc. You can apply to this fund by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the Strike Hardship Fund is available here.
6. What will happen to bargaining if I return to work while bargaining is ongoing?
If the university is able to resume normal operations, our bargaining power and the outcome of this Collective Agreement are at risk. Strike-breaking may actually prolong the outcome of a strike.
Regardless of our personal views, respecting this process and acting collectively are the right things to do. It’s also strategic and helps us get the best agreement possible in the shortest amount of time possible.
Solidarity forever, strike to win!