Report from the ‘Red Lines’ General Membership Meeting

The ‘Red Lines’ GMM took place on Tuesday, February 6. This meeting was designed to give the bargaining team more direction regarding what the membership would accept in a final offer. Overall, the membership reaffirmed their commitment to equity, secure funding and employment for Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants, and job security for Contract Faculty. There was also a strong sense of solidarity between all three units. We understand that the employer is trying to remove jobs from all units; it is only by providing a united front that all can be protected.

Which Unit is Which?

Unit 1 is composed of full-time graduate students who have teaching contracts, in most cases Teaching Assistantships. Unit 2 is composed of Contract Faculty, i.e. course directors, teaching assistants, coaches etc. who are not full-time graduate students. Unit 3 is composed of full-time graduate students who do research or clerical work. For more information on how the three units are interrelated, see here: How York’s Plan for Graduate Funding Affects All of Units 1, 2, and 3.

What’s a ‘Red Line’?

The process of identifying ‘red lines’ is something that CUPE 3903 has done over the last several bargaining rounds. These lines are meant to identify which proposals or principles the membership sees as essential to a fair contract. This does not mean that proposals that were not identified as red lines are unimportant. However, identifying key proposals or principles will help the bargaining team create a strategy that reflects the needs of the membership.

Equity Reaffirmed

Several equity proposals were identified as needing to be addressed, including funding for a sexual violence survivor’s fund, long-term disability, full funding for graduate students with disabilities who are granted an extension, childcare, and anti-racism. Improving our health benefits was also identified, as our Extended Health Benefits Fund is overburdened.

Fellowship and Summer Funding

Members of Unit 1 have expressed a strong commitment to include the Fellowship Funding Model into the collective agreement in a way that protects members from clawbacks and protects the priority pool (i.e. the right to six years of funding and $5384 in additional funding). A motion was also passed specifically stating that summer funding must be paid out in monthly paycheques.

Members of Unit 1 have also taken a position against the increase in ticketed Course Directorships (CDs taught by members of Unit 1), both because these positions take work away from Contract Faculty, and because it is several times more work for roughly the same pay as a TAship. Units 2 and 3 passed motions to this effect in solidarity.

Job Security

Unit 2 reaffirmed that improvements to job security and predictability are of the utmost importance in this round of bargaining. Members of Unit 2 want to see real improvements to the various programs that help provide a bit more predictability to their work. They have also reaffirmed that they will not accept concessions.

Another red line for Unit 2 was identified as the application of reasonable timelines for appointments. Members spoke of receiving contracts mere days — in one case, mere hours — before the start of a course.

Graduate Assistant Jobs

Members of Unit 3 have a very clear red line: a minimum number of Graduate Assistant jobs need to be restored. Around 90% of the Unit lost their jobs in 2016, robbing hundreds of graduate students of access to funds and benefits, union protections, and job experience. Units 1 and 2 passed solidarity motions, expressing their understanding that the attack on Unit 3 is part of a broader move to weaken the union and cut jobs in all three units.

Protection from clawbacks was also identified by members of Unit 3 as a red line.