CUPE 3903 2019 General Election: Candidates’s Campaign Statements

Candidates Running for Chairperson:

Maija Duncan

My name is Maija Duncan, and I am running for Chairperson. I ask for your vote because my years of experience, dedication, and engagement in our union makes me the best candidate for this important role as we navigate difficult times.

I held the position of Communications Officer from 2015 to 2018. In that time, I gained an excellent understanding of the union’s policies, rules of order, relationships with other locals and groups, all four collective agreements, and the complex issues within each unit. In 2015-16, I was part of the team that negotiated the International Tuition Offset, saving international graduate students thousands of dollars each year. In 2016-17, I researched the Fellowship Funding Model to explain the changes in graduate funding, helped elaborate the legal challenge to the eradication of Unit 3, and supported the Unit 4 bargaining team as they negotiated their first contract. In 2017-18, I attended every bargaining meeting and provided detailed and timely reports for each session, which allowed me to deepen my understanding of the many programs for Unit 2 members and how they interact with seniority and qualifications. In my duties as Communications Officer I also established a working relationship with CUPE National, enabling the local to receive financial and practical support while maintaining political independence.

This year I have continued to work for the union, holding the positions of Unit 1 Labour-Management Committee representative, Professional Development Fund Coordinator, member of the Bilingualism Committee, and steward for Social and Political Thought. In December 2018, I joined the Sexual Assault Policy Working Group, where I polished the work of previous members into a policy which is now going through consultations.

In my time in the local, I have shown that I believe in transparency and giving members the tools to make the decisions they want, from making the necessary information available to taking the time in meetings to help members understand procedures and formulate motions. Procedures and policies should be tools to empower membership participation, not limit or direct it.

CUPE 3903 has some difficult decisions to make in the immediate future. We need to be able to talk to each other and create space to figure out the best way forward, respecting unit autonomy while recognizing that we are stronger when we support each other. My track record of fair, honest, and knowledge-based leadership shows that I am optimally placed to facilitate these conversations as your Chairperson.

Heather Jordan

I have been teaching at York University community since 2006 working at both Glendon and at Keele in units in the Faculty of Health and Faculty of Science. I have been a member of CUPE 3903 since 2009. I ask you for the opportunity to serve CUPE3903 as Chairperson at a crucial time in the history of this local.

The entire university – members, the students that we serve, and the friends, colleagues, administration and businesses that make up our York University community – have suffered greatly[i] as a result of the 2018 strike. The effects of the strike, which did little to advance the social, economic and general welfare of workers and retired workers[1] in our local will be felt long after many current members have left. Mutual respect and cross-unit friendships within the local are threaten by sectarianism, harassment and distrust in the very processes of democracy operating in ‘3903. This, at a time when the decisions of the Provincial Government threaten job security of non-student members of ‘3903, and the working conditions of all.

Never before has it been more important to protect, maintain, and advance the interests of ALL the members of the local and encourage wide-spread participation across the entire union. Never before has it been more important to form cooperative relations between our employers, York University, and ourselves[2]. It is imperative that we engage with the administration positively to tackle many of the practical and procedural issues that students and teaching staff face in the learning environment. We need to join our voice with our teaching and administrative colleagues in educating the public about the challenges and threats currently facing post-secondary education in Ontario[3]. We need to face the Provincial government with a strength that comes from unity amongst ourselves, cooperative York community relationships and mutual solidarity with other public sector locals.

I pledge to work to increase participation, trust and respect amongst members of CUPE 3903. I will encourage positive interactions, tolerate only respectful language, chair meetings in a manner that promotes discussion which allows all opinions to be heard fairly, engage in problem-solving and negotiation with the aim of fairness for all members.

I pledge to organise and manage the daily operations of ‘3903 in an effective and transparent manner, and expect the same curtesy from other officers and staff to members. Given recent history, in cooperation with the Election Officers, I will take particular and personal care to ensure that all balloting occurs smoothly.

I pledge to work for the good of ALL ‘3903 members and protect the Collective Agreements. I pledge to ensure that the members of each unit have the right to ratify their own Collective Agreements through democratic process and to preserve the rights and freedoms of democratic trade unions

I pledge to work to improve relations with our employers, York University, for the benefit of the entire community3.


Candidates Running for Recording Secretary:

Gizem Çakmak

I am a labour activist and an intersectional feminist of colour dedicated to social unionism and the defense of our livelihoods. I have been your Recording Secretary twice so far, and in that capacity, I have a track record of excellent minute-taking, record-keeping, and official communications.

During my time on the Executive Committee, I have revamped the policy manual, regularly communicated with CUPE National to update our bylaws, started the work on bargaining and strike manuals, and compiled binders on major grievances and arbitrations. I have kept past minute approvals up to date, executed research for bargaining, and supported Unit 4 bargaining twice. I have also served as Labour Management Committee representative, signing authority, and a member of the team confronting the fellowship model and tuition offset arbitration settlements.

I have held a wide variety of positions in our local, which has given me experience and insight into the many responsibilities of the union, and the needs of our members. In 2014, I was pro-tem Trans Feminist Action Caucus co-chair. In 2015-2016, I was Chief Steward Unit 1 and a member of the Grievance Committee. Leading up to and during the 2015 strike, I was an active member of the Bargaining Mobilization and Strike Committees. In 2017, I was elected as the Rank and File Co-Chair of the Bargaining Mobilization Committee, and served as a strike coordinator during the 2018 Strike. I also served our local as Professional Development Fund Coordinator, Ways and Means Committee member, LAPS Faculty Council representative, and International Graduate Students’ Committee member.

Through my involvement in 3903 I am well-versed in our four collective agreements, bylaws, the CUPE National constitution, and our agreement with CUPE 1281 (the union that represents our staff). The Recording Secretary must have a strong grasp of these documents because the position requires much more than taking minutes and setting agendas. It also involves doing research, organizing and filing documents, keeping our policies up-to-date, and liaising with CUPE Ontario and CUPE National. All of these duties are essential to the orderly running of our union, and they also contribute to making our organizing efforts more effective.

I look forward to using my skills and experience to strengthen the local and the position of all members within it, and to participating together!

Emilie Hurst

My name is Emilie Hurst and I am a unit 1 member in Communications. My active participation in the strike, directing traffic and occasionally acting as picket captain at Main Gate, taught me the importance of strong union solidarity, and inspired me to become involved in union activities. I am running for recording secretary.  I would bring to this position a set of strong of organizational skills, and a drive to get things done.

My experience includes:

  • Bilingualism committee, CUPE 3903 (2018-2019)
  • Councillor, YUGSA (2016-2017)
  • Secretary, Carleton Music and Culture Graduate Student Society (2014-2015):
  • Professional experience in supervisory roles

As secretary for the Carleton Music and Culture Graduate Student Society, I was tasked with taking detailed minutes, organizing and scheduling meetings, helping lead numerous fundraising efforts, and planning several departmental events. In my capacity as YUGSA councillor, I served as liaison between my department and the council, helping to facilitate consultation about the changes in printing cuts. In a professional capacity, I have worked in supervisory roles in which I helped managed a team of 12 employees, including daily scheduling and organizing training.

As part of the Bilingualism committee, I worked with my colleague to successfully bring forward numerous bylaw changes with the aim to improve accessibility of union funds, and am in the process of putting together a larger campaign that will include translation of all forms, our bylaws and the creation of a French portal on our website. As recording secretary, I would be committed to continue to support the activities of the bilingualism committee and advocate for the increasing accessibility of union spaces to Francophone members. Throughout all of these experiences, I have prided myself on being detail oriented, proactive and reliable.

If elected, I would seek to:

  • Keep accurate and up to date minutes
  • Ensure accessibility of minutes in a way that is acceptable to general membership
  • Work to improve punctuality of meetings
  • Interact with all members in a professional and fair manner

My approach to this position would be guided by a strong sense of unionism that is grounded in compassion. I believe in fighting for a union that is inclusive and mindful of the needs of all. I hope that you agree with me and consider these things as you head to the ballot box.


Candidates Running for Treasurer:

Michael Laurentius

My name is Michael Laurentius and I am seeking re-election as Treasurer. During my four years as an active member of this Local, I have sat on numerous fund adjudication committees and served on the Executive Committee as Vice-President Unit 3 and Treasurer. I recognize that a strong and healthy Local relies on a commitment to Social Unionism within a framework of transparent, sensible financial management. Within a Local with such a strong tradition of member-led and member-driven decision-making practices, the role of Treasurer must be a humble one, built upon tenants of active listening and accessibility, realising that financial matters may not come easily to all, but ultimately trusting in the insight provided by the membership. It is because of this that I believe the primary goal and purpose of the Treasurer is not to limit, but rather to empower.

While Treasurer, I have made a concerted effort to:

  • Increase the accessibility of Treasurer’s Reports by limiting accounting jargon, explaining the purpose and structure of the Reports (budget lines, profit & loss tables, etc.), taking time to address the rationale for any budgetary changes, and integrating suggestions from the Trustees and general membership regarding layout and style
  • Increase transparency into the financial state of the Local through the hosting of office hours dedicated solely to financial matters, providing comprehensive models to the Executive and membership regarding funding/spending scenarios, and promptly responding to inquiries by the membership as to the budget and cash flow
  • Assist caucuses, working groups, and committees in the formulation of their own internal budgets; propose novel solutions to problems that limit a body’s ability to truly fulfil their mandate; provide insight with regards to the Bylaws, Collective Agreements, and general accounting practices; and suggest how these bodies could maximize their approved budgets during a time of budgetary constraints
  • Restore the Local to a sound financial footing while ensuring important causes receive sufficient funding. This includes: allowing for grievances by members of all units to be forcefully pursued, legal defence retained for our members under attack by the Employer, financial support for important political causes, and negotiating reduced rates to settle all outstanding per capita taxes and affiliation fees

Initiatives for the upcoming fiscal year include:

  • Working with the Vice-Presidents, committee members, and Trustees to ensure that a move to digital applications, documentation, and adjudication adhere to the Bylaws, National Constitution, and standard accounting practices
  • Working with the Administrative Coordinator to investigate and reverse stale expenses that have remained on the books since 2014
  • Exploring, with guidance from the membership, safe and low risk investments for specific accounts, beyond the current use of term deposits
  • Returning the Local to an acceptable timeline for external audits
  • Collaborating with the Executive Committee members, caucuses, working groups, committees, and the membership in funding new projects that increase accessibility to union spaces and decision-making processes, assist in the organization and filing of grievances, and benefit workers on campus and within the community

Lastly, I wish to express how important it is that the Treasurer serve a collaboratory and conciliatory role within the Local, as various intersecting bodies of the Local tend to coalesce around financial matters. Whether as an LMC member with our staff or in consultation with committees and working groups, I pride myself in the relationships I have fostered and the beneficial results that have come from them.

Thank you for your support and I strongly encourage everyone to not only vote, but to become more engaged and involved in our Local.

Sylvia Peacock

My name is Sylvia Peacock, and I am running for the Treasurer position in CUPE 3903. I have worked at YorkU since 2010 as a Unit 2 lecturer in Labor Studies, Business and Society, Gender and Women’s Studies, and in the Environmental Studies programs. I have a PhD in Quantitative Sociology and an MA in Economics and Sociology. If you are interested in reading some of my research areas, please check out my profile on Researchgate, an online academic platform. I bring a lot of experience to the position of Treasurer, and I am confident in my ability to keep accurate records, maintain a sound budget and explain financial issues to inquiring members of our union.

For several years, I served as a treasurer for a parent association in a school (TDSB, East York). My responsibilities included purchasing goods, tracking expenses, forecasting annual budgets, and costing events which involved hundreds of people. I have been a long-term volunteer on the finance committee of a downtown housing cooperative, where I am responsible for planning large yearly budgets (+$1million), overseeing monthly financial statements and yearly audits, and form part of a team responsible for educating members on financial issues such as savings, loans, budgeting, and long-term planning.

In 2017, I was elected as a trustee for ‘3903 and have co-audited the finances of our union twice. As a trustee I have a current and up-to-date grasp of our local policies and bylaws and have established a cooperative and friendly rapport with the staff and the executive. I have volunteered on behalf CUPE 3903 as a trustee on the York University Pension Board of Trustees since 2015. This body oversees the $1.2 billion dollar pension fund investments in equities, real estate, currencies, and infrastructure.

To be a serious force, ‘3903 needs to be able to manage its finances productively. Effective management of our finances gives us credibility when we ask questions of the university administration, the provincial and the federal government regarding its choices about how they raise money and allocate it. We need to have a ‘3903 Treasurer who can sift through, break down and understand the budget documents relating to the resource allocations for this university.

When we try to reach out to groups, regardless of whether they are unorganized workers, non-participatory members or the wider university community, they are unlikely to trust an organization unless they have confidence that we keep accurate records and competently manage our finances. It is important to counter the narrative of unions as corrupt organizations by showing that ‘3903 is run by knowledgeable individuals conducting the local’s business in a transparent fashion. By keeping our finances in order, I will make sure that our membership knows that this union is open and honest about how our money is obtained and where it goes to.


Candidates Running for Vice President Unit 2:        

Kyle Belozerov

My name is Kyle Belozerov and I am a contract faculty member teaching in the Departments of Chemistry and Biology, Faculty of Science. I have extensive experience working in the local as Grievance Officer, Postings Officer, U2 listserv moderator, Ways and Means committee member, and many other roles. I am running for the position of VP Unit 2 because I want to contribute to normalizing the relationship between our local and our employer. I am passionate about what I do, teaching and research, and I like my students and my home institution, York University. I want my students and my university to succeed. If elected VP Unit 2, I will do everything I can to begin re-establishing a healthy, peaceful, and constructive dialog with our employer on behalf of Unit 2 members like myself. My main goal will be to demonstrate to the employer that the mature professionals in Unit 2 love their work and want to advance the mission of the university. I count on your vote to help me achieve this mission.

Vanessa Lehan-Streisel

My name is Vanessa Lehan-Streisel and I am putting my name forward for VP unit 2. I’ve been a member of 3903 for 15 years during which time I’ve served the local by sitting on committees, acting as steward for the philosophy department at Glendon, and doing other work as needed. I’m also an active member of the York community serving on the LAPS Faculty Council (in previous years) and the Glendon Faculty Council (currently).

I put my name forward for the position of VP unit 2 because I think that the external relationships that the VPs are tasked with fostering is particularly important right now. If Ford’s provincial government follows through on their threat of significant cuts to post secondary funding what is currently a crisis could turn into a catastrophe. We will not be able to weather this crisis without strong relationships to other unions, community organizations, and student groups at York and at other colleges and universities. I will work to maintain our relationship with CUPE 3902, to strengthen our roles in the Cross Campus Alliance, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, and CUPE Toronto District Council. I will also work to build stronger relationships with academic groups like OCUFA and CAUT, to coordinate our members on Faculty Councils and Senate, and expand on our work with student groups across Ontario.

A response to this above-mentioned crisis also requires a unified and strong 3903. There are many people in our local who feel unheard and unrepresented. I want to address these divisions, and to foster dialogue and empathy between members. To this end I will focus on making union spaces less toxic and more welcoming by encouraging more active de-escalation from rank and file members, by identifying potential “hot-button” issues before GMMs, and by examining possible policy changes. I intend to focus on our shared goals as members of unit 2 so that every member of our unit feels comfortable in union spaces and feels represented by me.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to vote. I look forward to working with you all in the future.


Candidates Running for Chief Steward Unit 2:

Mike Palamarek

Experience, integrity, and hard work!

Expérience, intégrité et travail assidu !

As we continue to work collectively to ensure the fair and just implementation of our 2017-2020 Collective Agreements, most especially to ensure fair remediation pay for our Unit 2 members, the need for knowledgeable, experienced leadership in our Local is paramount. This is one of the key reasons why I have put my name forward for the position of Chief Steward Unit 2. It is more than clear that our employer will do anything it can to try to weaken our union, to the detriment of all of our members and to the university as a whole, including possible future attempts to separate our Bargaining Units in order to better serve its own interests. Indeed, in my view, the employer would like nothing better than to press on with its strategy of “divide and conquer,” a strategy which we must refuse.

If I have the honour of being elected as Chief Steward Unit 2, you can be assured that I will work respectfully and productively with rank and file members, as well as incoming members of the Executive, Stewards’ Council, and Labour Management Committee (LMC) to make sure that the provisions of our new Collective Agreements are practically and accurately implemented. I would very much like to continue to contribute to the Local’s efforts to resolve the many, many outstanding issues (grievances, remediation pay disputes, etc.) that we have passed on to the disputes arbitrator since September 2018 because of the employer’s intransigence. We will also need to move forward with the implementation of the Special Renewable Contracts (SRCs) program. A third, equally important task before us is to lay the groundwork to rebuild our strength and craft our strategic plan for the 2020-21 bargaining round.

Over the past year, I have drawn on my approximately twenty years of active experience in our Local to fight as hard as I can, alongside hundreds of other members, to advance our collective and Unit-specific interests. In 2017-19, I served as Chief Steward Unit 2. From 2015-17, I was the Unit 2 representative on the LMC. Additionally, I have been a CUPE 3903 Contract Faculty member of the Glendon College Faculty Council since 2015, a representative to the CUPE Toronto District Council (2015-16), and a member of the CUPE IT Focus Group (2016). In all of these positions, I have effectively represented and defended the interests of Unit 2 members.

Despite some of the extremely difficult issues we have had to deal with this year as a Local, and as an Executive, I have been truly honoured to be part of a dedicated and hard-working Executive team. In our progressive, rank-and-file-driven Local, I have repeatedly demonstrated my ability to work with integrity and respect with others. If elected, I very much look forward to continuing to discuss and debate with rank and file members, and the incoming Executive, the best ways to advance our interests, in order to make the best possible decisions.

With the help and input from members, here are some of the initiatives that I would like to undertake in 2019-20:

– re-energize the Stewards’ Council, including renewed efforts to recruit Unit 2 Stewards

– research on the history and success of the Unit 2 Conversion Programme

– work with the incoming Vice President Unit 2 to organize regular Unit 2 Townhall meetings

– orientation sessions for new Unit 2 members

– work with the Communications Committee to strengthen Unit 2 members’ knowledge of our Collective Agreement and of our union processes and procedures

Si j’avais l’honneur d’être élu, j’aurais particulièrement hâte de continuer de desservir nos membres francophones, comme je le fais avec intégrité et avec respect depuis mon service au Comité syndical-patronal et dans le poste du Chef Steward Unité 2 depuis 2017.

In solidarity,

En solidarité,

Mike Palamarek

Alireza Rafiee

My name is Alireza Rafiee and I have been a Unit2 contract faculty, teaching in the department of Physics and the Division of Natural Science, in the Faculty of Science, at York University since 2014. I have also been an active member of the CUPE3903 local since 2005. I hope to be elected as Chief Steward Unit 2 (CSU2) and I seek support from unit2 members. If elected, my chief objective is to make e-voting the primary method of voting in elections and all other major decisions within the unit2, to increase accessibility to participation to all members. As a CSU2, I will work toward maximizing the involvement and participation of ALL unit2 stewards and members, providing them an inclusive and safe means of communications and meetings.

Thank you for your support. I am looking forward to serving all of my unit2 colleagues.

In solidarity

Alireza Rafiee


Candidates Running for Communications Officer:

Tanya Da Sylva

I’m Tanya Da Sylva and I’m running for Communications Officer. I am a member of Unit 2 and have been in CUPE 3903 for 14 years. I believe effective communication is necessary to make members feel like a welcome and respected part of a larger community. A strong communication strategy also provides the information and context necessary for active participation in the local strengthening our membership driven structure. It was the communication to the membership through newsletters, reports, posters and other means that encouraged me to become more involved. As my participation in the local has grown through the years, I believe I have developed the skills necessary to take on the role of Communications Officer. I will ensure members are informed and connected in a way that supports our local’s continued growth.

In addition to my participation in meetings and actions I served as our Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) worker co-chair for two years and am currently wrapping up my term as Trans Feminist Action Caucus (TFAC) Co-chair. These roles helped me grow my leadership capacity and knowledge of our local’s procedures. My leadership skills and knowledge of our local will serve me in guiding our communication strategy and in being an active member of our executive committee.

I’ve held a position managing student leadership programs for almost 5 years, in which I take on numerous communication tasks: supervising teams, including those doing social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), creating and distributing a newsletter that informs and helps unite disparate groups across several programs, designing and arranging for the distribution of posters to advertise events and spread information, and updating and maintaining a website using WordPress, which is the same platform used by our local. I am also responsible for outreach to other groups both within the York community and externally.

As Communication Officer I would be a member of the executive committee. I understand this broader role would mean an obligation to represent all members. I’ve proven in both the JHSC and TFAC roles that I will treat members with fairness and stand up for members in distress despite opposition.

If you elect me as Communications Officer I will work diligently to ensure you have the timely information you need to be an engaged member of CUPE 3903, and that our communications strategy is grounded in fairness and transparency.

Tatiana Paulin

My name is Tatiana Paulin, and I am a contract faculty (Unit 2) member teaching in the Natural Science Division, in the Faculty of Science, at York University. I am running for the Communications Officer (all-units) position in the current executive election. If elected, my primary objectives to achieve will be:

  1. Organize workers, particularly workers in the public service…[4] who are employed as TAs and Contract Faculty at York University by enrolling ALL members of the union to receive regular union communication (via the union newsletter by email distribution, for example), to “keep members informed, improve accessibility, and strengthen the Local’s communication capacity[5]. Increasing all members’ access to important union information like upcoming votes of critical importance (such as strike votes, ratification votes, special levy votes, executive elections, bargaining consultations, etc), along with our regular monthly membership meetings (GMMs), will help create a more inclusive, democratic, member-driven union with higher rates of member participation than currently exist (in the single-digit percentages).
  2. To eliminate any kind of harassment and discrimination; to promote equal treatment of everyone…[6]CUPE’s policies and practices must reflect our commitment to equality. Members, staff and elected officers must be mindful that all members deserve dignity, equality and respect.[7] By fostering respectful discussion of differing (and often conflicting) opinions and priorities of a diverse membership in ALL our union meeting spaces (physical and online environments), more members will feel welcome to bring their voices to the important discussions, strengthening and diversifying our union’s representation of as many members’ interests as possible, and steering us toward a more unified and strengthened position as an organization.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to helping my union become a more informed, respectful and tolerant place for all members to participate in.

[1] CUPE National Constitution (2017) Article 2.1.a

2 CUPE 3903 Local Bylaws (2018), Article 10, Committees, Communications Committee, (a)

3 CUPE National Constitution (2017) Article 2.1.h

4 CUPE 3903 Local Bylaws (2018), Appendix A: Equality Statement