As many of you know, CUPE 3902 (The Union of Teaching Assistants at the U of Toronto, 2400 strong) have been locked out by their employer.
There is a strong indication that the administration is trying to break the union, and the undergraduates are being used as leverage to this end. As a result, some very bitter divisions within faculty, students, administration and union members have arisen.
Basically, the administration is unilaterally reconstructing all of the courses affected by the strike as of Feb 4. They have announced that this restruction will be FINAL. In other words, the 2400 TAs will not have jobs to come back to (unless the Faculty Association wins their lawsuit). The administration is claiming that the reconstruting needs to take place because the undergraduates are demanding it (ignoring the support that undergrads have given to the union)(ie. they are unwilling to take responsibility for this demand, "It is not our will, it is the will of the Other!")(we've heard this defense throughout history).
Students who have, with or without supporting the union, requested that the reconstructions not be final and that the deadline be extended (the announcement was made 2 weeks into the strike) have been told that this isn't an option. Either they vote on how the course is to be reconstructed or it will be reconstructed for them. This is in contradiction to the spirit of the UofTs bylaws which explicitly state that all changes to course outlines must have consensus of the class.
If runs like this - by today, administators have gone into undergrad classes to talk about the reconstructions. These have been collected and submitted to the Chair of each department by Feb 1. On Feb 2 the reconstructions will be submitted to the Deans for approval. If approved, they will be finalized on Feb 4.
The demands of the union are fairly straightfoward: we want parity with our colleagues at York University, just up the road from us - which includes a degree of tuition relief (some $900).
The U of T is the wealthiest university in Canada. In the last 10 years they have managed to "save" $800 Million.
Last Monday, the administration offered CUPE 3902 *less* than what they had offered in Jan.
All of the three key administrators have publically stated that unions do not belong on campus (Prichard, Finlayson, Sedra). Prichard is moving to Harvard in the Spring to teach Law (just in case anyone at Harvard wants some info about the kind of person they're getting). A couple days ago Prichard crossed the picket lines and called the (legal) strikers "THUGS!" On Tuesday, during a nonviolent protest, Finlayson called for the arrest and expulsion of 500 students (grads and undergrads) (the matter was resolved peacefully by the police). Prichard has stated, since then, that the leadership of the union would face explusion for the Tuesday rally and blockade.
Many departments have hired replacement workers. Foreign students are especially at risk, and many have been pressured into performing their TA duties despite being locked out. Research Assistants have also been pressured into running labs and tutorials.
Perhaps the most deporable element of all, the administration is undemocratically tearing apart the undergraduate programs in order to punish the union.
Any support would be appreciated.
Kenneth MacKendrick (former Instructor)
PS. Please feel free to email me for details. I have heard (rumour alert) that the administration has blockspammed their email...