2021 CUPE Ontario Convention: Highlights & Lowlights

Written by: Alissa Cherry (President, CUPE 3907) & Justin Holloway (Vice-President, CUPE 3907)

Your CUPE Local 3907 delegates were very active and present during this year’s provincial convention. With representation at the Racialized Caucus, Women’s Caucus, and the Disabilities Caucus, and throughout the conference generally, the issues you face as a Graduate Assistant at OISE were always part of the conversation and in our minds when voting. While we support our siblings at other CUPE locals, it was also a convention that tackled serious issues of racial justice and policing, which unfortunately led to disappointment. With racial slurs being tolerated, support for violent policing, and a heated discussion on the definition of antisemitism, it became only more evident that we have work to do to support each other and our community. Unions are inherently progressive and democratic, that being said a member’s voice will always be heard whether we agree or disagree, sometimes resulting in disappointments like we witnessed at convention. We can only look forward now, and take this summer to listen to each other and stand arm in arm (at 6ft distance) with one another when they file a grievance, discuss moments of uncomfortability in the workplace, and fight for a stronger and more comprehensive collective agreement.

Solidarity with students, faculty, and staff at Laurentian University

The second day of the 2021 CUPE Ontario Convention saw discussion and voting on resolutions dealing with the university sector. CUPE represents most students and teachers working in the university sector in Ontario, so these resolutions were given their own block of time to be thoroughly considered. The very first of these was resolution #64 which called on CUPE Ontario to develop a campaign for fighting the Ford government’s failure to protect public higher education by allowing the senior administration at Laurentian University to use an inappropriate bankruptcy provision for businesses (Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act) to impose mass layoffs and austerity measures on workers at Laurentian U. There was a spirited discussion by several CUPE Ontario members who all lamented the fact that Premier Ford along with Ross Romano (the Minister for Colleges and Universities) allowed a public university in Ontario to be so financially mismanaged in the first place, and furthermore, that they also allowed this same university to financially implode without taking any real measures to intervene to alleviate the pain and suffering felt by students, faculty, and staff who weren’t at all responsible for the impropriety. To this point David Simao from CUPE Local 1281 said that “if the government isn’t insolvent then a public university shouldn’t be” and Robert Walker from CUPE Local 4207 echoed this by stating “if Laurentian is bankrupt, then Ontario is bankrupt”. Needless to say–resolution #64 passed overwhelmingly with 97% of members voting yes.

For more information on this year’s convention:

Final CUPE ON Action Plan 2021

CUPE ON Pre-Convention Newsletter

CUPE ON Day 2 Newsletter

CUPE ON Day 3 Newsletter

CUPE 3907 supports the CAUT censure of UofT

We are deeply concerned by the silencing of Palestinian rights advocacy on our campus and workplace. As Palestinians currently undergo increased state-sanctioned violence, ethnic cleansing, and media and political silencing, it is crucial that we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian community. Furthermore, as a labour union, CUPE believes in academic freedom, fair and transparent hiring practices, and the belief that the right person should always get the job. In the most recent case of Dr. Valentina Azarova, academic freedom was not granted and the hiring process was corrupted by politically motivated decision- making to appease wealthy and powerful donors. The result of this was that the right person did not get the job.

For these reasons, the CUPE 3907 Executive Committee fully supports the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ (CAUT) censure of the University of Toronto.

CAUT, which represents 72,000 faculty and academic staff across Canada, has taken the rare and serious decision to censure the University of Toronto. CAUT has determined that the University’s administration failed “to resolve concerns regarding academic freedom stemming from a hiring scandal in the Faculty of Law”. Relying on undisputed evidence contained in a report by Mr. Thomas Cromwell, CAUT concluded that a donor/judge’s objections to Dr. Valentina Azarova, based on her scholarship on Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, influenced the University’s decision to rescind an offer of a position as Director of the International Human Rights Program. CAUT’s censure vote came one day after a group of Muslim, Arab, and Jewish organizations wrote an open letter to the University of Toronto demanding the reinstatement of the job offer to Dr. Azarova. We stand in solidarity with the CAUT censure in response to UofT’s violation of academic integrity and freedom. 

Censure is a call to collective action. As a local, CUPE 3907 will not be hosting any external guest speakers or special events until this censure is lifted. Furthermore, we call on all members to:

  • Read up and inform yourself about the CAUT censure.
  • Consider cancelling your own events or withdrawing from events with invited speakers by writing to speakers, organizers or the heads of your units informing them of the censure and asking them to respect it.
  • Organize petitions and information sessions within your unit to build momentum for unit-wide adherence
  • Join Jewish, Palestinian, Black, Indigenous and Racialized Faculty Defending Academic Freedom and Supporting a Free Palestine by signing and sharing this petition.
  • Attend one of the events listed below to learn more.

What is a Censure?

A Censure is a sanction in which academic staff are asked not to accept appointments or speaking engagements at the university or elsewhere in the name of the university until changes are made. Think of this as a moment in history when our silence speaks louder than any speaking engagement could.

Why was this the course of action taken?

A Censure is a course of action that requires the university to take notice. As an educational institution known for bringing some of the greatest thinkers together to learn from one another, this sanction directly affects the foundation of the university. It makes us all stop and think about our own academic freedoms and how we can support one another in our jobs as producers of knowledge.

What happens next? 

We plan to stand in solidarity with the CAUT Censure until it is lifted. This in no way should affect your employment. If you find resistance in your workplace for expressing your support for the CAUT censure, please contact our Chief Steward, Wales Wong, at chiefsteward@cupe3907.ca. If you have any questions about the censure or you GAship in relation to the censure please do not hesitate to contact us.

EVENTS

Censuring the Neo Liberal University: Academic Freedom, Donors and Equity.

Thursday, May 20th, 4pm.
A Panel on the Censure of The University of Toronto organized by Scholars Strike Canada. More information (including link) here.

Speakers:
Anver Emon, Professor of Law and History, University of Toronto
Melanie J. Newton, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto
Denise G. Réaume, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Dave Robinson, CAUT Executive Director
Hosted by Min Sook Lee and Beverley Bain.

Labour Solidarity and Palestinian Resistance.

Saturday, May 22 at 1:00 PM.
Join Labour4Palestine – Canada* for a webinar and urgent discussion with Palestinian labour leaders and activists on the ground in Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The labour movement in Canada has an important role to play in supporting Palestinian resistance and standing in solidarity with workers and people directly affected. Please register here.

Speakers:
Budour Hassan: Writer and legal researcher for Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights
Riham Abu Aita: Active member of the Palestinian Journalists Union
Jamal Juma: Executive Committee Member of the Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions and Secretariat Member of the Boycott National Committee (BNC)
With introductory remarks from Moe Alqasem: President CUPE 1281

Additional speakers may be announced closer to the date.

CUPE 3907 endorses the resolution by the Divestment and Beyond Coalition at UofT

At our AGM on April 19, CUPE 3907 members voted to unanimously endorse the following resolution by the Divestment and Beyond Coalition at UofT

Whereas “human activities are estimated to have [already] caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels…”

Whereas climate change related impacts “…on natural and human systems from global warming have already been observed”;

Whereas urgent action is required merely to keep average global warming to 1.5 °C or less in order to avoid “irreversible loss of the most fragile ecosystems, and crisis after crisis for the most vulnerable people and societies”;

Whereas because greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years, global warming is, in effect, irreversible. To halt the warming process, global emissions of greenhouse gases must eventually reach zero. Further expansion of the world’s fossil fuel infrastructure is not compatible with this goal;

Whereas there are compelling social, ethical and fiduciary grounds for divesting from fossil fuel companies;

Whereas the Federal Government declared a climate emergency in June of 2019, and the City of Toronto declared a climate emergency in October of 2019;

Whereas numerous prominent universities have committed to full divestment from the fossil fuel industry, including the University of California, University College London, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Massachusetts, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Ottawa;

Whereas the University of Toronto has a responsibility and an opportunity to demonstrate genuine institutional leadership in the fight against dangerous climate change and in the fight for a socially just climate transition;

Be it resolved that CUPE 3907 contribute meaningfully toward fighting climate change and supporting a “Just Transition” to the green economy by calling on the University of Toronto Administration undertake the following:

  1. Declare a climate emergency at the University of Toronto and take steps to align institutional policies and practices to reflect the urgency of this declaration;
  2. Instruct the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM) to withdraw from, and henceforth not pursue, investments in companies that explore for or develop reserves of fossil fuels, or in companies that provide direct support for such exploration and development; immediately, extend those same instructions to advisers and managers involved with investment vehicles in which the University of Toronto is an investor, including commingled funds where the University of Toronto is not the sole investor; and subject all Long-Term Capital Appreciation Pool (i.e., “endowment”) and Expendable Funds Investment Pool (i.e., short-term working capital) investments to a system of decarbonization consistent with COP21/Paris Agreement targets for Canada;
  3. Work with the Administrations of the University of Guelph and Queen’s University and with employee groups at all three institutions in seeking parallel commitments to those specified in item #2 above from the newly formed Jointly Sponsored University Pension Plan (UPP) involving the three universities;
  4. Commit to achieving carbon neutrality (i.e., zero net GHG emissions) across the U of T by 2030;
  5. Increase the delivery of environmental and sustainability education on all three campuses and via community outreach programmes;
  6. Sign the Global Universities and Colleges for the Climate Letter (available at https://www.sdgaccord.org/climateletter)

Be it further resolved that CUPE 3907 encourages all other CUPE locals at University of Toronto to also officially endorse the Divestment and Beyond Coalition at The University of Toronto resolution.

Day of Mourning – April 28, 2021

Yesterday, Ford’s government voted against Paid Sick Days for workers amidst a deadly third wave. In total, they have now voted against paid sick days 21 times since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s time to listen to the experts. It’s time to stop the deaths and the unnecessary infections.

We are encouraging all CUPE 3907 members to join on Wednesday, April 28 at 10 AM our colleagues at 3902 to reflect together on the history of the Day of Mourning, observe a moment of silence for the more than 23,000 lives lost to COVID-19 across Canada, and guide everyone through a phone zap to call on the government to meet our demands.

  • Implement paid sick days for all workers;
  • Ensure vaccinations for all frontline workers;
  • Provide paid time off from work for vaccination;
  • Make sure there is appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all workers;
  • Immediately end any enhanced police powers.

Do you have 10 minutes?
In the time it takes to have a coffee break, you can email and phone a politician and sign our petition to U of T to demand paid sick days for all.

  • Have a 1-on-1 organizing conversation. Take the time to talk to and organize your co-workers. Then get them to affirm their support by signing our petition for paid sick days for all U of T employees. Change happens at the local level too!
  • Call and email your Member of Provincial Parliament. Tell them you don’t want more policing; you want paid sick days that are employer-paid, permanent, universal and adequate.
  • Join us on May 1st at 11 AM for the launch of Decent Work campaign. A decent work agenda must include not only paid sick days, but fair wages, equal benefits, hours we can live on and more.
  • Make it public! Here is a media suite including images for Facebook, Twitter, Zoom and Email. Post on social media using hashtags:  #10for10 #PaidSickDays

2021-2022 Executive Elections Results

Here are the results of this year’s elections. Please see more details about the election from Results.

President: Alissa Cherry (Acclaimed)

Vice-President: Justin Holloway

Recording Secretary: Diana Barrero (Acclaimed)

Treasurer: Ernest Obeng (Acclaimed)

Chief Steward: Wales Wong

The official results were announced during the AGM on April 19. We would like to thank all the candidates for participation. Newly elected members of the executive committee will begin their term May 1st.

CUPE 3907 Opposes the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

There is an international campaign underway to get governments, universities, and other institutions to adopt the IHRA definition. This definition has negatively impacted scholars and students in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, to name a few. In recent years, some of the world’s leading scholars and influential academics have been unfairly labelled as antisemitic because of their critique of Israel and its oppression of Palestinians. Among them, Black feminist scholar Angela Davis, American-based queer theorist Jasbir K. Puar, and prominent Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe.

Academic Issues 

The IHRA definition of antisemitism is the product of a growing “new antisemitism movement” that seeks to redefine antisemitism to include any criticism of the Israeli state. While challenging antisemitism is vital, Canadian critics of the IHRA definition argue that the new language could “chill political expressions of criticism of Israel as well as support for Palestinian rights.”

The IHRA definition is vague. It fails to connect antisemitism to other forms of racism. The IHRA definition is being used to censor and undermine the important anti-racist and decolonial initiatives currently underway at universities across Canada.

If governments and universities adopt this definition, it will represent a direct attack on academic freedom, endangering our ability to engage in scholarship and teaching that explores facts and perspectives that are critical of the state of Israel.

For example, in 2020, two Ontario universities have been the site of false and destructive charges of antisemitism against respected international human rights scholars. In response, CAUT has initiated a process of censuring the University of Toronto. These attacks are but a small sample of documented cases, and they are deeply troubling for us as scholars and teachers.

BIRT CUPE 3907 unequivocally supports the academic freedom of its members. This freedom includes the right to pursue research and open inquiry in an honest search for knowledge that is free from institutional censorship, including that of the government. While CUPE 3907 opposes antisemitism and all forms of racism and hatred, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism poses a serious threat to academic freedom in our university. The IHRA definition of antisemitism misconstrues antisemitism to include a broad range of criticism of the State of Israel. The IHRA definition thus undermines important anti-racist and decolonial initiatives in Canadian educational institutions. It can also be used to censor political speech and restrict the academic freedom of teachers and researchers who have developed critical perspectives on the policies and practices of the State of Israel. Such targeted attacks will have a chilling effect on the academic freedom of our members in the classroom, in their research, and in campus politics more broadly.

For further information, please visit the website for the campaign opposing the IHRA definition of antisemitism in Canadian Universities and Colleges: https://www.noihra.ca/academic-campaign

Other Resources:

IHRA Definition At Work by Independent Jewish Voices

Criticizing Israel is not antisemitic — it’s academic freedom

Palestinian rights and the IHRA definition of antisemitism

How the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is shielding Israel from criticism

The IHRA definition will not help fight anti-Semitism

New human rights order risks restricting criticism of Israel

Let’s keep our eyes focused on what anti-Semitism really is

Union Service Opportunities

Nominations for the following CUPE 3907 positions are open:

  • CRO
  • FAF Committee Members
  • Stewards: APHD, CTL, SJE
  • Bargaining Support Committee
  • Trustees

Financial Assistance Fund Committee Members

We need three (3) members to join the Financial Assistance Fund Committee to distribute the Fall/Winter 2020-1 Hardship Fund, Child Care Fund, and UHIP Funds. The time commitment is about 2 hours, to be wrapped up before the end of April 2021.

Committee members need to be current members of CUPE 3907 on the date of the FAF committee meeting. Committee members must be available for the fund distribution meeting. Committee members will receive an honorarium of $50 for their time.

Please email treasurer@cupe3907.ca if you are interested. The deadline for applying is Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at midnight.

Departmental Steward

Serving as a steward is a great way to become involved in the union, assist members, and ensure that issues affecting graduate workers in your department are brought to the union’s attention. Currently, there is one vacancy for EACH of the following departments: SJE, CTL and APHD. This is a volunteer position. If you are interested, please email the Chief Steward, Wales Wong, at chiefsteward@cupe3907.ca.

Bargaining Support Committee

Interested in supporting your CUPE local during bargaining? Join the Bargaining Support Committee!
As members of the Bargaining Support Committee, you will support in mobilizing the Local’s resources to amplify members’ voices. You are responsible for organizing fellow members, the University, and the community in support of our union’s aims in bargaining, and will organize the membership if a strike vote is needed.
If a strike is undertaken, the Bargaining Support Committee will become the Strike Committee.
If you would like more information, contact Wales Wong (chiefsteward@cupe3907.ca).

Trustees

The Trustees are elected by members to act as an auditing committee on their behalf. The position will require approximately 7 hours. No past union or financial experience is required, as there are significant training. There is a $100 honorarium. Details of the position are available in the Bylaws (article 11).

CUPE 3907 executive elections – 2021-2022

The election period for the following positions starts, April 12 at 5:00 p.m and ends on April 17 at 11:59 pm. Candidates can start campaigning after 5:00 p.m.. Voting will begin on April 14, 2021 and will end on April 17 at 11:59pm.

Vice President
Sarah Alam
Justin Holloway

Chief Steward
Wales Wong
Alessia Cacciavilla

You will be receiving a formal email from Simply Voting providing both a link and instructions on how to vote. Please watch out for this link in your spam/junk folder as well. More details here

Paid Sick Days

As the second wave of the pandemic hits Canada more and more workers are getting sick. But far too many workers don’t have paid sick days. 58% of all workers in Canada don’t have access to any paid sick days and for workers making $25,000 or less that number jumps to 70%. The lack of access to paid sick days disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, workers of colour and women workers. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is far from adequate and is the wrong approach to addressing the health of workers and the public. An effective response to the pandemic is for the government to legislate employer-paid sick days. This is a question of good public health policy as well as a matter of racial and gender justice. Every worker during and after the pandemic should be able to access paid sick days. This is a draft motion you can put forward at your union or other organization calling on the government to legislate employer-paid sick days for all.

Whereas eleven months into a global pandemic that has killed thousands, no government in Canada has legislated adequate, employer-paid sick days; and

Whereas the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is temporary, inaccessible and not of use for the crucial first few days of an illness;

Whereas had paid sick day legislation been in place before the global pandemic, lives would have been saved because infection rates would have been reduced; and

Whereas the lack of legislated paid sick days has especially hurt Black, Indigenous, workers of colour and women workers who are over-represented in frontline jobs, with low pay, few benefits, and without the ability to work from home;

Be it resolved that CUPE 3907 supports the Decent Work and Health Network call for seven (7) permanent, paid sick days for all workers and an additional fourteen (14) days during public health outbreaks;

BIRT CUPE 3907 endorse the principles outlined by the Decent Work and Health Network:

  • Universal: Available to all workers regardless of workplace size, type of work, or immigration status. Legislated, with no exemptions.
  • Paid: Fully paid to ensure workers are not financially penalized for following public health advice.
  • Adequate: At least seven (7) paid sick days provided on a permanent basis, with an additional 14 paid sick days during public health emergencies.
  • Permanent: Available during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  • Accessible: No barriers to access. Prohibit employers from requiring sick notes; ensure no disruption of income or unnecessary applications; and provide sufficiently flexible leave that reflects the reality of workers’ lives, healthcare needs, and caregiving responsibilities.

BIRT the CUPE 3907 oppose further public subsidies for corporations like Amazon, Walmart, and Loblaws that are profiting from the pandemic and who should be implementing employer-paid sick days and raising wages;

BIRT the CUPE 3907 work with CUPE ON to actively lobby provincial and federal government representatives to introduce and pass paid sick days legislation;

BIRT the CUPE 3907 host a phone zap event and other similar events that encourage members to be involved in campaigns for paid sick days.

Gathering Prayers, Not People – 16th Annual Strawberry Ceremony

This year’s annual February 14th Strawberry Ceremony will be held virtually from 12:30pm – 1:30pm, and will be guided by Elder Wanda Whitebird. 

The Organizing Committee are inviting all to take time on Sunday February 14th to honour missing and murdered women, girls, trans and two-spirit people and their families in your own ways.

Some ways you can show your support:

  • Offer tobacco in a space that is meaningful to you (ex. park, water, yard)
  • Take a moment on Feb.14th to pray for the safety of Indigenous Women, Girls, Trans and Two-Spirit Peoples, and for those who are missing to return home. Say the names of loved ones that have been lost.
  • Share a photo of what you’re doing to mark the Strawberry Ceremony remotely to honor families, raise awareness, and fight to put an end to MMIWGT2S
  • Tune in to the live videos shared in the Strawberry Ceremony Facebook event
  • Eat a strawberry (the green part too! 😉 )
  • Donate to any of the following initiatives:

For more information about the Ceremony, check out their Facebook event page