CUPE 3903 Cracks Open York U.

by Jeff Shantz, Punching Out Collective

On November 1 the general membership of CUPE 3903 (teaching assistants,
contract faculty and graduate assistants at York University) turned down
the administration’s contract offer following a heated six hour discussion
where rank-and-file members raised numerous objections and planned strike
action to follow two days later. The next day York finally brought forward
a significantly improved offer that, as of this writing was being put to a
ratification vote, and the strike was averted.

Rejecting the unsatisfactory contract, which had been recommended for
approval by the union executive and bargaining team, offered not only a
rebuke to the boss but to the practice of ‘closed bargaining’ which is so
favoured by employers and, unfortunately, consented to by most unions.
CUPE 3903 has a winning ‚best practice: open bargaining. The membership
directs the bargaining team and executive throughout the bargaining
process and can have input on whether an offer should be brought for
ratification.

It’s a model for rank-and-file control and participatory democracy that
many say should be spread more broadly throughout the labour movement.
This is only part of a broader mobilization within the local, including
the largest strike vote numerically in 3903 history. Even before the
ratification vote a “More Committee” has formed, which is dedicated, not
only to winning a better contract, but to organizing ongoing rank-and-file
activity in workplace and community struggles.