OPIRG YORK STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH CUPE 3903
OPIRG York stands in solidarity with CUPE 3903, urges York University to negotiate living wages, greater job security, and equity for academic workers
March 4, 2024 | Download the Solidarity statement here.
The Ontario Public Interest Research Group at York University (OPIRG York) stands in solidarity with members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 3903 who went on strike on Monday, February 26. The local represents over 3000 education workers at York University including graduate students and contract faculty who together do more than 50% of the teaching at York University. Despite bargaining with the employer since June 2023, and having their Collective Agreement expire since August of last year, there hasn’t been significant progress at the bargaining table in any of the priority areas indicated by the union. These workers are fighting for decent wages, better working conditions and job stability, and providing better quality and more accessible undergraduate and graduate education for all members of the York community
The CUPE 3903 strike is in large part a response to the cost of living increase of 15.8% meanwhile wage increases were capped at 1% for the past 3 years due to the unconstitutional Bill 124. Academic workers have felt and endured the brunt of this wage squeeze and have been forced to take on second or third jobs, go into debt, or use food banks; meanwhile, York University gave senior administrators an average increase of 20%. This cost of living crisis would be exacerbated by the imminent loss of work faced by instructors with cuts to many Unit 2 positions. The strike is also about ensuring that there are better processes, protections, and supports for all workers, especially those facing harassment, discrimination, and violence. The proposed changes to the Collective Agreement hold proactive trauma-informed approaches to harassment and discrimination issues, and these are equity issues that we all need to fight to address.
As the strike enters its second week – what would be deemed as a long disruption according to York University Senate – we at OPIRG York are very concerned, disturbed and frustrated by the lack of action on York University’s part to address the issues CUPE 3903 workers have raised. As a student-led and funded organization focused on social justice, we are particularly concerned with undergraduate and graduate students’ mental health as the uncertainty of the strike takes a toll on all of us. Our members consist of upper-year students who are slated to graduate this year. Others still have employment lined up at the end of the Winter term that they need to start to ensure that they too can make ends meet. As an institution of higher education, it is York’s role to help students succeed, not hold them back.
We believe that the way out of this strike is for York University to bargain in good faith and give 3903 workers a fair deal so they can get on with the job of educating students. We do not want to see a repeat of the long strike in 2018 which lasted 143 days (the longest strike in the post-secondary sector in Canadian history). With the recent announcement of an increase in funding of nearly $1.3 billion to stabilize the Ontario university and colleges sector, there is no justified reason why York University cannot return to the bargaining table with a substantive offer to these workers.
We urge the University administration to invest in its workers and students. We remind York U students that they have complete immunity from crossing the picket line when there is a strike, as per the Senate regulations in place, and we urge them to stand in solidarity with CUPE 3903 workers. We call on the York University community more broadly to send a strong message to York University (see the form letter at WeAreYork.ca) that it needs to take immediate action to support workers through decent wages, job stability, and protections that directly contribute to a robust and inclusive educational experience for students and workers alike.
OPIRG YORK STATEMENT: GAZA UNDER ATTACK
The Ontario Public Interest Research Group at York University (OPIRG York) strongly condemns Israel’s latest attacks on Gaza. Since the start of the war on October 7, at least 4,200 people have been killed, over one million have been displaced, and large parts of the Gaza Strip have been reduced to rubble. On Tuesday evening (EST), we saw the bombing of a fully functioning and staffed Al Ahli hospital that alone has killed at least 500 people, including patients and healthcare workers providing essential and urgent care. These attacks on the people, institutions, and infrastructure of Gaza, exacerbated by Israel’s siege of the territory, constitute an egregious form of collective punishment that academics and activists now warn are genocidal in scope. We join humanitarian and human rights organizations around the world in calling for an immediate ceasefire, an end to Israel’s current blockade of Gaza and the 16-year siege, and a prisoners’ exchange. We view these as necessary first steps, designed to prevent the loss of more lives and to lay the groundwork for comprehensive negotiations aimed at ending Israel’s apartheid regime and illegal occupation and recognizing Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
As a student-led and funded organization focused on social and environmental justice, we unequivocally condemn all acts of terrorism and state-sanctioned violence that target any civilians. We mourn the loss of Israeli civilian lives claimed in Hamas’ initial assault, and those killed, wounded, and bereaved in Gaza. However, mourning is not sufficient. We call on all people of good conscience to see in these events but one more reason that the decades-long policies of dispossession, occupation, and apartheid that are at the root of the violence and atrocity, be forcefully challenged, and ultimately dismantled.
Today, we reaffirm our unwavering support for the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which OPIRG York had previously endorsed. We call on York University to publicly denounce Israel’s assault on Gaza and call for an immediate ceasefire, which it has yet to do. We remind York that to appear silent on what is unfolding in Gaza contradicts its own commitment to Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2023-2028; as a publicly-funded institution for higher education, it must reject all forms of racism, including anti-Palestinian racism. As students, we call for York to release funds and resources to ensure the mental health and physical safety for all students – particularly Palestinians – and to end any partnerships with the Israeli state and state-funded academic/ research institutions immediately. We commit ourselves to supporting students and the broader community by assisting with research and resources, providing access to peer-reviewed reading materials, visuals, and graphics. Our staff and board are committed to receiving with urgency requests to fund student-led Palestine solidarity initiatives such as teach-ins and other activities. We encourage our broader community to support efforts and communities on the ground by donating to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – UNWRA – and / or Medical Aid for Palestine.
RESOURCES: IN SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINE
Interested in learning more about what is happening in Gaza? We’ve compiled a list of multidisciplinary resources (not exhaustive by any means) that provide both historial context and more contemporary analysis of the current situation. We hope that through lists such as these, we can learn together and feel empowered to take collective action. We will be updating this list frequently.
If you are a community member or group, or a York U almunus, and do not have access to York University library systems, we would be happy to provide you with any of the listed resources or additional ones that are not open source. Please email email@example.com if you have a specific resource in mind.
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Illan Pappe
The Question of Palestine by Edward Said
Justice for Some by Noura Erakat
DISORIENTATION WEEK 2023: A WEEK IN REVIEW
A big thank you to the facilitators, volunteers and you, our participants, who made DisOrientation Week 2023 a great success! Here’s a round-up of our week.
DisOrientation Week kicked off with a two day Intergenerational Activist Gathering. Here, in the workshop Get Organized to Make Change Happen! we learned about effective collective organizing from the fabulous Kate Klein. We talked about tools for knowing your capacity, pleasure activism, and we practiced 4 different ways of saying “no” in the workshop ‘How To Show-Up Fully: Communication Tools and Skills for Activists! facilitated by OPIRG York Volunteer Coordinator, Emily Green. During our Intergenerational Activist Gathering lunch hour we learned how to silkscreen, and printed on some up-cycled shirts.
Lauren Champagne and Negus Taylor led us in a walking tour of the Keele campus, and we learned about some of the significant events that have shaped our university campus and student life. Read about the event here.
Anna Lippman and Jennifer Cole facilitated the workshop Grassy Narrows Solidarity and the Land Alliance, which offered context and history to the Land Alliance, especially focused on the community of Grassy Narrows. Later in the week, York students formed a solidarity contingent and joined March For the Land.
We hosted a screening of The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, a feature-length documentary that presents the remarkable life story of the Gandhian eco-activist and agro-ecologist, Vandana Shiva.
The week ended with the Director of the Maloca Community Garden, Phyllis Novak, leading us in a plant dying workshop. We used sunny marigold flowers and the deep purple of log wood to create beautiful flag designs for the garden!
We hope you learned as much as we did from these events. We look forward to your feedback so that we can curate an even stronger program next year!
JOIN OUR GROUPS, ACTIONS & CAMPAIGNS
JOIN AN ACTION GROUP
All of our existing Action Groups are open to receiving new members!
Each group works autonomously on anti-oppressive, anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and environmental justice campaigns and issues. Whether your vision for a just future centers around socialism, anarchism, anti-colonialism and anti-racism, just climate transitions—OPIRG wants to resource and nurture your work toward justice! Learn more about our present Action Groups and consider applying for the next Action Group application cycle here.
TOGETHER AGAINST APARTHEID PLEDGE
Major human rights organizations, faith leaders, politicians and millions of people around the world agree: Israel is practicing apartheid. It’s time to stop it.
Join OPIRG York in signing this pledge and stand #TogetherAgainstApartheid.
This pledge will be used to demonstrate to world leaders that a growing number of people recognize the injustice of Israel’s policies and are standing together against apartheid, and that we expect them to do the same.
SUPPORT YOUR STUDENT UNION TODAY!
On October 12th, three student unions at York University released a statement of solidarity with Palestine. Days later, in an abhorrently anti-democratic act, York University announced it would be pursuing formal action against the unions, demanding that the unions retract the statement, issue a public statement to confirm that they do not support antisemitism, and all members resign. The University threatens to place further sanctions against the unions, the most severe of which would be withdrawing their recognition, if the unions do not comply with the above demands or, otherwise, demonstrate that no breach of the Regulation Regarding Student Organizations occurred in their statement.
In response to the university administration’s threats to the student unions, York students have come together to form the Union Solidarity Front to support our unions. We have drafted a petition and are asking York community members to sign it, as well as attend a rally in Vari Hall on October 25th at 5pm to demonstrate the York community’s anger and disapproval of the administration’s anti-democratic attack.
Please sign this petition and attend the rally to show your support for your student union today!