|This chronology prepared with files from the University
of Toronto student newspaper, The Varsity.
1975 Teaching Assistant Union is formed. Canadian
Union of Public Employees, Local 3902 (CUPE 3902).
In the last round of contract negotiations preceding those of 1999-2000, the University is facing massive cuts in provincial funding (see ACCESS 2000 articles elswhere in this volume). In negotiations with all employment groups, the University’s initial bargaining position is to ask all groups to take a 1.5% pay cut. In campus press, U of T president Robert Prichard declares the need for solidarity: everyone must pull together and give a little until the University could recover from the cuts. In the end, only the T.A.s take a pay cut (1.25%) while the staff association receives a raise and the faculty receive a raise and a pension contribution holiday. President Prichard receives a 7% raise.
Oct 28-Nov 4
MEANWHILE Negotiations are also continuing with other several other bargaining units on campus. Campus service workers, represented by CUPE 3261, will be in a legal strike position on Dec 27. Another unit representing OISE/UT's 182 graduate assistants (G.A.s) breaks off its own talks with the administration Dec. 9 and could also be in a legal position to strike by January. By Jan 6, a total of two unions will be in a legal strike position and three more will have a strike mandate.
Friday Jan 7, 2000. STRIKE.
300 attend a rally in support of the strike, organized by the new Campus Strike Support Committee, a coalition of students, professors, university staff, and union members (including members of the OISE/UT Graduate Assistants’ union and CUPE 3621, the service workers’ union). University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) president Bill Graham and national president of CUPE Judy Darcy speak at the rally. Pickets are set to go up on Monday Jan 10.
Mon Jan 10
The Task Force on Graduate Student Financial Support is finally formed. (This Task Force will be a key to the later settlement. See update from the Task Force’s union rep, David Goutor elsewhere in this section).
Now weekly Friday rally draws 600. Present are Sid Ryan, general vice-president of CUPE, and leader of the provincial New Democratic Party, Howard Hampton.
MEANWHILE supportive coverage in major media (radio, TV, newspapers) and campus media is rising. 154 faculty issue an open letter that expresses “deepening dismay” at the administration’s handling of the labor dispute, protests restructuring plans and calls on the administration to bargain in good faith. (The full text of this letter and others from high-profile figures are online at CUPE 3902’s website at www.cupe3902.org.) Other letter writers include University Professor Richard Lee, University Professor Emerita Ursula Franklin FRSC, and Margaret Atwood. Media coverage builds to unusually strong and sustained levels and has showed no signs of decline at strike’s end. Letters
•The university’s threat to essentially fire all of the TAs if no deal is reached by February 4. Such action would be in direct violation of the province’s labour laws, which clearly state that employers cannot cancel work as a result of a legal strike or lock out.
•The university’s tabling of an offer in mediated contract talks this week that was actually inferior to their last offer, also in contravention of the Act.
•The university’s threat to cancel at least 50 courses before the lock out even began.
•Their refusal to address the central issue of tuition rebates because they would not benefit all graduate students.
President Pritchard receives a call from CAW president Buzz Hargrove .
OCCUPATION. On January 25, 300+ striking T.A.s and supportive undergrads occupy Hart House, blocking attendees of an awards ceremony, including president Pritchard, from leaving. The group spontaneously enters Hart House after picketing outside to protest the presentation of a teaching award to professors of a biology course that makes extensive use of TAs. Angry at the continuation of teaching “business as usual,” the protesters demand to speak with president Pritchard, who refuses and is hissed as he leaves three and half hours later at the peaceful end of the protest. Three members of the local subsequently receive letters indicating the administration will undertake proceedings for their academic expulsion. (For article and photo, see “Angry TAs Occupy Hart House” in the Jan 27 campus newspaper The Varsity, available free online at www2.varsity.utoronto.ca/groups/varsity/archives/)
This Friday’s rally—in which students attempt to create a “student wall of debt” where students sign their names with the amount of debt they had incurred as a result of their university studies—is shut down by campus police. Police videotape participants.
A NEW ROUND OF BARGAINING is opened in the evening.
Daniel W. Kim, Cornell University