Partisan №59

Rank-and-File Push Struggle Forward Despite Binding Arbitration

On Thursday, March 26, as rank-and-file members pushed through last minute preparations for an historic 10km CUPE 3902/3903 joint march from York University to the University of Toronto, CUPE 3902 voted in favour of binding arbitration and an immediate end to the strike. The 3902 Bargaining Team recommended binding arbitration to the membership after yet another rejected offer and a desperate plea from the Employer to get back to work in time for finals and end-of-term marking. CUPE 3902 & 3903 represent contract academic staff from Toronto’s two main universities, including teaching assistants, contract faculty, graduate assistants and research assistants.

Members of CUPE 3902 were given less than 48 hours notice and scant information for an emergency meeting to discuss arbitration. Secret ballot voting began before discussion closed. Less than 12 hours before the historic “March to Unite the Fight” on March 27, 3902 members were informed that the motion passed and the strike was over.

Friday morning, however, 3902 rank-and-filers were not back to work. Bus-loads of members arrived early Friday morning to head up to York University’s Glendon Campus to join the 10km march. Spirits and enthusiasm were high as 3902 members joined hundreds of 3903 members from York to begin the march. 3902 rank-and-file chants echoed through the streets as more and more members joined as the march progressed along the subway route, past the CUPE 3902 office and through the University of Toronto campus. 3902 may be in binding arbitration, but the rank-and-file are still ready to fight and work in solidarity not only with their comrades at York University, but also education workers and students across Canada. They know we are stronger together and together we win.

The March to Unite the Fight demonstrated that the real power of the union is a militant rank-and-file that makes political demands and works to correct the conservative economic tendencies of their union bureaucrats.

Transformed by the power of their collective action throughout the March strike, rank-and-file members are organizing further actions, many in solidarity with undergraduate students: a “Grade-in” at Sid Smith, a rally outside of Simcoe Hall to protest tuition increases, numerous public events to discuss the strike action and organize future initiatives, and establishing new caucuses within the union. Members have also established a flying squad and are deepening conversations with 3903 on how to collectively demand more equitable strike pay and support from CUPE National for disabled people, caregivers, women and indigenous people.

The 3902-3903 Joint Strike Committee—an initiative of members of Toronto’s Revolutionary Student Movement and the Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee who were also rank-and-file members of these unions—that organized the March to Unite the Fight is now morphing into the Education Workers Joint Action Committee and will be organizing an education worker/student feeder march for the May Day action on May 1. A broad base of militant rank-and-file education workers will continue to organize through committees such as this, building towards stronger strike actions and decisive wins, expressing a politics that is larger than a union’s economistic limits, for workers across the country.

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