Unit 1 Strike Vote FAQ

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  • When? Where?

The Strike Vote will begin directly after the Strike Vote Special General Membership Meeting, which is taking place on September 23rd in CIBC Hall (MUSC, 3rd Floor) at 12pm.

The Strike Vote will then continue for the following three days from 9AM-5PM at the following locations:

September 24th, 2019
-Thodes Library Lobby
MUSC 1st floor Entrance (near Starbucks)
September 25th, 2019
-Thodes Library Lobby
MUSC 1st floor Entrance (near Starbucks)
September 26th, 2019
-Mills Library Lobby
MUSC 1st floor Entrance (near Starbucks)
  • What is a Strike Vote?

A Strike Vote decides whether or not the Unit’s general membership is willing to grant their Bargaining Team permission to call a strike should negotiations fail. A majority (50%+1) of “yes” votes is required for such authorization.

It is normal for a Union to ask for a strong “strike vote” during the process of any legal contract negotiations in Canada.  In fact, CUPE 3906’s TA and RA (in lieu)’ and Sessional Faculty/Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty (HRSMF) bargaining teams have asked for a strong strike vote from its membership in virtually every single TA and RA (in lieu) contract negotiations in the past 40+ years.

The exact wording of the strike vote question may vary, but it always asks the same basic question: do you authorize your bargaining team to call a strike if negotiations fail at the bargaining table?  A strong “yes” to this question with as many members voting as possible is the best scenario: it says to the Employer that they have a “last chance” to return to the bargaining table through conciliation or mediation and negotiate in good faith to get a deal or else the members are prepared to proceed to the “next steps” in the legal bargaining process: legal strike action.

  • What does Voting Yes on a Strike Vote mean?

Voting yes on a strike vote signals that you are unwilling to accept the employer’s most recent offer. Collective bargaining allows us to decide, as a group, under what conditions we are willing to work. A strong strike vote – or a majority “yes” vote with over 85% of our members voting – signals to the employer that the membership is unwilling to work under the conditions they are offering. This is where the strength of collective bargaining is found!

A successful strike vote does not mean there will be a strike. It simply authorizes the bargaining team to call a strike should negotiations fail. In other words, a strong yes vote puts the Union in the best possible position to secure a good deal without needing to call a strike.

  • What does Voting No on a Strike Vote mean?

Voting no on a strike vote signals that you are willing to accept the deal the employer has offered. An unsuccessful strike vote (a majority of “no” votes) would essentially force the bargaining team to accept whichever deal the Employer has last put on the table. An unsuccessful strike vote, or even a successful strike vote that is weak, leaves the bargaining team with few options other than accepting the deal and bringing it back to the membership to ratify.

In other words, a failed strike vote or even a weak though successful strike vote would be disastrous for the union’s ability to secure a better agreement for the membership.

  • What’s the point of getting a strike vote if Doug Ford’s government passes Bill 124 anyway?

Great question!  The problem is, regardless of the threat of Bill 124 becoming legislation when the government returns from summer break, there are concessions (i.e., reductions in our contract rights) that are on the table that have nothing to do with Bill 124 that we have to fight.  These include concessions to what’s considered a “normal” number of TA hours per work in a given academic year and whether or not you get to keep the same hours from year-to-year, and whether or not you get to defer a course (e.g., if you’re away on research leave or teaching a course) and thereby maintain your funding even if your studies take longer than your graduate guarantee.

Lastly, given that we are among the first Unions to enter collective bargaining under the threat of Bill 124, we have a responsibility to resist it through every means possible. As members of a union, we have access to legal rights that others do not – including the ability to call strike votes and hold legal strikes. Bill 124 threatens thousands of workers across the province, many of whom will not have access to bargaining until well after the government will reconvene to discuss it. The provincial government – and, by extension, McMaster – seem to expect us and the rest of the public sector to simply accept these concessions with little to no resistance. If we do not resist Bill 124 as much as possible before it becomes law, the fight will be that much harder if it does end up becoming law.

  • Who can vote in a Unit 1 (TA and RA in lieu of TA) strike vote?

Only members of Unit 1 (Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants in lieu of Teaching Assistants) may vote in a Unit 1 strike vote.  The following members of Unit 1 may vote in a strike vote:

  1. Members who are working as TAs or RAs (in lieu) this term;
  2. Members who hold a TA/RA (in lieu) funding guarantee or a contract to work as a TA/RA (in lieu) in the 2019-2020 academic year (i.e., “contract in hand”);
  3. “Political” members of the union (i.e., members who have held a contract work as a TA or RA in lieu in the last two academic terms—i.e., winter 2019 or spring/summer 2019).

Please note that all members require personal identification to vote.  Some members (especially those members in categories ii and iii) may require proof of membership to vote (see: next question).

  • What do I need to vote in a strike vote?
  1. All members must bring photo ID to vote in the strike vote.  Photo ID includes your student card, and/or a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license.  (Please note that we cannot accept health cards for privacy reasons.)
  2. Members who are not working as Teaching Assistants or Research Assistants (in Lieu of Teaching Assistants) in the FALL 2019 term should bring proof of membership to the vote.  A TA or RA in lieu Appointment Letter (e.g., guaranteed funding letter) is acceptable proof of membership.
  •    Why is the Union sequestering ballots? 

If the polling station staff cannot find your name on our membership list (or if you fall into categories ii or iii in the “who can vote” question above), they will ask you to “sequester” your ballot.  This means that you will be asked to insert your completed ballot into a blank envelope, which you will then place into another envelope on which the polling station staff will write your name, student number, department and term in which you are, were, or will be employed as a TA or RA (in lieu).  Sequestering ballots allows the union to include as many votes as possible because it gives the union the opportunity to verify your membership in other ways if you aren’t on this term’s membership list (e.g., by checking Hours of Work forms).  Once the union has verified your membership, the blank envelope containing your ballot is removed from the outside, identifying envelope, and added to a pile of other anonymous envelopes.  Once all of the sequestered ballots have been added, the scrutineers open all of the blank envelopes and count the ballots as marked.  This way, the union can be certain that you are actually eligible to vote while preserving the anonymity of your ballot.

  • Can I vote in the strike vote online?  Is there proxy voting?

We are not able to set up the strike vote online for a number of reasons.  First, our bylaws do not permit online voting.  Second, the online infrastructure to ensure the privacy and eligibility of voters is cost-prohibitive and incompatible with the requirements of our sequestered balloting process.

Proxy voting in strike votes is prohibited.

  • Do we get paid during a strike?

Pay from the Employer stops, and benefits coverage could likely be interrupted. Instead of working 10 hours a week for their regular TA pay, striking Unit 1 members can receive strike pay in the amount of $15/hour for up to 20 hours a week of strike duties, for a total of $300 per week. Strike pay is not taxable income. The Union will also establish a Hardship Fund to help members in particularly precarious financial positions. Please note that a strike or a lockout should not impact your scholarship earnings at the University, or any other wages you may receive from non-CUPE 3906 Unit 1 TA or RA (in lieu) employment

For International Members….

  • Do I have the right to strike as a non-citizen?
In Canada, your ability to participate in a strike is legally protected and citizenship or immigration status has no bearing. TAs and Postdocs at McMaster have a legal right to strike, one that is protected by both the Ontario Labour Relations Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You have every right and ability to participate if you so choose.
  • Will being on strike affect my Permanent Resident application?
We have not heard of any TA or Postdoc have their PR application impacted by participating in a legal strike.
  • Can I avoid having my picture taken on the picket line?
To every extent possible. CUPE 3906 would be taking some photos, but we’ll try and give people a heads up and allow them to move out of the shot.