Pets for CUPE 3906

Brad WalchukUncategorized

It’s no secret that academics love their pets! Less known, though, is the fact that our pets have been some of our strongest and bravest supporters in the current round of bargaining with McMaster. Be they dogs, cats, or guinea pigs – they’re all fed up with how the University has handled its negotiations with Units 1 and 3 and they’re not afraid to say it!

If you have a pet who loves TAs and postdocs, we’d love for you to participate in this campaign! There are several laminated signs in the union office (KTH B111) for folks to borrow. Some are specific to dogs and cats and some speak to key bargaining priorities such as TA training, 5th year TA guarantees, better wages, and closing the pay gap between undergraduate and graduate TAs. We will also be making printable PDF versions of these signs available in a separate post.

You can post your own photos to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag us @CUPE3906, OR send them our way via Messenger or email using We hope that many of you will join us as we continue to increase pressure on the University and look forward to building even greater solidarity in the weeks to come!

#PetsForCUPE3906 #GoodDogsAgainstBadWages












Unit 3- Bargaining Update #6

Brad WalchukUncategorized

CUPE 3906 Bargaining Bulletin #6
Unit 3: Postdoctoral Fellows

OCTOBER 23rd, 2019

HAMILTON, ON — On Monday, October 21st – and for the first time since mid-August – your Unit 3 bargaining team met with the Employer.

We have finally begun to see some positive movement on benefits (such as the health care spending account, family dental rebate, and professional development), and we believe this is the result of an engaged and mobilized membership. That said, Bill 124 remains a stumbling block as the Employer seeks to keep compensation to a minimum. We remain concerned about the employer’s proposals on vacation, which are a rollback from the current entitlement. The bargaining team hopes to secure additional dates with the Employer’s team in next month.

Our President wrote an open letter to the McMaster Board of Governors urging Board members to bargain according to what the Employer thinks Postdocs deserve, and not according to the Conservative Government’s draft legislation. A copy of the letter can be viewed at:

Unit 3 is CUPE 3906’s smallest unit with just over 170 members, and consists of postdoctoral fellows working at McMaster University. The current collective agreement expires on August 31.

Open Letter to the McMaster Board of Governors


While the McMaster Board of Governors put a lot of work into making themselves inaccessible to the McMaster community, we have managed to send the following letter to a number of them ahead of their meeting this Thursday, October 24th.

Stay tuned for more details on how you can help us remind the Board of Governors that they serve us, not the Ford Government.

CUPE 3906 members provide a strong strike mandate

Brad WalchukUncategorized


Hamilton, ON— At the end of last week, CUPE 3906 (Unit 1) members provided their bargaining team with a clear strike vote mandate and in so doing have sent a strong message to McMaster: bargain the fair contract that TAs and RAs in lieu deserve. Membership turnout for this vote was the highest in living memory, with 87% voting to authorize strike action, if necessary. These results highlight the importance of the issues at stake to the membership.

The union’s bargaining team is heartened and motivated by the support that an 87% ‘YES’ result represents. The outcome of this vote illustrates a real commitment to the needs identified by the membership, including paid pedagogical and anti-oppression TA training, strengthened graduate guarantees, equitable wages between undergraduate and graduate TAs, better representation for Indigenous members, an increase to the minimum number of hours on a contract, and protection against tuition increases. Having heard the collective voice of our membership, the union is empowered to bargain a fair Collective Agreement for a #BetterMac and deliver real gains to TAs and RAs in lieu.

The results of this vote do not mean that a strike is forthcoming, but do empower the bargaining team to call a strike should negotiations not provide meaningful gains to members. The next step in the bargaining process is conciliation, in which a provincially appointed conciliation officer will meet with the parties.

Local 3906 will put the support of its members into action at the bargaining table and are committed to membership engagement throughout the process. Keep an eye out for our updates and additional bargaining support initiatives.

CUPE Local 3906 (Unit 1) represents approximately 2700 teaching assistants and research assistants (in lieu) at McMaster University.

Letter of Support from the GSA

Brad WalchukUncategorized

The McMaster University Graduate Student Association (GSA) recently issued this letter of support:

It is abundantly clear that TAs and RAs in lieu are united in their insistence upon a fair offer from McMaster University. As the GSA rightly notes, the wages of graduate students are “barely enough to support a single adult, much less one who may be supporting a family.” Yet despite this, the employer is seeking to reduce the entitlement to a minimal number of hours associated with a graduate TA guarantee. This will see graduate TAs falling even further behind. A fifth year guarantee – which would be more consistent with the average duration of a graduate program – is needed to ensure that graduate students aren’t without income prior to their graduation. It’s time for a #BetterMac

Unit 1 Strike Vote FAQ


  • 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
-Thode Library Lobby
MUSC 1st floor Entrance (near Starbucks)
September 25th, 2019
-Thodes Library Lobby
MUSC 1st floor Entrance (near Starbucks)
– Engineering Graduate Society (EGS) Office – JHE 113
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.

Unit 1 Has Filed for Conciliation


September 4, 2019
HAMILTON, ON — As many of our Unit 1 Members (TAs and RAs in-lieu) are already aware, the Union and the Employer recently arrived at an impasse. Non-monetary items aside, the Employer has continued to bargain within the parameters of a bill that is not yet law but, if passed, would have disastrous effects on public sector workers across Ontario: Doug Ford’s Bill 124.
Even when we made it known we would consider accepting the 1% wage cap contained in Bill 124 in exchange for significant and meaningful movement on minimum 65-hour contracts, 5th year TA guarantees, tuition freezes, paid pedagogical and anti-oppression training, and closing the Class A and B wage gaps, the Employer did not hesitate to make their lack of interest in genuine negotiations exceedingly clear.
In addition to this refusal, and in the final hours of our most recent day at the bargaining table, the Employer informed us that they no longer intend to bargain with us unless we settle an outstanding grievance. Because the grievance process is a labour relations issue and not a collective bargaining issue,  this effectively signals that we are at an impasse.
Since both sides are evidently so far apart at the bargaining table, we have now officially filed for conciliation: a process wherein a neutral third party from the Ministry of Labour comes to assist with negotiations. We remain steadfast in representing YOUR interests and are optimistic that a negotiated settlement can be reached.
One of the best ways to maximize our effectiveness during conciliation is by holding a strike vote. With this, you might ask, Would a positive strike vote mean we have to go on strike? The answer to this question is NO. A positive strike vote from our Members would authorize the Bargaining Team to call a strike if, through the conciliation process, the Employer remains unwilling to give us a fair deal that reflects the priorities of our membership. By contrast, failing to authorize a strike would signal to the University that our Members are willing to accept whatever crumbs we are given, including the 1% wage caps and none of the previously discussed gains that could offset the harms of Bill 124 and our already devastating precarity as TAs and RAs in-lieu at McMaster.
In solidarity,
The Unit 1 Bargaining Team

Unit 1 Bargaining Update #2


Unit 1 Bargaining Update #2

August 27, 2019

After a summer away from the bargaining table, your Union met with employer representatives from McMaster on August 21 and 22. While we made progress on some smaller issues, often involving day-to-day labour relations issues, no progress was made on larger items that you identified as priorities. These include extended guaranteed TAships for graduate students, meaningful wage increases, equal pay for all TAs, protection against tuition increases, a higher minimum number of hours on a contract, and access to paid training.

Unfortunately, the Employer’s proposals have remained the same since June – a ‘no’ to all proposals. McMaster will only negotiate within what it sees as the framework of Bill 124, a bill (which is not yet law) that would limit wage and benefits increases to 1% per year. At the same time, they have also proposed concessions that would see the erosion of graduate students’ guaranteed TAships and have tabled language that would see the elimination of a minimum number of hours per contract (currently set at a minimum of 32 hours). Finally, rather than establish paid anti-oppression and pedagogical training for TAs, McMaster has proposed a committee to determine if TA training is even ‘feasible.’ In a large and diverse university, we fail to see how TA training could possibly be unfeasible.
Where does CUPE stand?

Despite the fact that Bill 124 is not a law (and, as such, our feeling that we do not need to negotiate within its limitations), your Union explored all options to secure the best possible deal for TAs and RAs in lieu. In fact, we offered to consider a mere 1% wage increase, contingent on meaningful and substantial movement from the Employer on the following key issues, each of which can still be bargained within McMaster’s self-imposed limitations of Bill 124:

·         Minimum 65-hour contracts
·         5th year guaranteed TAships
·         Tuition Freeze
·         Paid Training (Pedagogical & Anti-Oppression)
·         Closing the Class A and B wage gaps

These five items speak to several of the priorities our members made clear to us through our Bargaining Survey. Unfortunately, McMaster signaled that it has no interest in moving forward on these terms, leaving us with virtually no way of moving forward while representing the interests of our members.

McMaster’s Position 

On August 22nd your Union was shocked to hear that, in addition to rejecting our proposed framework, McMaster University was signalling an impasse by effectively walking away from the bargaining table. This decision was ostensibly made in light of a policy grievance CUPE had filed weeks ago, alleging that some employees who should be covered by the Collective Agreement were not (and, as such, were denied benefits and wages). For obvious reasons, we find ourselves questioning the Employer’s last-minute decision not to resume negotiations pending an arbitration ruling on this specific grievance.

Essentially, after we had presented a framework through which CUPE would consider a 1% wage increase in exchange for meaningful movement on a higher minimum number of hours, expanded graduate guarantees, protection from tuition increases, paid TA training, and equitable wages for all TAs, McMaster University signaled that it had zero interest in moving forward on such terms. This is completely unnecessary and could undoubtedly cause major delays in the bargaining process.

What do we go from here? 

CUPE remains committed to continuing to bargain in good faith. Not only have we proposed a framework to move forward with securing a fair collective agreement, we believe that the parties can and should continue to bargain in good faith for the benefit of our members regardless of the status of ongoing grievances.
CUPE is ready to continue to bargain a fair and meaningful deal for its members and that one that works for all parties. We are no longer confident that McMaster shares this goal.

We will continue to reach to members and move forward with the hopes of moving past this impasse that we feel McMaster has created.




JOB SECURITY and HOURS OF WORK · Standard 5-year TA guarantee for PhD students

· Standard 2-year TA guarantee for Masters’ students

· No extension of guaranteed funding period

· No minimum number of hours per contract

WAGES · 5% increases per year for all members in recognition of increases to the cost of living & historical wage stagnation.

· Equal pay for undergraduate and graduate TA/RAs.

· 1% per year for all members, following what they believe Bill 124 will require of them if it becomes law.

· Additional 0.35% per year for all members if Bill 124 does not pass

TRAINING · Optional paid training for professional development and anti-oppression practices · No paid training for professional development or anti-oppression

· Option to strike a committee to discuss the “feasibility” of additional training (paid or unpaid)

FUNDING · Tuition reimbursements freezing the cost of tuition at the 2018-2019 domestic student rate for all members · No tuition waiver/reimbursement
BENEFITS · Employer to pay 50% of UHIP costs

· General increases to Benefits Funds that respond adequately to rising insurance rates and service costs

· $10,000 gender-affirmation fund

· No increase to benefits funds over 2-years

· Committee to discuss supports for gender-affirmation


How can you help?


  • Attend as many of our meetings and events as you can & bring colleagues!
  • Join our Bargaining Support Committee
  • Follow & engage with us on Social Media
  • Sign & Share our Petitions
  • Become a Department Steward
  • Organize a Departmental Event
  • Contact: |

Emergency Town Hall on Bill 124


July 31st, 12PM, GH 111 (McMaster Council Chambers)
12:00 – 2:00 pm

What is Bill 124? How will it affect us at McMaster? And, most importantly – how will we respond?

On the Agenda:

  • Guest Speakers – Roberto Henrquez & Janice Folk-Dawson
  • Bargaining Team Updates
  • Q & A Session – your time to speak up!
  • Community Strategy Session – what are our next steps?

Roberto Henriquez

Roberto practices labour law, employment law, and human rights law in Hamilton and across south-west Ontario including: Brantford, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Ancaster, Dundas, Milton, Mississauga, Oakville, and Burlington.

Since being called to the bar in 2014, Roberto worked in-house at a large private sector union, an administrative tribunal, and in local Hamilton government before joining Molyneaux Law in Spring 2019.

Roberto will be speaking to us about Bill 124 itself: What does it entail? Who does it affect? What happens if it becomes a law?


Janice Folk-Dawson

Janice is the President of CUPE Local 1334 which represents the Maintenance, Trades and Service personnel at the University of Guelph.

Janice is also the Chair of the Ontario University Workers’ Coordinating Committee (OUWCC), which is one of 6 large sector groups within CUPE Ontario.
Janice is a feminist and community activist, and has been vital to CUPE 3906’s ongoing strategy in response to Bill 124.

Janice will be speaking to us about the University Sector’s response to Bill 124, how the sector has already been affected, and what role the OUWCC can play in our fight back.


If you have any questions or require any further details, please contact