On February 27, 2015, teaching assistants at the University of Toronto went on strike and were followed by teaching assistants, contract faculty and research assistants at York University on March 3, 2015. While York’s contract faculty (Unit 2) ratified their new collective agreement on March 9th, 2015, the teaching assistants and research assistants (Units 1 and 3) at York remain on strike.
As members of the Progressive Librarians Guild (GTA chapter) we stand in support of the members of CUPE 3902 and 3903 as they advocate for improved working conditions within the academy. We are Toronto-area library workers who are concerned with social justice and equality issues, charged with the stewardship of knowledge, championing open access to information, and preserving common space. Some of our members work at the University of Toronto, and at York University, and we are all deeply concerned about the current employment conditions within these institutions and within higher education writ large. As library workers we recognize that the casualization of work, particularly intellectual work related to research, teaching and knowledge production has a direct impact on student success, scholarship and wider educational systems and threatens the functioning of our democratic society as a whole. We also wish to draw attention to the gendered nature of the casualization of academic teaching and the over-representation of women in the ranks of part-time and non-permanent academic staff at Canadian universities.
We thank the members of CUPE 3902 and CUPE 3903 for being willing to stand up and oppose the increasing stratification of labour and, by extension, the devaluation of learning and research conditions within Canadian universities. We call on the administration at York and the University of Toronto to return to their respective negotiation tables and bargain in good faith with those on strike.
Resuming classes, as we have already observed, has caused confusion and frustration amongst the student body, further disruption to an already chaotic campus, and put students and staff at risk (traffic backups, frustrated drivers, violent incidents, long walks into campus that prevent students with disabilities from attending classes). We encourage the Senate Executive Committee at York University to continue the suspension of classes until the strike is resolved.
We encourage library workers and all those passionate about issues at the intersection of information and social justice to support CUPE 3902 and CUPE 3903 workers by attending the Solidarity Rally to be held Saturday, March 21 from 1-4pm at Yonge and Dundas Square. For further information on the rally see: https://www.facebook.com/events/912967292067896/.
 For a more in-depth discussion of the issues facing the funding and work conditions of teaching assistants and contract faculty at Canadian universities, we recommend Zane Schwartz’s piece “Why U of T, York strikes are more than labour disputes” The Globe & Mail, 5 March 2015, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/why-u-of-t-york-strikes-are-more-than-labour-disputes/article23279298/.
 For a more fulsome reflection on the historical context, see Melonie Fullick’s excellent article “Past is prologue when it comes to contract faculty,” University Affairs: Affaires universitaires, 11 March 2015, http://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/speculative-diction/past-is-prologue-when-it-comes-to-contract-faculty/.