April GMM Report — Unit 1 VP


On the 3rd of April, 2019, numerous Carleton services, including CUPE 4600,
participated in a campus wide blackout. This day was intended to serve as a glimpse into
future where “student choice” has led to the disappearance of essential services and student
protections. While this demonstration, in some respects, may be merely relegated to a day of
inconvenience —when multiplied, it is a symbol of dystopia. Consider our current collective
agreement: A document which outlines that TA should, on average, work not more than 10
hours per week within a 260 hour TA/RAship. Or, that if any additional hours shall be worked,
the TA/RA will be compensated at the standard hourly wage (Article 14). Further, that a
supervisor is required to meet with the TA/RA for a mid semester check-in each term. Or, that
sick leave is earned at a rate of one hour for every 10 hours worked (Article 21). While these
terms of the CUPE 4600 collective agreement only represent one part of what could be
dismantled by the “student choice” intuitive, and in fact, are only a fraction of the gains under
the current CUPE 4600 agreement, recognizing what is lost —if even for a day— is necessary
to the fight for a sustainable and more equitable future.


“I am the only TA for a course with 4 case studies and 5 labs, so I have to mark
approximately 3500-4000 pages this semester on top of lab training, running labs, answering
student emails, etc. The course is also outside of my specialization and I am taking 3 grad
courses, so it takes longer to grade assignments. Understandably, this is frustrating for both
the students and me”. Last December a TA/RA experience survey was opened to glean
insights into student issues and frame bargaining issues for 2019. While their have been many
important insights, such as that 48.5% of 285 respondents had reported to have gone beyond
their hours in their assignment of duties, this has been just one project of the Bargaining
Research Committee (BRC). Since September, the BRC has been working to prepare for the
upcoming bargaining year by drafting proposals to language changes in the collective
agreement and by conducting research on issues facing students. With the successful election
of the Bargaining Team, the BRC will continue to work towards compiling research, tentative
proposals, and a database of resources to ensure that this team is equipped with a foundation
of work on which to build further gains for students at Carleton.


As I reflect back on my term at Unit 1 VP I am reminded that each new point in time is
inherited from the past. While my goals have been, broadly, to create better working conditions
for Unit 1 members, I hope that the future Unit 1 VP(s) continue to pursue social change — and
that this change is constantly interrogating the entrenched imaginings of the past. Revaluation,

criticism and reflexivity are necessary to create tangible new imaginings. Our current climate of
anti-unionism and “student choice” cannot be separated from the past; our future cannot be
imagined without hindsight and revision. It has been an honour to work alongside CUPE 4600
members, and to continue the fight for teaching assistants and contract instructors.

Megan McGoey-Smith

President’s Report - Wesley Petite 

 

Hello to all members and thanks for attending the 2019 Annual General Membership Meetings.

 

This report will outline some of the recent progress I have contributed to in my capacity as President and conclude with a comment on how this interacted with my life as a student.

 

Some of the work I have done as President has been a matter of turning the basic gears of our organization in order to move forward on issues in a coordinated fashion. In this process, I have been able to play a leadership role but consistently relied on a varied group of determined teammates on the Executive Board and staff. We held a successful Special Membership Meeting (SMM) to grow this team in electing most of our Negotiation Team members for the upcoming bargaining year. This SMM was one of many meetings that members left feeling encouraged. Members expressing feeling positive and informed after general and Executive Council meetings has been one of the biggest accomplishments of this year. I was also able to hold a number of Constitution Committee Meetings to develop ideas on how we can improve the governance of the local.

 

I have also been able to conduct productive and collaborative Board meetings to foster the sense of teamwork that is essential to a healthy union. Once again, this success is the result of what our Executive has collectively brought to the table this year.  Today the Executive will be responding to the Equity Trustee Report, which taught us a lot about how our local can be improved by focused attention in inclusivity and equity.

 

I have also continued to hold meetings with the Employer through our joint-committees. I have focused on moving issues forward and developing an understanding of what limitations to addressing substantive problems exist within these committees. My final conclusion is that these committees can definitely be used as a way to advance issues and get information from the Employer, but this takes considerable preparation and teamwork among the Executive Representatives.

 

A lot of work has taken place in the Labour Management Committee, which is set out in our staff’s (Unifor 567) Collective Agreement as a joint-committee. This has required a lot of work in figuring out gaps in the Executive understanding of obligations to staff. Many of these issues are highly technical and I have sought out certainty from expert recommendations and discussions with staff.

 

Finally, I wanted to report on my experience this year as both President and a doctoral student seeking to make academic progress. It is possible! But, of course, my service to the membership required sacrifice and dedication to my role as a frontline representative and meeting facilitator. I encourage members who are considering running to think ahead about how you can organize your time to continue to make progress in your studies as well as advance the strategies of our local through teamwork.

Treasurer’s Report – Zahra Montazeri 

 

Having been elected treasurer in the middle of Dec. 2018 I officially started my job in the beginning of 2019. At that time I began to work with the office administrator in order to get familiar with our CUPE local’s accounting procedure. As soon as I understood the financial situation I updated the budget and held my first finance committee meeting on Feb.25. Then I presented the budget and discussed using the strike fund for mobilization purposes. Soon after I started to work on the budget for 2019-20 and had two more finance committees in March/April to finalize the budget draft. I am now working with trustees and met them twice in the past three months. In terms of our financial situation, I can say that we had a great year with more than $70,000 surplus so far. I would like to thank all CUPE members for attending this AGM 2019.

Vice-President Internal Report – Jo Farall & Émélie Desrochers-Turgeon 

We started our mandate in January 2019. Aiming to foster a community of care, our goals were set into three categories: (1) increase training through a workshop and training strategy, (2) foster communication with members, the Executive Board and the Executive Council, and (3) amplify the voices of marginalized members through our work with the Rainbow Caucus and the Women’s Caucus.

1. Workshop & Training Strategy We drafted a four phase workshops and training strategy. The first phase was to work on training for the executive board and to work team building and board cohesion. The second step was to get more of our 101 style anti-oppression that we run, offered by the EDC so that TAs can be paid to attend the trainings. This will help to honour everyone’s time and reach more members. The third step is to offer more advanced workshops for those who have already taken 101 style trainings. The fourth step is to work on praxis events with partners.

We have worked in conjunction with the mobilization committee and our mobilization coordinator to forward these goals.

1.1 As part of the first step, we have suggested to organize an “authentic relating games” night for board members. It was decided to postpone the event after the annual election so that the team building exercise benefits the board members for the upcoming election.

1.2 We have moved forward on the second step by offering an anti-oppression training called “Applying Anti-Oppressive Techniques in the Classroom Workshop.” It was held February 27th in Southam 506 from 2.30 to 4.30 PM and was a paid training through the EDC.

Participants learned about challenging their own behaviors, recognizing racism, sexism, homophobic and otherwise oppressive attitudes, and will receive tools for combating such things in the classroom. The workshop facilitator was Sharp Dopler who has been an educator, community worker and activist for over 20 years. Sharp is a member of the Ottawa Indigenous community and is of Cherokee/Sauk/Fox and Irish descent. Sharp has presented at various venues at the local, regional, provincial, national and international level. Sharp is honoured to be considered a Traditional Knowledge Keeper and carrier of Ceremony in the Ottawa community as well in other communities. Sharp uses this traditional knowledge and Indigenous ways of being in the world to inform how the work is done.

1.3 As part of our third phase, two workshops were organized. The first was a conflict de-escalation workshop on March 8th. In addition, OPRIG offered to host a decolonizing workshop.

 

1.4 As part of our fourth phase, Aalya had suggested making a “human library” event with labour organizers. We have not started working on phase four yet.

2. Communication 2.1 Communication with Members – Lunchtime Chat Series: We organized monthly events named “Lunchtime Chat Series” which consist in providing lunch and facilitating discussions around a topic that might be of interest for the members. The first Lunchtime Chat, whose theme was “Communities of Care”, was held on February 4th. It was a success and a valuable opportunity to hear about issues and concerns from the members. The second Lunchtime Chat was on March 11th under the theme “Gender Dynamics on Campus”. Our main goal is to listen to our membership. We hope that the event also becomes a space for people to know more about their rights, to learn about available services and network with other members of the community. Moreover, the event can provide an informal platform to connect with members that might feel marginalized and generate more interest in getting involved in the union.

2.2 Communication within the Executive Council, Board, Stewards and Caucus Chairs– Slack: In the spirit of improving communication between members of the Executive Council and providing institutional memory to the caucuses and committees, the collaboration software “Slack” has been proposed to be used within the Local. We believe that Slack could reduce the length of emails, facilitate direct communication and allow for people to stay tuned on ongoing projects. The platform allows for documents and files to be inserted and semi-private channels can take place according to projects of specific teams. Voted during the Executive Council on February 15th, it was decided to start with a trial period until the next Executive Council. The whole Executive Council will be emailed to get started with the tool and a guide will be provided to the staff. The trial period is intended for the team to get accustomed to the software, to provide feedback and illuminate a longer term decision to be held during at the next Executive Council.

3. Caucuses 3.1 Rainbow Caucus The Rainbow Caucus has been hosting joint events with Kind Space and Ten Oaks Project. We have so far hosted six Every Body Swim events. The next two swims are Friday March 15 – 6:15-7:45 pm and Friday April 12 – 6:15-7:45 pm. We are looking to expand our membership.

3.2. Women’s Caucus 3.2.1. Sexual Violence Policy: During the Fall semester, the Women’s Caucus worked closely with the GSA Consent Culture Committee to workshop on how to improve the current Sexual Violence Policy. We participated to consultation workshops and met with the employer to provide specific feedback on the policy on concerns that particularly affect union members.

In February, the Union met with the employer for a second time to provide feedback on the recently released draft of the Sexual Violence policy. We were concerned that the previous comments provided were ignored by the employer. Jointly with the GSA Consent Culture Committee, we have published an open letter that was sent to the employer and widely shared on campus. Moreover

3.2.2. Drawing Event: For the Sexual Assault Awareness Week, jointly with the GSA Consent Culture Committee, we organized a drawing event hosted by the artist Ambivalently Yours. From the artwork produced we have put together a publication to raise funds for the Ottawa Rape Crisis center.

3.2.3. A Women’s Caucus Meeting was held in mid-March. To the agenda were discussions around the next steps for the Sexual Violence Policy, a workshop for the publication of a zine and our possible participation to the Spin-a-thon organized by the Ottawa Rape Crisis center. For more information you can contact 4600womenscaucus@gmail.com

4. Other activities - On February 15th, we chaired the Executive Council. - We have been working with the Mobilization and Communications Committee to coordinate events. - We have been working with the Bargaining Research Committee for Unit 1 to conduct research and draft proposals. - We plan to perform exit interviews of outgoing executive members as stipulated by the by-laws so that the new Board is well equipped to move forward with the bargaining year.

Chief Steward Unit 2

I was acclaimed as Chief Steward for Unit 2 last October and so my report will be somewhat brief. I have appended my previous report to the members in this one as it sums up much of my recent activity.

 

In particular, I would like members to pay attention to the report back from the Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee. Although our Local went a little over budget to send a delegate, I would defend that and believe it was the right thing to do to maintain unity and strength under the current provincial government. In fact, it would have been good to have more of us there.

 

Recommendation: That the Local ensures we maintain enough funds in our budget lines to be able to forge further connections with unions in the university sector and beyond by assigning delegates to meetings, conference calls, and committees.

 

Further Recommendation: That the Local ensures we are equipped to fight the Ford government’s cuts to education and dedicate resources for that purpose.

 

Working with our Business Agent, we have been handling several grievances for Contract Instructors. Our standing as precarious workers has been painfully evident in the treatment our grievous receive from the employer. While these matters remain confidential, I can speak very generally to what we have seen coming from CIs.

 

Notably there are ongoing issues with harassment, exclusion, perceived favouritism, and bias. There are also significant issues with job posting and hiring processes. While I am pleased to report that we have been able to settle some of these matters satisfactorily for our members, the systemic issues remain. I would like to flag that members of our unit are being pushed out of the academy due to the extreme precarity of our work and the significant financial hardship they experience as a result. However, as we are so oriented to academic work, making transitions to other career paths can be difficult. As our employer relies upon Contract Instructors to do heavy lifting when it comes to teaching and some of us have been here for years, it is unacceptable that we would have so little in the way of resources to facilitate our survival in seeking adequate income.

 

Recommendation: That the Local strike a Hardship Fund to assist our members in Unit 2 whose courses are suddenly cancelled and find themselves in extreme need (ie. unable to pay rent or food by a course cancellation), and that we bargain hard for the employer to contribute to such a fund.

 

Further Recommendation: That we push for dedicated career counselling for Contract Instructors who wish to exit the university, paid by the employer, after a certain amount of term of service.

 

I have recommended to the Local Executive Board that we look at creating a Grievance Database as our Local has a high turnover and it would be useful for incoming Stewards to be able to note patterns and past practices. We are still talking about the best way to do this, and the Business Agent is working with us to prepare a proposal.

 

Along with my counterpart in Unit 1, we continue to work on recruiting and training Stewards although my trainings have not been as frequent as I would have hoped. All members are encouraged to step up and represent for their Departments. Your union needs you.

 

It is crucial that we continue to sign our members up with their union cards to stave off any attacks from the Ford government similar to what has been imposed on our student unions. Sign your union card with pride, either at our meetings or at the union office.

 

Finally, it is my intention to continue as Chief Steward for Unit 2 if that is the will of the members. I look forward to a challenging year of bargaining and defending our collective agreement with the incoming Representatives.

 

In Solidarity,

Aalya Ahmad, Ph.D.

Chief Steward, Unit 2.   

You can read Aalya's report-back from the Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee conference here

 

Unit 1 Chief Steward Report
 

 

Everything must be questioned, especially the decisions made by the employer. The grievance procedure is an important method that enables employees like us to speak truth to power. A grievance procedure gives us as teaching assistants a chance to challenge questionable decisions made by the employer and develop a more detailed and robust Collective Agreement in the future.

 

With the Ford Government threatening the very existence of student unions and organizations, our past dealings with Carleton in terms of benefits budgeting, numerous infringements against our current Collective Agreement, and our move into collective bargaining, CUPE 4600 has its work carved out for the upcoming 2019/2020 academic year.

 

During this final quarter as your Chief Stewards, we have spent a great deal of time addressing important concerns as Joint Consultation Committee (JCC) members. As members of the JCC, we aided in negotiating the reinstatement of the Unit 1 benefits package by the employer. We have both served as employer representatives on the Labour Management Committee (LMC) and have worked to advance ongoing issues that affect our staff, who are imperative to the continued success of CUPE 4600.

 

A number of ongoing grievances have maintained our attention throughout the year. We have also continued to address smaller complaints and grievances from our Unit 1 members. We have attended a number of meetings with the employer to represent and provide support. At the moment, none of these complaints or grievances has escalated beyond Stage Two.

 

Thank you all for making this past year such a rewarding experience. We have both learned so much from our fellow members, staff and executives.

 

Keep questioning. Keep fighting for more equitable working conditions.

 

In solidarity,

 

Meag Bell and Meg Lonergan

 

VP External

 

Hi everyone! This is my second and final report, as I served only a partial term from December to April. I will not seek re-election as I am no longer going to be a union member after this meeting.

 

While my time on the executive was short, my time as a member of 4600 was particularly long for a unit 1 member: I've worked 7 contacts in the Computer Science and Mathematics department since the fall of 2015 as an undergraduate TA, and I was a member of the negotiating team in 2016. The people I met in this union helped me a grow as a person and I'm proud to call many of them my friends.

 

I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to a few special people who are still around these parts from my early days:

  • Thank you Dan, our Business Agent, for inviting me out to a general membership meeting after I called the union office to ask about my benefits and getting me looped into one of the best union locals in the city.

  • Thank you Pierre, our Mobilization Coordinator, for encouraging me to design posters for the union, which led to me designing posters for many other organizations. Without your encouragement, I don't think I would have had the confidence to do that.

  • To LeAnne, our Database and Office Administrator, for toughing out years of Ottawa and District Labour Council meetings and fighting alongside me (with much more bravery than I had) when they tried to kick out CUPE4600s delegates.

We're heading into troubling times. Doug Ford's provincial budget will be announced tomorrow (April 11th), and it's speculated that there are cuts to public education (in addition to cuts to other vital public services) in that budget. In this context, the role of VP External is more vital than ever. 

 

In particular, we must focus on building local relationships on Ottawa to be able to organize against this looming threat. I wish that "looming threat" was hyperbole, but I am very concerned about the plans that the Ford government has with our public education system.

 

The Ottawa CUPE District Council and the Postsecondary Education Coalition are good vehicles to build these local relationships, but they both need more engagement. I call upon those reading this report to consider putting forward a commitment of an hour a week to the CUPE council, and I strongly encourage you to run to be a delegate for this council. We need you to step up and do your part, now more than ever.

 

Narges, Silas, and I tried something interesting this year for the AGM on behalf of the mobilization committee. Instead of notifying our members about this meeting via email, we also notified our members over SMS. We received an overwhelming response--we received texts back from 418 people, the majority in good spirits. I spent a few hours categorizing every response into a spreadsheet (because data is fun!) and here's the results:

 

Total Sent 1733

Not Delivered Successfully (Landlines)145

Total Sent Successfully 1588

No Response 1170

Total Response: 418

 Firm Yes 69

 Will try / Maybe / Will see 95

 Can't make it 228

 Where did you get this number? 10

 Don't text me again! 4

 Wrong number! 8

 I don't work here anymore 4

 

All members that matched the following criteria will be added to an SMS do-not-contact list, because that's the respectful thing to do:

  • Opted out ("Don't text me again!")

  • Asked why they were being texted and were not satisfied with the explanation

  • Self-identified as a wrong number

  • Said that they didn't work here any more

Everyone who was a firm yes, or who said they will try, might come, or will look into it, received a follow-up text on the day of. 

 

The total cost of these campaigns was $60.

 

SMS broadcasting is a technique I learned in political organizing outside of unions that I wanted to bring into our union, and if this campaign was successful at bringing people out I'd strongly encourage the incoming board to continue using this for important events (major meetings, strike mobilization, etc).

 

If you have any questions about this report, send me an email at vp.external@cupe4600.ca 

James Brunet

Board Reports