I’m Voting No

YUFA has called a meeting on whether to hold a strike vote. Unfortunately I can’t go to the meeting. But I want to say here what I would have said there:

I’m voting no. I’m voting no because the YUFA executive have shown me no plan, and no case, to win a strike.

Let’s start with the plan. Looking back at CUPE’s successful strike, not only did they have clear and reasonable goals, but they backed them up with a months-long advertising campaign and a sophisticated social media strategy. This careful publicity unified the union and won the support of the student body and the public, putting huge pressure on the employer to settle.

So where is YUFA’s executive on this?

  • They just released a set of posters that you can print yourself, but I have yet to see one posted anywhere, or any other advertising for that matter.
  • The last post on YUFA’s Twitter feed that they wrote themselves is this one, several weeks old now.
  • The last post on YUFA’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr … don’t exist.

For a starker contrast in strike readiness, just compare YUFA’s web site with CUPE’s pre-strike web site:

  • CUPE: Bargaining priorities! Call for a strike mandate! Special general membership meeting on strike vote! etc. etc.
  • YUFA: Crickets. You have to follow two menu links to even read anything about current bargaining.

Is this how we get the word out in 2016? Where’s the sense of urgency? Does the executive think this fight is going to be won with its strategic stash of mimeograph machines?

Now for the case to strike. There are two main sticking points, and the most prominent is teaching load; here’s the YUFA executive’s bargaining backgrounder [PDF]. Pointing to a HEQCO report, the backgrounder states “most Ontario faculty teach approximately 1.5 FCEs in science disciplines and 2.0 FCEs in the humanities and social sciences”. This is arguably a misstatement of HEQCO’s findings.* But even so, assuming I’m right about the report the executive is using, they are using a report that HEQCO itself commissioned to say tenure-track professors don’t teach enough.

So here’s the executive’s case and strike plan: we’re striking because we teach too much, and here’s our evidence that actually supports the opposite conclusion, and by the way please spelunk through our web site to try to learn any of this, while we pretend it is 2003 and ignore social media.

So I’d vote no. And in these circumstances, I don’t see how anyone could vote yes.

*Because they don’t cite it explicitly, and because they “approximate”, it’s unclear which data the executive is using. But it’s probably from this report [PDF] (see Table 9). This was an average over pilot teaching load studies at four universities (one of which was York), not a basis for concluding anything about “most Ontario faculty”.