York is Us
York is Us is a satirical online-offline project created to support the struggle of CUPE3903 (Canadian Union of Public employees at York University) during the 2008-09 strike against York University. The project consists of a “fake/clone website” of the York University site that appropriated and satirized its content, and a weekly satirical pamphlet (the X-file) modeled upon the weekly official newsletter (Y-File) released by the University. X-file was distributed on the picket line and published on mailinglists
From my 2010 publication, “Creative Tactics and Union Politics. Learning from the York University Strike” in Benton, M., A. Clinton, W. Houp and D. Mayer, eds., Reconstruction 10.3 Inventions of Activism:
“The third-largest university in Canada, York University owes its fame to a long history of labor disputes. Historically, the neoliberal rhetoric and goals of York’s intransigent administration have always clashed with a radical body of graduate students and faculty, who not only deemed it politically and ethically necessary to challenge the employer and reclaim their rights, but also considered it a question of survival. Certified as a union since the mid-Seventies, York’s contract faculty and teaching assistants (then joined in 2001 by graduate assistants) have been periodically engaged against the institution’s trend towards the progressive déclassement of their qualifications and professional expertise, and the casualization of academic jobs (Vercellone 2009, p. 123). A great deal of tenacity and a fast increasing union membership helped them endure often lengthy and sometimes disastrous strikes. Despite mixed results, their union, known today as CUPE Local 3903, neither succumbed to fatigue and loss—using losses and victories equally to its own advantage to improve its members’ salary and benefit package—nor did it morph into a stiff bureaucratic machine and managing its internal conflicts openly and as creatively as possible—refusing to comply to an organizational structure forever frozen into a set of default rules….
On November 6, 2008 teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty at York University authorized CUPE 3903 to initiate a strike. On January 20 2009, after refusing to come to the bargaining table for over two months, York University called another forced ratification vote (a “rat” vote). Once again, it was defeated. The “…unprecedented win with none of the bargaining units ratifying the offer (Bailey 2009)”energized the union and gave some hope to the other unions representing contract faculty and teaching assistants across Ontario. However, this time York University “called upon the province to bail them out):”…and the province did the unexpected….”