The Privileged and the Impoverished: Now One and the Same?

By: Contributor · November 10, 2008 · Filed Under Labour & Employment Law · 18 Comments 

The Problem with a Striking Union Claiming Poverty

The first full week of the York University lockout has begun and York Administration and CUPE 3903 appear to be miles apart. Among its demands, CUPE 3903 is asking for a marked increase in wages (an 11% increase over two years). Lofty ambitions indeed.

To preface this discussion, consider the following facts. The average wage increase for public employees was 2.6% in 2006. Currently the York administration is offering 3903 a wage increase in line with this average.

3903 is comprised of three units, and in its strike demand asserts that the units comprised of teaching and graduate assistants should receive wages (including grant-in aid and minimum summer guarantee) above the poverty line. 3903 uses the LICO measure as a poverty line indictor ($22, 653).

Let me be clear in stating that this assertion is not only incredibly insensitive but also misleading.

To clarify, 3903 expects a high-quality graduate education, to obtain a graduate degree (at no net cost to them) and to be paid $22,653 for their part-time work in the process.

Discussion of this topic could take many different paths. I could perhaps discuss the problems with using LICO as an indictor for poverty, or discuss the various problems and barriers when negotiating with a Union (which also includes contract faculty) which represents many varied interests. While tempted, my main assertion is that one must not confuse or conflate the respective purposes of education and employment.

Pursuing a graduate degree requires both academic excellence and some financial liquidity. While there is room for flexibility on both, graduate students are well aware that in order to study further, one must forego the prospect of full-time employment in most cases.

Graduate students receive income which not only covers the expense for their education but also leaves a lot of money left over for personal living expenses. Additionally, they receive a comprehensive benefits plan and frozen tuition that reflects fees from approximately ten years ago (after tuition rebate). How many other students can say they receive benefits remotely close to these?

Factors Indicative of Poverty

3903 claims they are living below the poverty line. The Ontario government and other anti-poverty agencies confirm that low wages is a key factor to families living in deepening poverty. To remedy this, Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy is to increase over time the minimum wage to $10.25 and to provide health and dental benefits to low wage workers. In contrast, 3903 members make well over $23.00 an hour and receive a benefits package that is unparalleled by many sectors.

According to the 2007 Report Card on poverty in Ontario, another key factor is the increased use of food banks by those under the poverty line. Have any members of 3903 begun to frequent these establishments?

This report also discusses the use of social assistance by many families who are under-employed or don’t have a job at all. Have 3903 members considered applying to receive Ontario Works? Since the Union asserts that their income is ‘below the poverty line’ meeting the financial criteria will be a cinch (sarcasm intended). They will have to establish, however, that they need money for food and shelter immediately, oh, and will also have to be willing to take part in activities to help them find a job.

N.B. You are ineligible to apply for Ontario Works if you are a single student receiving a student loan. The rationale behind this is probably that education is considered a critical pathway out of poverty that increases skill levels and access to better paying jobs. See A Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario for more.

The Union argues that the University provides funding and dissuades students from procuring external employment as is reflected in their contract. Taking that point to be true, it is virtually impossible to enforce and is a minor deterrent at best (for those in need of extra funds). Further, during the summer term they can very manageably work 20 hours/week, if not full-time, while completing their research, thereby significantly supplementing their income

My application of poverty indicators to 3903 may seem too extreme to address this Union’s demands. I must stress, however, that this is the reality of poverty in Ontario.

I invite those who read this post to weigh in on what they believe poverty to be. It is clear, that a review of the employment conditions of 3903 does NOT reflect true poverty. Graduate students are supposedly among the best and brightest in Ontario and will most likely receive higher than average incomes. By claiming poverty, they are distorting what society perceives poverty to be. In turn, this may lead to a desensitized view of the real and pressing issues of poverty in Ontario. Dissatisfaction with wages does not amount to poverty, and as such this line of argument should be rescinded from the message of CUPE 3903 immediately.

Sunira Chaudhri Second Year Law Student at Osgoode Hall

Comments

18 Responses to “The Privileged and the Impoverished: Now One and the Same?”

  1. ADHR on November 10th, 2008 9:24 pm

    This is bizarre, and also highly irrelevant. Your argument appears to be “sure, they’re badly off, but they’re not that poor”. By that reasoning, no one is poor, as there’s always someone, somewhere who’s worse off. After all, the “poor” in Ontario are substantially better off than the poor in Sao Paolo, so what basis do they have for complaint?

    In detail:

    The average wage increase for public sector workers is irrelevant, as TAs and contract faculty are towards the low end of the pay scale to begin with.

    Your claim that anyone expects grad students to receive a grad degree “at no net cost to them” is false. 5 plus years out of the labour force is always a cost. Moreover, it betrays a serious ignorance of the norms of graduate education. There is really no comparison between graduate students and other employees. The norm in grad school is full funding; the fact that York (as with many other universities in Ontario) falls below that norm implies that they are failing to live up minimum standards in comparable situations. Finally, it is simply irrelevant when applied to contract faculty.

    It is false to say that graduate students have “lots of money” for personal living expenses, and this, again, betrays ignorance, this time of the cost of living in a city like Toronto.

    The comparison of the minimum wage and 3903′s hourly wage is irrelevant as 3903 workers are contractually limited in the number of hours that they can work. Your note about food banks is an appeal to incredulity and is based on nothing; you have no idea whether 3903 members frequent food banks nor, I suspect, do you really care.

    Your comment about Ontario Works is inconsistent. Graduate education is surely an activity to help find a job; however, as you note, it is the activity explicitly excepted by the government. Which suggests that this is little more than gratuitous union-bashing.

    Your claim that graduate students are able to find external employment and also research while continuing to be TAs, again, betrays your ignorance of the nature of graduate education, and, again, ignores the situation of contract faculty.

    If you want to bash the union, bash the union, by all means: it’s your blog, you can say what you like. But this is one of the most intellectually dishonest things I’ve read this week. Your inability to admit your hostility towards organized labour is quite disturbing.

  2. Law is Cool Contributors on November 10th, 2008 9:29 pm

    Adam Rawlings,

    Please note that as indicated this piece was submitted by a guest author.

    Also note as always our disclaimer,

    Law Is Cool is an open forum for ideas, intended to stimulate discussion. The views expressed in posts and comments are those of the individual contributor and may not be reflective of the views of other authors or readers.

  3. Daniel Simard on November 10th, 2008 9:52 pm

    ADHR:

    I only read an assertion that graduate students can find employment to supplement their income during the summer. In fact, the Faculty of Environmental Studies allows and encourages all graduate students to take on paid employment during the summer semester through a field experience placement – irrespective of any and all forms of funding. I’m certain this is not unique to this program.

    Further, it seems that you are attempting to create this false notion that graduate students are shackled and indebted to their work and supervisors to the extent where they have no freedom. This is not the case.

    The argument put forth is not that graduate students are not that poor. The argument, obvious by looking no further than the title, is that by using the poverty line as an indicator it is “not only incredibly insensitive but also misleading.”

  4. Sunira Chaudhri on November 10th, 2008 11:52 pm

    ADHR,

    Nowhere in my post did I suggest that members of 3903 are ‘badly off’ at all.

    To clarify, there is no formal poverty-line in Ontario. 3903 can cite the Low-Income-Cut-Off as an indicator if they choose to, however, Statistics Canada has repeatedly emphasized that LICO is not the Canadian poverty line, and should not be interpreted as such.

    My intent is not to belittle or trivialize the economic hardships that some of your members may be facing, but the use of the terms poverty and ‘poverty-line’ are misleading and inexcusable.

    While TAs and GAs are subject to contractual working hour maximums from September to April, they do have the opportunity to earn income during the summer months. For this very fact, York cannot be held to guarantee yearly income above the ‘poverty-line’.

    You speak to the ‘norms’ regarding full funding for graduate students. If there is no school in Ontario that you can name that is engaged in this practice, where is the norm?

    In regards to union bashing, I am certainly not anti-union, I am however a proponent of bargaining in good faith. To me this includes bringing forth fair and clear interests to the negotiation. The poverty argument was neither fair nor clear, and thus required me to question the practices of 3903 on this issue alone.

  5. StudentHostage on November 10th, 2008 11:56 pm

    ADHR:

    I think I have a solution of how to get CUPE members’ income above the poverty line.

    It’s simple:

    During the 4 months of the summer when you are no longer employed as a TA or GA, simply find another “low-paying job”, equal to that of a TAship,and complete your studies while only working 10 hours/per week and receiving $8500 ($17,000/2) for your paid employment; half of what you would get paid during the fall/winter for half the amount of work. This way you won’t place the entire onus on the university with these poverty line wages you speak of and everybody is happy.

  6. Thomas Wisdom on November 20th, 2008 2:03 pm

    I have to agree with Sunira on this one. When this issue first came to light, the “poverty line” rhetoric was the first thing to strike me. I’m in full support of whatever collective action that may be necessary in order to balance the power between employees and employers, but I couldn’t help but be personally offended by the assertion that TAs are “below the poverty line.”

    Technically, most students are below the “poverty line.” Technically. But I highly doubt any of us are suffering the same consequences as people who qualify for state benefits. I’m a law student who works in a grocery store in a poor neighbourhood. Many of my co-workers are elderly and still work two or three jobs for awful pay, and many do qualify for state benefits.

    I’ll be tens of thousands of dollars in debt by the time I graduate, and I currently make less than $10,000 a year. But I’d never analogize my economic situation to someone who is truly impoverished.

    Further, it’s very unreasonable to read the poster’s criticism of a single union stance as “hostility towards organized labour.” I agree with her sentiments and am in no way hostile towards organized labour.

  7. May on December 2nd, 2008 11:38 am

    Hi there,
    I’ve now read this post over quite a few times. As a teaching assistant, doctoral student and parent, I -do- find a lot of what you have said, Sunera, to be under-informed and misleading.
    First and foremost, if we simply look at TA wages, then there is no question that many of our members are living in poverty. After tuition, we make slightly more than $1000 a month– living in Toronto, this hardly leaves “a lot of money left over for personal living expenses”, as you suggest. In my case, my income from York is roughly half of what I spend on childcare per month and it is only my “privilege” of working an additional full time job that allow me to continue my studies. Doing a Ph.D., a TA and working full time frees me from poverty but has a huge effect on my progress through my program, the quality of my work, and my mental and physical health.
    There -are- members of our union who use food banks, who face eviction, who abandon their degrees and never recover from the debt they have accrued (people who would have declared bankruptcy had Mike Harris not eliminated that option, but who are instead shackled by debt forever, unable to capitalize on the education they paid for). I am a social worker working in community health– I am very familiar with the faces of poverty in Toronto and I would invite you to come walk the lines with our members before claiming to represent the realities of their lives.
    I find your sarcasm both unsettling and totally uninformed, because many of our members are genuinely struggling to get by, not in some bourgeois “have to get the Honda instead of the Lexus” kind of way, but genuinely struggling– to buy groceries in the days before payday; to make rent; to buy clothes for their children. When you can’t afford Value Village? That’s poverty.
    Now, I don’t want to underestimate the ways my colleagues ARE different from my clients, in that they are on the path toward a career that will be reasonable, if not lucrative– but that involves us finishing our degrees successfully. For everyone who sees parallels between graduate students and other students (I’m talking about Ph.D. students here), please consider the following: the average time to completion for my program is currently seven years, and it keeps stretching precisely because, in order to make ends meet, most of my colleague take on extra waged labour at the expense of their studies. I will be 36 when I am eligible to get hired as a prof and will have spent nearly ten years BEYOND my BA.
    Consider the corollary with law– you spend three years beyond your BA, and, for many of you, emerge into an income higher than that of a university professor. How would you feel if you continued to pay tuition and drew a pittance while articling? While working as a junior associate? After all, you are still an apprentice at those times– do you genuinely deserve a living wage? I ask you– do you not think that the calibre of lawyers would diminish if law students were expected to spend ten years, instead of three, living on low wages while accruing debt?
    As someone who studies and teaches social policy and poverty, it is unreasonable to suggest that graduate students who spend a decade earning $12K a year, at a time of life where expenses are ballooning (where many of us are starting families, etc.) are only temporarily impoverished. Beginning a PhD. with 80K in debt from undergrad, with no stable income in sight, is poverty. There is a very dim light at the end of the tunnel, I’ll grant you, but that light doesn’t pay for my groceries or assuage my landlord.

  8. StudentHostage on December 2nd, 2008 3:44 pm

    Hi May,

    You suggest the writer’s assertions are misinformed and misleading. If you won’t agree that the exact same applies to your comment, there is no debate to you being unfair. Just based on the numbers you cite, you use the bare minimum salary of $12K a year, which would below the average in which PhD students receive through their work and a wage that I have NOT heard any PhD student receive. And then you note the maximum amount of time that is acceptable to finish a PhD. You then go from 7 years (the longest time available to complete a PhD) to a decade. If anyone is taking a decade to complete graduate studies they have completed it, at least partially, on a part-time basis and it is logical to assume during that time they were engaging in paid employment. You also forget to mention the real potential for at least receiving a bursary for each of the 3 semesters/year, the reduced tuition that CUPE members receive and the possibility of receiving external funding. In summary, you portray the life of PhD student in the bleakest way possible to the extent of factual inaccuracies.

    I don’t know why you are comparing a PhD to a law degree, but since you did, I think it would be prudent to mention that in the 3 years of law school the tuition is more than the average tuition cost for a reasonable completion of a Masters and a PhD combined. And that is done with no opportunity for funding as a TA or GA.

    Lastly, I think you miss one of the implicit premises of her argument in that the pursuit for a prestigious degree is a life choice one makes to attain the highest level of education, not a job to be compared to those working desperately to make ends meet. I think you should read the comment above yours which further elaborates on the this topic. More importanly though would be to call the cops to come arrest that person holding the gun to your head (just kidding).

  9. May on December 2nd, 2008 10:58 pm

    StudentHostage,
    -I, personally, make $12K per year from York after I pay my tuition. This is pretty much the standard amount for a TA minus tuition.
    -seven years is the AVERAGE, not the maximum amount of time it takes to get a Ph.D., at least in my program, and this time is increasing as students take on additional waged labour
    -I go from seven years to a decade because the majority of Ph.D. candidates generally, as I have, do master’s work before proceeding to doctoral work, thus the total time is generally close to ten years post B.A., full-time, as I indicated
    -I know few graduate students who receive bursaries beyond first year– they are not guaranteed and are often used as a carrot to entice us to York but do not renew beyond first year Ph.D.
    -External funding is extremely competitive and, frankly, most students do not get external scholarships; in addition, they reproduce the same imbalances of privilege– in order to get external scholarships you need to publish and progress quickly, something that those of us doing much additional waged work cannot accomplish as easily as our more financially comfortable colleagues
    -I use the comparison to law school because this is a blog for law students; I don’t think it’s any more acceptable that law should only be a choice available to those with private wealth than that the same apply to the academy and would advocate for the reduction of tuition fees in both contexts
    -With respect to the notion of choice, I take your point that I could choose to be less poor than I am– but I’ll ask you consider that the notion that all of us should up and make a different choice would have dramatic implications for the basis of knowledge and teaching nation-wide. I appreciate that this sounds grandiose, but I feel very strongly that if those of us on the cusp of poverty make different choices, our experiences are no longer represented. As a woman of colour and a mother, I find this a very troubling choice to have to make, for political as much as for personal reasons.

  10. StudentHostage on December 3rd, 2008 1:42 am

    Hi May,

    I’ll have more of a comprehensive response when you can direct me to the webpage of any graduate program or any legitimate source that shows that: 1) the intended time to complete a PhD is 7 years; 2) that $12,000 is what one receives for a full TAship and total funding even after deducting tuition fees(keeping in mind that tuition rebates at York at least are approximately $2,500 for grad students); 3) that shows that it is difficult or that simple semester bursaries are not as you say ‘renewable’ – I mean the general bursaries that are given to all in financial need and that all grad students may apply to every year.

    Lastly, I’m sorry, but if you can get at least one OGS, SSHRC, NSERC etc. throughout your whole time as a graduate student then maybe you’re not cut out for it and will be doing everyone a favour if you choose a different career path. I do not personally know one, out of the dozens of graduate students that I have spoken to, that has not received some substantial form of external funding at some point.

    I’ve kindly compiled links to relevant information in 4 different PhD programs at York University: Biology, Psychology, Political Science and Environmental Studies. The maximum allowed time for completion for all the aforementioned PhD programs is 6 years, and the typical length is between 4 and 5 years. Also, the guaranteed funding for PhD students is approximately $20,000 for all 4 programs. So minus $3,000 for tution (after tuition rebate), this leaves the ‘student’ with roughly $17,000, without a bursary or any external funding.

    http://www.yorku.ca/fes/students/current/phd/Timeline.htm

    http://www.arts.yorku.ca/politics/graduate/resources/Calendar.pdf

    http://www.yorku.ca/web/futurestudents/graduate/pdf/brochure/psychology.pdf

    http://www.yorku.ca/grads/programmes/biology.pdf

  11. May on December 3rd, 2008 11:17 pm

    Thanks for the links. Unfortunately, they simply do not reflect the actualities of people’s lives within the academy. My program insists that the MA is intended to be completed in one year– I have yet to hear of ONE PERSON who has been able to accomplish this. My graduate program director is the one who informed me, upon my entrance, of the 50% completion rate, and average of seven years, for my program.
    Although I don’t have the numbers for York at my fingertips, there was a lot of data collected in order to defeat the (totally regressive) times-to-completion provision put forward by the Faculty of Graduate Studies last year. One of the reasons that provision -was- defeated was because the Graduate Student Association was able to show that students (who must work outside the university due to insufficient funding) are -not- completing within six years.
    I also found the following two links useful on this topic, although I appreciate that they are not York-specific:
    http://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/4070.html (full article available through York library)
    http://scienceblogs.com/purepedantry/2008/09/phd_complete_rates.php
    With respect to your second point: I draw directly from the Unit 1 collective agreement on the 3903 website– look it up. My salary is $16,484.20. I receive $590/term in tuition rebate; my tuition (before rebate) is approximately $5500. My overall salary is therefore $12,754.20. My apologies for overstating my case by $750.
    In regards to external scholarships, this is a place where elitism is totally reproduced. I am a Women’s Studies scholar; this is a discipline that has only granted Ph.Ds for about fifteen years, about ten in Canada. It is also interdisciplinary. The result is that the committees that adjudicate scholarship applications are unfamiliar and, frankly, uninterested in my research. Few people in my field (and in most politically progressive fields) receive government scholarships, despite our superb references, strong grades, impressive publishing resumes and other accomplishments. Students in more historically established fields, and especially students in sciences, receive considerably more government funding.
    For others, the problem is a bit different– for many who live by taking on tons of work beyond TAs, it is exceedingly difficult to meet the benchmarks (lots of publications, high marks in courses) set out by government scholarships that begin from the premise of a level playing field.
    So–thanks for your advice– but I think that I’ll stay in the academy; if my teaching evaluations are anything to go by, my students are happy for that. Despite your comments I am made aware by everyone except my employer that the work I do is significant and makes an important contribution to pedagogy and knowledge.

  12. StudentHostage on December 4th, 2008 12:02 am

    Hi May,

    As there is no foreseeable end to this discussion I think we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    I have completed a Masters degree, and have several friends currently completing a PhD or that have very recently done so. I find it very hard to believe that my sample of graduates students at York has such a high completion rate in a timely fashion while you are suggesting that this is not the case. Further, the 4 programs I listed are large or at the minimum, average sized programs that are fully representative of the requirements of a PhD. And as you suggest, some may take time off for whatever personal/financial/academic reason but during that time they are usually employed in full-time work thereby further adding to their finances. So you’re either completing the degree in 5 years or taking on paid employment prolonging the completion but increasing your financial status; you can’t have it both ways.

    Finally, undergraduate students are struggling to even complete a bachelors degree and receive no funding whatsoever. And many others make the painstaking decision to enter the work force immediately following high school as they do not have the finances to puruse higher education. In this example should the onus be on the university to finance the student for what is becoming a necessary (for today’s work force) undergraduate degree? If you answer in the affirmative then I find it troubling and selfish that CUPE would find it more important to top up their current salaries at the cost of potential funding for undergraduates who can’t even consider pursue a first degree.

    Education is a life choice, just as selecting a profession is and just as buying a house is. You take everything into consideration and base your decision on your current situation including finances. If you don’t fit the bill, then don’t make that choice. Just to be clear, I stand by my assertion that the majority of PhD programs are completed within 5 years and our offering approximately $20,000 in guranteed funding. In your last response you provided evidence that the situation in your program is unique as it is relatively new and it was also suggestive that it is not representative of typical graduate studies; perhaps (and I say this with caution) your program needs extra funding but not the 4 major programs I listed. In any case, if you want to make change, do so on your own time. Don’t do so to the detriment of 50,000 students.

    Best of luck with your studies.

  13. May on December 4th, 2008 12:27 am

    StudentHostage:
    You’re right that perhaps we’d best let this go, but I want to just respond quickly to two things:
    a) I certainly don’t think that our union backing down will -improve- funding for undergraduate students. Furthermore, CUPE has always been intensively supportive of the fight to lower (or eliminate) tuition fees. Yes, I -do- think that post-secondary education should be available to everyone, and I see this strike as part of that fight. I’ll save you the trouble of telling me that the money isn’t there– I think that, given the amount the university is willing to spend on its own admin, and given the bad governmental decisions made by both provinces and the feds, a radical revisioning of funding for post-secondary education needs to take place, and that the money could be found were this the case. But me accepting the miserable offer made by York in the run up to this strike hardly contributes to that overhaul.
    2) I don’t accept your numbers, nor do I accept (any more than you do!) that my sample is limited. Likely both of our anecdotal samples are unrepresentative and we should, as you say, agree to disagree. To get back to the nature of the post above, however, let’s take your numbers for a moment: two years of MA, five years of Ph.D., $20,000 per year (likely not the case for the MA, but whatever). So: seven years post BA at $20K per year or less. In Toronto. This is seriously not a cause for concern? Who can make this choice? Is the choice equally available to everyone? If not, then the change I make has implications beyond my own life.
    Anyhow– thanks for your time. Over and out.

  14. emma on December 4th, 2008 2:48 am

    StudentHostage:

    why do people point to the undercontested poverty of undergraduate students in order to justify the poverty inflicted upon graduate students? must we always be fighting for the bottom rungs of the ladder?

    CUPE is absolutely not arrogantly “topping up” their own salaries at the expense of the undergraduate students. Frankly, if the undergraduate student’s status as students was tied to one singular labour union, they’d be able to advocate for their standard of living through labour negotiations too. Unfortunately, our economy is structured so that many undergrads are denied organized labour, and work for a minimum wage which would almost certainly be $2-3 higher per hour if mike harris hadn’t frozen the minimum wage while inflation went for a joyride in the mid nineties.

    This issue is enormously bigger than TAs vs undergrads or TAs vs the university. The university is administering irresponsibly dangerous funding cuts to postsecondary education, a trickle down effect that is informed by transfer payments to the provinces, not to mention the neo-liberal agenda of the world bank. When public institutions are forced through cutbacks, to operate like businesses, labour is one of the first places administration sees fit to “save” money. Organized labour is the last venue workers and students have to voice opposition in the trickle down chain of command. And it is depressing, oversimplistic, and simply unethical to justify one group’s poverty simply because the bar is low.

    Speaking of lowered expectations, do you seriously think anyone would “choose” poverty? Are TAs asking for tenure-track salaries here? TAs cannot be TAs unless they pay tuition. Any declared wage increase is a deceptive figure of speech measured against a rise in tuition. When TAs ask to be living on the poverty line rather than below it, they are simply asking for their wages to reflect economic standards recognized by stats canada as enough to pay rent and eat with. I don’t care how many people live below the poverty line, no one deserves it, and as poverty becomes a popular trend, it is only less acceptable.

    Lastly, external funding of graduate degrees is a blessing for those who get it. May I remind you that external funding is under attack in this current economic climate and government, it is not a guaranteed pot of money year to year, and that there is no advocacy group (like a labour union) where people can advocate for an equitable distribution of funds. By suggesting it is a reasonable solution to escaping poverty, you accept a depressingly inadequate approach to funding postgraduate work that transforms a large economic structure that those in power invest in maintaining and you oversimplify it with a rhetoric of choice that is both wrong and outdated.

  15. StudentHostage on December 4th, 2008 10:01 am

    Emma,

    “Unfortunately, our economy is structured so that many undergrads are denied organized labour, and work for a minimum wage which would almost certainly be $2-3 higher per hour if mike harris hadn’t frozen the minimum wage while inflation went for a joyride in the mid nineties”

    I have this to say in response. Unfortunately our economy is structured, rightly so, in that it allows the university to set its salaries and pay scales.

    So because undergrads are not using collective bargaining, for the specific goal of higher wages, graduates are the lucky ones and undergrads are left in the cold? Wow, I didn’t know that access to an undergraduate degree rested upon the shoulders of organized labour.

    To keep consistent with point of this post I will leave with this. The poverty that some graduate students endure is not directly attirbutable to the university and their financial support. Receiving approximately $20,000 as a PhD student is substantial, the academy is not in the business of job creation, it provides higher education so that its students may enter the work force. If you can’t live off of its generous level of support then do something else, don’t claim that you are now in poverty because of a life choice you made. Especially while interfering with the lives of 50,000 students.

  16. emma on December 4th, 2008 11:39 am

    one last thing:

    the university is interfering with the lives of 50,000 students. they cancelled classes. no one in their right minds would be at steeles and nowhere in the cold, from 7am-7pm in Ontario winter. Consider how dire the situation must be for strikers to agree to live off strike pay in order to settle equitably. The adminsitration would never provide themselves with the working conditions they insist on maintaining for grad students. if they wanted to work in the interests of the students they wouldn’t overstuff classrooms and place contract faculty with no access to research leave or job stability (ie stability enough to know what courses they’re teaching and thus have time to prepare course outlines in advance) at the head of the classroom. they’d administer themselves differently, fight government cuttbacks, hire more tenure track positions, and be disgusted that any employee working fulltime at the university is required to live under the poverty line in Canada’s most expensive city (a city deprived of rent control).

  17. StudentHostage on December 4th, 2008 12:02 pm

    Emma,

    First, the picketers are barely staying out until 5. More importantly, with respect to cancelling classes, the Union is doing anything in its power, legal or otherwise, to prevent the resumption of classes.

    Case in point. Osgoode Hall Law School has recently resumed classes. During the path to getting approval, CUPE members protested in front of a Faculty Council meeting discussing the proposal and fired off emails to profs and students so as to dissuade everyone from making this move. When classes did finally get approval, CUPE members had the audacity to enter a class in progress, flicker on and off the lights and yell chants. Behaviour like that is unconscionable. So don’t tell me it is the university wanting to cancel classes. They had no choice because of CUPE and their actions!

  18. Ron Payne on December 8th, 2008 2:53 pm

    If you really want to know about poverty and the union, pease read and comment about the facts.
    Remember the union is part of the problem and not the solution.

    http://welfarelegal.blogspot.com/

    Ron Payne

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