Our Local History
CUPE 3904 is a part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, (CUPE), Canada’s largest union, with more than 680,000 members nationally and 240,000 members in Ontario. For over fifty years, CUPE has been committed to “fairness, equality, dignity” for workers in health care, municipalities, school boards, social services, and of course, universities. With a mission to improve the quality of life for workers, CUPE advances areas such as wages, benefits, work conditions and pensions, and advocates issues of social justice.
At Ryerson, efforts to organize a union began in 1977, when full-time sessional instructors were paid $13,500 per year and had neither
benefits nor seniority rights. Under the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the renamed Canadian Union of Educational Workers (CUEW) Local 4 at Ryerson University – previously called the Graduate Assistance Association (GAA) – was formed in order to establish better pay, benefits, and job security. In the winter of 1980, after a two-week strike, members obtained Priority of Consideration (seniority rights) and contract extensions.
In 1984, the significant gap in wages between CUEW instructors and tenured faculty was narrowed, with CUEW gaining modest pay increases. Importantly, members voted in favour of strike action, if necessary, to correct this long standing pay inequality.
In 1986, CUEW Local 4 fought for the RRSP contribution plan for Unit 1 members that continues to be included in our agreement. In 1988, dental and life insurance plans were improved, and the union fought for disability leave to be included in the benefit package.
In 1993, CUEW Local 4 was able to achieve an agreement with management that offered a pay rise and improved job security for some members through the removal of a seniority cap that had been part of previous contracts.
On January 1, 1995, CUEW became CUPE 3904 with two units, Unit 1 and Unit 2, each with its own stewards and bargaining team. Unit 1 is comprised of sessional and part-time day Contract Lecturers, and Unit 2 consists of Continuing Education Contact Lecturers.
With over eighty percent of our members in favour of merging, uniting with CUPE allowed us to become part of a larger labour movement while maintaining local autonomy. In 1996, the salary grid was revised, and a workload clause on class-size maximum was added, as well as first consideration for those with seniority.
In 2003, Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Graduate Assistants (GAs) formed Unit 3 of CUPE 3904, with wages and work conditions (hours and security) being a top priority.
Over the past twenty years, CUPE 3904 has been working hard to improve living conditions for its members, negotiating for better wages, benefits, and general working conditions. For more information, please have a look at our recent Collective Agreements (online on our website and in print in our office).
The road to equity continues – in solidarity!
(from the Archives of Local 3904 and the Archives and Special Collections at Ryerson Library)