Why would ECE (or similar engineer) TAs vote "Yes" to the Tentative Agreement?

TL;DR; I'm not voting for it because it's a good deal (although better than OP thinks), but because I think this is close to as good as we'll get.

In all honesty, no one in ECE has really been complaining to each other about the minimum funding package in their spare time. It's more of a "this sucks, but that's graduate student life" kind of environment. Too much else to get done and we find ways to make due. Getting a TA position is not too hard these days, really... unless you don't have an appropriate background to TA ECE courses.

Regardless, it sounds like the agreement is actually if our department's minimum funding is under $17,500 that we'll get a top up of some variety. The TA hours will be on top of that. The way it's been sold to me is along those lines. If that's completely wrong, so be it.

As a general response to ECE apathy... there isn't a lot of support for unions in general within Engineering, never mind the student ones. The professors don't in general like them (note the lack of engineering professors in that open letter), and the students are completely disenfranchised from the current one. Strike breaking happens because they don't see themselves as part of said group and might as well collect a steady paycheck. They don't see themselves as getting any gains in any process involving the union. One has to look out for themselves. The professors don't support the union, so they take on as many strike breakers as they can. Everyone else in the department sees this and goes "so what's the point of this strike?". Some departments will have a hard time marking exams. ECE won't.

Even I largely see CUPE as there to represent ArtSci interests and we just wait for you guys to sort out what you need to. I voted against the February offer because I didn't think a $400 increase was something ArtScis could handle. You sounded at your wits end. I also thought that the $15,000 was already written into the previous collective agreement so the University was being kind of silly in avoiding that language. However, a $2500 (>16%) increase in the minimum sounds like a more reasonable offer, given the University's constraints. The fact that the original estimate was due to a lack of information is irrelevant to me. I'll also grudgingly admit that the "minimum funding language" concern of the University has some validity (at least more than I thought).

However, the main reason I voted for it this time around is because I think it's the best we're actually going to get from the University, not because it's a particularly amazing deal. Given that the University bargaining committee appears to have been told to not put any minimum funding package language in there no matter what (it's not in there now and they'll do whatever they can to keep it out... that's the mandate they've been given), and that the current situation is that the University stands to gain funds every week we're on strike (just keep the number of paid return to work days at the two week level), and that we're burning through cash at a very rapid rate... we'd have to anticipate getting an extra 250K in the offer for every additional week on strike. Have to avoid getting caught in a "sunk cost" fallacy.

I agree that there are real structural funding problems at the University right now, but they have to be dealt with on a lot of fronts. CUPE needs to actually officially become the only graduate student union, for one, so it can bargain more effectively (hold power of a strike from RA work as well) and represent even the non-TA graduate students. Departmental funding needs to get sorted so each one can take the hit of a minimum increase (which they need to be able to do at some point, because current levels aren't acceptable). The government needs to provide better funding to social science and the arts departments in order to support their needs... actually, to Universities in general. This isn't going to all happen during this strike period. My biggest concern about this deal is that it'll allow the University to say that they can't increase the minimum funding package over the next couple years because they gave that money to CUPE. We might want to draft a letter regarding that we'd make these funds available in that event... but that's a whole other kettle of fish.

There seems to be this sense that if somehow we just drag things out longer then the University will capitulate, just like in 2000... but they didn't capitulate in 2000. That appears to be a myth. The bitterness of the strike definitely lead to the eventual adoption of minimum funding packages (that absolutely can not be denied), but the strike was over long before that idea was even on the table. People at the very end of the strike were upset about how they only got a slightly better deal than what the University offered pre-strike. The vote was close, feelings were hurt, people were angry... Right now, all I'm seeing is the exact same situation. I don't see why I think it should work out any differently. What is the new trump card in our hand? Is Exam marking what we're thinking will break them? Are we willing to go to the end of April? The bargaining committee are the only people who have dealt directly with the opposing committee and they don't think we can push much further.

Regardless of the union membership's decision, I won't break strike. Period. If the majority think we can do better, that's a good enough reason for me to go along. I'd hope that they were right and that I'm completely wrong... which is definitely a possibility. Seriously, don't think I'm saying people are crazy for disagreeing with me. I'm just trying to explain my position. You guys are awesome. :)

/r/UofT Thread