CUPE 3906 and McMaster release statements on warfare in Middle East

Bela Davidson
October 20, 2023
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Social media statement made by CUPE 3906 regarding Hamas attacks in Israel has sparked responses from McMaster and community members

cw: discussion of ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict

Cover photo taken during 2022 CUPE 3906 strike and used for illustrative purposes only.

Following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, statements have been issued by CUPE Local 3906 and McMaster University representatives. CUPE Local 3906 is the largest union on campus, representing 3,500 McMaster employees, including teaching assistants, sessional faculty and postdoctoral fellows.  

On Oct. 7, CUPE 3906 publicly expressed their support for Palestine on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, sparking controversy in the community. 

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn doubled down on this messaging on his personal social media, tweeting support for Palestinian resistance and anti-Israel sentiments.  

Some members of the McMaster and Hamilton community have voiced concerns regarding Hahn’s comments, expressing that the union does not represent their beliefs.  

CUPE 3906’s Instagram and X statements were taken down due to the backlash.  

Soon after on Oct. 7, McMaster issued a statement entitled “Violence is never a solution,” denouncing CUPE’s recent comments on the conflict. A McMaster Daily News article also released that day stated that the university was “shocked and disappointed” with CUPE’s comments.

"While CUPE Local 3906, which represents Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants in lieu, Sessional Faculty and Post-Doctoral Fellows, is an independent group with the right to express its views, the university is in disagreement with any statement condoning violence," read an excerpt from the Oct. 7 Daily News article. 

Provincial and federal government representatives, including Premier Doug Ford and federal Labour Minister Seamous O’Regan, also publicly condemned Hahn’s comments.  

"This is not a reflection of Canada's labour movement and we cannot let it take away from the outpouring of support union leaders have expressed for Israel," said O'Regan, regarding Hahn’s comments. 

Other representatives, including Ontario NDP MPP Sarah Jama, echoed similar statements to Hahn. In response to the war declared in Israel, Jama released a statement on X calling for an end to apartheid and the occupation of Palestinian land.  

Like Hahn, Jama’s statement also drew criticism from government officials. Jama and NDP Leader Marit Stiles released apologies and Jama later amended her original statement to also condemn violence by Hamas on Jewish people.  

Despite the overwhelming backlash, as of Oct. 18, CUPE Local 3906 has not retracted from their stance. On Oct. 10, a new statement was issued on CUPE 3906’s website, further explaining their initial stance in support of Palestinian liberation. 

McMaster President David Farrar, the Office of the Provost and many McMaster faculties have acknowledged this is an incredibly difficult and mournful time for many student communities and offered support resources.  

“As always, the physical and psychological safety of our community is paramount, and we are committed to making sure everyone feels safe and respected in our teaching, learning, working, living, and research environments,” read an excerpt from an email statement from McMaster President David Farrar shared on Oct. 13.  

This is an on-going story.

For more information on accessing mental health and support resources, visit the newly formed McMaster community support resource page. This resource includes links and contact information for the Student Wellness Centre, Student Accessibility Services, the Spiritual Care and Learning Centre and several other McMaster services.  

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