Photos by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

On Sept. 26, the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3906 made history as 87 per cent of its Unit 1 members voted to authorize a strike mandate. Unit 1 represents graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants and research assistants at McMaster. This will allow for strike action, if deemed necessary. 

The vote came after a series of labour negotiations between CUPE 3906 and McMaster University. Beginning in June, CUPE had presented a list of proposed changes to the collective agreement that supervises McMaster’s academic employees. The list included paid training for teaching assistants, equitable wages between undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants, an increase to the minimum number of hours on a contract, protection against tuition increases and better representation for Indigenous members. 

McMaster had planned to conduct negotiations with CUPE 3906 in accordance with Bill 124, which, if passed, would nullify collective agreements and limit the annual increase of compensation and wages to one per cent. Since the bill was yet to be legally binding at the time of negotiations, CUPE 3906 disagreed with McMaster’s choice to bargain under Bill 124.

After the first reading of Bill 124, which occurred on June 5, 2019, 64 Legislative Assembly members were in favour of passing the bill and 40 members voted against it. In the end, the motion was carried forward. In order to become law, Bill 124 will need to pass additional readings. 

By the beginning of September, CUPE 3906 and McMaster had failed to arrive at an agreement. When the bargaining process reached an impasse on Sept. 11, the teaching and research assistants of CUPE 3906’s Unit 1 filed for conciliation and scheduled a strike vote for Sept. 26. 

According to an update from CUPE 3906, after four days of voting, a record-breaking majority voted in favour of a strike in the event that CUPE 3906 deems a strike necessary. Most of the members are unwilling to accept the conditions offered by McMaster. 

CUPE 3906 represents 3,500 workers at McMaster each year. This makes it one of the largest unions in Hamilton and the largest on campus. Unit 1 alone represents about 2,700 McMaster employees, including all teaching assistants, some research assistants, markers, demonstrators and tutors. 

“The bargaining team is not releasing total numbers right now but it is by far the highest amount of people we’ve ever seen. We had more people vote ‘yes’ than have ever voted total,” said Nathan Todd, president of CUPE 3906 and a graduate student in McMaster’s philosophy department. 

A statement on CUPE 3906’s website adds that the strike mandate vote illustrates the members’ commitment to the needs that the union is representing. 

Despite a landmark vote, however, CUPE 3906 remains unsure as to how the timeline will look following the strike authorization. The union has not been able to return to the bargaining table; they have not been afforded the chance to change their position and they are advocating for the same changes as when negotiations first began.

At the moment, the rest of the negotiating process is in a standstill as CUPE 3906 waits for news from their provincially appointed conciliation officer. The union is aware that the conciliator has contacted McMaster but does not know how the university has responded, if at all. 

“I’m not sure if [McMaster] has returned [the conciliator]’s calls or given her any updates but last I spoke with the conciliator this week, she wasn’t able to confirm any further dates … We’ve offered a number of dates this month. We’re waiting to hear back. That’s kind of holding back the timeline at this point,” said Todd. 

Chantal Mancini, a PhD candidate in the department of labour studies and a delegate to the Hamilton and District Labour Council for CUPE 3906, states that McMaster has not demonstrated their support for their graduate students in this round of bargaining. 

It’s interesting that a major focus of researchers in labour studies is the increase of precarious work and the negative impact this has on the well-being of workers. Yet, in direct contrast to this research, McMaster has presented a proposal to our union that will increase the precariousness of the work that I and my Unit 1 colleagues perform,” she said. 

Mancini says that the university’s proposal does not support the well-being of graduate students. She notes that although students will benefit from the priorities requested of McMaster, the university has nevertheless rejected the union’s demands.  

Maybe the coolest thing while working the voting booth, was having undergrads come up and ask how they could help. Felt awesome to be supported by the whole student family. https://t.co/NEr2xyREMx

— Adam Fortais (@AdamFortais) September 27, 2019

Regardless of the administration’s silence, other bodies on campus have shown their support for CUPE 3906. The McMaster Graduate Student Association released a letter of support on Oct. 2, declaring that the GSA’s priorities align with those of CUPE 3906’s. The day after, the Department of Political Science at McMaster also announced their support for better working conditions and compensation for teaching and research assistants, hoping for a fair agreement between the union and the university.

“We’re considering reaching out to other departments as well … It seems like, in the departments we’ve spoken to, there is a good level of support,” said Mollie McGuire, vice-president of CUPE 3906. 

On Oct. 6, CUPE Ontario, which represents 55,000 educators across the province, averted a strike after the provincial government made concessions in a collective agreement. This renders them the first of several unions to arrive at a deal with the Ford government since public school employee contracts expired in September. While the deal did not involve them, CUPE 3906 has stated that they stand in solidarity with CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions.

“[We are] immensely proud of their accomplishments at the bargaining table and beyond. The OBSCU, CUPE, their allies and their communities stood firm in resistance to authority politics and the devaluation of their work. Their accomplishments were possible due to the direct action by their members and their community and their success is a testament to the value of mobilization and the power of the labour movement,” said Todd. 

Teaching and research assistants at McMaster are hoping for a similar accomplishment, referring to the strong strike vote mandate provided to CUPE 3906 as an indication of their resolve to seek a fair contract. 

“It is my hope that McMaster has taken notice and is committed to negotiating a fair deal that reflects the value of the work we do for the university. Reaching a deal is ultimately the best outcome for everyone,” said Mancini. 

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Many of us don’t need to be reminded that there’s only a few days left before exam season starts, but we might need a reminder to make time for a nice home cooked meal. It’s easy to turn to buying lunch or dinner when you’re tight on time during these next few weeks, but there are ways to make cooking an enjoyable experience while relieving some stress too.

The Sil staff have compiled their favourite recipes that are easy to make, especially when you’re short on time. We encourage you to try them out, change up the ingredients and most importantly, take the time to take care of yourself this season.

 

Hands-off tomato sauce

Shared by Sasha Dhesi (Managing Editor)

Pasta is a staple batch recipe since it’s fairly easy, delicious and lasts the whole work week. While most people don’t have time to make homemade pasta, students don’t have to rely on jarred sauces and compromise their time. 

Making a sauce at home can seem challenging, but simple recipes like this one are great for students low on time and on a budget.

I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit’s Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce. I replaced a few of the more expensive ingredients with more accessible, easier kept items that make more sense for students to keep around in the house. The recipe should make about four servings and take about 40 minutes, but only 20 of those minutes are active! This is a great recipe to make while studying at home — just pop the sauce into the oven and you’ll have a great sauce in no time!

 

Ingredients

 

Steps

    1. Crush the garlic cloves, removing their skin. Cut the butter into small cubes. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
    2. Pour the can of tomatoes into a rectangular baking dish. With your hands, gently crush the tomatoes. Add garlic and butter cubes to baking dish alongside tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. roast for 20 minutes.
    3. Take the baking dish out of the oven and add the fish sauce and chili paste to the dish. If you don’t like heat, don’t add the chili paste! If you like it spicy, feel free to add more. Return dish to oven for another 20 minutes.
    4. While the sauce roasts for another 20 minutes, begin cooking the pasta. Boil four to five quarts of water, adding salt when the water starts to release steam. Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the pasta’s instructions. Reserve one cup of pasta water, and drain the pasta.
    5. Once the sauce is done roasting, remove it from the oven and let it cool slightly. Using a fork or masher, crush the garlic and tomatoes into a jam-like texture. Add the pasta and sauce into one pot. Toss the pasta and sauce with tongs, slowly adding about ¼ cup of pasta water to thin the sauce.
    6. Serve while warm, garnished with parmesan.

 

Warm carrot and potato soup

Shared by Hannah Walters-Vida (Features Reporter)

In an effort to describe how good this soup is, the most a room full of Sil writers could come up with is “warm, warm soup, it hugs you from the inside”. Pretty much everyone in the office will agree that this is a great recipe for soup. I typically double the recipe and freeze the soup in mason jars for when I need a quick, filling meal.

This recipe is originally by Jennifer Segal and I made a few modifications to make it vegan friendly. This recipe yields 8 servings and takes about 45 minutes to make, but most of the time is spent letting the soup simmer. This soup can stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months, so it’s worth the investment in time. Just make sure to pop it into the fridge the day before wanting to reheat it!

 

Ingredients

 

Steps

    1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large pot.
    2. Add chopped onions and stir for about ten minutes or until soft. Avoid letting the onions turn brown.
    3. Add the curry powder and cook for an additional minute.
    4. Add chopped carrots, sweet potatoes, vegetable broth and salt. Allow the vegetables to come to a boil.
    5. Cover the pot and allow the vegetables to simmer on low heat for about 25-30 minutes.
    6. Stir in the chopped apples and honey. If you have a stick blender, you can directly puree the soup in the pot until the consistency is smooth and creamy. If you have a blender, let the soup cool slightly and then puree it in batches. Segal recommends leaving the hole in the lid open and covering it with a kitchen towel while blending to allow the steam to escape.
    7. Season your soup to taste with salt, pepper, curry powder or honey if desired.

 

Black bean and chickpea salad

Shared by Razan Samara (Arts & Culture Editor)

This is my go-to recipe for dinner with friends and potlucks. It also makes for a perfect side dish alongside lunch or dinner, I personally think it pairs really well with chicken tawook tacos and panko-breaded fish. This recipe yields about 3-4 servings and was inspired by Cookie and Kate.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself become quite reliant on this recipe. It requires minimal effort, which means I can throw a whole batch together pretty quickly the night before my early morning commutes. This recipe has filling ingredients, can easily travel and can be modified to meet your taste preferences. I encourage you to keep things new and interesting with every rendition of the dish!

 

Ingredients

 

Steps

    1. In a large bowl (like really large), combine all of your beans, corn, chickpeas and vegetables. Add in the lime or lemon juice, zest, olive oil and season with ground cumin, salt and black pepper to your taste! I tend to go heavy on the cumin.
    2. Mix all your ingredients.
    3. You can serve right away or cover the bowl and let it chill in the fridge for a couple hours to really enhance the flavours. This recipe can also last in the fridge for about 2-3 days, just make sure to replenish the flavours by adding in lemon or lime juice and giving it a quick stir before serving! I also like to add fresh tomatoes.
    4. Garnish with slices of lime, extra cilantro, avocados or even some tortilla chips!

 

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Tyler Welch, Assistant News Editor

Cash-strapped students can stretch their dollars a little bit further this summer, with the advent of Westdalicious. The two-month event is a chance for Westdale eateries to collaborate and to each offer a special bargain from their menus.

 
Seventeen restaurants in Westdale Village will be participating in Westdalicious and they have all agreed to offer their respective bargains from July 1 until August 31, inclusive.

 
Those who combine a sweet tooth with a reliance on coffee will certainly gravitate toward The Second Cup, where they will be able to walk away with a medium coffee and any slice of cake for five dollars. For a light lunch, a hungry pair of students can stroll down to Pita Pit, share the cost of $20, and enjoy two 6-inch petitas, two smoothies and a choice of chips or cookies.

 
McMaster student Ryan Beshara likes the idea of Westdalicious and is glad that The Bean Bar - his favourite Westdale restaurant - is participating. Beshara appreciates the opportunity to take a friend and enjoy their delicious cake for a fraction of the regular price (two slices of cake for $15 during the promotion). “It’s a smart way of exposing the different restaurants of Westdale” he said. “It gives us a taste of the types of food that are in our area.”

 
Beshara said he will probably try out Walker’s Chocolates ($10 box of mint meltaways) or Dragon Court (2.5 pounds of lobster for $25) this summer, to take advantage of the specials they are promoting.

 
The whole concept - the brainchild of the Westdale Village business association - takes inspiration from a similar idea in Toronto. Since 2003, Toronto has held two food festivals - Summerlicious and Winterlicious - in an effort to encourage dining out at expensive restaurants that are usually beyond the scope of many people’s budgets. Westdalicious is certainly a smaller undertaking - Toronto’s current Summerlicious includes 196 restaurants in its 2013 promotion. However, Westdale’s runs longer. Where West Hamilton locals will be treated to savoury deals and sugary bargains for two months, the Toronto-licious promotions only last for two weeks each.

 
Toronto’s festivals have come to include the city’s high-end dining options and have provided a genuine incentive for local restaurant spending during historically lower periods. Toronto has seen a growth in popularity during the each festival’s decade-long lifetimes.
While the true economic impact of Westdalicious remains to be seen, students will surely be figuring out how dining in Westdale Village can now fit into their budget.

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