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“Big Tent” Organizing in Canada

by Christopher Cumo

In Canada, the Canadian Association of University
Teachers (CAUT) represents full-time faculty, and
roughly equal numbers of sessionals (part-time fac-ulty) and graduate students, estimates Mary McCarthy, a National Representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Thanks to the joint bargaining power of the sessionals and graduate assistants, the latter have won protection against tuition increases at several universities. This is a crucial victory, because Canadian graduate assistants, unlike their American counterparts, do not receive free tuition as part of their contracts, says Derek Blackadder, a CUPE National Representative. Other gains for sessionals and graduate assistants include pension plans, disability benefits, research grants and money for travel to conferences.

In January 2003, CUPE 4600, which represents sessional faculty and graduate assistants at Carleton University in Ottawa, won a “100 percent tuition increase” according to a CUPE 4600 press release. This left Carleton free to increase tuition so long as it gave graduate assistants $1 for every $1 of tuition increase. For graduate assistants, who were spending up to 35 percent of their pay to the university in tuition, this was an important concession. At the same time, Carleton’s sessionals won a 6.5 percent wage increase in

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