Strike Vote Dates, Times, and Locations

The vote will be discussed at a Special General Membership Meeting on the evening of Tuesday, October 24th in the Arthur N. Bourns Building (ABB), Room 165. The information begins at 5 p.m. with a vote to follow. You will have a chance to hear from the Bargaining Team and ask any questions, or voice any concerns, that you might have about the bargaining process, conciliation, or the strike mandate vote.

The voting will open immediately following the meeting on the 24th.

Voting will then continue until Friday, October 27th from 8:00AM to 7:00PM according to the following schedule:

Wednesday, October 25th: The Lobbies of Mills and Thode Library + the Main Floor of the Degroote School of Business

Thursday, October 26th: The Lobbies of Mills and Thode Library + the Main Floor of the Degroote School of Business

Friday, October 27th: The main floor of the Engineering Technology Building (ETB)


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About a Potential Sessional Faculty/HRSMF Strike or Lockout at McMaster


  • What is a strike vote and why is the Union calling for one?  It is normal for a Union to ask for a strong “strike vote” during the process of any legal contract negotiations in Canada.  In fact, CUPE 3906’s TA and RA (in lieu) and Sessional Faculty/Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty (HRSMF) bargaining teams have asked for a strong strike vote from its membership in virtually every single contract negotiations in the past 35+ years, and there have only ever been 2 TA and RA strikes (and 1 “wildcat” Sessional Faculty strike) since our unionization in the late 1970s.


    A strike vote is called by the Union’s bargaining team when the Union requires more leverage at the bargaining table.  Generally speaking, the bargaining team feels that it has negotiated as much as it can with the Employer, and needs to demonstrate the membership’s support for the union and the membership’s bargaining priorities before any more progress can be made.   

    The exact wording of the strike vote question may vary, but it always asks the same basic question: do you authorize your bargaining team to call a strike if negotiations fail at the bargaining table?  A strong “yes” to this question with as many members voting as possible is the best scenario: it says to the Employer that they have a “last chance” to return to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith to get a deal or else the members are prepared to proceed to the “next steps” in the legal bargaining process: conciliation, mediation, and, finally, a strike.


    Why should we vote yes if there’s a strike vote?


    It is important to vote yes during a strike vote for a number of reasons. First of all, more people voting yes means that we’ll end up with a strong vote. In this situation, a strong vote means that we have 80 – 90 percent of the membership voting “yes”. Based on past experiences, what we’ve seen time and time again is that when we have a strong strike vote, we end up with a strong collective agreement. It sounds counter-intuitive but the stronger the strike vote, the less likely we are to go on strike. This is because a strong strike vote sends a clear message to the employer that we mean business and are not interested in dragging things out at the negotiating table.


    Secondly, voting yes in a strike vote is a great way to be involved in the collecting bargaining process so as to ensure that your union works for you. Being a Sessional Faculty and/or HRSMF automatically makes you a part of the union but that is simply not enough. This is a way for your voice to be heard and for you to be a part of the decision-making process of your union. As with so many things in life, if you do not make a decision, someone else will end up making the decision for you and more often than not, the decision made for you is not going to be one that you like.

    Finally, a strong strike vote often leads to a strong collective agreement. Paying union dues is part of being a member of the union.  Put it this way: you’re already paying dues so why not be involved? Also, you will keep paying dues in the future regardless of what kind of collective agreement we end up with. If that is the case, don’t you want to ensure that you will be paying dues towards an agreement that you’re happy with? It makes more sense to pay dues towards a collective agreement that works for you as opposed to one that negatively affects you.


    How many strike votes are there?  What is the difference between a “strike vote” and a “strike mandate vote”? 


    Under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, there is only one “strike vote” (which is commonly called a “strike mandate vote”).  The strike vote/strike mandate vote asks you to give your elected bargaining team permission to call a strike in the event that the Parties reach an impasse at the bargaining table.  There is no “second” vote or additional vote required (or recognized by law) to call a strike.


    Who can vote in a Unit 2 (Sessional Faculty and HRSMF) strike vote?


    Only members of Unit 2 (Sessional Faculty and HRSMF) may vote in a Unit 2 strike vote.  The following members of Unit 2 may vote in a strike vote:

    1. Members who are working as Sessional Faculty and HRSMF this term;
    2. Members who hold an Appointment to teach as a Sessional Faculty and HRSMF from Sept 1, 2017-Aug 31, 2018;
    • “Political” members of the union (i.e., members who have held a contract work as a Sessional Faculty and/or HRSMF in the last two academic terms—i.e., winter 2017 or spring/summer 2017).

    Please note that all members require personal identification to vote.  Some members (especially those members in categories ii and iii) may require proof of membership to vote (see: next question).


    What do I need to vote in a strike vote?


    1. All members must bring photo ID to vote in the strike vote. Photo ID includes your employee or student card, and/or a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license.  (Please note that we cannot accept health cards for privacy reasons.)
    2. Members who are not working as Sessional Faculty and/or HRSMF in the current term should bring proof of membership to the vote. A Sessional Faculty/HRSMF Appointment Letter is acceptable proof of membership.


    Why is the Union sequestering ballots? 


    If the polling station staff cannot find your name on our membership list (or if you fall into categories ii or iii in the “who can vote” question above), they will ask you to “sequester” your ballot.  This means that you will be asked to insert your completed ballot into a blank envelope, which you will then place into another envelope on which the polling station staff will write your name, student number, department and term in which you are, were, or will be employed as Sessional Faculty and/or HRSMF.  Sequestering ballots allows the union to include as many votes as possible because it gives the union the opportunity to verify your membership in other ways if you aren’t on this term’s membership list (e.g., by looking you up in our copies of letters of Appointment).  Once the union has verified your membership, the blank envelope containing your ballot is removed from the outside, identifying envelope, and added to a pile of other anonymous envelopes.  Once all of the sequestered ballots have been added, the scrutineers open all of the blank envelopes and count the ballots as marked.  This way, the union can be certain that you are actually eligible to vote while preserving the anonymity of your ballot.


    Can I vote in the strike vote online?  Is there proxy voting?


    We are not able to allow for the strike vote to take place online for a number of reasons.  First, our bylaws do not permit online voting.  Second, the online infrastructure to ensure the privacy and eligibility of voters is cost-prohibitive and incompatible with the requirements of our sequestered balloting process.

    Proxy voting in strike votes is also prohibited.



Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the bargaining process and our current rounds of negotiations.

→ Who is CUPE Local 3906?

CUPE Local 3906 is the union that has represented academic workers at McMaster University since 1979, and continues to do so.  We are divided into three units: Unit 1 (TAs/RAs in lieu), Unit 2 (Sessional Faculty and Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty) and Unit 3 (Post-Doctoral Fellows).

One of the main things that we do is bargain and enforce a collective agreement for each of our three units.

What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is a process in which a trade union and an employer negotiate the renewal of a previous collective agreement.

What is a collective agreement?

A collective agreement is a written contract of employment covering a group of employees who are represented by a trade union. This agreement contains provisions governing the terms and conditions of employment, including provisions such as job security. A copy of the current Unit 2 collective agreement is available here.

What are the major issues?

Our bargaining bulletins outline the major issues and provide a useful comparison of the union’s and employer’s proposals. Our most recent bulletin, from late August, is available here. Clearly job security has emerged as the top priority, and one that your union is looking to make improvements to. The employer (McMaster), on the other hand, is not proposing any meaningful improvements to job security provisions.

Based on a membership survey sent out in early 2017 and a bargaining proposals ratification meeting in May, Unit 2 members (Sessionals) determined that the following were major priorities:

  • Increased Job Security
  • Increased Wages
  • Improved Health Care Benefits
  • A functional dental plan
  • Measures to address increased workload
  • Increased to the Professional Development Fund
  • Regulations Around Student Evaluations
  • Pension/Retirement Security


What is the role of an ordinary member in the collective bargaining process?

The most important thing a member can do during bargaining is to stay informed of what is happening. Your bargaining team produces regular updates and holds information sessions, watching for these in your workplace helps keep you in the know. In early 2017, members also completed the bargaining survey to ensure that they had an impact on the bargaining agenda.

Beyond staying informed, members can be involved in many ways. You could volunteer to be a member of the bargaining support team (contact A member could volunteer to organize members in their workplace through lunch time meetings and actions in the workplace.

What happens if, during negotiations, the employer and the union cannot agree on the terms of a collective agreement?

Either the employer or the union may ask the Ontario Minister of Labour to appoint a conciliation officer. This officer will then try to help them reach an agreement.

What is conciliation?

Conciliation is a process by which a trade union or an employer can ask the Ontario Ministry of Labour for help in resolving their differences so that they can reach a collective agreement. Either party may apply to the ministry. If parties are in negotiations, they must use, the government’s conciliation services before they can get into a position to engage in a strike or lock-out.