For over 45 years, CUPE 3906 has consistently improved the working conditions of its members, all of whom are academic workers at McMaster University.  The union has been dedicated to upholding high standards of education at McMaster University by ensuring its members are well-equipped to perform their duties, and compensated fairly for their hard work.

At the present time, CUPE 3906 represents around 3,700 workers at McMaster every 12 months, making it the largest union on campus, and one of the largest unions in Hamilton. We currently represent four units:

  • Unit 1: Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Research Assistants in lieu (RAs in lieu)
  • Unit 2: Sessional Faculty, MELD Sessional Faculty, and Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty
  • Unit 3: Postdoctoral Fellows
  • Unit 4: Residence Life (includes Community Advisors (CAs), Guest Registration Assistants (GRAs), Project Assistants (PAs), Graduate Community Leaders (GCLs), and Residence Orientation Planners and Assistants (ROP/As)).

We trace our history to 1979, when graduate assistants at McMaster University first unionized.  They unionized with a union called the Graduate Assistants’ Association (GAA), which was created in 1973.  The new union at McMaster was the sixth to organize with the GAA, and became known as the Graduate Assistants’ Association (GAA) Local 6.

In 1980, the Graduate Assistants’ Association (GAA) and its six local unions re-branded themselves as the Canadian Union of Education Workers (CUEW).  The union at McMaster then became known as CUEW Local 6.  Over the next fourteen years, CUEW organized workers at seven additional universities. At McMaster, sessional faculty organized into a union and joined CUEW Local 6 in 1988, becoming known as CUEW Local 6, Unit 2.


In 1994, a merger occurred between CUEW and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the largest union in the country.  The local union at McMaster was once again re-branded, this time as CUPE Local 3906.

In 2007, the union organized yet another group of workers, McMaster’s postdoctoral fellows, bringing another 150 members into the union. This was the first unit of postdoctoral fellows to organize in Canada and the third in North America. It is known as Local 3906, Unit 3.

In 2014, the union organized sessional faculty in  the MELD Diploma program (McMaster English Language Development).  With unanimous support for the union, they were granted automatic certification and brought under the existing Unit 2 collective agreement.

On March 27, 2024, an overwhelming number (94.6%) of Residence Life employees at McMaster University voted to certify as a union with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. On April 10, those workers voted to join Local 3906 as “Unit 4”.

The new bargaining unit represents “all employees of McMaster University, in the province of Ontario, employed in Residence Life save and except Residence Life Area Coordinators, persons above the rank of Residence Life Area Coordinator, and persons currently represented by an existing Trade Union.”

This new bargaining unit has close to 200 members and includes CAs, GRAs, PAs, GCLs, & ROP/As.

Local 3906 is affiliated with CUPE Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Labour, and the Hamilton & District Labour Council. We are deeply committed to grassroots local democracy and hold monthly General Membership Meetings (GMMs), which we encourage all members to come out to. Not everyone is expected to participate in the discussions at GMMs, so it is perfectly acceptable to come and just listen in (and enjoy a free lunch/dinner)! A schedule of events can be found on the calendar located on the right side of this page.


Our representation of members across campus comes by way of member-driven committees, stewards in every department, a 13-person executive committee, and our local staff. Contacts for all these people and committees can be found on this site, and we encourage you to direct your questions to whomever you deem appropriate!

In solidarity,

Your CUPE 3906 Executive