GSA vs. a union

The university deals right now with the Graduate Student Association, which purports to address academic worker issues; Why should we unionize now?

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) does a good job representing graduate student academic issues. However, it is not a labour union and has no standing at the Labour Board or under the Ontario Labour Relations Act.

The GSA is a student association. These associations are valuable resources for all students and often work in solidarity with unions on campus. Usually, a democratic student association will support union organizing efforts of its members. However, a student association cannot address the specific needs of graduate student workers and has no power to bargain with the administration as an employer; without a collective agreement, the university administration is free to make changes to the current working conditions of students as they see fit.

A labour union gives workers the right to negotiate their pay, benefits, and work conditions. It also provides workers with representation on labour relations.

There is no substitute for a good collective agreement, which is a legally enforceable document negotiated – and agreed to – between an employer and its employees’ union.

What is the difference between a union and the GSA? Is the GSA becoming a union? How would the role of the GSA change after unionization?

The GSA is a Graduate Student Association, and can give many benefits to its members including services like the Graduate House, social events, the GRT bus pass, and much more. However, the GSA is legally limited in how it is able to engage with the university on behalf of students. Unions are legally protected under the labour act, and allow employees to collectively bargain in a binding way with the university to ensure they protect our interests.