Volunteering and card-signing

I'm fired up and want to help! What can I do to help the campaign succeed?

Yes, you can! In fact, we need your help to make it happen. Without engaged supporters, our campaign to unionize won't succeed. Our grassroots, volunteer group is student-driven, and over time has grown as more and more students become engaged. There are many ways to help. Send us a message or drop in to one of our weekly video chats/Q&A sessions (Tuesdays at 1:30pm) to say hi. The current link is always on our Contact page.

All contributions, big and small, are welcome!

I don't have much time. What is an easy way I can help right now?

Beyond signing a card, the top 3 easy ways you can help the drive right now include:

  1. Talk to 2-3 friends about the union and ask them to sign cards - talking to other grad/sessional workers about the drive is the single biggest thing you can do! There is no “right way”, but if you're unsure how to approach the conversation, here are some helpful tips.
  2. Share the campaign - telling others about the drive individually or in shared spaces helps us get the word out. For example, posting on your social media page, sharing info in private group chats or via a student club mailing list, or telling someone you know about the campaign individually.
  3. Let us know what is important to you - contributing a story, testimonial, experience, or opinion helps us understand the myriad issues facing workers at UW and advocate for you, both now and in the future. You can let us know about problems you've had at UW, why you support unionization, experience(s) you've had with a union, what you see as key workplace issues facing your department/faculty/school, and so on. We can keep your name anonymous and discuss by email, phone, video call, or whatever method you are comfortable with.

I am passionate about unionization and want to get more involved. Can I become a core organizer?

Absolutely - all supportive folks are welcome! Once you have signed your card, contact us to discuss ways you can get involved. Some examples:

  • Become a general card signer/activist, which involves reaching out to as many people as possible in your personal networks at UW, especially in your department/lab/school/faculty/research team, to talk to them about the drive. We have resources to help you do this. You can get started with the info in our Instructions for Card-Signers and contact us for tips or training, or join our “card signers” chat group.
  • Talk to us about a topic you have expertise/lived experience in - e.g. advocacy for students with disabilities, labour organizing, etc.
  • Join the core organizing committee - we always need passionate people on our team!
  • Contribute your skills - We know that not everone is good at talking to people about signing cards, or wants to/is able do so, but we welcome people with skills in all areas: writing and editing, social media, art and graphics, languages and translation, baking cookies, organizing events, project management, research, community activism, and the list goes on.
    • But remember, all are welcome! You don't need to come with any particular set of skills or knowledge. In fact, many of our organizers had little to no experience with unions or running a drive before they joined. All we had was interest in the topic, excitement about the possibilities, and determination to take whatever actions we could to make UW a better place to work. To us, these are all the “special skills” needed; we're a supportive group and will help you learn as you go!

Weekly video chat and FAQ: OrganizeUW hosts a weekly Q&A video call at 1:30pm EST every Tuesday! Please stop by if you'd like to discuss the drive, ask any questions, or simply say hi and meet our organizers. The current link is always on our Contact page.

How do I talk to people about signing a card? What if they ask questions I don't know the answers to?

We have lots of handy tips in our Instructions for Card-Signers post on how to go about talking to someone about signing a union card.

Remember that you're not expected to be an expert - if you don't know the answer to a question, it is best not to guess, but to ask us. We will get you an answer quickly. You can email us or join our “card signers” chat group where you can get quick advice, ask questions, discuss strategies, and more. OrganizeUW holds regular training sessions to help card-signers get used to hosting “card chats” with potential members, and we're happy to join you in such chats, to help you get comfortable talking to people about the union.

Finally, keep in mind that there're many strategies to a successful a card-signing chat. Everyone has their own style, and there's no “wrong” way. As long as you're approaching the person in a friendly and open-minded way, ready to listen to their concerns, and alays respect their decision to sign a card or not.

People I have signed up are having technical issues signing digital cards. What should I do?

We recently upgraded our technical and privacy FAQ to help with this, and published a new step-by-step tutorial on How to Sign a Card.

The post includes screenshots of the steps, advice/answers to FAQs about how to fill certain fields (e.g. position/department, job title, employer address), and information about why we ask for certain information at various steps. There is also this 2.5-minute video demonstrating the Adobe Sign process.

As always though, feel free to contact us if you need help!

Can someone sign a paper card instead, if they can't/don't want to sign digitally?

Yes! If they don't feel comfortable signing a digital card for whatever reason, we also have traditional paper cards available. Email us and we can find a way to get one to you to pass on, or directly to them.

  • Waterloo Region & GTA: an organizer can drop one off (contactless drop), you/they can stop by our table when we occasionally host an in-person (distanced) table/booth (check our website for announcements), or we can send you/them one by mail with a pre-paid return envelope.
  • Other locations: we can send you/them a card by mail with a pre-paid return envelope.

The advice in this tutorial would still apply as to how to fill out the fields in the card.

Can I get paper cards to share with others?

Yes, absolutely! The process is same as the FAQ above, we would just send you more cards. You would then sign them on behalf of the union, as a card-signer/activist, and then arrange to give them to a core organizer, or send them directly by mail to CUPE:

Organizing Department Canadian Union of Public Employees 80 Commerce Valley Drive East, Suite 1 Markham ON L3T 0B2

Along with the cards you will get pre-paid return envelopes. If it's easier you can bundle multiple cards in one envelope and send them all at once.

Can I host a physical outreach/card-signing event?

Yes. If you think there are eligible UW students/workers in your area who might be interested in learning more about the union and potentially signing up, we can help you host an in-person outreach event, either in or outside of KW/the GTA. We're happy to facilitate, as long as all public health restrictions in your area are adhered to.

Here is an example of a recent in-person event we held at Waterloo Park. At an in-person event, signees can sign a physical card (see above), or you can give them directions to fill the digital card out on our website on their mobile device, or a device (e.g. laptop) you bring along.

Do you have posters, flyers or brochures I could distribute?

We have general CUPE info packets and are working on getting UW-specific printed materials, including posters and flyers. If you would like CUPE info packets, contact us to arrange a contactless pick-up/drop-off or shipment by mail. Once UW-specific materials are available, we will post an announcement on our website. Then we can arrange to get them to you to.

Print materials can be handy to give out at an in-person event (see above), to individuals you meet one-on-one, or for distributing in public or provate locations where UW students/workers may be located. Make sure to always get permission of the appropriate person to hang a poster, leave a stack of flyers, etc. in their space or on their bulletin board.

I heard that you have swag. Can I get some?

Absolutely! We have face masks which are available for card-signers, people who sign cards, and really anyone who comes to an event or is interested in the union (no requirement to sign a card). In addition, we have insulated travel mugs, which are a perk specifically for card-signers, volunteers, and organizers (though if someone really wanted one, they could of course have one too). Future ideas include buttons (e.g. for your backpack) or stickers (e.g. for your laptop).

All swag is branded with the logo of our clever-goose-who-needs-a-name. Another way to get some is to be a finalist or win our contest to give them a name suitable for a UW Graduate Goose. Click here for contest info!

Can I meet the organizers before I decide to volunteer?

Of course! Please join us at our weekly video chat and Q&A video call, which we host every Tuesday at 1:30pm! You can drop in to meet us, say hi, learn about the drive, ask questions, etc. The current link is always on our Contact page.

How much time do I need to commit?

As much or as little as you want/are able to! You can also be involved more now, and less later if your schedule shifts - there is no requirement for long-term or specific hours. Indeed, the biggest thing you can do to help out is to talk to 2-3 friends about the campaign and ask them to sign cards and/or share information about the drive with your networks at UW.

How common is it for people to become a card signer?

We are excited to say that approximately 25% of workers at UW who sign a card go on to sign up at least one other person in their network. This demonstrates both the depth of (pent-up) interest in unionization at UW and how we need your help to make it happen. Engaged workers are how unions are formed, and without them, a unionization drive is much less likely to succeed!

Do student organizers get paid as part of the campaign?

No. CUPE does not pay students/employees to organize our workplace; we all agree that this should be done for purely altruistic reasons. Engaged workers are how unions are formed, and without them, a unionization drive is much less likely to succeed. It also sets the groundwork for a healthy and active union local to hit the ground running once unionization succeds. Thus, no members of the Committee to Organize uWaterloo are paid by CUPE. The only exception is if a student provides a professional service, like translation or graphic design; however this is rare, as CUPE has a full team of professionals on staff to provide services to support the drive. See FAQ here).

Can I get people to sign up on my own/without first talking to organizers?

Yes! If you are introverted or simply don't want to meet with us, then this is perfectly fine. We have worked hard to have comprehensive information on our website so that students and potential members can get all the information you/they need to make an informed choice about supporting our campaign and sharing the campaign with others.

Our Instructions for Card-Signers post has handy information, as does this FAQ section, which we continuosuly update as new questions arise from our engagement across UW. Keep an eye on our website for updates and new information, and if you do want to briefly discuss something with us, please reach out. We are happy to chat or discuss in any medium you prefer - whether email, phone, video call, chat, or in-person (distanced, KW/GTA).

Can I still help if I'm currently ineligible to sign a card?

Generally, yes. If you are a UW grad (or undergrad) student, sessional instructor, lecturer, professor, or other UW community member then you are welcome to help as an ally to the campaign, even if you are not working right now (or in the next year - in which case you can sign a card!), and so are not eligible to sign up.

However, if you are in management at uWaterloo or acting on behalf of a corporation, then aiding/sponsoring union activities is generally prohibited in Ontario.

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