Want TAs, RAs and Sessionals to be consulted in the next campus reopening? Unionize!
Graduate student workers deserve to be consulted on safety and return to work
If you want to be consulted in the next campus reopening (as TAs/RAs/Sessionals), unionize your workplace!
On January 20th, an email was sent out to the “UW Employees’’ contact list by Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor, and James W. E. Rush, Vice-President, Academic and Provost, to provide employees the chance to give feedback on the February return to campus plan. In text, the email was addressed to the “UW Community.” Didn't get that email as a graduate student worker (i.e., TA or RA)? Guess you aren’t considered a UW Employee. Didn’t get that email as a graduate student worker (i.e., as a member of the research body)? Guess you aren’t part of the community…
Either way you slice it, graduate student workers and their safety at the University of Waterloo aren’t being considered at all.
It didn't matter much anyway, because just one day later, on January 21st, the decision was made: everyone returns back to campus on February 7th. Any researcher that has ever conducted a survey knows that this is a pretty fast turnaround time for reliable or valid results. It makes obvious what has been true since the start of the pandemic – that members of our community have not been consulted about how we manage this pandemic together. And it's not just students, TAs, RAs, and Sessionals. Even faculty members (FAUW) and staff (UWSA) have not been consulted. So much for “collegial governance”!
What a safe return to campus looks like is for all of us to decide. As a jumping off point, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has provided a Health & Safety Checklist for CUPE University Workers. CUPE’s list provides a great introduction for entering into the discussion about what campus safety can look like during a pandemic. Similarly, FAUW has formulated a list of asks that would ensure a safe return. The big question, now, is whether the administration will listen to the demands of our community of workers, or if they will continue to make decisions about our health and safety behind closed doors.
The University of Waterloo thinks it can pick and choose who is in its community (or at least who makes up its community “consultation” email lists) and who it considers an employee (or worker). We know that our community of workers includes all of us, and that we must advocate for each other as students, sessionals, TAs, and RAs who are unevenly affected by pandemic conditions. We all deserve to have a say in our own health and safety.
If you agree that we should have a say in the maintenance of our collective safety, then you need to sign a union card. Signing today will allow you and your coworkers to form a union and take collective action to fight for better working conditions and better health protections. Only unionization can ensure workers are adequately consulted about our working conditions through the creation of legally-binding collective agreements.
Want to help unionize your fellow graduate student workers and sessional colleagues? Sign a card. Tell a friend. Get in touch and together we'll #OrganizeUW.