LEARNING, LABOUR, AND LEGISLATION: Unionisation and how the government affects student workers (Opinion|Imprint)

An editorial by an OUW organizer in Imprint describes the impacts of anti-labor legislation on sessionals and student workers - and how we can respond

Digital article heading - Passage - Why University of Waterloo Workers Need a Union is written over a pink background

Hot Off the Presses!

An editorial by OrganizeUW volunteer Nolan Shaw in Imprint, Waterloo's campus newspaper, describes the impacts of anti-labor legislation on sessionals and student workers - and what we can do to resist these anti-worker and undemocratic actions. Read the whole article at Imprint. Here are excerpts of what Nolan had to say:

Instead, the new Ford government used its parliamentary majority to push through the Urgent Priorities Act. This bill imposed a fine of $2,000 each day for any striking worker and $25,000 each day for the union. Basically, a standstill was forcibly resolved by attacking vulnerable, largely poor, graduate students, rather than the multimillion-dollar university. To this day, many of the issues that caused the strike remain unresolved.

With increasing cuts to education and OSAP, the provincial government is less justified to intervene in labour affairs between universities and its workers. Tuition fees constitute a large part of university funding, so undergraduates are the only other stakeholder besides the university administration and workers. The right to self-determination for workers should be protected. When Ontario wishes to interfere in disputes between universities and their workers, our response should be to collectively fight that intervention…

So what actions are available to members of UW? Most would suggest that participating in provincial elections is the most important way to enact change. However, pro-labour parties are already very successful in Waterloo and Kitchener Centre — the two ridings where UW members are most likely to live. First-Past-the-Post elections mean that there’s no benefit to “winning more” in these ridings. Furthermore, this is not a viable option for the many international students, who also have a right to advocate for their own working conditions. Protests and demonstrations offer a way to apply pressure to governments outside of the election cycle, but these options are limited in how much leverage they really have.

Real change will need to stem from grassroots efforts, beginning with the university. First, UW needs a union for its graduate student workers and sessionals. After the formation of a union, we must elect representatives who will stand firm against both the administration and provincial government.

Support from undergraduate students is also critical to ensuring Ontario can’t undermine bargaining efforts. A common tactic in the past has been to claim that strikes are intended to harm undergraduates as a way to pressure university administrations. In reality, it is often the administration’s unwillingness to bargain in good faith that leads to striking as a last resort. Graduate student workers are students themselves. Losing courses during strikes harms them as well as undergrads. Such strikes are necessary to ensure that graduate students have sufficient resources to be effective teachers for undergraduates.

Click here to continue reading! And if you support the drive, please consider sharing it with your friends, classmates, and colleagues; it'd be a great way to start a conversation about unionization, no? 😉

Lastly, a big thank you from all of the volunteers/organizers at OUW to Joan, Nolan, and Scott for all your hard work shedding light on the real-life experiences of graduate students and sessional instructors at UW

Wait, what is OrganizeUW?

OrganizeUW is a grassroots campaign to improve working conditions at UW for/by TAs, RAs, and Sessional Instructors. Here's how you can learn more!

  • check out our handy infographic on the unionization process (also available in Mandarin)
  • head to the FAQs to learn about eligibility, CUPE, dues, and much more, or to our series of video webinars on topics such as how unions help with health & safety, anti-racism, or environmental action
  • browse our blog for posts about mental health, international student issues, organizer interviews, a faculty Q&A, and more
  • drop in at OUW's weekly in-person social event, aka “Stammtisch”. Come hang out and meet new people from across UW!
  • get in touch via email or DM to learn more, sign up to volunteer, share your story/ask for advice about a workplace issue, or discuss whatever else is on your mind!
  • follow @OrganizeUW on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to stay up to date on the latest events, milestones, and union info

And last but not least - don't forget to sign your union card! Click here to sign as a TA/RA and/or Sessional Instructor.

Every small action adds up - by working together, you and your coworkers can make things better for academic workers at UWaterloo.

Committee to Organize UWaterloo
Committee to Organize UWaterloo
supported by CUPE

The Committee to Organize UWaterloo is a grassroots campaign to unionize the academic workers at the University of Waterloo. The campaign is supported by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Canada's largest union.