Student-worker organizing is surging on campuses across Canada (Story|The Breach)

OrganizeUW is highlighted in a profile of unionization drives across Canada!

Six OrganizeUW organizers stand in front of the Region of Waterloo government building, with raised fists and a Gizmo the Goose sign saying #WhyNotWaterloo

Hot off the press!

This article by Emma Arkell in The Breach powerfully shows how the cost-of-living crisis, alongside long-standing mistreatment of student workers, are inspiring student-workers across Canada to unionize - in UBC, SFU, Dalhousie, and of course, our movement in UW. OrganizeUW volunteers Joan Arrow (Statistics), Nolan Shaw (Computer Science), and Scott Sorli (Architecture) are interviewed in the article.

“Tuition goes up, wages go down”

Arkell's article connects the struggles we respond to in Waterloo with the crisis for student workers at other institutions across Canada - and how we are organizing and learning from each other how to turn the tides. Read the whole article at The Breach. Here are excerpts of what Joan, Nolan, and Scott had to say!

On the other side of the country, student-workers at the University of Waterloo are dealing with similar issues, and are also organizing in response.

Joan Arrow, a PhD student and teaching assistant in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization at Waterloo, joined the OrganizeUW campaign in September 2021, after it had been organizing virtually for a year. She said the return to campus after COVID-19 shutdowns has been a time of immense growth for the effort.

“All I had heard were the stories of how challenging it had been to get in front of people and to get cards signed during the pandemic, but when we were able to get in front of people, all of that flipped around,” said Arrow.

Nolan Shaw has been working and studying at Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science for five years. He said that when student-workers have received raises in the past, their funding was adjusted to account for the extra pay.

“When we saw this TA pay rate go up, other sources of our funding were clawed back to make sure that whatever you were given in your initial offer was what you would receive,” Shaw said. “So in that way we haven’t actually seen pay increases.”

Shaw said the issue is compounded by the rising cost of living, just like it is at UBC. Some estimates show rents in Waterloo have gone up as much as 18 per cent in the last year.

Another issue that has united these campaigns is the increasingly precarious nature of academic work. 

Scott Sorli has been working as a sessional instructor at Waterloo’s School of Architecture for more than a decade. Despite doing the same work as faculty members, sessional instructors are paid less, do not have access to benefits, and work without job security. 

A few years ago, Sorli was part of a group of sessional instructors who submitted requests to the university administration asking for improved contracts, more transparent hiring processes and an equity, diversity and inclusion policy. 

But none of the proposed changes were made. In 2020, when news of a graduate student-worker unionization drive spread, the sessional instructors saw common cause and asked to join. 

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.