Why University of Waterloo Workers Need a Union (Story|Passage)

OrganizeUW and its organizing efforts during the pandemic were profiled

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

Why Not Waterloo?

This article by Adam King in Passage shows why we need a union in Waterloo! Student worker organizers Sophia Sanniti (Environment), Lynne Sargent (English), and Marvin Pafla (Computer Science) describe the conditions that inspired OrganizeUW, the challenges - and the creative solutions - around organizing during remote learning, and the catastrophic impacts the pandemic has had on student workers and sessional instructors.

We Need a Union

King's article is a great intro to the circumstances, exacerbated by the pandemic, that we need a union to improve. Read the whole article at Passage. Here are excerpts of what Lynne, Marvin, and Sophias had to say!

The UW Graduate Student Association, the only representative body of graduate students at the university, endorsed the union campaign in July 2020, followed by many other student organizations on campus. 

“We’re one of the only universities in Canada where TAs, RAs and instructors are not union members, and the result has been a lot of unpaid work, unchallenged harassment, inconsistent application of rules and limited say over working conditions,” Lynne Sargent, a graduate student worker and member of the organizing committee said via CUPE’s announcement of the union campaign…

As Marvin Pafla, an international PhD student at the Cheriton School of Computer Science and union organizer with OrganizeUW, writes: “There is a strong discrepancy between what the university says and what it actually does, and we can’t fix the problem on our own. In order to negotiate successfully, graduate student workers need to work together with the support of a strong union that understands our unique challenges. Such changes include higher TA pay, better working conditions and health benefits, and mandatory breaks.” …

As Sanniti explained to me, “The campaign started merely a few weeks before worldwide lockdown measures in March 2020 … As a result, we have had to radically alter traditional organizing tactics that rely heavily on in-person one-on-one meetings, door knocking, pizza parties, etc. We have basically had to reinvent what union organizing looks like and experiment with new and innovative strategies to reach out to students located around the world during a time of unprecedented isolation.”

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.