Why are student workers at Wilfrid Laurier University forming our own union?

Students work for a reason; many of us need to earn an income to support ourselves and need to gain job experience in our fields of study. We are taking steps to unionize in order to improve the quality of all student jobs.

Forming a labour union gives us the power to bargain improvements over our working conditions. Collective bargaining is a democratic process, which means that what we bargain will be decided by us. Here are examples of the kinds of things that unionized student workers have bargained with their employers:

  • Guaranteed pay increases
  • Health benefits
  • Channels to resolve issues and make complaints, free from reprisals or retaliation
  • Union contracts can address systemic oppression faced by marginalized workers (such as gender affirming health benefits, Indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms, pay equity, bias in hiring and promotions, and more)
  • Protection of intellectual property and recognition student workers’ contributions on research projects

Our union would be a directly charted local of the PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada). PSAC also represents the Teaching Assistants of WLU. We want to build a broad coalition to all student workers. We intend to join the Graduate Teaching Assistants as part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada as part of the Local 902.



As a Research Assistant, unionizing means a lot to me.

The work of each RA looks different. We all do research, but our pay, hours, and job security are all different. By forming a union, we will be able to better voice our concerns. Just as importantly, we will be able to more effectively communicate with each other in order to better secure our labour rights.

Antonio Rodriguez, Research Assistant

A union ensures that IAs and RAs are being fully compensated for the entirety of their labour.

There are many differences between contacts. This either prevents IAs from investing proper time into giving students feedback or causes them go over allocated time and not be paid for their extra labour. A union would allow IAs to be successful in meeting student needs which is not currently feasible in all circumstances.

Katlyn Melcher, Instructional Assistant


Probably nothing has revealed more starkly the inequality between workers and employers than the coronavirus pandemic.

Whether it is making decisions about going into a (un)safe workplace, being paid a fair wage or simply being able to have some control over your work, unions are the one organization that will be there for you. Research Assistants would benefit from a collective voice via a union because unlike many other campus workers, RAs rarely get an opportunity to meet each other in any number to compare their treatment, working conditions, pay and benefits etc. I fully support the unionization of RAs.

Dr. Hillary Pimlott, Department of Communication Studies


Unionization is important for Research Assistants because they often work sporadically and in isolation from each other, and therefore lack the supports to be able to collectively identify shared concerns and bring them forward to the university.

Ensuring workplace safety, equity and fair compensation is as important for RAs as for any other group of workers at the university; collective bargaining would provide much-needed space for putting attention to those issues.

Dr. Alex Latta, Departments of Global Studies, and Geography and Environmental Studies


As a faculty member and director of a research centre who employs a lot of student RAs, I could easily see the formation of a new union as a threat to my level of control and my ability to be flexible in my research work. But, as somebody, who, as a student, experienced a major conflict with a group of faculty members at my university and was threatened with being legally sued, I certainly appreciated to be part of a union and have their support in countering these unjustified bullying efforts of these faculty members.

Power within a university context is certainly very unevenly distributed and a union offers a way to redistribute some of that power. While it will mean that I need to give up some of my power, I believe we all will be better of with a more equitable system in the end. Thus, I am very much supportive of this effort but encourage the organizers to work collaboratively with us, as faculty members, throughout the process so that we can maximize the chance of creating win-win solutions.

Dr. Manuel Riemer, Director of Viessmann Centre for Engagement and Research in Sustainability (VERiS)


I support the unionization of RA's on the Laurier campuses. As a faculty member who has the privilege of working with RA's, collective organizing offers opportunities for these vital academic workers to transform precarity into employment security, whether that be working conditions, remuneration, or health benefits.

Dr. Sara Matthews, Departments of Global Studies, Anthropology, Communication Studies and Religion, Culture and Social Justice

As workers, we’re always stronger when we come together.

That’s why we need a union for all student workers—To support workers’ rights to advocate for themselves and to provide a collective voice to advocate for all of us.

Student workers perform indispensable labour for the university that too often gets taken for granted. Unionization is about improving material conditions, but it’s also about ensuring that student workers are treated with dignity—as students, as workers, and as human beings.

Jesse Smith, MA Student

An Organizing Committee member, I feel humbled everyday I can meet and connect with other activists on my campus.

I’ve been inspired by everyone who is taking initiatives in labour abroad to bring the struggles of the people to the forefront.

Building strength in community is what makes me happy to be an organizer at Laurier.

John Bannister, Organizing Committee Member. MA Student

Ready to organize?
Show your support and sign a card.

Union card for All Student Workers

How it works


Step 1

Join the union committee

Union committees are co-workers who support each other, share information, strategy and ideas on what kind of union they want to build. There is no union without a union committee.

Step 2

sign a union card

The majority of workers must sign union cards. Union cards are confidential. Your employer will never see who signs a card. Union membership cards are presented to the Labour Board in order to get a union vote.

Step 3

Application for Certification

The union files for certification with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). This application process is made in order to ask the Labour Board to conduct a vote.

Step 4

Secret ballot vote

5 days after filing for certification, the Ontario Labour Relations Board will hold a secret ballot vote. 50% + 1 of voters, must vote YES for a union to be formed.

Step 5

OLRB certificate

The OLRB will issue a certificate allowing Union Committees with the 50% + of votes to bargain their working conditions and start to form a union.

Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)

What is a union?

A union is a democratic association formed by workers who come together and use their collective strength to negotiate better working conditions, benefits, and terms of employment.

Workers form unions to give them the power to negotiate together as a unit through collective bargaining, as well as to make sure that workers are represented fairly in the case of workplace grievances and disciplinary procedures.

Workers who are unionized have the organization and legal power to protect their rights and interests as employees.

Why do we need a union?

We believe that a labour union is the best way that we can advocate for ourselves and our community. With a union, we are a collective force to be reckoned with. Unionization would allow us to negotiate a fair contract, access the support and advocacy of PSAC, and maintain equitable and just working conditions.

In addition, unionization would establish a formal relationship between the University and workers. It will give us a collective voice to be recognized.

Who can sign a card in support of unionizing?

If you are enrolled as a student and work directly for the Wilfrid Laurier University, you can sign a card. You not have to be a Canadian citizen to sign a union card. Union cards are confidential.

I signed a card, am I in a union now? What happens next?

That’s wonderful! With your signature, you are now one step closer to forming a union. Signing a card does not mean that you are in a union yet. It means that you support your co-workers’ efforts to unionize. When the majority of workers have signed, the union will file the cards with the OLRB (Ontario Labour Relations Board). After that, the OLRB will conduct a secret ballot vote. Every employee covered by the union application will be eligible to vote.

How can I get involved in the campaign?

We would love to have more volunteers in the campaign, and welcome contributions of all capacities. To join the efforts to unionize, please contact Nicholas Lewis Lindsay:

Please note that you do not have to possess any preliminary knowledge on unionizing to volunteer.

How do union dues work?

All union members contribute union dues because unions are wholly owned by workers. Nobody pays union dues until you have negotiated a union contract and the membership have democratically voted to ratify their contract. Dues are tax deductible and dues are not applied to overtime, bonuses or premiums. The PSAC dues rate is 1.6%.

PSAC dues rates are set at the National Triennial Convention and are determined democratically through a convention vote.

Get involved

Join our committee. We welcome all kinds of commitments; in whatever capacity you wish to contribute. If you would like to know more, please contact us!

Do you have a question?
You can reach us at:

You can also call a union organizer. All calls are confidential:

(647) 417-1523
(437) 990-8985

Click here to book a confidential call with a union organizer