The Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) Executive Committee stands in solidarity with the ex-executives of the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) and supports the formation of the Concordia Research and Education Workers (CREW) Union.
All executives of TRAC announced their intention to resign on 17 March 2023 in order to support a worker-led campaign to form CREW, a worker-led union. This effectively ends the relationship between Concordia TA and RAs with their parent union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). Instead, Concordia TAs and RAs are encouraged to join CREW and be affiliated with the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN).
Under PSAC, Concordia’s TAs and RAs have been signed into bad deal after bad deal. As a parent union, the PSAC has determined monetary demands and arrived at agreements with the employer behind workers’ backs. Outside of negotiations, PSAC fails to represent workers’ rights and resolve grievances in a timely manner. The Alliance also stifles direct action and activism among Concordia’s student workers, while offering no alternatives to win better working conditions. In short, PSAC has prioritized maintaining a good relationship with the employer over the real concerns student workers face.
Concordia’s TAs and RAs now have a chance to put power back in the hands of student workers. As an autonomous union affiliated with the CSN, CREW will be a worker-run direct democracy, with full control over its finances and ability to establish its own political positions and take direct action.
All it will take to reform the union is for a majority of Concordia TAs and RAs to sign a CREW union card.
AGSEM has been affiliated with CSN throughout its 30-year history. In this time we have been able to negotiate the highest TA wages in Quebec, as well as establish seniority, mandatory paid training, safety standards, the right to refuse unsafe work, and a negotiated workload form. Our contract is far from perfect, but in many ways it is the best in the province. Other Quebec TA unions look to our collective agreement to inform their own negotiations.
AGSEM is also the only TA union in Quebec affiliated with the CSN. In no small part, this relationship has been key to winning more ambitious demands from our employer.
Rather than having a parent union, AGSEM is autonomous. Our affiliation with the CSN provides us with bargaining, grievance, legal, mobilization, and unionization support in exchange for a portion of our dues—but workers remain fundamentally in control over their union.
Because AGSEM is an autonomous union, we, the workers, decide the outcomes of our negotiations with the employer. We decide our demands. We decide when negotiations end or have reached an impasse. We decide when to escalate tactics, up to and including withholding our labour with a strike.
Because AGSEM is an autonomous union, we control our own finances and decide how to spend our money. For example, our General Assembly decided to create a Mutual Aid Fund to directly support students and workers in need and fund other solidarity initiatives. A parent union could put a stop to the fund or control the donations our Delegates’ Council and General Assembly decide to make.
Because AGSEM is an autonomous union, we decide the political positions we take at our General Assembly, Delegates’ Council, and Executive Committee. We decide the relationship we want to have with our employer. We decide the relationship we want to have with our affiliates. We decide our constitution. We decide our policies. We decide our contracts.
Labour unions are one of the remaining true and protected forms of direct democracy in our society. Student workers deserve better than overbearing or negligent parent unions deciding how to run our democracies. For this reason, the AGSEM Executive Committee stands in solidarity with our comrades fighting to establish a vital democratic student labour movement at Concordia.
Mario Roy, AGSEM President
Kiersten van Vliet, AGSEM Mobilization Officer
Matei Petrescu, AGSEM Secretary-Treasurer Jean-Philip Mathieu, AGSEM Grievance Officer (Unit 1 - TAs)
Marta Beszterda, AGSEM Communications Officer
Karan Kumar, AGSEM Macdonald Campus and TA Bargaining Committee Chair