Hi Invigilators and TAs!
Happy October, here’s your September newsletter!
One upside to the unseasonably warm Fall is that it’s still t-shirt weather—meaning, we can all wear our ✨snazzy ✨ new AGSEM shirts. On the front, we have our new trade union logo and the back has a beautiful design of a fist formed by martlets with the slogan, “United we bargain, divided we beg!” If you’d like to arrange an appointment to pick up your shirt in support of our TA negotiations, email us at email@example.com. Otherwise, catch us on October 25 at AGSEM’s 30th Anniversary Celebration to grab a shirt.
Read on to get an update on the first day of TA negotiations, our TA Assembly on September 12, and our ongoing No More Free Hours campaign. Now is also the time to keep an eye out for Invigilator jobs on Workday.
Remember to sign your AGSEM Membership Form!
Teaching Assistants and Invigilators now fill out their AGSEM membership form online. Remember to sign a membership form each semester you work!
In the meantime, if you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please contact us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Executive, Bargaining, and Mobilization Committees
Our very own Kim G. modeling the shirt she designed!!
Delegates’ Council Motion in Support of Queer and Trans People
No More Free Hours!
Track Your Hours!
First Day of TA Negotiations!
September 12 TA Assembly recap
Accessible Summaries of Collective Agreements
Events and Assemblies
AGSEM 30th Anniversary Celebration
In the Community
Training: OMR/OSVRSE workshops
1. Delegates’ Council Motion in Support of Queer and Trans People
As you may be aware, on September 20 there was a hateful protest in Montreal and across Canada against teaching about gender and sexual identity in schools, known as the “1 Million March 4 Children.” The protest was organized by individuals and groups on the alt-right, and known transphobes and homophobes. Labour unions have a long history of standing up for equity and justice in our workplaces and in our societies. For this reason, AGSEM members attended a counterprotest in support of trans and queer folks in our own union and everywhere.
In a moment of increased transphobia and homophobia across North America, we must be wary of any movement that inflames the anxieties of parents, guardians, or educators in order to promote hate against a marginalized group of people. We must also be clear-eyed about bad actors cynically attempting to pit marginalized communities against each other for their own ends. There is no place for hate of any kind in our schools, on our streets, or in our workplaces.
The protest on September 20 occurred at the doorstep of our institution and place of employment, and was disturbing and violent for many LGBTQ+ folks and allies in the McGill community. If you want to join the conversation about how we can move forward as a community, please email us at email@example.com.
The AGSEM Delegates’ Council unanimously passed the following motion in solidarity with queer and trans people at their meeting on September 26:
Whereas trans people across North America have been facing an exponentially growing amount of anti-trans legislation since 2022.
Whereas there are increasing attempts by far-right politicians, pundits and public figures to sow transphobia and homophobia among the general public.
Whereas these tactics now involve fear mongering about sexual orientation and gender identity curricula in elementary and secondary schools.
Whereas AGSEM members and other Montrealais.es witnessed this strategy being used locally at the “1 Million March 4 Children”.
Whereas AGSEM specifically has been referenced in at least one far-right media outlet and received vague threats in an attempt to discourage our involvement in the fight for trans rights.
Be it Resolved That the AGSEM Delegates’ Council stands in unwavering solidarity with its queer and trans members and with queer and trans people everywhere.
AGSEM Organizers and Raad Jassim, president of the McGill Course Lecturers and Instructors Union (MCLIU) pose for a photo at the First Day of School! Let’s Work to Rule rally on August 30.
2. No More Free Hours!
We’ve done the math. Every other TA at McGill (48%!!) works over their hours to an amount that averages $430 per semester. This totals over a million dollars in unpaid TA work every year. This is unfair, illegal, and it must stop.
How can you participate? You, personally, can commit to working no more free hours. This involves tracking your hours (see below).
This also involves standing up against a culture of unpaid labour at McGill that violates our rights and breaks the law. Sign the pledge and join a network of TAs who are supporting one another in taking a stand against wage theft.
If you do not currently work as a TA: Sign the open letter and stand in solidarity with workers who are asserting their rights. Get your course supervisor, students, and PGSA to sign, too!
At the rally on August 30, AGSEM members shared how they would spend $430, including buying groceries, paying rent, paying off debt, putting money in savings, paying for therapy, adopting a pet, visiting family, buying clothing and shoes, buying furniture, and getting more tattoos <3. Photo: Riley Hannah Lewicki, @analog_girl_photos
3. Track Your Hours!
Are you working as a TA this semester? Have you been counting your hours? If not, there’s no better time to start than now!
As midterms approach, it is an important time to meet with your course supervisor, look over your Workload form, and make any adjustments, as necessary.
Does answering student emails or grading labs / papers take twice as long as initially budgeted? This should be updated on a revised Workload form!
Does your supervisor need to request more hours from the department to ensure you both have enough resources to finish the work for that course? There is a spot on the Workload form where they can do that!
Keep in mind:
You have the right to refuse any work that would exceed the hours indicated in your contract.
Contracts may exceed 180 hours upon an agreement with the department, TA, union, and McGill HR.
You have the right to refuse to work additional hours that are approved by your department. However, any additional hours must be offered to you as a TA before it may be offered to a grader or other non-unionized academic support worker.
Any additional work must be paid at the TA rate ($33.03 per hour).
Your Workload form can be revised as many times as necessary to accurately reflect the time you spend working as a TA. Your work includes required readings, class, and lab prep, office hours, class hours, meetings with your supervisor or fellow TAs, proctoring exams, grading, and required training.
Bottom line, you probably work more than you think. And, legally, you need to be paid for every hour that you work. Your supervisor and your department will never know there’s a problem unless you track your hours and tell them.
If a conversation with your course supervisor about work would be difficult, if you never signed a Workload form, or if you have any other concerns about your working conditions, our union is here to help. Contact your TA grievance officer JP at firstname.lastname@example.org. All inquiries are kept strictly confidential and you will never be pressured to pursue a grievance.
4. Job Postings
Job postings for Invigilators to work in the Fall 2023 final exam session (Dec. 7-21) and for Teaching Assistants to work in Winter 2024 will continue to appear on Workday in the coming weeks. As a reminder, you have the right to apply to work as an Invigilator or TA in multiple departments. In fact, this can increase your chances to get a job!
If you have any questions or difficulties applying for a job, contact JP or Teresa, your Grievance Officers: www.agsem.ca/grievance.
1. First Day of TA Negotiations!
Teaching Assistants’ negotiations with McGill have begun! On Thursday, 21 September, AGSEM met with McGill for the first round of negotiations of the new TA collective agreement. Dozens of teaching assistants from across campus lined the halls in our “United we Bargain, Divided we Beg” shirts in support of our negotiation mandate.
Five members of AGSEM attended the first negotiation session along with the Bargaining Committee, President, TA Grievance Officer and two advisors from our affiliate union, the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ).
Read more about the first day of negotiations in our Bargaining Newsletter #1: United we Bargain, Divided we Beg and the coverage in The Tribune.
Want to be a part of TA bargaining? Fill out this form to express your interests and schedule! Throughout the bargaining process, the bargaining committee will be joined by you, the members, at the table. Members will play various important roles, including notetaking and fact-checking. Participating in bargaining is an opportunity to stay up to date on the process and actively help us win big! We hope to see you there.
AGSEM members line the hall with signs expressing support of a fair contract as McGill representatives and the Bargaining Committee enter the negotiation room. Photo: Riley Hannah Lewicki, @analog_girl_photos
2. September 12 TA Assembly recap
On September 12, Teaching Assistants assembled to discuss items related to our then-upcoming negotiations with McGill. The night included reports from the Bargaining and Bargaining Support Committees on the progress of their work this past summer in preparation for the start of negotiations.
The assembly discussed at length several topics that were important for the content of our demands presented to McGil on September 21. This included necessary improvements to the Workload Form to strengthen this tool to prevent TA overwork. We also determined the union’s position on the relationship between TA wages and academic funding. TAs took a strong position that TA positions are labour and therefore should not be allocated based on financial need. The Assembly also gave a mandate to the Bargaining Committee to negotiate extending Priority Pool access from 4 to 5 years for PhD students so long as this does not affect the ability of Master’s students to get TA positions. We had a discussion on how to deal with sexualized abuses of power in the workplace through bargaining for the collective agreement and beyond. Detailed minutes of discussions and motions may be consulted by members upon request to email@example.com.
Members also voted with an overwhelming supermajority for the Bargaining Committee to pursue a more democratic form of collective negotiations. This involves increasing the number of TAs involved in the negotiation process with research, writing, and attending negotiation sessions. As mentioned above—if you want to get involved, fill out this form!
3. Accessible Summaries of Collective Agreements
Are you struggling to make sense of your TA or Invigilator collective agreements? There are now accessible summaries of both Invigilator and TA contracts on our website! (English only for now)
If you ever have any questions about your contract or working conditions as a TA, Invigilator, or non-unionized academic support worker like grader, note-taker, course assistant, or TEAM TA email JP at firstname.lastname@example.org (TAs and other teaching support) or Teresa at email@example.com (Invigilators).
Events and Assemblies
AGSEM 30th Anniversary Celebration
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of our union, AGSEM is excited to present a glimpse of our history in the public exhibition “From the AGSEM Archives: 30 Years of Graduate Student Labour Organizing at McGill.“
Consisting of four installations in various locations on McGill's downtown campus, the exhibition highlights initiatives of graduate student labour organizing at McGill, situating the union within broader networks of solidarity in Quebec.
On October 25th, join us for a guided exhibition tour and a celebratory march! We’ll learn from our past while showing McGill and ourselves all the ways we will rise in solidarity into the future. Our power has built over the years, through our struggles. Our future is built on our past. Don't forget to save your spot!
Learn more about our two amazing archivists, Miranda and Erika, who worked on this project over the summer.
In the Community
Training: OMR/OSVRSE Workshops
Over the summer, the AGSEM Equity and Diversity and Executive Committees have been in contact with McGill’s Office for Mediation and Reporting to provide training for Teaching Assistants and Invigilators about McGill’s Policy against Harassment and Discrimination. While TA-specific training is still in development, the OMR and Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE) are providing the following workshops for all McGill employees:
Other Equity workshops, including one on anti-racism, microaggressions, and 2sLGBTQ+ inclusion can be found here.