On April 27, 2023, the AGSEM Teaching Assistant Unit Assembly elected Nada El Baba, Dallas Jokic, and Nick Vieira as the TA Bargaining Committee members. The Committee will represent the union at the negotiation table with McGill starting this fall.
Nada El Baba (she/her) is a second-year PhD student at McGill in the Biology department and has worked as a TA since the Fall of 2021. This week we sat down with Nada to chat about her background and interests, union work, and her hopes for the new TA Collective Agreement.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Lebanon. I was born and raised in Saida, a beautiful ancient city that was founded by the Phoenicians on the Mediterranean coast, and I moved to Beirut when I turned 18 and lived there for 5 years. I call Beirut my home, but don't tell my family I said that!
What is the focus of your academic research?
I work on cells! Little guys! My lab studies cell migration, so I spend a lot of time manipulating cell behavior and making and analyzing pretty microscopy movies
so we can understand how little molecules control cellular movement.
What do you like doing for fun?
I play video games like Stardew Valley and Dead by Daylight. I read political theory, although it's getting harder to want to read during my free time when I am already reading papers for my studies around the clock. I love love LOVE being out and about in the summer going to parks, trying new food, and thrifting.
Favorite place in Montreal?
Okay, look. Wok Café. It’s on St Catherine and it's the one last surviving place in Montreal
where you can get delicious food in really big portions (literally dinner for 2) for $15.
Discovered them a year ago because they were the only place with affordable vegan
options delivering at 1 am at the time.
What's your favorite thing about AGSEM?
That we are a strong union with strong roots!! We have won so much over the years and have a rich history that I am really excited to learn more about once our archivists have something ready for us.
Why did you first become interested in getting involved with your union? Any past experiences that made you realize the importance of labor organizing?
I was looking for ways to get involved in my department and was asking my lab mate if I
could take over their role in organizing a seminar series after they graduate, and they told me our department was missing a union rep and that this role would suit me more. They were right!
Why do you think having a strong labour union is important for Teaching Assistants, Invigilators, and other groups of employees at McGill?
I am a million percent sure TAs would get paid barely above minimum wage if not for
bargaining. There's still much much more to fight for, so there's much more union work
to be done.
How were you involved in AGSEM before occupying your current position?
I was one of two AGSEM delegates from the Biology department for almost a year
before joining bargaining. As a delegate, my tasks were to attend monthly meetings at the Delegates' Council, where I represented the TAs from the Biology department. My responsibilities where also to mobilise my department to attend General Assemblies, events, and rallies, and present at TA orientations that were held at the beginning of each semester for Biology courses to give TAs an overview of the union, how they can get union support and representation, and how they can get involved. I also had the responsibility of being the Biology TAs’ person to contact whenever they had issues with payment, workplace dynamics, work hours, etc.
What has been your favorite part of working as a TA?
I love teaching!! It's actually something I didn't know about myself until I taught my first
What has been the biggest challenge in your work as a TA so far?
The stresses that my students go through. I want them to have a positive learning experience, but at the same time I know that very real and very material aspects of their
lives (scholarships, visas, etc.) are at stake if they don't fight to get the grades they need
to get in these courses. The educational system is harsh.
What does your role as the TA Bargaining Committee member entail?
Oh gosh. Bargaining is a lot, and I just got elected so I am still learning. In a nutshell, we
as the Bargaining Committee received a mandate from TAs, as well as recommendations
from the pre-bargaining committee that had been working for a while before we were
elected. We look at what demands TAs want to make from the employer, do a hell lot of
research, hold a lot of meetings, formulate the new collective agreement, send it off
to the employer, and bargain with the employer at the negotiation table for as long as it
takes to get what we demand.
What will be your top priority in your position for the 2023-2024 academic year?
To draft a strong new collective agreement that accurately represents the demands of
McGill TAs. To bargain the hell out of this year and win absolutely everything we
demand and deserve as workers. Without us employees, no education would happen at this
Hopes about the upcoming TA negotiations? What should absolutely be improved about the current TA Collective Agreement?
Wage increases and healthcare!! We deserve and NEED a living wage. We are being
absolutely crushed by inflation, and our stipends as students have been stagnant for far
too long. We heavily depend on our TA pay to survive this damn cost of living
crisis. Also, our healthcare packages as students (especially international students)
are a joke, and we deserve a healthcare package as part of our employee benefits!
Are you involved or interested in other activist or political movements/organizations at
Yes. The working class struggle first and foremost. Palestinian liberation, intersectional
feminism, 2SLGBTQIA+ issues, and animal welfare as well. I am a little involved with
Science for the People (SftP), but I am not a member of anything at the moment.
Would you like to add anything?
If you are a McGill TA reading this and are not involved in the union, what are you waiting
for???? Do it do it do it!!!
Thank you, Nada!
Follow Nada on Instagram