After months of organizing and card-signing, the Student-Run Service Members’ Union (SSMUnion) has received accreditation. As stated in a post on their Facebook page, the union is “now legally recognized as the union representing all nonmanagement employees of SSMU.” It was granted formal status on January 15, after submitting signed union cards for verification to the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT) of Quebec. Since the TAT confirmed that at least 50 per cent plus one of SSMU employees have signed and submitted cards, the union has been certified without an election.
SSMUnion’s parent union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), is also the union that represents the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Graduate Student Union (GSU) at Concordia, giving the organization relevant experience on unionizing student workers in Quebec.
The SSMUnion hopes to tackle issues faced by the over 100 employees of SSMU. Belle Sullivan, a member of the organizing committee and acting communications coordinator, tells the Daily that these issues include “unpredictable fluctuations in schedules and workload, lack of job security from being kept on temporary contracts, histories of harassment, and serious and systemic problems with communication.”
Those covered under the union range from volunteers to full-time paid employees. SSMU executives are not included in the coverage, as they are considered a part of management. This includes, for example, those working within an organization run under SSMU, such as Queer McGill or the Sexual Assault Center of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS), and those who do administrative work in SSMU. Claire Downie, one student who recently joined the union, works in the organizing committee. Downie tells the Daily she got involved because she believes “unions can benefit every worker;” however, she feels strongly “that having protections provided by a union is especially essential for McGill student workers. Students often manage a job, schoolwork, and involvement in extracurricular activities, which can get extremely stressful.”
The next steps for the SSMUnion include electing executives, working to create internal bywlaws – they will be governed by CUPE’s bylaws until they do so – and beginning collective bargaining with SSMU. From there, the Union will negotiate wages, working conditions, additional resources, and other demands with their employer (SSMU).
Most importantly, the organizing committee is preparing for their first General Assembly (GA), “where union members will be able to vote on by-laws, elect executives, and amend our constitution,” Sullivan says. “We’re trying to get as many union members as possible to come out to the GA, because we want everyone’s opinions to be heard as we move forward as a union.”
Although over 50 per cent of SSMU employees have signed cards and joined, organizers are continuing to reach out to workers to join the Union. While doing so, they are listening to their grievances to ensure that the needs of all SSMU employees are heard, and that all union members are being negotiated for.
“If you’re a SSMU employee who hasn’t yet signed a card, or you’ve already signed a card but have yet to be involved with the SSMUnion, please reach out!” Sullivan says. “We want everyone’s opinions to be heard, because the SSMUnion is here to represent every SSMU employee!” You can follow the SSMUnion’s Facebook page for updates on upcoming events, including how to join the union and information about the upcoming first General Assembly.