Fight for $15 & fairness on the Brantford campus

(This article is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2017 5.2)

By Eddie Sauvé, MA Candidate, Social Justice and Community Engagement.

This term, students at Laurier-Brantford have begun a campaign for the Fight for $15 & Fairness. Provincially the movement is driven to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and to improve protections for workers from things such as precarious scheduling techniques. Low-wage workers today, making the current minimum wage of $11.25, cannot afford to meet their most basic needs.

Our group began by making short presentations in classrooms and by tabling in the university’s lobby. After the first day of our campaign, we had 104 petition signatures and a group of 13 students, faculty and community members committed to becoming more involved. Since then, we have gained momentum, new signatures (149 at last count) and dedicated individuals at each of our events. It has become clear that the Fight for $15 & Fairness is something that resonates within our community.

As a group, we are determined to continue collecting petition signatures and bring them to Brantford’s MPP, Dave Levac. We hope this will show how much our community needs $15 & Fairness and provide Mr. Levac with the confidence to read and support the demands of the movement when the Changing Workplaces Review – a report aimed at reforming Ontario’s labour legislation–reaches the legislature in the very near future.

Additionally, through discussions while tabling and within our group, we’ve learned how much our students and contract faculty at Laurier -Brantford are being affected by low-wage, precarious work. We don’t feel comfortable fighting only at the provincial level and recognize that there is a need to also push our university to provide its workers with wages that reflect our basic needs now. Students are paying a lot of money to attend this university, and we should expect that our students, faculty and staff that keep it running are paid enough to afford a basic standard of living.

Fight for $15 & Fairness has also played a key role in making connections and building solidarity within our campus. After attending a canvass training session led by Ryerson sociologist and activist Alan Sears, different campus groups recognized that if we work together towards shared goals, we could accomplish a lot more. Inspired by this moment, Fight for $15 & Fairness, the Women’s Centre, Laurier Student Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG), Advocates for a Student Culture of Consent (ASCC) and independent students worked together to organize a university-wide student walkout on International Women’s Day. The walkout was held in solidarity with women’s strikes around the world, and it demanded accountability from the university while building student confidence that collective action is possible and important in Brantford. The event was incredibly successful drawing in over 100 students who walked out of class to a rally in RCW Lobby. This is the first time such an action has ever happened on the Brantford campus.

Our groups hope to continue to work in solidarity. Each week Fight for $15 & Fairness is hosting Passionate Letter Writing Nights led by other campus and community groups, such as the Sexual Assault Centre, the Mental Health Education Group and the Injured Workers of Brantford. There are also plans for our groups to collaborate on a social justice themed zine to keep in contact and work together.

Keep up to date with upcoming events and find out how you can get more involved by requesting our weekly email summary from lb15andfairness@gmail.com, or join LB Fight for $15 & Fairness on Facebook.

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New (and old) faces of WLUFA executive

(This article is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2017 5.2.)

Dear Colleagues,

Another Association election is now behind us and it’s netted us some really wonderful results. The first is that our trial use of Simply Voting for the last few years seems to indicate that our Members really will vote if we make it as accessible as possible. In our inaugural year, online voting easily broke our records for the previous years’ in-person balloting–and this year’s voter turn-out exceeded even that.

Thank you to all of you for casting your ballots. A strong voter turn-out helps to ensure that your union Executive is as diverse and representative as possible. The other great news is that–along with some tried and true “old” faces –we’re welcoming a number of new members to the 2017-2018 WLUFA Executive. This coming year’s Executive is split almost in half between members who are now Executive veterans and members who I know will bring fresh new perspectives and capabilities to the Association.

Your 2017-2018 Executive is:

  • Anne-Marie Allison,
  • Kari Brozowski,
  • Kimberly Ellis-Hale,
  • Azim Essaji,
  • Jim Gerlach,
  • Marcia Oliver,
  • Herbert Pimlott,
  • Robin Slawson,
  • Zilin Wang, and
  • Byron Williston.

Additionally, of course, Rob Kristofferson will continue in his role as Past-President due to the fact that my (getting much older) face is remaining in the President’s seat.

On a personal note, I have to say that I have very mixed feelings about being acclaimed as your President for the third year in a row. On one hand, I find this position as rewarding as it is challenging and I am very happy to be continuing to oversee some of the initiatives that I’ve seen launched during my time in office. I am also hopeful that your continued trust in a President who is also a Contract Faculty member is a sign that our bargaining units recognize the many ways in which our interests are intertwined.

On the other hand, however, I also know that the main reason for my acclamation is that we simply don’t have enough members with enough union experience –and with enough time in their schedules–to let their names stand for the position. When I began my Presidency, I was very aware of the skepticism voiced by a number of our members about the fact that they believed that WLUFA was built around certain “dynasties” –and that only certain voices were given a platform in Association matters. I’ve worked hard, and will continue to work hard, at dispelling those opinions of our union. None of us, however, need me to become a dynasty…

It is for this reason that I am very pleased to welcome so many new faces to our Executive. I’m not saying (yet) that I won’t run for President again next year. I would, however, love to run for President up against another person who also really wants to do the job.

Even if I lost, it would be great news for WLUFA.

Sincerely,

Michele Kramer
WLUFA President

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RLACs: 24/7

Clayton McCort, Associate Director, Residence Life.

While Residence Life Area Coordinators (RLACs) are responsible for the day-to-day operational supervision of their assigned residence buildings and enhancing the living and learning environment for students living in residence, they also play a central role in maintaining the safety and security of the residence community. Increasingly, this involves responding to students in need of mental health support. While RLACs are not mental health professionals, their suicide awareness and prevention training has become increasingly important—particularly after most of the Laurier community has gone home for the day, on weekends, during Reading Weeks, during campus closures due to weather, etc., and on holidays.

Throughout the Fall and Winter terms, Laurier’s RLACs work after-hours shift rotations seven days a week to ensure round-the-clock support for student-staff working in residence buildings. They respond to and triage higher level residence situations and, where appropriate, will refer situations to the Residence Life Manager on-call. While the Department of Residence will address faculty or staff concerns regarding students during regular working hours, concerns arising after hours can be called into Special Constable Services (SCS) who will inform the RLAC on duty. Recognizing that a familiar face can be comforting for a student who may be struggling, the RLACs ensure that any time SCS, Waterloo Regional Police or Waterloo Fire is called to a Laurier residence, they are always there.

More numbers: Laurier’s Waterloo campus employs 5 RLACs for its residence population of roughly 3,000 first-year students while Brantford campus has 2 coordinators who serve between 300 and 500 residence students.

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Upcoming WLUFA site redesign?

By: Matt Thomas, eResources Librarian and WLUFA Social Media Manager.

Last Fall Term, the WLUFA Communications Committee worked with a group of students in Dr. Abby Goodrum’s JN270 “Intro to User Experience Design” class to help them present a set of recommendations to us to improve the user experience of the WLUFA site (http://www.wlufa.ca/). At the end of term, the group of eight students presented their findings with the rest of the class’ groups and provided us with a report describing the process, their methods, and their recommendations for the site.

The WLUFA Communications Committee can take these recommendations and determine how to proceed: Does the site need a major or minor redesign? If so, when and how should we proceed? As always, the committee welcomes your feedback and suggestions so please feel free to contact one of the committee members, the WLUFA Office, or email wlufacommunications@gmail.com.

WLUFA Communications would like to thank students Alex Dinning, Danial Endrawes, Shea Harrington, Hayden Hellyer, Brittany Legault, Will LeGrand, Michelle Nemeth, and Tyler Winter, and of course Dr. Goodrum for helping us begin our process to improve our website and therefore communication with our Membership.

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2017 CAS award recognizes Kimberly Ellis-Hale and James Gerlach

By Michele Kramer, President.

The WLUFA CAS Award was created to recognize the exemplary contributions a Member of the Contract Academic Staff Bargaining Unit has made to the Association. This year, the WLUFA Executive unanimously voted to have the award shared by two nominees: Kimberly Ellis-Hale and Jim Gerlach.

Though both Gerlach and Ellis-Hale have served WLUFA for a number of years and were already strong contenders for the award, it was their note-worthy individual contributions to this year’s Contract Faculty negotiations that made it impossible for the Association Executive to vote for one nominee over the other. In a year of difficult bargaining–one that brought Contract Faculty to the brink of job action–Jim and Kimberly proved themselves to be formidable figures in the ongoing fight against precarious work.

Jim Gerlach has been actively involved with WLUFA since 2008 when he first volunteered to work as support staff for the strike headquarters at the time. Since then, he has been a member of every CF negotiating team, including his role this year as Chief Negotiator. Jim has also held the position of Treasurer on the WLUFA Executive for the past five years. His nomination package noted that Jim is an “excellent steward of WLUFA’s assets” and furthered that statement by noting that “a strong financial position means a strong position in negotiations and Jim’s leadership in this area strengthens WLUFA’s position at the bargaining table for both Contract and Full-time faculty”. In addition to these roles, Jim has also served the Association at both provincial (OCUFA) and national (CAUT) levels where he has been a member of various Contract Faculty committees.

Kimberly Ellis-Hale has served as the Contract Faculty liaison on the Association Executive for three years and, like Jim, she is also an active member of OCUFA’s Contract Faculty Committee. She has also been a member of WLUFA’s Communications Committee, taking on the role of Chair this year. In addition, Kimberly is now working on helping to bring the $15 and Fairness campaign to Waterloo. In particular, however, it was Kimberly’s work as Action Committee Chair during this year’s CF negotiations that impressed the Executive. As her nomination package noted: “Kimberly immersed herself completely in the task of mobilizing the CF bargaining unit, keeping them informed about the process and status of negotiations, networking with local and provincial representatives in order to garner support for the bargaining unit and plain-old putting Contract Faculty (and their struggles) in everyone’s face! Put simply, the strong strike mandate that the Executive received from its Contract Faculty–and the successful round of bargaining that resulted from that mandate–is almost wholly due to Kimberly’s indefatigable approach to her work on this front.”

The WLUFA CAS Award acknowledges the risks to job security that CAS Members may take when they challenge the precarious conditions under which they and their colleagues must work. Kimberly Ellis-Hale and Jim Gerlach stand out as Members who will not shy away from bringing the plight of precarious workers into the limelight and, for that, WLUFA is incredibly grateful.

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To divest, or to not divest – that is the question

In early 2016, the University received a letter endorsed by 80 faculty members calling on it to divest from fossil fuels. Fourteen months later, Laurier’s Responsible Investment Working Group (RIWG) is distilling the results of written submissions and public consultations into a policy recommendation on responsible investing. Anticipating completion by mid-2017, the RIWG is certainly not the first tasked with such an undertaking, nor will it be the last.

Across Canada, universities are responding to the call to divest from carbon-heavy to climate-friendly alternatives. While divesting’s financial viability and advocacy effectiveness are frequently questioned by its opponents, proponents point out that the financial risks are not different than those of fossil fuel related portfolios, particularly in what is referred to as the ‘carbon bubble’. Further, supporters are calling on universities to embody their stated values of sustainability and support for future ethical economies.

Canadian universities are not alone in navigating the divesting waters; forty-three British universities have already begun moving out of fossil fuels. Nor is the way uncharted for Laurier’s RIWG as the University of Toronto’s response to and York’s Advisory Committee on Responsible Investment’s recommendations or divesting attest. The question of divesting ultimately lies in the will and willingness of the community considering it.

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Governance report and recommendations to the Senate

Originally published Apr. 7/17.

By Kari Brozowski, Communications.

Despite having no official position in the WLU Act or Senate approval, the University Secretariat initiated its own Governance Review of Wilfrid Laurier University. While some may applaud the gumption, faculty should be concerned that the Report’s recommendations generally support the Secretariat’s consolidation of power over the entire WLU governance.

For all intents and purposes, the Review recommends creating a centralized system whereby power is located with the Secretariat, essentially ending the democratic processes of Senate. Despite its claims that faculty would maintain their power in accordance with the Act, a close read of the Review’s recommendations reveal a shift of power to the administration at the expense of the faculty.

Not letting the Report’s lack of implementation recommendations hold back progress, the Secretariat presented its own interpretation and implementation requirements for Senate in the governance restructuring process at the March 8th, 2017 Senate meeting. Not surprisingly, it recommended handing the keys to our academic freedom and programming responsibilities enshrined in the Senate over to the office of the Secretariat.

However, three things have to happen before the Secretariat can consolidate this power:

  1. The Act must be opened to add the new Secretariat position, since it currently has no such position or power in the Act, and it would be violating the Act by allowing its establishment. If the Act were to be opened, we as faculty should also increase the percentage of faculty on the Senate from fifty percent plus one to seventy or even eighty percent.
  2. A new Secretariat must be hired with a Ph.D. and experience as a Senator, since the position would have academic oversight for the entire University governance.
  3. The removal of the position of WLU President, since the President would have no role in the University governance in the potentially reconstituted Senate. Senators need to be concerned about violating the Act, which clearly states in Article 19(k) that only Senate can “create councils and committees to exercise its powers”. If Senate is to review itself and change any of the governance processes, then it needs to strike a committee to review the Senate and makes its own recommendations. It is up to us as faculty to attend the Senate meeting on May 23, 2017 at 3 p.m. in the Senate and Board chambers to voice our concerns.

It is up to us as faculty to attend the Senate meeting on May 23, 2017 at 3 p.m. in the Senate and Board chambers to voice our concerns.

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