“It’s not our union, it’s everyone’s union”

CREW-CSN wins vote to become new union for Concordia’s TAs and RAs

Courtesy Stephanie Eccles

From Oct. 23 to Nov.13, Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants of Concordia (TRAC), affiliated with Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and Concordia Research Education Workers (CREW)—affiliated with the Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN), held a secret ballot for Concordia University’s teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants (RAs) who held their positions on April 26 and May 3 of 2023. TAs and RAs were urged to vote online for their desired union.

On Nov. 13 CREW-CSN garnered 1,044 out of the 1,466 votes, leading the secret ballot by 71.7 per cent. The ballot also saw a high turnout rate of around 81 per cent of eligible voting members, according to Colin Crawford, an RA in the film studies department, and one of CREW’s campaign organizers.

This is the second time CREW-CSN has won the majority of votes to be the new union to represent TAs and RAs of Concordia.

Frances Davenport is a TA and RA in the chemistry department, and a CREW militant organizer. Fabrizio Lacarra Ramirez is a TA in the English department and CREW militant supporter. Crawford, Davenport and Lacarra Ramirez all agree CREW’s most recent campaign was just as successful as their first, as they received immense interest, support and love from the community.

“Voter turnout shows us that we have united our community in a way we haven’t seen since we were first unionized,” Davenport said.

The high turnout rate pleasantly surprised CREW. Prior to the voting period, the union had conducted estimations based on who had signed cards for them in their last campaign and who had pledged to vote for them in the recent secret ballot. The 71 per cent they won was ten points higher than they predicted. 

“To call it overjoyed is an understatement,” said Davenport. “It’s really amazing to get such great numbers after working so hard in the spring,” Crawford added.

During this campaign, CREW wanted to make themselves readily available to TAs and RAs so members could ask questions and smooth out any doubts about their campaign. CREW frequently tabled at the Hive Cafe to meet with members and chat with them about concerns. 

Crawford explained there was a lot of trying to restore membership confidence after misinformation was circulated, “which is why we were so adamant on just being there for our members to offer them clarification if they were confused.” 

CREW is transitioning administratively to CSN, reclaiming their office across from the Hall building, and focusing on their goal: preparing for bargaining.

CREW is additionally preparing for their first general assembly (GA), where they encourage a healthy amount of “democracy, transparency and feedback from our members,” according to Davenport.

The first GA will be held Nov. 29 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., both online and in person, and all members will review a draft of CREW’s constitution. According to Lacarra Ramirez, the constitution envisions an increased frequency of GAs, an empowered delegates council and a more robust executive committee. Lacarra Ramirez also underlined how the constitution is subject to change. The GA is opening the floor to membership feedback and amendments to the draft, yet he believes the draft has a strong basis. 

“It’s a constant process. We want feedback from everyone,” Davenport said.

The GA will also discuss the next steps to voting for CREW-CSN executives, as the date has yet to be set.

For those who have filed grievances with TRAC-PSAC, Davenport stressed that they have not been lost or forgotten, as CREW-CSN is working on handling them now.  According to Davenport, CREW is working on ensuring no one falls through the cracks as they are “dedicated to making this systematic transition.”

“It feels really good to join this larger federation that shares a lot of our values and values of the membership,” Crawford said, smiling.

TRAC was contacted for comment. The Link did not receive a reply by the time of publication.