The Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) has been an independent, non-hierarchical feminist labour union since 1978. They represent the Teaching Assistants, Tutor Markers, Sessionals, and the English Language & Culture/Interpretation & Translation Instructors (ELC/ITP) at Simon Fraser University.
Personally, TSSU has been a community in which precarious employees can unite together to overcome difficult times. I did not really understand the structure of TSSU until I came across a poster designed by a TSSU member. The poster was created to recruit members to write blog posts for the new Membership Mobilization Committee Blog. It gave me an opportunity to understand more about TSSU and actively engage in this community, first through writing for MMC Blog. In addition, TSSU’s stipended work gives the employees additional income to help them focus on teaching.
All the TAs, TMs, Sessionals and ELC/ITP instructors are part of this community and can join any of TSSU’s committees depending on their area of interest and focus. TSSU has eight committees — Anti-Harassment Committee, Central University/Local Joint Health & Safety Committee, Grievance Committee, Contract Committee, Solidarity & Social Justice Committee, Membership Mobilization Committee, Internal Relations Committee and Finance Committee. Members can first attend a committee meeting and send request to firstname.lastname@example.org to join that committee. Members will also need to attend TSSU’s General Membership meeting, and once the request to join that committee has been ratified at the GM meeting, members will become part of that committee and can claim a stipend if eligible.
I was ratified in June this year. As I was working on posters, taking minutes for MMC meetings and distributing handouts and cards for our bargaining survey, I realized that TSSU actually prepares many detailed and comprehensive posters, handouts and cards for its members to understand the nature of their work and their responsibilities and rights. For first time TAs and TMs, their employment contract can be unfamiliar or even confusing; sometimes how to get started as a TA or TM can also be an issue. TSSU offers “A Pocket Guide for TAs and TMs” on their website and what is outlined in this pocket guide is further explained in the Collective Agreement. The Collective Agreement is both available online (www.tssu.ca/collective-agreement/) and as a hard copy which members can pick up at the office. By providing its members with useful resources, TSSU helps them adapt to their job quickly.
In addition to the resources TSSU provides, I have participated in TSSU Workshop in June, which gave me great insight into how TAs and TMs should perform. TSSU will also be starting tabling and orientations, including an orientation for international students, this coming fall semester. As TSSU reaches out to its members further, members will be able to receive more help from this supportive community. TSSU will also train and equip its members to carry out the tablings and orientations, giving them a great opportunity to actively engage in this community and empower even more members at their workplace.
Moreover, I have had a chance to take minutes for a MMC meeting, at which MMC members and Solidarity & Social Justice Committee (SSJC) member discussed about three SSJC events, documentary “Paint It Red”, workshop on decolonization and overdose and homelessness workshop and dialogue. There will be screening and dialogue in the fall semester to bridge TSSU members with bigger issues in Vancouver. In particular, the overdose and homelessness workshop and dialogue address the most urgent issues in Vancouver. I will certainly be participating because I know that our generation needs to be aware of the harm overdose and homelessness can bring and care about how they can solve these urgent issues. TSSU provides its members with a platform to help them serve our society, raising awareness of the social responsibilities they must take.
Most importantly, I am delighted that I have a group of enthusiastic and helpful committee members who are not only passionate about working on each specific task, but also go out of their way to help and support each other. Their solidarity is reflected not only in the designs and logos they have created for TSSU 40th Anniversary, but also in the way they unite to serve other members.
It is my wish that 40-year-old TSSU will continue to be a union that protects its members, as well as raising awareness of the responsibilities its members must take as employees and citizens.