While the Carelton RAs never made it past the card drive in their attempt to unionize, some of them are still attempting to organize. The RA I spoke with was quite involved in the organization process and is passionate about the possibility of unionization. I myself had mixed feelings about unionization over the past year but, the more and more I educated myself about it and thought about what it could mean for future floor fellows, agree it is necessary and am very excited about it. I was therefore interested to hear why this particular RA was so passionate about unionization.
She explained to me some of the scenarios that she encountered while she worked for Carelton, which included being left without a director to deal with serious issues on duty such as suicide attempts, and feeling unsafe in their work space because of a student on their floor and even feeling unsafe due to a member of their own RA team. She explained that many became frustrated when Rez Life did not address these issues. We also bonded over the fact that we began floor fellowing in second year and did so for at least 2 years. Particularly she expressed to me that while she herself felt able to deal with such tough situations on her own at the age of 19, she knew many other floor fellows who were (and continue to be) thrown into situations, which overwhelm them with little support from Rez Life. We agreed that there was sometimes a disconnect between the amount of ‘self care’ rhetoric preached to us by Rez Life and our ability within our own jobs to take care of ourselves emotionally, and physically. She also shared that she often took on second jobs in Ottawa or at the University, on top of being a full time student and working as an RA. However she was not technically allowed to take on any other job(s), as stated by her contract with Rez life, and had to meet with and get the acceptance of her directors in order to take on the other jobs. While she agreed that most RAs simply couldn’t manage another job (we all know how time consuming floor fellowing can be) she thought it unnecessary for Rez Life, as an employer, to dictate if we took other jobs, especially when many students must do so to cover their financial costs such as tuition, books, etc.
Our conversation really left me thinking about the reasons why I supported our own unionization process. Talking to someone at another school who was dealing with a lot of the same issues that I myself witnessed or went through this past year (I won’t go into details here but feel free to message me and ask me questions) validated my feelings and my support for our own unionization process. After all this discussion of things we didn’t like about our Rez Life systems though, we both reassured each other that we do in fact love our jobs. And that really is true! What an amazing and rewarding two years I have experienced in this job. But the reality is that sometimes it's overwhelming and in those (hopefully) rare moments when shit really does hit the fan I think it's important that floor fellows have a lifeline to turn to. That is not to say that McGill and SHHS are not capable of supporting floor fellows. To say this would be unfair, as SHHS and McGill have done a lot to support floor fellows and students. However in other cases they have failed us and that is why I believe it is right for us to build a nice cushy net for us to fall into when things go wrong and our other avenues are not able to help us.
I would love to hear your opinions about this! Comment below or message me on Facebook (Christina Clemente) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).