Graduate teaching assistants and research assistants at the University of Waterloo officially became the newest members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) today.

The group of more than 2,000 workers were officially recognized by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) following a late-December vote that was more than 90 percent in favour of joining CUPE.

“This is amazing,” said Seth Winward, one of the leaders of the union organizing campaign, which began during the pandemic. “It’s been a long and challenging road, especially when everything was online because of COVID. But through thousands of conversations, we’ve come together to improve living, working and learning conditions at UWaterloo.”

The vote came almost exactly one year after sessional instructors voted to join CUPE in December 2022, with a similarly strong result.

“We’re really excited about getting to work negotiating our first collective agreement with the University of Waterloo,” said Eleanor McGrath, one of the leaders in the OrganizeUW campaign. “Waterloo is far behind other universities in terms of wages, benefits and policies like worker-to-student ratios that will help improve the quality of education. But more than that, as academic workers we haven’t had a voice on campus. Now we have a strong, collective one and we’ll be loud and proud!”

CUPE represents more than 65,000 academic, maintenance, custodian, food service and other workers at Canadian post-secondary institutions, including most Ontario universities.