Who is CUPE and what is their role in this campaign?

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is Canada’s largest trade union and a leader in post-secondary education. CUPE represents academic workers such as TAs, RAs, postdocs, sessional instructors, language instructors, technicians, and lecturers all across the country.

CUPE has staff dedicated to organizing workplaces and is providing resources, research, communications, strategy, logistical, and legal support for the organizing drive. This organizing campaign is led by local students and workers, with the support of CUPE.


After researching various options and speaking to representatives from multiple unions, student organizers collectively decided to ask CUPE for help in the organizing campaign, due to the following key reasons:

  1. CUPE’s status as the largest union in the province, including a strong presence in the academic sector. This means CUPE understands the unique aspects of working in academia, such as the dual role of TAs as both employees and students. CUPE has extensive experience handling issues facing student workers and a strong track record of success supporting academic workers with bargaining, grievances, and organizing.
  2. CUPE provides excellent services and resources to organizers, members, and locals, including dedicated staff representatives, research and organizing support, financial and legal resources (e.g. strike fund, legal department), member discounts, educational workshops, and more.
  3. CUPE has an existing presence at UBC, with locals that currently represent teaching assistants, tutors, markers, library and clerical staff, custodial staff, lifeguards, technicians, and more.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, the principles of local autonomy and democracy are enshrined in CUPE’s constitution. This means that each local is led by democratically-elected members and we are always fully in control of our own union, including its structure and priorities. Nationally, CUPE is a non-profit federation, made up of, and governed by, its members. The constitution determines the union’s objectives and operations, and forms the basis for the functioning of the 2,300+ CUPE local unions across Canada. It can only be changed by the delegates at the Biennial Convention and accordingly belongs to the members of CUPE.