Residence Dons at Queen’s University have signaled their intention to unionize.
In a statement on March 15th, the United Steelworkers union (USW) confirmed that they have received an application from Dons at Queen’s University to join the United Steelworkers union. USW is one of the largest private sector unions in North America; with 225,000 Canadian members.
According to the USW, Residence Dons cite a need to have a “meaningful say” in their conditions of work for their application. Residence Dons are hired by Queen’s University and report directly to Queen’s University Residence Life & Services.
“With the increase in the responsibilities of the role, Dons are recognizing the need to have a meaningful say in their conditions of work and are turning to unions to help meet their new needs. While Dons are there to support their students – unions are there to support the Dons,” said a representative for USW District 6 in a statement on social media.
“Residence Don responsibilities include being a first point of contact for their students for issues of mental and sexual health or violence, being a human encyclopedia of resources on campus, a program developer, a social events organizer, a rule enforcer and whatever ‘additional duties’ their employer (Queen’s University) may assign,” the USW added in their statement.
The development follows a successful effort by Residence Dons at the University of Toronto to unionize with the United Steel Workers in 2020. In 2021, Innis College, New College, University College and Woodsworth Residence Dons signed their first collective agreement.
YGK News spoke to a current Residence Don who took part in the unionization efforts. The Residence Don, who wished to remain anonymous, called unionization “the only way for dons to be able to advocate for themselves, as student leaders, and effect actual change in residence.”
The Residence Don added that the push for unionization is in hopes of making life better for the next generation of Residence Dons at Queen’s.
“We know that it’s too late to get a real change in residence for this year, but we know that we can make life better for the next generation of dons. We all know what it’s like, with unreasonable expectations, terrible support when dealing with on-call emergencies, and out-of-touch demands from management. This is our opportunity to make a difference.”
Dons at Queen’s University are currently compensated through a taxable benefit equivalent to the current value of a single room and a meal plan. Living Learning Community (LLC) Dons receive a $1000 stipend in addition to remuneration they receive as a Residence Don.
Please note that this is an evolving story, more information will be published as it becomes available.