Spotlight: Capilano Students' Union
Christopher Girodat is Executive Director of the Capilano Students’ Union. He helped oversee them becoming a Living Wage Employer in 2017 and is also a member of the Living Wage for Families Campaign’s Employer Advisory Subcommittee. In this guest blog, he shares why the living wage is so important to the students' union and urges other employers to get involved as well.
The Capilano Students’ Union is the non-profit organization that represents the voices of over 7,000 students at Capilano University, the only public post-secondary institution on the North Shore. Our purpose as an organization is to support the social, recreational, and political needs of our membership, and to do our part to create an affordable and accessible system of post-secondary education for our members.
We are led by a board of directors that is made up exclusively of Capilano University students elected by and from the student body at the university — and, as you can imagine, this means that our student leaders are very busy people. We rely on a team of over 20 dedicated student and non-student professionals to work with us to turn decisions of our elected student board into direct impact for students.
Progressive organizations, like students’ unions, need to be at the forefront of movements like the Living Wage for Families Campaign, because students are one of the populations that stand to be the most adversely impacted if government and society get these crises wrong: whether that’s being left to clean up the impact of climate change and pipelines ravaging our environment, or trying to compensate for decades of poverty wages that continue to disproportionately harm people of colour, immigrants, and other communities that are already facing so many systemic barriers.
That’s why the student leadership and management at the Capilano Students’ Union feel so strongly about our decision to apply for certification as a Living Wage Employer in 2017. We know that students’ unions need to lead by example as we push governments, public post-secondary institutions, and employers of students to make sure that their employees can afford to make ends meet.
Being a Living Wage Employer means that our team can do this important advocacy work knowing confidently that we have put our money where our mouths are, so to speak, and that we are committed to living the same progressive principles that we ask of governments and universities in our daily work. This certification also provides us with external legitimacy when we engage in this work.
To our peer students’ unions: many student organizations already live these principles through and through, and so you may already meet the test of being a Living Wage Employer. Your organization’s solidarity will help to amplify the campaign’s voice and reach, so please consider making it “official” and applying for certification.
And to all organizations considering making this change, my colleagues and I at the Capilano Students’ Union would give you this advice: it is doable, and a priority, no matter the size of your budget. We need to resist the idea that our workers should only be taken care of if budgets and economies allow, as though our people are incidental to our work. No — our people are the reason we work, and our impact is incidental to them.