In a tremendous show of solidarity, union members and community supporters from across the state of Massachusetts and beyond came to support Northeastern University’s graduate student workers (GENU-UAW) in a “Mass Solidarity Rally for our Rights” as they prepare to vote YES for a union from September 19 to September 21. This union vote comes after eight years of obstruction, retaliation, and other forms of union-busting from the administration at Northeastern. It was noted that the Northeastern University Police Department (NUPD) was used to harass students for chalking activity and even specifically intimidated marginalized students in their labs.
In a landslide vote, 94% of Stanford’s graduate worker voters said ‘yes’ to being represented by the Stanford Graduate Workers Union (SGWU), according to an email announcement on Thursday. The final vote count was 1639 to 108, with a turnout rate of just over half. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certification of the results will cement the Stanford Graduate Workers Union (SGWU), affiliated with the United Electrical Workers (UE), as the official representative of eligible graduate students in collective bargaining with the University. Now that the University’s graduate workers have unionized, the SGWU’s next steps involve figuring out bargaining priorities and electing a bargaining committee.
Seattle, WA - On June 7, postdoctorates and research scientists and engineers (RSEs) at the University of Washington Seattle, members of the UAW 4121 went on strike. Over 700 workers, students and community members turned out to picket lines in support. While postdoctorates and RSEs have separate bargaining committees, they are united in their fight for a strong contract. In December 2021, RSEs submitted a union certification petition, and they are still fighting to achieve a strong agreement. The certification process faced a significant delay of over six months when the University of Washington administration contested the inclusion of more than 300 individuals in the bargaining unit.
On Sunday, May 21, 2023, at 6:30pm, DPSS police officer John Buehler (#167) approached a graduate student in GEO (AFT Local 3550) at their home. Buehler knocked on the door and the student answered, and the cop proceeded to attempt to intimidate the student as they stood in the doorway. Buehler threatened to file a report with the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office regarding a previous picket action, advised the student to “reach out to Student Legal Services,” and left his business card. On Monday, May 22, 2023, at 10:00am, another graduate student with GEO received an email from the same cop, John Buehler, making similar demands of this student.
For the second time in three years, University of Michigan graduate students are on strike, fighting for a starting wage of $38,000 per year to meet the soaring costs of living in Ann Arbor. These demands come as the University’s endowment continues to balloon, surpassing $17 billion as of last year. Graduate students are also asking for gender-affirming healthcare options, better workplace protections against sexual harassment, and an approach to campus safety that doesn’t depend solely on a militarized police force. After raising similar issues three years ago, the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) ended the strike when the U of M administration threatened legal action that could disband the union, lead to job losses, and subject leadership to arrest.
Grad workers in Philadelphia just decisively rejected an offer from Temple University’s administration. The vote was overwhelming: by a margin of 92 percent. TUGSA, a union of 750 teaching and research assistants at Temple University in Philadelphia, is entering the fourth week of its strike. TUGSA members make $19,500 a year in a city where annual rent alone runs about $23,000. The union is fighting for a 50 percent raise in wages. In earlier rounds of negotiating, the university’s offer was 2 percent, later raised to 3 percent. Just after the strike started, the administration escalated the fight in an unprecedented way, revoking the grad workers’ health insurance and their tuition remission.
By a 93% margin, graduate workers at the University of Southern California have voted 1,599 to 122 in favor of joining the Graduate Student Workers Organizing Committee-United Auto Workers (GSWOC-UAW), according to ballots tallied today by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The victory caps a multi-year effort, with workers standing strong against USC administrators’ anti-union campaign. GSWOC-UAW will represent 3,000 Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants and Assistant Lecturers at USC. “We are so energized by this resounding vote in favor of our union,” said Stepp Mayes, a Graduate Student Worker in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Back in October, TRNN spoke to graduate student-workers at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University about the growing grassroots effort to unionize grad students under the banner of Teachers and Researchers United. Since then, the union drive has continued to build momentum: After a supermajority of grad student-workers signed union cards in October and November, an official date for the union election has now been set. Eligible bargaining unit members will cast their votes on whether or not to unionize and affiliate with the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE) on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31. This election comes amid a wave of labor actions that are spreading throughout the world of higher education in the US, with recent and current strikes taking place at the University of California, The New School in New York, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and with other graduate student-worker unionization efforts happening at Northwestern University in Evanston, Northeastern University in Boston, and beyond.
Today, October 6, students from more than 50 schools spanning over 30 states are holding coordinated actions in support of the rights to safe, legal, and accessible abortion, gender affirming care, comprehensive sex education, and free contraception. These events range from resource fairs and “green out” color days, to panels and rallies, to full student walkouts. The students are organizing as the Graduate Student Action Network (GSAN), a nationwide coalition formed over the summer after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was decided and Roe v. Wade was overturned. At several schools, graduate worker unions are playing a key role in organizing October 6 Day of Action events, recognizing the deep connections between abortion rights and the issues traditionally taken up by the labor movement.
A day after the Graduate Employees’ Organization voted to extend its strike, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel is seeking an injunction to get graduate students off the picket lines and back to teaching. Schlissel is asking Washtenaw County Circuit Court to require GEO members to return to work by issuing a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. In a video released Monday afternoon, he described the request as a necessary step. “Following the announcement that GEO will continue to strike and not teach for at least five more days, I made the very difficult decision to seek help from the courts so we can resume all of our remote and in-person classes,” Schlissel said in the video.
It is less than a month before Fall Quarter begins, and despite daily warnings against doing so, Northwestern insists on proceeding with the harmful and dangerous plan of reopening campus. The current fall reopening plan expects students to return to campus while holding most courses remotely. Despite Northwestern’s assurances that they are following best practices, the current return to campus plan will inevitably result in COVID-19 clusters among students, faculty and staff that will lead many to get sick and will only deepen the virus’s spread across the Evanston and Chicago region.
By Mark Joseph Stern for Slate - On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate students employed by private universities are permitted to unionize under federal law. The 3–1 decision reversed a previous NLRB ruling that barred these students from unionizing in 2004. Every Ivy League school opposed the decision, which was spurred by Columbia University’s efforts to shut down a union drive on campus. The critical question at issue in this litigation was whether students employed by a private university are “employees” as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.
Last December, NYU graduate student employees won recognition for our union, GSOC-UAW, from the university administration. With an overwhelming 98.4% of votes cast in favor of the union, NYU became — for the second time — the first private university in the country to recognize the rights of its graduate student employees to collective representation. After more than fifteen years of organizing, NYU’s graduate student workers had won a major victory, and the voluntary recognition of the union by the administration had the potential to set a new kind of precedent for other graduate student organizing campaigns around the country. But recognition was the start of a new round of struggle: one around what kind of a contract we could win, and what kind of union GSOC would be. In July, a group of bargaining committee members — graduate students elected by their peers to represent us in our negotiations with the NYU administration — released a statement highlighting the “concessionary strategy, demobilization of our membership, and opacity of the bargaining process” on the part of UAW staff that they had witnessed over the course of the previous semester. That statement, which charged union leadership with failing to adequately communicate with the membership and with the marginalization of activist members who sought to create an campaign to support the bargaining process, called for a new strategy to win a strong contract: one based on transparency, accountability, and building democratic structures within our unit.