This October 15th, graduate workers across the country are joining together to declare collectively that We Are Workers.
Due to a partisan ruling in the 2004 Brown case, graduate employees at private universities are legally defined as students only, and not workers. As a result of this flawed decision, we are denied the right to bargain collectively. Without the ability to negotiate a contract with university administrations, we face insecure workplaces, low pay, inadequate health care, unmanageable fee increases, and the threat of wrongful termination with no possibility of redress.
It is obvious that the graduate teaching and research assistants at private universities are workers. Across the country, we have come together in a mass unionization movement to petition the National Labor Relations Board to overturn Brown, recognize us as workers, and restore our right to collectively bargain fair contracts with our employers.
Many graduate workers at public universities are recognized as workers. However, because of the variation in state labor law, this does not hold true across all states. And even those graduate workers at public universities who are recognized as workers must constantly fight to keep this status and protect their rights and benefits. Public university graduate employees are joining We Are Workers day not only in solidarity with grad workers at private schools, but also to bolster worker movements at their own campuses.
This October 15th, we are holding public events across our campuses. We will be reaching out to the public to raise awareness about our movement, and we will be calling on the NLRB to rule quickly and favorably on our cases. Graduate worker unionization will make a stronger, more just society for everyone.
Across our universities, we see short-sighted policies and unchecked administrative spending threaten to dismantle our institutions. Unmanageable tuition increases have made life insecure for students and their parents, yet only a small portion of those funds are actually used for the benefit of students. Our movement is also a declaration that teaching and research are the mission of the university. Having a voice in determining the terms of our labor will help us make the university a place where teaching and research are the first priority.
In declaring that We Are Workers, we join a rapidly growing movement of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty on university campuses all over the country who are seeking to define academic labor as labor, with the broader aim of reforming higher education. We believe that a college education should be accessible to all, rather than only an elite class able to afford exorbitant tuition and fees. We therefore understand our movement in solidarity with powerful social movements across the country, including Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, and the immigration reform movement. Many of us are already a part of these movements, and we consider graduate worker unionization one means of redressing unjust social structures. We Are Workers who believe that the university can create a thriving public sphere, and we are working together for a more just future.
Academic Student Employees – UAW Local 2865, University of California
Academic Student Employees – UAW Local 4121, University of Washington
American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Committee on Graduate and Professional Students
Executive Board, Teaching Assistant Association-AFT, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Coalition of Graduate Workers, University of Missouri
Cornell Graduate Students United-AFT, Cornell University
CUNY Adjunct Project, City University of New York-Graduate Center
Graduate Assistants United at the University of Florida
Graduate Employee Organization-UAW, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Graduate Employee Organization-UAW, University of Massachusetts-Boston
Graduate Employee Union-UAW, University of Connecticut
Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT-MI Local 3550, AFL-CIO, University of Michigan
Graduate Employees Organizing Committee – AFT, Wayne State University
Graduate Student Organizing Committee-UAW, New York University
Graduate Students United-AFT/AAUP, University of Chicago
Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW, Columbia University
Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW, Harvard University
Rutgers Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants – AAUP/AFT, Rutgers
Stand Up For Graduate Student Employees, Brown University
Student Employees at The New School-UAW, The New School