Graduate Workers, Four Major Unions Demand Private Universities Come to the Bargaining Table
Graduate workers, together with national leaders from four major unions and their allies, delivered letters on March 14 to the presidents of Yale, Columbia, Boston College, the University of Chicago, and Loyola of Chicago in joint demands that the administrators honor recent democratic majority votes in favor of unionization. In each case, university administrators have refused to bargain and instead attempted to put the issue in the hands of Donald Trump’s National Labor Relations Board—a move designed to take away their rights and the rights of tens of thousands of research assistants (RA) and teaching assistants (TA) other graduate workers across the U.S.
“A majority of RAs and TAs voted yes for our union but, rather than respect that clear choice, our administration attempted to get the Trump Board to take away our rights,” said Yaniv Ron-El, a graduate worker at the University of Chicago, where workers voted in October by an overwhelming 69 percent in favor of unionization as part of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). “We have prevented our university from revoking our legal rights at the labor board, and today we declare that we will stand together with tens of thousands of our colleagues and our national unions until all private universities respect our democratic right to unionize.”
In 2016, graduate workers at Columbia University became the first in the nation to win the right to unionize through a landmark National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that ruled graduate workers can be considered university employees. Though the workers voted by an overwhelming 72 percent in favor of unionization in December 2016, the administration recently announced it will refuse to bargain.
“Over the last year and a half, since the historic Columbia decision, a groundswell of graduate workers have organized to demand change,” said UAW President Dennis Williams. “In elections involving 18,000 eligible voters at 13 different private universities and colleges, graduate workers chose unionization by a nearly 60 percent margin overall. Our unions have supported these workers since the 1990s and will continue to do so as long as it takes, until administrators stop trying to hide behind anti-worker labor boards and instead acknowledge the voice of these workers who are so critical to the quality of our universities.”
Building on the unions’ recent withdrawal of NLRB cases at the three universities, today’s action signals a new phase in the ever-growing graduate worker movement that will now focus on winning union recognition outside the NLRB process. Tens of thousands of graduate workers across the country have unionized, and thousands more are currently organizing. By working together and offering national, coordinated assistance, the coalition of unions will be better able to support them and encourage their employers to bargain.
Feds Stiff Puerto Rico
FEMA Winds Down Help, Despite Unmet Needs
If 35 percent of Texas or Florida remained without electricity five months after a natural disaster, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume the federal government’s emergency management effort would remain in place. Certainly, the dire situation would remain in the news and lawmakers and the Trump administration would face the citizens’ wrath.
Somehow, this lack of attention — and now resources—is exactly what is occurring to our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. In addition to not fully fixing the power situation, many in this U.S. territory are still without running water. Yet, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it was ending food and water supply efforts on the island beginning Feb. 1.
Ironically, the night before in his State of the Union speech, President Trump addressed hurricane victims in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, saying, “We are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, speaking at the Latino Victory Summit in late January, said there is still need on the island for food and water supplies.
“Yesterday, I had to help — because it is a moral imperative to help — a school about 45 minutes from San Juan that still has no water, no electricity and no milk for their children,” she said.
Some 30 members of Congress sent a letter to FEMA Director Brock Long, warning that the end of food and water relief supplies would hurt Puerto Ricans who desperately still need help.
UAW members have supported Puerto Ricans by volunteering their time and talents to help clean up and rebuild. Our members have donated from their own pockets, while individual UAW regions and the International have voted to send funds, which total more than $200,000.
“The federal government has failed our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, who only ask that they receive the same attention and help that other Americans receive when hit by a major disaster,” said Julie Kushner, director of UAW Region 9A, which includes Puerto Rico. “Mayor Cruz had it right: There is a moral imperative to help with the needs of people on the island.”
UAW Region 9A is still accepting donations to help and has an online donation campaign at bit.ly/ UAWforPR. If you prefer to send a check, send it to:
UAW Region 9A
111 South Road, Farmington, CT 06032
Payable to UAW Region 9A, and marked “Puerto Rico Relief.”
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