In These Times
May 22nd, 2015
Graduate student-workers perform salaried work that is integral to
university operations, including undergraduate education and research.
Over the past several months, unionized graduate student-workers at the University of Oregon, NYU, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and UMass-Boston, University of Toronto, York University, Rutgers, Michigan State and the University of Connecticut
have used direct action and other tactics to push their university
administrations to provide more affordable health insurance that also
covers families, fairer expectations regarding workload, living wages
and reasonable grievance procedures. Graduate student-workers at Columbia, the New School, the University of Chicago, University of Hawai'i, Yale, Harvard and Cornell are actively organizing their own unions and fighting for collective bargaining rights.
These efforts date back to the 1960s. Graduate student-workers at UC
Berkeley unionized during the Free Speech Movement in 1964; in
1969, graduate student-workers joined the faculty bargaining units at
CUNY and Rutgers, followed closely by University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Teaching Assistants Association, who gained recognition independently of faculty in the same year.
In other words: graduate unionization is not a passing fad, but a movement over half-a-century old.