Grad Workers Rising: May Day Solidarity Statement with CGEU

We are members of the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions, a body that represents unionized graduate workers throughout the United States and Canada, including grad workers undertaking campaigns to unionize who have not yet achieved recognition. We are course instructors; researchers; teaching & research assistants; student affairs, advising, and residence life staffers; tutors, readers, lab supervisors, and graders. We are graduate student-workers. This May Day, members of CGEU stand together to demand collective bargaining rights and fair, socially just contracts for every single graduate worker in North America, and all workers in higher education worldwide. Coordinated May Day actions, social media, and events will take place across the SUNY system as well as at UWisconsin Madison, UMass Amherst, Rutgers University, and other schools across the US and Canada on May 1st, 2014.

Whether grad student-workers have a union determines much about our working conditions and salaries, going beyond wages and hours to include whether we are formally protected from workplace and hiring discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in a way that is actually enforceable. Unions give us concrete, tangible power in bureaucratic workplaces whose administrators would otherwise see each of us only as a collection of financial transactions and numbers. Despite rhetoric we often hear about a walled-off “ivory tower,” the forces of economic crisis directly shape the reality of working and studying for faculty, undergraduate students, and graduate workers alike.

As universities have begun to function more like large businesses and state and federal financial support for public higher education has been slashed, graduate workers nationwide have felt the sizes of the classes we teach grow and the funding pools for our assistantships shrink. In the Northeastern US, this has resulted in a renewed movement toward unionizing graduate workers, and more energy toward bargaining strong contracts for those of us who are already organized. Grad workers at University of Connecticut and New York University are bargaining brand new contracts this year, while the long-unionized grad workers at the three University of Massachusetts schools (Amherst, Boston, and Lowell) and across the SUNY system are preparing to bargain new, significantly stronger contracts in the coming months. Members of UAW2865 in the University of California system continue to fight for a fair contract including the right to bargain over class size. Yale University and Brown University graduate workers have renewed their fight for union recognition.

Academic workers face similar increased demands on our time and energy to workers in other industries, along with the same stagnating wages. Academic workers of color, women, international students, and members of the LGBTQI community face institutionalized discrimination and permissive attitude toward harassment, much like workers in other industries. In 2012, a federal bill stripped graduate students of all access to federal subsidized loans and cut the six-month grace period before repayment must begin; this consigns many of us to a lifetime of debt, and an extraordinarily stressful transition out of graduate school.

The divisions between graduate workers and workers in other industries are fabricated, porous, and finite: graduate education does not last forever, and we go into a huge range of workplaces and positions after school. Strong, mobilized graduate unions serve as a consistent source of workers in a variety of fields who have had the opportunity to develop union consciousness, who have learned to care about their fellow workers, have experience in democratically-run organizations, and are willing to fight together with others for systemic change. We neither suffer nor succeed in isolation; our struggle is all workers’ struggle, and your struggle is ours.

Matt at May Day IMG_2093 IMG_2068 IMG_2066

UMass Director of Housing and Residential Life Nominated for National Scrooge of the Year Award

Congratulations to newly-hired UMass Director of Housing & Residential Life, Eddie Hull, for his recent nomination of Scrooge of the Year Award by Jobs with Justice for latest plans to fire 73 undergraduate employees at UMass-Amherst prior to the December holidays and radically reconfigure Housing & Residential Life to include more over-paid administrative positions.  Mr. Hull chose to announce this two weeks before the end of the fall semester.  When asked why no student workers had been involved in the decision to restructure these positions, Mr. Hull stated that there was more than one way to hear student concerns and “sometimes, students don’t need to be at the table to do this.”

Mr. Hull has the notoriety of being the first Western Massachusetts nominee for this national award. We want to make sure to congratulate him for such a distinction.  You can send him (and all his superiors!) a brief email message from the UAW 2322 website in order to help support workers and students at UMass Amherst.

Voting for the Scrooge of the Year Award began on December 15th and will conclude on December 21st with the announcement of the winner.  More information about the nominees and how to vote can be found at Scrooge of the Year Award.  Please take a moment to vote, and make sure to send Eddie and his bosses a note of congratulations!

Vote ResLife Director Eddie Hull for National Jobs with Justice’s “Scrooge of the Year”

Vote today for UMass Amherst ResLife Director Eddie Hull to be named Job with Justice’s national “Scrooge of the Year”:

Students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst received an early Christmas gift from their esteemed Director of Housing and Residential Life, Eddie Hull… the loss of their jobs. In a move even the Scrooge would find wicked, Eddie sent an email to 73 undergraduate employees informing them they would be unemployed at the end of the school year, just two weeks before the end of the semester because, what better time to tell students they are fired than when they are too stressed with finals to organize against such a vicious attack. When asked to justify the cuts, Eddie replied they were part of “restructuring of Residential Life  at UMass.” Asked why no students were present in conversations, Eddie said there was more than one way to hear student concerns and “sometimes, students don’t need to be at the table to do this.” Now Eddie is saying the cuts will open up some “flexibility” in the budget, and by flexibility he means to replace 54 student jobs with 2 highly paid associate directors for the exact same cost of $200,000.

You can count Assistant Residence Directors -GEO members- and other UAW 2322 members -Apartment Living Assistants- amongst the students he is laying off.  Hull has a history of ignoring student input, as chronicled in Duke’s student newspaper from 2005, when he was Director of Housing at that University:

Let’s come right out and say it: Housing at Duke is a mess. This condition has little to do with the nature of housing, even less to do with the fantastic staff of Residence Life and Housing Services and a great deal to do with the leadership style of RLHS Dean Eddie Hull.

It sometimes appears that Hull does not respect students. He is the master of the vaguely affirmative response that seems to promise future action, but that actually means he is going to do what he thinks best at a timetable that suits him and him alone. Student leaders, despite maintaining an affable mien for the most part, are deeply frustrated.

Vote today for Eddie Hull!