1. Organizing the Interns
On May 28, after nearly a year of organizing, interns at the American Federation of Teachers won union rights. With wages below the labor movement’s public living-wage standard of $15 per hour, which doesn’t cover rent and expenses in Washington, DC, and without access to health insurance, we knew that working-class students without outside support didn’t have access to internships at the AFT—and we thought that it was time the labor movement led by example. We talked to our coworkers about what was and wasn’t working in their internships and, more importantly, how we felt we fit into the bigger picture of the labor movement. We hope that by organizing successfully, we can encourage interns and young workers to do the same and, by partnering with OPEIU Local 2, anchor our movement in the long-term stability of a union with strong relationships with progressive employers. When our first contract is bargained, it can be used as a blueprint and organizing platform for what internships can and should be.
2. Growing the Union
On February 20, the Massachusetts Commonwealth Employment Relations Board ruled emphatically in favor of the right of peer mentors at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst to unionize and called for an election to determine if a majority of peer mentors desired to be included in the RA bargaining unit and represented by UAW Local 2322. On April 14, peer mentors participated in a mail-in secret-ballot election, where we voted 47-2 to join the union. On June 3, we had our first bargaining meeting with management.
3. Raising the Wage
On April 21, the University of Washington responded to pressure from student and worker organizations, including UW United Students Against Sweatshops, by raising the minimum wage for all student workers to at least $11 per hour. The raise was announced following a lively “Hungry for Justice” protest organized by the Reclaim UW coalition inside a Board of Regents dinner. This victory affects more than 2,600 student workers as well as 70 non-student workers earning less than $11 per hour. Moving into the summer, students and workers will continue calling on the UW, the largest employer in Seattle, to follow the Seattle minimum-wage ordinance by paying workers at least $15 per hour by 2017. We will also continue to pressure the UW to comply with student and worker demands for a more equitable campus.