Over the past academic year, graduate students across the country were busy organizing for better working conditions. Currently, there are 33 officially recognized graduate-student unions; 23 are fighting for university recognition. With increasing tuition and plummeting wages, meager health-care benefits and overwhelming workloads, these graduate students are coming together to demand better treatment and recognition.
Here are seven schools where student organizing is at a fever-pitch.
On May 22, while students at the Ivy League institution celebrated their graduation at the annual commencement ceremony, Yale graduate students from Unite Here Local 33 and their allies held a protest to demand that the college administration begin negotiating with the union.
In February, representatives from Local 33 won union elections in eight Yale departments and felt sure they would obtain a contract. However, administrators refused to open any discussion on collective bargaining.
Despite occupying a space on campus, engaging in hunger strikes, organizing a protest at a commencement ceremony, and receiving support across the country, the union has yet to receive a response from the administration. Instead, officials dismiss Local 33 as a true representative of graduate students because of, in the words of Yale President Peter Salovey, what the administration considers an unfair election, claiming that “approximately 90 percent of the 2,600 doctoral students in the Graduate School were not permitted to vote.”
The University of Chicago
Around 2,500 graduate students at the University of Chicago believed this was the year they would finally join a union. Instead, their college fought against this despite failing to stop students at the university’s library, who overwhelmingly decided to join the Teamsters union in June. Perhaps a NLRB hearing represents just how the administration views unionization efforts by students in general. Zachary Fasman, a representative for the college, bluntly noted that library students should not be considered “employees” as they “are not working. They are teaching.” He elaborated further in a May 18 hearing: