Last month we, together with the unions at Boston College and University of Chicago, withdrew our pending petitions from the National Labor Relations Board, in order to prevent our university administrations from using the Trump administration to take away our rights under federal law
. This was an important strategic decision to preserve our legal options into the future.
But none of our unions is prepared to wait for a change in political climate to push for contracts at these universities. Over the break, the presidents of the four unions who represent graduate employees at private universities issued a joint letter
announcing their commitment to working together to support the growing unionization movement among graduate employees. These four unions—UNITE HERE, the American Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union, and the United Auto Workers—together represent 4.4 million members across the country, including tens of thousands of graduate employees.
Members of the four unions delivered copies of the joint letter
to the presidents of the universities that have refused to bargain with democratically-elected graduate unions (Boston College, Columbia, Loyola Chicago, University of Chicago, and Yale), which says in part:
“Despite clear votes in favor of unionization at your university, you have attempted to silence graduate workers by using the Trump NLRB to rig the system against them. Your refusal to bargain with a democratically chosen union both ignores the value of RAs and TAs as workers and contradicts the fundamental values for which your university stands. We urge you to join other university administrations by changing course and respecting the voice of graduate workers.”
It’s extremely rare in the American labor movement to see this kind of cooperation between unions. It’s just the beginning: there’s lots to figure out in order to wage the kind of national campaign that could really change the direction of academia. But establishing the unity and determination of unions representing graduate employees across campuses is a critical step on that road. As AFT President Randi Weingarten—fresh off her union’s victory in West Virginia—put it, “We will not be deterred.”