Unions Aren’t Just for Hardhats

Grad Students at Ivy League Colleges are Fighting Back

By Sandy Southivilay

Pointing to the burden of long hours, low pay and racial and gender inequality among faculty and students, graduate students at two Ivy League universities, Yale and Harvard, are fighting back with union organizing drives. At Yale, the Graduate Employee and Students Organization (GESO) have repeatedly asked the administrators to negotiate, but to no avail. Earlier this spring hundreds of students delivered a petition to the administration signed by more than 1,100 members of the organization. “We are a union and we are not waiting for recognition to act like one,” said GESO co-chairwoman Robin Canavan, a third-year grad student.

“The University trusts us to teach, they should trust us to negotiate over the conditions of our work,” added GESO Chair Aaron Greenberg. Grad students are demanding recognition as employees with rights.

Now GESO has ramped up the pressure, turning to elected representatives to help them in their quest. At a recent protest, they were joined by the Mayor of New Haven, two Democratic Senators, and Connecticut’s Attorney General who all praised GESO for their unionization efforts. Not all universities are resistant to graduate student organizing. New York University (NYU) and the University of Connecticut have both recently allowed graduate students to unionize.  In addition, another 32 universities have unionized graduate students that have managed to survive and thrive:

1. University of Wisconsin, Madison — Teaching Assistants’ Association
2. Rutgers University — Rutgers Council of AAUP Chapters
3. University of Michigan — Graduate Employees Organization
4. University of Oregon — Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation
5. University of Florida — Graduate Assistants United
6. University of South Florida — Graduate Assistants United
7. Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University — Graduate Assistants United
8. University of Massachusetts, Amherst — Graduate Employee Organization
9. University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee — Milwaukee Graduate Assistants’ Association
10. State University of New York System — Graduate Student Employees Union
11. University of Massachusetts, Lowell — Graduate Employee Organization
12. University of Kansas, Lawrence — Graduate Teaching Assistants’ Coalition
13. University of Iowa — Campaign to Organize Graduate Students
14. Wayne State University — Graduate Employees Organizing Committee
15. University of California System — UAW Local 2865
16. Oregon State University — Coalition of Graduate Employees
17. New York University — Graduate Students Organizing Committee
18. University of Massachusetts, Boston — Graduate Employee Organization
19. Temple University — Temple University Graduate Students Association
20. Michigan State University — Graduate Employees Union
21. University of Rhode Island — Graduate Assistants United
22. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign — Graduate Employees Organization
23. University of Washington, Seattle — UAW Local 4121
24. University of Illinois, Chicago — Graduate Employees Organization
25. California State University System — UAW Local 4123
26. University of Illinois, Springfield — Association of Graduate Employees
27. Western Michigan University — Teaching Assistants Union
28. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale — Graduate Assistants United
29. Florida State University — Graduate Assistants United
30. Central Michigan University — Graduate Student Union
31. Stony Brook Research Foundation — Stony Brook RA Union
32. Montana State University — Graduate Employee Organization

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