As published in the GW Hatchet on September 25th.
Over the past several months, we have met with many of our fellow graduate workers and discussed the current state of our employment. We talked with students who worked as Teaching Assistants, researchers, and other graduate fellows in many different departments and schools. These conversations yielded a striking similarity.
Namely, that we all care deeply about our university, our departments, and our students. We became graduate students because we believe in encouraging young minds to reach greater potentials, advancing the frontiers of research, and giving back to our communities. We like teaching and research and are invested in the work that we do. We staff discussion sections, hold office hours, spend evenings grading and preparing lessons, and spend afternoons in archives and at our desks and in our labs because we care deeply about what we do. The George Washington University provides us with an intellectual home to base our efforts.
Certain facts, however, make our jobs more difficult. The average graduate worker salary is well below the standard of living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. Some of us have dependents and many of us have student debt from previous schooling. Over the past several years, our salaries and stipends have remained roughly fixed while the cost of living – including public transit – has steadily climbed. And when summer arrives, this funding disappears, a hardship especially for low-income students and those on student visas.
Recently, the National Labor Relations Board determined that graduate student workers are school employees and, therefore, have the federally protected right to collectively bargain. Unlike employees in other sectors—including many graduate workers at other universities—we have no way of negotiating our salaries, we have little choice over our benefits such as health insurance, and we have few methods of making our voices heard. We have chosen to pursue unionization because we believe collective bargaining is the only way to address these and other shared concerns.
With the support of the SEIU local 500—which represents GWU’s adjunct professors—we aim to form an organization that will empower every graduate student regardless of race, gender, nationality, or religion and build solidarity across departments and schools. Many of our colleagues at different institutions, including Georgetown and American University, are also organizing unions. We intend to join a national movement.
We believe that having a labor union for graduate student workers will help The George Washington University by improving our working conditions and the learning environment of all students on this campus.
The first step is to sign a union authorization card. You can learn more about us and our work at our website, and you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to get involved. We hope that you’ll join us as we work together to make this university a better place, and to secure our livelihood and improve our working conditions.
Scott Ross (Anthropology, CCAS)
Andreas Meyris (History, CCAS)
Chloe Ahmann (Anthropology, CCAS)
Ferhan Guloglu (Anthropology, CCAS)
Raquel Machaqueiro (Anthropology, CCAS)
Patrick Campbell (Philosophy, CCAS)
Lauren Jannette (History, CCAS)
Daniel P. Dozier (Management, School of Business)
Brittany Lewis (History, CCAS)
Thomas Dolan (American Studies, CCAS)
Theodora Danylevich (English, CCAS)
Lydia Sigismondi (American Studies, CCAS)
Robert Hildebrandt (Anthropology, CCAS
Nathan Wuertenberg (History, CCAS)
Michael Horka (American Studies, CCAS)
Vyta Baselice (American Studies, CCAS)
Julie Chamberlain (American Studies, CCAS)
Sara Awartani (American Studies, CCAS)
Justin Mann (American Studies, CCAS
Colin Anderson (American Studies, CCAS)
Albert Anaim (Philosophy, CCAS)
Elizabeth Morehead (Public Policy, TSPPPA)
Evy Vourlides (Anthropology, CCAS)
Amanda Stagnaro (Philosophy, CCAS)
Matthew DeMaio (Anthropology, CCAS)
Jacklin Bolduan (American Studies, CCAS)
Nancy Chung (American Studies, CCAS)
Hannah Seymour (Physics, CCAS)
Rebekah Turnmire (American Studies, CCAS)
Brendan Cox (Geography, CCAS)
Karleen Ronsairo (Anthropology, CCAS)
Shannon McQueen (Political Science, CCAS)
Eve Boyle (Anthropology, CCAS)
Rachel Reh (Communications, SMPA)
Dana Burton (Anthropology, CCAS)