Unions Throw The Book At Higher Ed With Mixed Results

by | Jan 26, 2023 | Bargaining/Negotiations, Education, Strikes, UAW, Unions

The pro-union training ground of university campuses continues to be fertile territory for unions to harvest academic workers. The United Auto Workers union, of course, drew plenty of attention for branching out into this newer frontier. Yet the much-publicized recent University of California six-week strike, which included 48,000 graduate student workers across several campuses, apparently didn’t end well for union members.

Some grad student workers feel betrayed by how the union, which claimed “historic” victory, agreed to a deal for smaller raises than members sought. Over 7,000 of the 20,000 graduate student union members had voted no on the deal. Some members accused the union of voter suppression, which may be a chief cause of the astoundingly low voter turnout at multiple UC campuses. Workers also complain that their grievances other than pay were largely ignored, and a potential appeal is in the works.

Despite the UC strike apparently leading nowhere good for union members, the longest higher education strike in history has inspired grad student workers to follow suit elsewhere. In other words, higher ed continues to be a major target of unions:

  • Syracuse University: Approximately 1000 teaching assistants and researchers are organizing with the intent of joining the SEIU.
  • Northwestern University: More than 2800 graduate workers followed up what they say is a six-year effort with an “overwhelming” vote to join the UAW.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago: A reported 1,500 faculty members went on a one-week strike for pay raises after nine months of failed contract negotiations.
  • Yale University: Over 3,000 graduate student workers will join Unite Here after about 2,000 votes, most of which were in favor of unionizing.
  • Boston University: Around 3000 graduate workers joined the SEIU, which now represents over 20,000 educators/human service workers in Massachusetts.
  • New School/Parsons School Of Design: 1,300+ adjunct faculty members concluded their month-long strike with a tentative UAW deal that claims to include backdated raises for Fall 2022 semester.

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