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The Point: Paying Dues


Subject: Supporting Graduate Workers, Here and Elsewhere

Action: Read about Graduate Worker Activism, Attend Rally This Thursday at Noon

Greetings, Colleagues,

We promise, we really, really promise, that we are not ignoring the elephant in the room.  Like so many of you we are paying very close attention to the news of a possible major reorganization of academic units at our university. We are alarmed by a number of things in this moment--not least of which is the possibility that the huge amount of work done by the Academic Reorganization Task Force, submitted in April of 2021—see attached—is being more or less ignored by upper administration. And we are troubled by early reports that major changes are being proposed in a shortsighted effort to use creative accounting to mask deeper structural problems.  Above all, we remain on high alert for how these changes will affect collectively-bargained agreements about workload and other union-centric issues.  But we need much more data, including hearing from as many FSU members as possible, before we can enter the conversation in a meaningful way.

In the meantime we want to use this week’s Point to center the concerns of graduate workers, a group that will certainly be dramatically affected by any reorganization efforts on campus. Too often the voices of graduate workers remain unheard (or are actively ignored) by upper administrators, who seem much more interested in undercutting the power of our Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) than in working with them to promote our putative campus-wide goal of being antiracist and health-promoting.

Here's a simple and very upsetting example.  We have learned from colleagues in GEO that this past semester administration decided to change the standard way that new graduate workers received their GEO dues form.  If we understand correctly, the dues form was now separated from the rest of the graduate workers’ paperwork—more or less buried in a confusing email.  It is hard to read this as anything other than a clumsy effort at suppressing union membership—a.k.a. “union-busting.”  This was done without any input from GEO and without any advance notification and it had—at least initially—a dramatic effect on enrollment. These are the students and workers who assist in our classroom and our labs, who do the cutting-edge research and community-engaged work that contributes so substantially to our primary mission at UMB,

What can we do? For starters, we can join GEO members this Thursday when they gather (starting at 11:30) outside the union office we share with them.  The plan is to head up to the administration suite on the 3rd floor of Quinn, so join them there i you can’t make it earlier.  It is absolutely crucial that we show support for these graduate workers as they make the simple demand that they be treated with dignity and justice.  When we talk about helping the FSU grow into an organization that works for the “common good” this always starts with our belief that interunion solidarity on campus—faculty, librarians, graduate workers, classified and professional staff—is the foundation that all the rest is built on. 

We conclude this week with a reminder that graduate worker activism is at a truly thrilling moment in its history: today is literally the day that 48,000 graduate and postdoctoral academic workers in the University of California system plan to go out on strike, demanding wages that match the cost of living, sustainable transit initiatives, support for workers with children, and equity for international scholars.  Graduate workers across the river at MIT are showing remarkable energy and creativity as they move forward with bargaining.  And after decades of organizing, graduate workers at Yale have filed for an NLRB election.  There is so much to be alarmed about surveying the state of higher education in the United States, but the current wave of graduate worker activism is certainly a very hopeful sign of a better possible world.

This is your union. Please let us know at how you think we can all best support graduate workers on our campus.


The Communications Committee:

Lynne Benson, Senior Lecturer, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Jessica Holden, Librarian III, Healey Library

Linda Liu, Lecturer, Sociology

Jeff Melnick, Professor, American Studies

For information on the FSU, links to our contract and bargaining updates, and a calendar of events, see the FSU webpage