We invite all faculty to attend our third and final faculty conversation on unionization at Penn on Friday, October 20, at 12 noon on Zoom. This is a chance to learn about unionization and about how anti-union campaigns operate, and to discuss questions and concerns that faculty might have and/or to equip yourself to answer colleagues’ questions about GET-UP.
GET-UP members will be calling on the Penn administration to remain neutral and to agree to a fair election process. They are counting on a strong show of support from faculty, staff, and students across Penn and allies in the Philly community to amplify that call. So, can you come out to rally with GET-UP on Wednesday at 12 noon at the Button in front of Van Pelt?
Hope to see you there! AAUP–Penn Executive Committee
P.S. To discuss any questions you or your colleagues may have about grad unionization and about what a fair election would look like (as distinct from the anti-union campaigns Penn has been running against GET-UP, RAs United, and other recently organized unions), please join us for a faculty information session Tuesday at noon in Fisher-Bennett 135 or October 20th at noon on zoom (register via the QR code below for a meeting link).
Our campus is in the midst of an extraordinary wave of organizing, with RA’s United holding an election next week and GET-UP preparing to file the following week. Since Penn’s central administration has launched anti-union campaigns against student workers (crafted by the law firm Cozen O’Connor) and is attempting to enlist faculty in their anti-union messaging, this is an important time for faculty to educate ourselves and each other about unionization.
To that end, AAUP–Penn is holding a series of fall conversations with faculty to offer some background on the nature of unions in higher ed and on the process of unionization, address any questions or concerns you may have (or that you’ve heard expressed by colleagues), and clarify some misleading information coming from the administration. The next two sessions will take place on October 3 at noon in Fisher-Bennett 135 and on October 20 at noon on zoom (register via the QR code on the flyer below for the meeting link). Please come to one and bring a colleague!
Indiana Graduate Workers (who organized in a right-to-work state!) are still on strike for recognition. The University relies on their teaching, yet grad workers in many departments are paid stipends of less than $18,000 a year—well below the cost of living. They have the endorsement of the Bloomington Faculty Council, the IU Graduate and Professional Student Government, more than 25 academic departments, nearly 600 individual faculty and staff, and AAUP, but their university refuses to recognize them. If you wish to support those walking the picket line, you can do so by contributing to the ICWC-UE strike fund.
It is uplifting to see Student Workers of Columbia signing their SWC-UAW cards this week after voting by a supermajority of 97.6% on January 28th to ratify their 1/7 tentative agreement with Columbia—the union’s first contract with the University. This victory is as hard-won as it gets, after nearly ten weeks on the picket line. SWC’s significant contract wins are worth celebrating in detail. They include retroactive compensation raises of 6% for PhD students, bringing 12-month appointment minimums up to $43.1k for AY21/22 and $44.4k for AY22/23 and 9-month appointment minimums to $32.3k (AY21/22) and $33.3k (AY22/23); pay parity (bringing PhD students’ pay in the School of Social Work and School of Public Health up to the level of pay in other divisions); dental care covering 75% of premiums for PhD students and their dependents; child care subsidy increases of $4,500 per child for AY21/22 and $5,000 per child for AY22/23; and access to neutral arbitration in cases of discrimination and harassment.
These victories not only improve the quality of life for Columbia’s student workers but also raise the bar for other universities. The indirect effects of the Columbia strike are already evident in Princeton University’s recent announcement of a very significant (25%) stipend increase that brings fellowship funding for doctoral students up to $40,000 on average. That raise is unquestionably a win for Princeton grad students. Meanwhile, compensation alone (important as it is) does not remedy power imbalances and inadequate labor protections that graduate students, instructors, and researchers face. This of course includes a widespread lack of real recourse in cases of harrassment, as we have also seen just this week in the appalling details of the lawsuit against Harvard for its longstanding indifference to multiple sexual harrassment complaints. These issues are systematic, and they extend to our own campus as well.
As a chapter of the American Association of University Professors, AAUP–Penn strongly supports the principle of workplace democracy in higher education and the rights of all workers to organize and to bargain collectively for fair terms of employment. These rights are protected by federal law and have been upheld by the NLRB in their application to grad workers. The need for such organizing is great particularly for those whose positions make them vulnerable, including student workers, contingent faculty, and contract staff. With all of these concerns immediately in view, we stand in solidarity—as ever—with graduate students’ concerted actions to secure better working conditions, fair pay and benefits, and protection from harassment and disrimination on all university campuses, including here at Penn.
We are heartened to see colleagues at Columbia responding to the University’s threat by organizing a faculty-led walkout and rally on Monday, December 6th at 12:30pm at the Sundial (see below), and we continue to urge faculty to join the picket line and take a stand against these retaliatory tactics.
Student Workers of Columbia, a union representing over 3,000 graduate and undergraduate student workers in UAW Local 2110, goes on strike starting November 3, 2021. AAUP–Penn stands in solidarity with SWC as they demand a fair contract that includes a living wage, better healthcare, childcare, union recognition for all student workers, and grievance and neutral arbitration for sexual harassment and discrimination.
As ever, we urge colleagues at Columbia not to cross the picket line and to cancel classes where possible. Allies in the area can walk the picket line with SWC from 10am-2pm this Wed.–Fri. Those wishing to offer solidarity from elsewhere can support striking student workers by contributing to their Hardship Fund.
AAUP–Penn stands with Harvard grad workers in HGSU-UAW Local 5118 as they go on strike starting October 27 to demand fair pay that keeps up with the cost of living, real recourse from sexual harassment, and an agency shop that enables student workers to sustain their union. We call on the Harvard administration to bargain in good faith for a fair contract, and we urge colleagues at Harvard not to cross the picket line.