Happy May Day! I am pleased to announce the launch of my 2022-2023 project, Graduate Labor Rising.
This website traces the development of graduate labor unions across the US, their roots in radical labor traditions, and their turn towards justice-oriented bargaining, then shares a library of collective bargaining agreements to aid current and future graduate labor organizers.
Despite the legal obstacles to unionization and mixed public opinion on labor rights, graduate students have both been unionizing at increasing rates over the past ten years and simultaneously broadening the scope of what a labor union can achieve. As the increase in radical labor organizing across U.S. graduate unions demonstrates, the fight for safe, equitable, and just universities continues across multiple fronts. While strikes, teach-ins, and other direct actions motivate institutions to meet organizers at the bargaining table, a second fight occurs in the contract negotiation process.
Graduate organizers have made it clear that protections for vulnerable members of our campus communities—Black, Indigenous, and other racialized students who are disproportionately affected by police violence, international students who face exploitative fees and policies, trans and gender-nonconforming students targeted by hostile legislation—are not peripheral to the safety of our working conditions. By working to center abolitionist, anti-racist, and decolonial demands as mandatory subjects in their bargaining campaigns, graduate labor unions make the case that these bargaining planks, and the people they represent, are central to our future as academic workers. Accordingly, the collective bargaining agreements compiled in this project represent important wins by current unions and precedents for future victories.
My hope is that this project will provide a useful overview of the graduate labor movement and provide a helpful resource for organizers working on their own campuses, in both established and nascent unions. In the future, I hope to add interviews with labor organizers reflecting on their experiences, as well as continuing to expand the collective bargaining agreement library as new contracts are ratified.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the project!