WASHINGTON—Hundreds of Georgetown University graduate employees will rally on campus today, delivering a letter to Georgetown President John DeGioia asking the school to voluntarily recognize their labor union and begin bargaining a first contract.
The Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, comprises teaching assistants, teaching associates and research assistants from across Georgetown’s 33 departments.
GAGE members have been organizing behind the scenes for months to strengthen working and teaching conditions, for better healthcare and child care, and for improved stipends and summer funding. Today’s rally is their first large-scale public event.
Grad employees will highlight Georgetown’s pro-labor “Just Employment Policy,” which states that workers “have the right to freely associate and organize, and that the University will respect the rights of employees to vote for or against union representation without intimidation, unjust pressure, undue delay or hindrance in accordance with applicable law.”
At the letter drop, graduate employees will be joined by representatives from a wide range of campus groups, including the Georgetown University Graduate Student Government, the Georgetown Doctoral Students Coalition and the Georgetown Solidarity Committee.
In August 2016, the National Labor Relations Board formally classified private colleges’ graduate teaching and research assistants as workers.
Hailey Huget, a sixth-year graduate worker in the philosophy department, said: “In talking to hundreds of Georgetown grads, we’ve learned that grads need living wages, adequate healthcare, and stronger protections against harassment and discrimination, among many other things. We call upon Georgetown to live up to its Jesuit values—which affirm the dignity of labor and workers’ right to organize—and grant us a seat at the table to bargain a fair contract.”
Kevin Carriere, a fourth-year graduate worker in the psychology department, said: “When my summer funding was cut, it brought a lot of uncertainty into my life, taking time away from focusing on my next experiment and publication to focus instead on whether I would need to move home for the summer. Forming a union provides us stability and strength in knowing that decisions that uniquely affect us are being made not only by deans, but by those individuals who are living and experiencing it.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Georgetown University has a proud history of treating its employees justly and upholding the values of inclusion, equity and labor rights. By joining together in a union to raise their voice, Georgetown graduate employees are honoring the best traditions of their institution. And as professionals who grade the papers and conduct the research that makes Georgetown run, they deserve, just like their academic peers, a real say in the decisions that shape their working lives.”
On Oct. 19, 2,500 graduate employees at the University of Chicago joined the AFT, voting for a union by an overwhelming 2-1 margin. The AFT, the largest U.S. higher education union, already represents more than 25,000 grad employee members across 23 institutions and nine states.