Defend Our Rights to the NLRB, Member Issues Survey, and Upcoming Events

Comments on NLRB Ruling

Back in the Fall, we reported that our rights were under attack from the National Labor Relations Board, which had proposed a new rule that would define us as unprotected by labor law. There was a long period in which to push back against the rule with public comments, offering what seemed like plenty of time. But the deadline is almost here. We have one day left in which to submit as many comments as possible, and we all need to swing into action.

Here’s how it works:

Because it’s a rule change, not a law, there’s no vote on this policy. BUT that does mean that it’s open to public comment. The agency is supposed to address/engage with the comments, and so if we can get thousands and thousands of people weighing in, it may help stop it, or at least slow it down.

You can submit your public comment at http://aftacademics.org/WeAreWorkers.

The federal rule-making process is different from pressuring a legislator. Anyone can submit a comment, regardless of whether they are a grad worker, a US citizen, a voter, etc. It can be in any living language, and individuals aren’t limited to one comment—so if you’ve submitted one, and you want to make another point, please do!

The one caveat is that this can’t be used as a form letter: if comments are too similar, the NLRB can lump them together and not count them as unique comments. The site may suggest text, but please delete that and write something in your own voice, even if it’s just a few lines.

There are some prompts at the link, but you needn’t use those. What you write is up to you. If you want more ideas on what to write, here are some additional prompts. After you comment, please pass the alert along to friends, colleagues, partners, and any others who might weigh in.

Please comment now.

The deadline is January 15th, one day from today. If you comment before midnight this Friday, our friends at the American Federation of Teachers in DC will print it out and hand-deliver it to the NLRB. After that, you can still comment; the site will simply redirect you so that your comment goes to the NLRB digitally.

This may not be as exciting as being on the picket line. But we need to respond to this attack however we can. If the proposed rule goes through, GSU will still fight on. But for now, let’s put up as strong an opposition to it as possible. The link, once again, is at http://aftacademics.org/weareworkers. Please make your voice heard today.

Thanks so much.

Why We Need a Union: Revisiting the Issues

In February 2018, fresh off of our recognition vote, we conducted our bargaining survey to identify the issues that were most important to our members as we fought for recognition and a contract. Two years later, despite many smokescreens from the administration, there’s much that hasn’t changed. In spite of various unenforceable admin promises and program changes meant to make it look like we’re not workers, we’re still seeing issues with healthcare, housing, pay, harassment and discrimination, and workplace safety that are going unaddressed.

This winter, we’re returning to the major issues identified by the last bargaining survey to put the spotlight on the problems affecting our members every day that we know we can only fix with a union and collective bargaining. Keep up with the newsletter and our posts on Facebook and Twitter to weigh in with your experiences as a graduate worker!

We’ll also be distributing a new survey to see what has—and hasn’t—changed for our members. Keep an eye out on your inboxes for the new survey, coming soon!

Email from the Outgoing Provost, Looking to a New One

A month ago, we received word that Provost Diermeier would be leaving this summer to become Chancellor of Vanderbilt University. At the time, we reviewed his legacy at UChicago, which has sadly been characterized by unilateralism and ongoing efforts at union-busting. The following week, he sent us an “Update on PhD Education,” which raised a number of questions. We touched on those in our December 12th newsletter, and started to explore them in depth on Facebook. Watch our social media channels for more on that email—as the most recent statement from the administration on our work, there’s lots to unpack.

Last week, we learned that Professor Ka Yee Lee, currently Vice Provost for Research, would become the new Provost on February 1. We would love for her tenure to mark a change in direction. To that end, we would recommend two simple steps that would benefit the entire university: to press pause on the harmful aspects of the Provost’s unilateral overhaul of programs, and to recognize GSU.

Upcoming General Members Meeting

The first GMM of Winter Quarter will be next Wednesday, January 15, at 6pm (location: Swift Hall, Third Floor Auditorium). As always, we do our best to make sure our meetings are accessible to all members. Please let us know your access needs. In particular, if you need ASL interpretation, please contact us at gsu@riseup.net in advance of the meeting so we can hire interpreters.

Funding Town Hall

GSU will hold a Town Hall on Thursday, Jan. 23rd, at 6pm (location TBA) for graduate students to discuss the overhaul of graduate programs that was announced last quarter by outgoing Provost Diermeier. As a reminder, these program changes include a revamp of the funding policy, as well as introducing enrollment caps in the Humanities and Social Sciences Divisions, Divinity School, and School of Social Service Administration. The Town Hall is meant for members to share how these changes affect graduate students’ work and life, and to consider ways of action in response. All members are welcome!