Exciting News for Other Grad Unions, CARES Act Funds, and Getting Involved This Summer!

Congratulations to our fellow graduate workers at Harvard and Brown!

Earlier this week, HGSU-UAW, the union of graduate workers at Harvard University, reached the end of a 19-month bargaining process to achieve a tentative agreement on a contract with their administration. They are currently in the process of their ratification vote! Read more at The Harvard Crimson.
This exciting news comes shortly after SUGSE, Brown University’s graduate student union, won their own contract, which they ratified earlier this week!
This is exciting news all around, and a huge congratulations on these two monumental wins for graduate workers everywhere. But the fight is not over, graduate workers across the United States (including at UChicago) work without their rights recognized or protected by their administrations. This is especially unjust, amidst a global pandemic and increasing austerity at most universities. Temporary band-aids are not enough. We need union organization and labor contracts to protect our rights as workers and students. Read this email to figure out how to get involved with GSU’s fight.

CARES Act Funds – and who’s eligible to them? 

On June 4th, the University announced that it accepted $6.2 million it was awarded by the Department of Education, from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act’s established Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). This announcement came after much deliberation, since the awarding of the funds to the university on April 9th

Accepting the funds has proven politically controversial for elite higher ed institutions, with many deciding not to accept the federal funds (e.g., Northwestern, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Duke, to name a few), and others, like Cornell University, announcing that they would allocate the entire funding they receive to assist students, and not just 50% as the Act requires. The University of Chicago followed suit with the latter, after almost two months of consideration.

GSU is commending any funding that goes to aid students (eligible students may receive up to $2500), but we are concerned about several aspects of the process, including its invitation-only nature, its non-transparency, and the eligibility criteria that the University posed on top of the original criteria stipulated by the CARES Act: According to the university policy, only students with a valid Free Application for Federal Students Aid (FAFSA) on file are eligible to the funds, thus narrowing down the eligible population, especially among graduate students. Moreover, the FAFSA should have been on file as of May 15, although the University announced this policy only on June 4th, meaning that if you hadn’t applied before their announcement, it was already too late! 

GSU is trying to assess the extent to which these funds have been made available to graduate student workers, and how many otherwise eligible students could not apply due to the process and the conditions that the university designed.

Please take a minute of your time and fill in this short questionnaire!

Get Involved! Get (Re)Engaged! 

This is our first newsletter as an independent union (Yay!!!), since our affiliation vote. And we have exciting times ahead! In the next few weeks, we will develop our shared vision for GSU as an independent union. Our members are invited and encouraged to express their voice and take part in this process – in various ways! Stay tuned for an announcement on an upcoming GMM, and other avenues to participate in shaping GSU vision.

In the meantime, members are encouraged and more than welcome to join and attend our ongoing meetings. There are currently four different committees that members can attend and get involved with:

Stewards Council/Organizing Committee – Meets every Monday at 6:00PM.  Stewards are elected by membership to represent their department in the union.  There are currently openings for stewards in almost every department and this meeting is open to all members. This is a place where organizers can hear from each other and strategize going forward.  If you are interested in becoming a steward either email us or find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter!

Steering Committee – Meets every Tuesday at 6:00PM. Steering committee is also elected by membership and is responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities of the union including grievances, overall strategy, finances, endorsements, etc. We currently have vacant positions for divisional representatives in PSD, BSD, SSA, and the Divinity School. We also have openings for communications secretary and financial secretary. If any of these positions sound interesting, feel free to email us, or find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter.

FORCe (Funding Overhaul Research Committee) – Meets every Wednesday at 6:00PM.  FORCe was formed in response to the funding overhaul announced earlier this year and has since been the driving force behind actions in our union. In FORCe’s short lifespan we have already organized three successful actions:

Funding overhaul petition
COVID-19 petition
June 3rd’s walkout/teach-in

We are currently deciding what kind of actions we want to take over the summer and what we want next Fall to look like. To get involved with FORCe please email us, or find the Zoom link on the GSU newsletter.

Mutual Aid Committee – Meets every Thursday at 5:30PM.  Our mutual aid committee is our newest committee which focuses on building membership and community solidarity through mutual aid. During our June 3rd action, members of the mutual aid committee bought and collected food to bring to local food pantries. We are compiling information on how to get involved in the community, protests to attend, how to attend protests safely, and more resources for GSU members to more easily get involved with the Chicago and South Side community. We have worked with the University of Chicago Labor Council (UCLC) to provide protest health and safety training which can be found on their Twitter here.  If you are interested in getting more information please email us or find the Zoom link on the GSU newsletter.