Newsletter: 9/28/22

Happy Wednesday, graduate workers! Thanks for coming out to Rally for a Living Wage, Always this past Tuesday (9/27). That rally kicked off our carding campaign, which has already been a huge success. More than 1,000 graduate workers have already signed their union cards – less than 24 hours later! If you haven’t yet signed your card, make sure to click the button below or use to sign online.

In this newsletter, you can find some reflections from that rally on the importance of securing a living wage, as well as announcements and events.

Congratulations to all graduate workers on a massively successful Rally for a Living Wage, Always! Hundreds of graduate workers turned out to support our platform. History Ph.D. and student organizer Joseph Rathke said of the rally: “It was incredibly energizing. We’ve really been working hard this summer and this felt like the culmination of lots of hard work by really dedicated organizers.” Indeed, GSU organizers have been working tirelessly for this rally. From designing an equitable platform to spending their post-rally hours phone banking for the union, organizers have brought us to the precipice of major change. That persistence ensured an unprecedented turnout for GSU: over 1,000 cards were signed on the first day!

Rathke says of the rally: “It feels like we’re moving towards something really important. Now that it’s moved out of committee rooms and into real action you can feel the energy is really spreading.” That energy was palpable today as graduate workers cheered and chanted spiritedly.

Rally go-ers were particularly roused by the speeches of their fellow student-workers, like Valay Agarawal and Yue Deng, who spoke about the challenges of being an international student and graduate worker. Yue’s speech spoke to how tenuous graduate support can be – noting that while their committee has been very supportive, this is never a guarantee for incoming students. Valay spoke of the challenges of managing the emotional, financial, and physical burdens of relocating to the United States. His speech highlighted the unique challenges international students may face amid ongoing economic turmoil. GSU’s platform focuses on international student support to place these concerns at the forefront.

Other speakers included Benjamin Laurence, a representative from Faculty Forward SEIU Local 73, who reaffirmed their union’s support for graduate workers and shared tactics that aided their negotiations. John Hieronymus, a representative from the University of Chicago Labor Council, spoke on the importance of comprehensive healthcare for workers. 

Carl Rosen, General President of UE, reaffirmed that Chicago is a union town! He spoke fervently of his union–and UChicago– roots. He noted that his parents were both graduate student workers at the University in the 40s and 50s. He emphasized that the interests of UE and GSU as “rank and file” unions align particularly well. His Chicago connections and understanding of GSU’s particular platform resonated extremely well with the crowd.

After such a successful rally, the natural question is: What Next? Rathke says, “[The next step is] drawing in more people who are excited by a really critical set of demands.” Turnout to this rally marked clear support for the GSU platform. During the rally itself, yellow-vested organizers roused more support from passersby, encouraging them to sign their union cards in person or online.

After long and hard work from GSU organizers, Rathke feels that “We are now in a place where we have organizers fighting to have their interests heard in nearly every department. [This means] we can now fight for the needs of students everywhere at the University and pursue grad worker power as a united front.” And so we shall! Solidarity forever!


  • Interim Steering Committee Elections: The Steering Committee announces two resignations from officer positions. Effective immediately, Andrew Seber (History) is stepping down as co-president and Shannon Sheu (Geophysical Sciences) has stepped down as Communications Secretary. Andrew will more actively serve department organizing committees ahead of the card campaign as a member of UE’s project staff team. He will be primarily working on UChicago GSU’s campaign, but also serving the larger UE GWOC (Graduate Worker Organizing Committee) project which works across existing and new grad campaigns. He remains a department organizer and member of the union. Shannon will no longer be part of the bargaining unit as of August 31, 2022. Shannon has been hired as a new part-time staffer, taking on the dues-funded position that was approved by general membership at the August 25th General Member’s Meeting. He will be working exclusively with GSU supporting existing and new organizing efforts. In light of the above, an elections committee will follow up shortly about an interim election to fill the co-presidency and Communications Secretary roles. We are seeking two Communications Secretaries to manage our internal and external communications via our communications committee. If this description sounds like you or someone you know, please consider submitting a nomination for an open position.


Get Involved!

  • Fill out this form, get in touch with one of your department’s organizers or even email if you are interested in working at the departmental or divisional level. You can always check out our calendar for upcoming events. To receive Zoom links and updates for all our weekly committee meetings, email us to join the Departmental Organizer listserv and Slack workspace. All meetings are open to all members. 

In solidarity,

Graduate Students United