LTE: Northwestern’s opposition to graduate unionization aligns with Trump

Northwestern’s public face is one of a liberal institution that stands against the Trump administration’s xenophobic fear-mongering, belligerent racism and assault on democratic institutions. Yet, when it comes to scenarios that might affect the University Administration’s financial interests, Northwestern implicitly champions the Trump administration. In particular, Northwestern University aligns itself with the Trump administration by opposing graduate workers’ rights to unionize.

Trump’s unqualified appointees have systematically tried to dismantle the very agencies they are supposed to lead, including the National Labor Relations Board. The anti-worker NLRB is now targeting the hard-won right of graduate workers to unionize through a proposed rule that would strip labor law protections from private sector graduate workers. This means that graduate students, including those at Northwestern, would lose the right to unionize!

Northwestern has refused to recognize our graduate worker union, Northwestern University Graduate Workers. The administration actively discourages graduate workers from pursuing unionization, asserting that collective bargaining is “not an appropriate method” to address our concerns, and “may result in an environment that inhibits both the success of graduate students and of the University.” In so doing, Northwestern is furthering President Trump’s agenda to stifle organized labor and put a stop to equitable, democratic and inclusive forms of governance.

In spite of the administration’s refusal to recognize NUGW, we continue to work collectively to win change on campus. Over the last few years of organizing, NUGW has won guaranteed fifth year summer funding, dramatic fee cuts and increased benefits for Doctorate of Musical Arts students, the repeal and refund of an international student technology fee and, more recently, a reversal of higher mental healthcare copays. The collective efforts of NUGW have helped hold the administration accountable.

Without graduate labor, the classes, programs and research that makes Northwestern a top-ten University would grind to a halt. We teach courses, run discussion sessions, grade papers, run labs, advise undergraduate students during office hours, perform administrative functions, organize events, write letters of recommendations, assist professors in their research, travel to conferences and produce original research Northwestern directly benefits from. We are unequivocally workers, and we have a right to unionize to better our working conditions.

We call on the administration to reject the NLRB’s assault on labor and take a stand against the Trump administration by respecting our right to unionize, regardless of the NLRB’s rule, and remain neutral in our organizing effort.

– Northwestern University Graduate Workers