NU Graduate Workers marches across campus, issues deadline for union recognition


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Workers march past Deering Library. The demonstrators walked from the Technological Institute to the Rebecca Crown Center.

Isabel Funk, Print Managing Editor

Northwestern University Graduate Workers marched across campus and delivered a letter to Provost Kathleen Hagerty on Thursday, calling on the University to voluntarily recognize the union.

About 120 graduate workers participated in the march, which kicked off at the Technological Institute, stopped at The Rock and ended with delivering the letter at the Rebecca Crown Center. Along the way, graduate workers left chalk messages on the sidewalk, hoisted signs and participated in chants.

Since NUGW launched its official union drive Oct. 6, more than 2,000 graduate workers have signed union cards. According to the University, about 3,500 graduate students enrolled in fall 2022. 

“(Our union) is made up of the united voices of over 2,000 graduate workers, a supermajority,” NUGW co-Chair Emilie Lozier said. “How often can you get a supermajority on anything in the U.S.?”

Lozier said NUGW gave the University a deadline of 5 p.m. on Monday to voluntarily recognize the union. At that point, she said, the workers will file with the National Labor Relations Board — with or without University support. 

A fifth-year chemistry Ph.D. candidate, Lozier also applauded the workers for putting in the effort to build union support. 

“Without this level of engagement, we would not be standing here in as powerful a position as we are now,” Lozier said. “What an incredible payoff for all the hard work, for you all and for generations of graduate students who have been organizing for this before us.”

Throughout the march, speakers acknowledged the work of past organizers to get to this point.

NUGW co-Chair and fourth-year music Ph.D. candidate Sara Bowden credited department organizers for the accomplishment.

“In large part, this march was to celebrate the efforts of those organizers… (in) achieving an incredible milestone that’s historic relative to organizing on this campus as graduate workers,” they said after the march.

Third-year chemical engineering Ph.D. candidate Kavi Chintam spoke to workers before the march. 

She said regardless of the University’s response, the power is in the workers’ hands. NUGW was a support system for her during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chintam said.

“(NUGW) really gave me a safe place during a time of extreme isolation,” Chintam said. “I felt really supported by my peers in an organization that admin didn’t recognize while I felt abandoned by that same administration.”

Seventh-year history Ph.D. candidate and former NUGW co-Chair Charlotte Rosen spoke at The Rock and reflected on how far the union has come since she started organizing in 2016.

Rosen emphasized the importance of establishing NUGW as an antiracist, feminist and decolonial organization.

“It’s been a long journey paved with a ton of labor, community care and righteous anger to get where we are today,” Rosen said. “We recognize what the Black feminist Combahee River Collective argued long ago, that none of us are free until the most oppressed among us are free, that true worker power and liberation comes from destroying all systems of inequality.” 

Second-year chemistry Ph.D. student Jamie North, who attended the march, said the momentum NUGW has built in recent months has been “incredible.”

He said it was important to him to show up for those who couldn’t attend the march.

“I really believe in what we’re doing here, being able to advocate for ourselves and negotiate with administration,” North said. “It takes all of us showing up and doing it and standing up for other people.”

Bowden closed out the march with a rendition of “Solidarity Forever,” a labor anthem, on their trombone, inviting participants to sing along.

While the crowd celebrated, Lozier also encouraged attendees to maintain the momentum as the union moves forward.

“I want you all to celebrate this win, to revel in it, to be joyful in it, but I want you to commit as well to the road ahead of us,” Lozier said. “Take the pride you feel today, the triumph, the joy, and turn that into fuel for tomorrow’s campaign.”

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Twitter: @isabeldfunk

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