Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Graduate workers union rallies for timely bargaining, response to economic demands from NU

Jacob Wendler/Daily Senior Staffer
NU community members came to Monday afternoon’s NUGW rally bearing signs, NUGW T-shirts and noise-making devices.

Close to 500 Northwestern community members gathered outside Silverman Hall Monday afternoon for a “Pay, Power, and Protections NOW!” rally hosted by Northwestern University Graduate Workers.

Last week, the University canceled a full-day bargaining session with NUGW originally scheduled for Tuesday. The session was expected to cover the union’s economic proposals, which include comprehensive health coverage, reimbursement for immigration-related fees and a base stipend increase to $50,000.

University spokesperson Jon Yates told The Daily the University canceled the session because “it needs more time to review the Union’s economic proposals and prepare counters,” although NUGW presented its economic proposals more than three weeks ago, according to NUGW bargaining committee member Lawrence Chillrud.

NUGW organizer Brooke Simonton is a third-year Ph.D./M.P.H. candidate in life sciences and public health. She said the University’s cancellation of the Tuesday bargaining meeting created some frustration within the union.

“It’s a known tactic for universities to delay bargaining and not give a central time to those conversations as a way to decrease momentum, which is why these escalation actions are so important,” Simonton said.

Simonton praised her fellow organizers for their “never-ending energy” in generating momentum and making their demands a reality.

Summer Pappachen, a third-year Ph.D. candidate in political science, led the crowd in chants, calling it a “privilege of (her) life” to be in the fight alongside her fellow graduate workers. Pappachen criticized the administration for canceling the Tuesday meeting.

“Every week that admin stalls is another week that we struggle to pay our bills,” Pappachen said. “It’s another week that we tolerate workplace abuse. It’s another week that we can’t go to the dentist, can’t go to the doctor.”

Speakers discussed intersecting issues facing graduate workers, paying special attention to marginalized groups like international students and parents. 

Charles Logan, a 4th-year Ph.D. candidate in learning sciences and a father of three, presented some of the results of a survey he helped organize outlining issues facing graduate worker caregivers. Some survey respondents said they struggled with relying on food stamps to feed their families and having insufficient parental leave after giving birth.

“Our recent survey revealed a pattern of frustration, anger and pain endured by graduate worker caregivers because of Northwestern’s insufficient resources and inhumane policies,” Logan said.

NUGW’s economic demands include 75% coverage of dependent health premiums and an increased childcare grant – both of which Logan said would benefit caregivers.

Some professors and postdoctoral researchers attended the rally in solidarity with NUGW.

Siobhan Brown, a post-doctoral researcher in chemical and biological engineering, spoke on behalf of other postdoctoral researchers in the fight for labor rights on campus.

“Postdocs and graduate workers produce the research which makes the University run,” Brown said. “We rake in more and more research money every year, to the tune of $1 billion this year. As the workers who produce the data on which these grants rely, we deserve a seat at the table in determining our working conditions and to be fairly compensated for our contributions.”

Representatives from the NU Library Workers Union, Fossil Free NU, Students Organizing for Labor Rights, the NU Accountability Alliance and University of Chicago Graduate Students United all spoke at the event. 

NUGW organizer Emma Kennedy, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in art history, said high turnout at the event demonstrates the union’s collective power.

“I think the really great thing about what we do is that people from across the University join us,” Kennedy said. “We have faculty who are supporting us, we have undergrads who are supporting us and we have grad workers from every department showing up today to show the administration that we mean business.”

NUGW has reached tentative agreements on 23 of its 32 proposed provisions since it began negotiations with the University in June. Its most recent victories from the Nov. 1 bargaining session include universal union membership, non-discrimination and management rights. 

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Nov. 30, when NUGW’s bargaining committee intends to continue negotiating its economic proposals.

“We want to keep fighting, because we’ve won some really great things already in bargaining, but they won’t go into effect until we sign this contract,” Kennedy said. “We need it now.”

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