Clark Grad Workers Win Worcester’s Newest Union

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WORCESTER — Graduate student workers at Clark University have voted 100 to 7 to join the Teamsters in a union election.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted the vote late Wednesday afternoon following a two-day election on campus. With a bargaining unit of 144 workers, three-quarters of those eligible to vote cast ballots, and 97% voted for a union.

The organizing committee, which was out celebrating its big win, understandably could not be reached for comment at press time.

Clark graduate students announced they were organizing with Teamsters Local 170 on February 9, citing issues like poor pay and benefits and the lack of a say in their workplace. They have spent the past several months organizing master’s and PhD students across departments who are employed to teach and conduct research for Clark.

While the university administration did not voluntarily recognize the union, they ultimately chose not to publicly oppose it, possibly due to the risk of reputational damage and the high level of union support demonstrated by Wednesday’s election results.

In the wake of a 2016 NLRB decision that extended union rights to student workers at private universities, there has been a surge of organizing on campuses across the country. Although slowed by the election of Donald Trump and the accompanying changes in the composition of the NLRB, unionization efforts have since picked back up, with graduate student workers at MIT scheduled to vote in an NLRB election at the beginning of next month.

For Clark University Graduate Workers United, officially CUGWU-Teamsters, their next task is engaging members to collectively bargain for a strong first contract.

Shane Levett is on the Steering Committee of Worcester DSA, an editor at Working Mass, and a member of National DSA’s Democratic Socialist Labor Commission.

Featured image credit: Alex Kawa/CUGWU-Teamsters

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