Clark Grad Workers Rally for Recognition

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WORCESTER — Members of Clark University Graduate Workers United (CUGWU-Teamsters) braved the wind and cold to gather with supporters on campus Wednesday.

With Jonas Clark Hall as their backdrop, the graduate student workers rallied outside the main gate at 2:30 p.m. and urged the administration to voluntarily recognize their union.

“We’re forming a union because we want Clark to live up to its values,” said Patrick Geiger, a member of the organizing committee. “We make the university function.”

When asked why they want a union, Gia Davis, another organizing committee member who is a PhD worker in psychology, echoed Geiger’s sentiments and talked about the precarity grad workers face.

“I’m in my fourth year, and I have seen that there are really good people working here, and they deserve a life of dignity,” Davis said. “This university relies on us, and we should be able to live.”

“I love Clark, I love my community here, and I want to be able to do well,” they added. “But sometimes it feels like we’re hanging off the edge in terms of our well-being and security, and something needs to change.”

Davis sees a union as the means to make that change and wants the administration to voluntarily recognize CUGWU.

“I know that they can do this and set an example for other institutions by not union busting. Clark’s motto is ‘Challenge Convention. Change Our World’” they said. “The university can live those words by recognizing us.”

With a crowd of over 60 people in attendance, the grad workers were joined by members of the Teamsters, faculty, and other supporters.

“All workers, including all student workers, need a democratic say in the workplace,” said Cameron Keenan, an undergraduate and a member of Worcester DSA. “Organizing is how you make that a reality.”

CUGWU has been organizing with Worcester-based Teamsters Local 170, and the local brought out their truck, Big Blue, joined by a truck from Teamsters Joint Council 10.

As passing WRTA and school bus drivers honked in support, one rank-and-file member of Teamsters Local 25 explained that he came out because “Solidarity is the magic word.”

Matt Landry, a union steward for UPS workers who has been with Local 170 for some time, also said he was glad to be there to support the grad workers.

“I’m here for the fight, brother,” he said. “Everyone deserves good pay and good benefits, and now is the time to get them.”

Geiger indicated that now is also the time for Clark to make a decision on whether they will voluntarily recognize CUGWU-Teamsters.

“It’s still a pandemic, and it’s a cold day out,” Geiger said. “But today we showed strong determination, we brought out people from all parts of our community, and we let the administration know loud and clear that if this goes to a union election, we’re going to win and win with as big a number as possible.”

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: Shane Levett/Working Mass

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