Grad students carrying a banner that says : RESPECT OUR MAJORITY VOTE. BC WORKS BECAUSE WE DO.
Matt Han / Gavel Media

Boston City Council Resolution Supports BC Graduate Employees Union

The Boston City Council passed a Resolution Affirming the Rights of Graduate Student Workers to Organize for Fair Working Conditions on Wednesday, explicitly supporting the Boston College Graduate Employees Union–United Auto Workers (BCGEU-UAW) and its organizing efforts to collectively bargain with the university administration.

The resolution, sponsored by Councilor Lydia Edwards, "calls upon the Boston College administration to respect the democratic choice of its workers by, without delay, bargaining a contract with the BCGEU-UAW that reflects the values of fairness, equality, and justice the University promotes."

The council's resolution is critical of the university administration's refusal to recognize the union, even after graduate student employees voted to be represented by the union in a National Labor Relations Board election in September 2017.

In particular, the resolution called out the administration's decision to discipline 16 graduate student workers who "exercised their federally protected rights to concerted activity at their workplace."

The 16 students were disciplined for participation in union activities last September, including an unregistered picketing event outside Pops on the Heights and a demonstration in the middle of University President William Leahy's address to parents during Parents' Weekend.

While presenting the resolution to the city council, Councilor Lydia Edwards emphasized that graduate student workers without union representation are "dealing with the pressures and burdens of being the worker without the protections or benefits."

She noted that graduate student workers lack key protections and benefits, such as maternity leave and receiving paychecks on time.

“We’re asking you to stand with all workers [so] that, when they organize they are given the megaphone they deserve...and [make] sure an institution when operating with the city of Boston is respectful of the right for workers to form unions, not only of security, but unions of students as well," said Edwards.

"I stand here again proudly with the graduate students and union at BC," Edwards concluded. "And in total opposition and actual shame and anger with the institutions for punishing students for standing up and exercising their rights as union members."

A full video of Wednesday's meeting can be found here.

UPDATE: April 25, 2019 at 5:05 p.m.

According to a statement to The Gavel sent by the BCGEU-UAW Organizing Committee, representatives of the union met with Edwards to discuss their efforts to unionize and the administration's response following multiple incidents last semester.

The statement noted that members of the union and its allies, including
Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge, Sister Tess Browne, and other labor leaders in Boston, attempted to deliver a "drop the discipline and bargain now" petition
with than 4,000 signatures to university president Fr. William Leahy's office in December. The union reported that they were not allowed to enter the building and the door was shut in their faces after it was received by an administrator, an exchange which was captured in a video posted on the BCGEU-UAW Facebook page.

"As this interaction demonstrated, the Boston College administration is content to stonewall its graduate workers, sitting idly by while we continue to suffer unfair working conditions and ignoring our continued majority statements in support of bargaining a union contract," said the BCGEU-UAW statement.

According to BCGEU-UAW, the passage of the resolution indicates broad support for union organizing efforts among local officials and community members.

"Boston and the country as a whole have recently seen a surge in unionization efforts and workers’ power, evidenced by the remarkable success of teachers’ strikes and the recent Stop & Shop strike," said the BCGEU-UAW's statement. "These actions have demonstrated the power of workers when workplaces do not respect their concerns."

The union informed The Gavel that they have not yet received a response from the university since the resolution was passed.

"[The administration's] decision to refuse to bargain has been, in the words of Councilor Edwards, 'shameful,' and is contrary to Catholic and Jesuit social teachings, as well as the values of the city of Boston," the statement concluded. "We continue to call on the BC administration to do the right thing and come to the bargaining table. The entire city of Boston is now watching and judging what decision the administration makes."

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