Washington University Graduate Students Seek Union Election, Allege Intimidation Of International Students
Graduate student workers at Washington University in St. Louis have filed for a union election, saying that administration decisions routinely disrespect the role of graduate student workers. Seeking to join the Service Employees International Union, they are pushing for improvements ranging from a better deal on health care to dental, vision and child care benefits.
Graduate worker Grace Ward is a member of the student organizing committee, Graduate Workers Forward:
[Grace Ward]: “The administration is so adamant in classifying us as students and not workers…the ability to unionize seems to be the only option that we can see to make life more livable here.”
Ward says the workers are fully expecting pushback from the administration, and alleges that the university is trying to intimidate international students working on F1 Visas through claims that if students go on strike the university would revoke their student status and have them deported. The university is also likely to stall the election in hope that Trump appointees to the National Labor Relations Board overturn the ruling that allows the workers to organize:
[Grace Ward]: “We’re focusing on maintaining momentum and trying our best to stay unified as a group of workers as the university actively tries to divide us through tactics like were displayed in the F1 visa thing, and also, as they try to undermine the ruling that we are in fact workers. We expect stalling tactics from the University. We basically have an administration that’s colluding with the Trump Administration. So, that just makes us feel that this is time-sensitive, and that’s how we’ve run our campaign so far, is with this sense that we need to have this happen quickly. We need to do it well and make sure that everybody is informed and engaged as union members, but we also need to try to push this through as quickly as we can.”