Year-in-Review: Labor in Higher Ed

May 25th, 2023

It’s been a huge year for higher education unions. We’ve seen a tremendous number of new graduate worker unions form since last April. Here in Chicago, graduate workers have unionized at Northwestern (Northwestern University Graduate Workers, NUGW) and the University of Chicago (Graduate Students United, GSU). Outside Chicago, graduate worker unions have formed at the University of Southern California, New Mexico State University, Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Boston University, and MIT–and perhaps even more. Graduate workers at Duke University and Emory University have ongoing unionization campaigns open, and Stanford University has a graduate worker union election coming up on May 31st. We’ll be watching those campaigns eagerly.

There have also been a number of high profile higher education strikes. Since our own strike last April, graduate workers have gone on strike at Rutgers University, Temple University, and across the University of California system. Graduate workers at the University of Michigan have been on strike since March 29th, 2023, and are staring down the possibility of returning to campus next Fall still on strike–you can donate to their strike fund here.

In the faculty arena, our very own UIC United Faculty went on strike this past winter; we saw first hand their incredible organizing and huge victories. Their strike has been cited as an inspiration for faculty across the US, but nowhere is that felt more than right here in Illinois. After the UF strike, faculty went on strike across the state, including at Governor’s State University, Chicago State University, and Eastern Illinois University. Faculty at Northeastern Illinois University narrowly avoided a strike as well after authorizing one.

It’s staggering how much higher education union activity there’s been recently. Tens of thousands of graduate workers are newly represented by unions, and tens of thousands more have recently been on strike. Of course, we understand why. Grad workers everywhere are underpaid and overworked, and unions win workers higher wages and important protections in the workplace.

We’re currently working on unionizing the Research Assistants at UIC–Research Assistants are guaranteed none of the benefits or protections of the contract we went on strike to win. Fill out this form to get involved in the RA unionizations campaign.