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Northwestern University graduate workers affiliate with the IFT

12/07/2016

Graduate employees at Northwestern University have joined their peers at the University of Chicago by affiliating with the IFT and AFT, as the national movement for graduate workers’ unionization takes off.

Members of Northwestern University Graduate Workers voted by an overwhelming 80 percent last week to join the IFT after the National Labor Relations Board’s decision earlier this year to formally classify private colleges’ graduate teaching and research assistants as workers.

NUGW has an active presence on campus and has been building its ranks for months. The AFT, the largest U.S. higher education union, already represents more than 25,000 grad employee members across 23 institutions and nine states. In addition to those at Northwestern and the University of Chicago, graduate workers at Princeton and Cornell universities also recently voted to join the AFT.

Sneha Narayan, a fifth-year doctoral candidate at Northwestern, said: “Forming a union at Northwestern ensures that graduate students will have a say in determining our pay, benefits and working environment. I am excited to be part of a growing movement of academic workers organizing in the wake of the NLRB ruling, to highlight the value of our labor and elevate our voices within our institutions. The AFT has a long track record of helping create member-driven unions at universities across the country, and I look forward to seeing what a partnership between NUGW and the AFT will bring to the unionization effort at Northwestern.”
LaCharles Ward, a fourth-year doctoral candidate at Northwestern, said: “The movement to unionize is of the utmost importance, especially at this moment when we continue to witness the disregard for people who contribute their labor to our academic institutions.
In addition to unionizing for better labor practices, our collective move to unionize is also about demanding that those who engage in research and teaching across the university have a say in how said research and teaching happens. Our collective movement to unionize comes from our recognition that we need to have firm, independent advocates for our interests—advocates who are backed by the full force of the American Federation of Teachers, advocates who are graduate students with our protection in mind.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Just like their peers at Princeton, Cornell and the University of Chicago, Northwestern grad employees—empowered by the NLRB’s decision and their relentless organizing on campus—are joining with the AFT to raise their voices so their work is respected and so they can have a genuine say over their work lives. The AFT is the largest U.S. higher education union, and we’ll be with them every step of the way in their fight.”
IFT President Daniel Montgomery, who is also an AFT vice president, said: “As an alumnus and Evanston resident, I’m particularly excited that the Northwestern University graduate student employees have chosen to speak with a collective voice and play an active role in the decisions that affect them and their students. Every day, these workers make the university a better place, and we’re very proud to welcome them into the IFT family, which already includes thousands of higher education faculty, staff and graduate employees across the state.”
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