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2024 Boston University strike

2024 Boston University strike
BUGWU, BU ResLife Union, and others in solidarity march in front of Warren Towers
DateMarch 25, 2024 (2024-03-25) - present
(BUGWU, 1 month, 4 weeks and 1 day)
April 12–15, 2024
(Reslife Union, 4 days)
Location
GoalsBUGWU
  • Increased wages
  • Healthcare and childcare benefits
  • Disability and public health protections
  • Parent and caregiver protections

BU ResLife

  • Increased wages
  • Enhanced CPR and Narcan training
  • Summer health and safety measures
  • Improved health and COVID protections
Methods
StatusIn progress
Parties
  • Boston University Graduate Workers Union
  • Boston University Residence Life Union
  • Service Employees International Union Local 509

The 2024 Boston University strike is an ongoing labor strike in Boston, Massachusetts by graduate student and residential life workers at Boston University. The strike began on March 25, 2024, and was organized by the Boston University Graduate Workers Union (BUGWU) labor union, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union Local 509. It is the longest strike the university has experienced since a 1979 strike which lasted two weeks and four days. A second concurrent strike by the Boston University Residence Life Union (BU ResLife Union) labor union, also affiliated with SEIU 509, ran for four days starting on April 12, 2024.[1]

Background

In 1979, Boston University experienced a strike as a result of backlash over policies by the university's president John Silber.[2] The union behind this strike, the Boston University - American Association of University Professors, found itself decertified following a ruling NLRB v. Yeshiva University stating that university professors were not protected under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.[3] The university did not see another major strike until 45 years later following a 2016 National Labor Relations Board decision that allowed students to unionize.[4]

Boston University Graduate Workers Union

The university's graduate workers began organizing efforts in late 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in an effort to implement a safer workplace. Graduate workers then voted to affiliate with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509 in mid-2021, which also represents adjunct professors, lecturers, and residential advisors.[5] In September 2022, graduate workers began a successful public campaign of union authorization forms, advocating for improvements in wages, workload protections, healthcare and coverage, support for international students, and housing. In December 2022, BU's graduate workers voted 1,414 to 28 in favor of unionization, officially forming the Boston University Graduate Workers Union (BUGWU).[6][7]

Contract negotiations

BUGWU sought negotiations with Boston University's negotiation team starting in July 2023, holding at least one session a month.[8] The first meeting saw two articles proposed, with the total number since expanding to 40, of which three have been rejected and seven have been tentatively agreed upon as of April 2024.[9] As of May 8th 2024, there were 13 temporary agreements and 18 pending articles with 14 of those being actively negotiated in the months of March and April—8 pending a counter-proposal from BU and 6 from the graduate workers union.[10] During the May 8th negotiations BU counter proposed on one article and refused to counter/held their position on more than a third of the articles being actively negotiated, including incredibly important articles such as childcare and commuting benefits![10] Meanwhile, the graduate worker's union counter proposed on 3 articles.

BUGWU Strike

Signs at Marsh Plaza referencing the 2023 Barbie movie

Disagreements in pay, healthcare, and benefits prompted BUGWU to move towards voting to authorize a strike. The union moved towards a strike by citing the MIT living wage calculator's estimation of $62,000 a year to live in Boston as being significantly above their pay of $27,000-$40,000 a year. BUGWU also cited greater access to healthcare for workers and their dependents.[11][12] They highlighted freedom from rent burden, 12-month stipends, disability and public health protections, and parent and caregiver protections.[13] BUGWU held a strike authorization vote from February 28 to March 11, 2024, with 90% voting in favor.[14] They also filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the NLRB against the university, totaling six as of April 2024.[15][16]

Strike Begins

On March 25 at noon, BUGWU began their strike with a rally at Marsh Plaza, the center of the school's campus.[17] This included speeches by graduate workers, Representative Ayanna Pressley, whose district includes the university, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who represents Massachusetts. BUGWU stated that they would continue to picket on weekdays at both the Charles River and Medical campuses until their demands were met.[18]

Support

Various people and groups have shared their support for BUGWU, including Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont,[19] SAG-AFTRA,[20] Boston City Council,[21] State Representative Mike Connolly,[22] the university's student government,[23] and other graduate and teacher unions. The university's student government would also pass a resolution in support of the ResLife strike.[24]

University Reaction

Incongruent public/private statements

Even though the university made a public statement on April 29, 2024 acknowledging the impact of the strike on campus. Stating, "There is no doubt that the strike has created some disruptions, and I deeply appreciate all the work from our faculty and staff to recognize that our students deserve our support in doing what’s necessary to continue our educational mission during this period."[25]

Attestation Forms and Weekly Stipends

Boston University's Office of the Provost updated their payroll policy as a result of the strike. Requiring all graduate workers to attest to working weekly in order to receive their stipends—effectively moving to a model where the default actions is to withhold pay. While there is no way for administrators, in most cases, to confidently know who is striking, pay has been withheld even from students who faithfully attest their hours.[26] At one point, an administrator sent an email out to students in the medical sciences program with the names and immigration status of workers who did not complete the attestation, publicly revealing a protected status.[26] In response, graduate workers union filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the NLRB against the university, alleging wage theft.[27] BUGWU urged their workers not to fill out without speaking to union representatives.[28]

Artificial Intelligence

On March 28, 2024, the dean of the Boston University College of Arts and Sciences sent an email to staff and faculty suggesting the use of generative artificial intelligence to give students feedback on assignments in the absence of graduate workers.[29] Multiple news organizations reported on the dean's suggestion, sparking backlash from both students and professors.[30]

Intimidation, Harassment, Coercion

Graduate workers claimed instances of intimidation, surveillance, and harassment. Students putting up union fliers claimed they have been questioned by administrative workers, while departments like the Center for Computing & Data Sciences have enforced flier restrictions in their building according to claims by BUGWU.[26] Graduate workers also reported that their private offices were “raided” for pro-union materials. Others reported that personal items have been taken as well, although the union states that the Dean of Arts and Sciences told department heads the raids would cease.[citation needed]

Misrepresenting the state of the strike

Boston University has made a concerted ongoing attempt to misrepresent the state of the strike and make support for the strike seem low.[25][better source needed]

Boston University Residence Life Union

Resident assistants (RAs) began organizing in early 2023 after calls for the formation of a labor union in 2021.[31] After holding a rally in support of the BU ResLife union in February 2023, it was announced that a majority of the 280 RAs had signed union authorization forms; a month later, 92% of the RAs voted to form a union and join SEIU Local 509.[32][33] This union, composed of both undergraduate and graduate students, advocated for a $15 an hour wage, meal plans for non-dormitory workers instead of a $15 per week stipend, improved CPR and Narcan training, crisis intervention, mental health care, summer safety measures, and backpay.[1][34]

Contract negotiations

The BU ResLife Union began contact negotiations with Boston University in December 2023, proposing 28 articles, with five having been tentatively agreed upon as of April 2024.[34][35] The BU ResLife Union threatened to strike if their demands were not met by the university, holding a strike authorization vote between April 2 and April 11.[36]

Strike Begins

After the strike authorization vote passed and bargaining was unsuccessful, the union began a four day strike, from April 12 to 15.[37] The union stated that they would not fulfill ResLife responsibilities during the strike, such as being on-call or holding conflict mediation. The strike coincided with the 2024 Boston Marathon, a school holiday that sees many parties held.[34]

University Reaction

During the ResLife strike, the university stated that they would continue to allow workers to access their rooms and dining plans, not charging them a daily rate. The university also stated that professional ResLife staff would fill in during strike.[34]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Spatz, Emily. "Residence life workers at Boston University set to strike starting Friday". www.boston.com. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  2. ^ Special, Michael Knight (April 6, 1979). "Faculty Begins Contract Strike at Boston University". The New York Times. p. 14. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  3. ^ Zabel, Gary (2009). "The Boston University Strike of 1979". In Brenner, Aaron (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Strikes in American History. M. E. Sharpe. p. 696. ISBN 978-1-317-45707-7.
  4. ^ "Board: Student Assistants Covered by the NLRA | NLRB". web.archive.org. 2018-03-07. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  5. ^ "Who is BUGWU? – BU Graduate Workers Union". bugwu.org. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  6. ^ "SEIU Local 509 and Boston University Graduate Workers announce campaign to form Graduate Workers Union". massinsider.net. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  7. ^ Gillis, Steve (2022-12-20). "Boston University Historic union win for grad workers". Workers World. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  8. ^ "Negotiations Updates | Office of the Provost". www.bu.edu. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  9. ^ "BUGWU Bargaining Tracker". Google Docs. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  10. ^ a b "BUGWU Bargaining Tracker". Google Docs. Retrieved 2024-05-09.
  11. ^ "Striking BU Graduate Workers Demand More for Parents and Families | Boston Democratic Socialists of America". Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  12. ^ Spatz, Emily. "Boston University graduate workers plan to strike starting Monday". www.boston.com. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  13. ^ "A Brief Guide to our Bargaining Proposals". www.instagram.com. April 6, 2024. Retrieved 2024-04-10.[self-published]
  14. ^ Spatz, Emily. "Boston University graduate students vote to authorize strike". www.boston.com. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  15. ^ "Boston University graduate students go on strike, citing lack of progress in negotiations". www.wbur.org. 2024-03-25. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  16. ^ Brown, Adora. "BU grad students pledge to continue strike until demands are met". www.boston.com. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  17. ^ Hassan, Abigail; Gonzalez, Nicole (2024-03-25). "BUGWU strike rally attracts support from students, faculty, local politicians". The Daily Free Press. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  18. ^ "2024 BUGWU Strike Information". SEIU Local 509. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  19. ^ Sanders, Bernie (April 5, 2024). ""No graduate student worker should be struggling to make ends meet when Boston University has a $3 billion endowment. These workers deserve a living wage and strong benefits. Boston University must bargain a fair contract immediately."". Twitter. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  20. ^ "SAG-AFTRA Joins in Solidarity with BUGWU". www.sagaftra.org. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  21. ^ "Council Supports Boston University Graduate Workers | Boston.gov". www.boston.gov. 2024-03-29. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  22. ^ Connolly, Mike. "Standing in solidarity with @GradWorkersOfBU this afternoon! I hope the BU administration does the right thing and agrees to cost of living increases, dental benefits, and an overall contract that allows these graduate student workers to afford dignified housing in our community". Twitter. Retrieved 2024-04-10.[self-published]
  23. ^ BU Student Government (March 26, 2024). "Please read our statement in support of the ongoing BUGWU strike. To our fellow undergraduate students: stand with our Graduate Workers in solidarity — do not cross the picket line, donate to the strike fund, and demand @bostonu administration to negotiate in good faith! Their working conditions are our learning conditions". www.instagram.com. Retrieved 2024-04-10.[self-published]
  24. ^ Oliveira, Lucas De (2024-04-09). "BU StuGov endorses ResLife Union strike, promotes event at Pardee Center – The Daily Free Press". Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  25. ^ a b "BU public statement April 29th". 2024-05-09.
  26. ^ a b c "BU faces two unfair labor charges amidst graduate student strike". 2024-05-09.
  27. ^ "Call to Action: Support the BUGWU Strike Fund!". Angry Education Workers. 2024-04-07. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  28. ^ Hassan, Abigail (2024-04-04). "Office of Provost changes payroll policy amid BUGWU strike". The Daily Free Press. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  29. ^ Tran, Tony Ho (2024-03-28). "Boston University Suggests Replacing Striking Grad Students With AI". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  30. ^ Genzer, Samantha; Mitchell, Maya (2024-04-05). "BU community reacts to CAS dean suggestion to replace striking graduate teaching assistants with AI tools – The Daily Free Press". The Daily Free Press. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  31. ^ Blinder, Alan (December 19, 2023). "The Newest Union Members Are Undergrads". The New York Times.
  32. ^ Staff, Diti Kohli Globe (February 8, 2023). "The union comes to Boston University dorms". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  33. ^ Jia, Teresa (2023-03-27). "BU Residential Life Union workers vote to join SEIU 509 – The Daily Free Press". Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  34. ^ a b c d Albano, Lauren; Baltazar, Kayla (2024-04-12). "BU ResLife Union to start four-day strike over Boston Marathon weekend – The Daily Free Press". Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  35. ^ "[BU ResLife] 2023-24 Bargaining Tracking Sheet". Google Docs. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  36. ^ bu_reslifeunion, bu_reslifeunion (April 1, 2024). "We're ready to strike for everyone who came before us, everyone now, and everyone in the future ✊✊✊ Cast your ballot in our ResLife strike authorization vote by April 11!". Instagram. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  37. ^ Callahan, Molly (2024-04-12). "BU RAs Authorize Four-Day Strike over Contract Negotiations". Boston University Today. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
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2024 Boston University strike
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