“There are math grads teaching seven semesters of Calculus while they’re here. Does that advance my research? That’s work, and it should be treated that way,” said Max Weinreich, a third year in the PhD program in Mathematics.


Over 100 Brown University graduate workers and allies participated in a “Rally for Grad Workers” with Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees (SUGSE) on October 3 in support of the right of graduate students to unionize as employees. This event comes on the heels of an announcement that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) plans to amend its definition of “employee” to exclude graduate student-workers who perform services at private colleges and universities in exchange for financial compensation and benefits.

As a union of graduate student employees who provide essential labor to Brown in classrooms, laboratories, and libraries, SUGSE is in the process of negotiating its first union contract with Brown. SUGSE has organized around the need for a living wage, a more suitable healthcare plan, appropriate childcare subsidies, and an independent grievance procedure for cases of discrimination and sexual harassment. SUGSE’s elected bargaining committee and Brown officials have reached several tentative agreements (TAs) that lay the groundwork for a fair contract, but no TA is final until the contract is ratified by the votes of SUGSE members.

The rally began by the blue bear sculpture on Simmons Quad. From there, grad workers and allies marched to the steps of Faunce House chanting “Contract Now!”

“I don’t know about you, but I haven’t taken a class in three years!” said Liam O’Connell, a fifth year in the PhD program in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry, to the crowd, pointing out the absurdity of the proposed rule.

“There are math grads teaching seven semesters of Calculus while they’re here. Does that advance my research? That’s work, and it should be treated that way,” said Max Weinreich, a third year in the PhD program in Mathematics.

The goal of the rally was to hold Brown’s administration accountable to continue negotiating with SUGSE in good faith, regardless of the NLRB’s proposed rule-changing. It serves as a reminder that the work of graduate students is invaluable to both the creative output of the University and its reputation as a premier center of higher learning.

[From a press release]

[All photos this page (c)2019 Selene Means]

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