My name is Pırıl and I’m a RA in the ECE department. As we near the end of the semester, I wanted to reach out and review what a remarkable year it has been for Graduate Student Workers at USC — and to highlight the exciting path that lies ahead of us.
Just in the past academic year:
- Hundreds of GSWs got involved in organizing our union, organizing within our own departments and across the University Park Campus, Health Sciences Campus, and Buck Institute
- Over 2,000 GSWs — a supermajority across USC — signed union authorization cards, indicating our overwhelming support for forming a union
- Last December, GSWOC-UAW filed these union cards with the National Labor Relations Board and asked USC for voluntary recognition
- After USC refused to voluntarily recognize our union, on February 15th and 16th, a strong majority of GSWs voted to form a union, in a landslide 93% victory
- We GSWs distributed and collected thousands of surveys, participated in numerous GSW-led town halls, and held dozens of department organizing meetings to build the foundation for a highly democratic and participatory contract campaign
- GSWs across USC democratically elected a bargaining team of fifteen of our fellow GSWs to negotiate with USC at the bargaining table
- Over 1700 GSWs endorsed a bold set of Initial Bargaining Demands, which outline major improvements we’re fighting to win, including fair compensation and benefits, job security and worker rights, and a just and equitable workplace
- Graduate Student Workers won our first Tentative Agreement (TA) at the bargaining table, winning crucial Health and Safety protections, including the codification of our right to refuse to work in unsafe working conditions
After building a strong foundation, it’s now time to build on this progress as bargaining heats up this summer. As I’m sure you’ve heard many times, the only way we Graduate Student Workers can win a contract that reflects our value and our needs is by engaging in a mass participatory campaign, demonstrating our power to USC administration. Until now, Graduate Student Workers have been seen by USC administration as cheap labor, workplace harassment and discrimination have gone all-too-often unchecked, and international student workers have been subjected to abhorrent intimidation and retaliation without seeing justice. We, as GSWs, have the incredible (and unprecedented) opportunity to come together and tell USC administration: no more. Together as Graduate Student Workers – and only together – we can build a stronger USC.
Now, as we head into a crucial phase of bargaining, I’d like to ask you to consider getting involved in our union if you haven’t already. It is more important than ever to develop strong leadership in every department — building power across campus to make sure we GSWs win the best contract possible.
Finally, if you defended your dissertation this semester and/or are graduating today, congratulations! Making it to this point is an incredible accomplishment. I’d like to invite you to fill out the GSWOC Post-Graduation Survey, which GSWOC is distributing as part of the effort to build a strong network of union academics and union workers across the US.
Thanks for reading – and congratulations on finishing out the academic year!
Pırıl Nergis, Electrical and Computer Engineering