My name is Ashley Lehr, and I’m a 3rd year in the Programs in Biomedical and Biological Sciences on the Health Sciences Campus. I research ErbB3 regulation of colonic deep crypt secretory cells in homeostasis and after injury, and I also help out with GSWOC-UAW! I’m emailing today with some exciting information about the next bargaining session, coming up next Thursday, June 1st. The bargaining team is planning to introduce a series of proposals that would guarantee historic protections to all Graduate Student Workers, ensuring that we will have the right — as a union — to a democratic say in our workplace.

I’d like to tell you a bit more about the importance of these articles, share why I emphatically believe we need these protections as GSWs, and urge you to get involved in organizing toward a great first contract.

1. A just, transparent, and worker-centered grievance process

A grievance process is the formal way that Graduate Student Workers will settle disputes over our working conditions and ensure that the rights enshrined in our union contract are honored. Strong grievance procedures and protections will empower us as Graduate Student Workers to actually enforce the protections we win on paper in our first contract.

For example, the bargaining team recently reached a Tentative Agreement (TA) on a Health and Safety article, guaranteeing that GSWs have the right to refuse to work in an unsafe workplace. Only through a strong grievance process can we ensure that these health and safety protections are enforced. This is what we’re fighting to win, not just for health and safety, but across the board: for abusive conduct, untimely pay, discrimination against international students, etc. 

2. A bargaining unit that includes as many fellows as possible

USC administration may claim that GSWs receiving pay from a fellowship are not workers and should thus be excluded from union protections. Of course, workers on fellowship deserve the same benefits, rights, and protections as Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Assistant Lecturers. Thus, the bargaining team introduced a proposal last week to establish the broadest definition of the bargaining unit, to include as many workers on fellowship as possible.

3. A union shop

The bargaining team will also introduce a critical union security article that would establish a union shop. A “union shop” describes a workplace where all workers who are benefitting from a union contract pay a small portion of their paycheck to contribute financially to their union in the form of union fees. With a union shop, workers have a real say in their working conditions, with a strong union that can enforce GSWs’ rights. Graduate Student Workers want a union shop, because it would most effectively allow us to pool our resources and exercise meaningful democratic control over our working conditions. To read more about the importance of union dues in building a more equitable workplace and a strong union, check out this USC GSW-written Op-Ed

Because each of these proposals would strengthen GSW power over our own working conditions, at the expense of USC administration’s power, they will not be easy to win. Mass participation in every department across USC is the only way we GSWs will be able to win a great first contract with strong union rights. There is no better time than now to sign up to be a Contract Campaign Coordinator, attend a bargaining session, and get involved in organizing

In solidarity,
Ashley Lehr, PIBBS