The Heights - Boston City Council Holds Hearing on Graduate Student Unionization
Sunday, June 30, 2019
The Boston City Council Committee on Jobs, Wages, and Workforce Development questioned graduate students from Boston College, Northeastern University, Boston University, and Harvard University about working conditions and efforts to unionize at a hearing Thursday.
The Council passed a resolution in April in support of the BC Graduate Employees Union (BCGEU-UAW), titled “A Resolution Affirming the Rights of Graduate Student Workers to Organize For Fair Working Conditions.” Councilor Lydia Edwards sponsored both the resolution, which called on the University to enter into bargaining with the union, and the hearing.
Frank Baker, the Committee chairman, and councilors Althea Garrison, Ed Flynn, and Annissa Essaibi George conducted the hearing alongside Edwards.
“I think that it’s very important that we as the Boston City Council make it very clear that we see graduate student workers as workers and that we value your work, value your rights, and value your voice,” Edwards said in her opening statement.
Although none of the universities sent representatives to the hearing, all four submitted written testimony.
“It’s unfortunate that the universities chose to not come and instead sent letters, and as this conversation continues, we may consider at some point some sort of subpoena power to make sure they come and explain what’s going on and why they aren’t supporting you,” Edwards said. “That said, today is about that story and highlighting it. If they choose not to counter then that is their choice that they made.”
Edwards’ office said that no subpoena has been issued.
In a statement to The Heights, Associate Vice President of University Communications Jack Dunn voiced appreciation for the work of BC’s graduate students but repeated the University’s longstanding reason for opposing unionization efforts.
“Our position, however, is that graduate student unionization in any form would undermine the collegial, mentoring relationship among faculty and students that is a cornerstone of the BC academic experience,” Dunn said. “Boston College is committed to upholding this longstanding relationship, which we believe is in our mutual best interest. In our view, doctoral education is most successful when faculty work directly with graduate students without a third party attempting to define or mediate those relationships.”