Watch and share a livestream with workers whom Brown has left without a job. We begin in half an hour at noon EST at facebook.com/BrownSUGSE
This coming week, our union, SUGSE, is planning 5 days of action, corresponding to our 5 demands for COVID relief, to make sure the university hears that grads need more support in the face of the disruptions caused by COVID. Click here to sign up to contribute your voice!
Monday, April 13 – Don’t fire if you won’t hire
Tuesday, April 14 – Free COVID treatment and paid sick leave
Wednesday, April 15 – Ensure equity, especially for international students and grad parents
Thursday, April 16 – An additional full calendar year with funding for all grads
Friday, April 17 – Contract now!
Click here to find out more and to sign up to contribute your voice. We need every voice to make sure we win the protections and benefits we need to do our work successfully.
Graduate student workers demand greater protections amidst the fast-changing and dramatic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. The closure of labs, interruption of fieldwork, and shuttering of libraries has impeded our academic progress. The cancellation of conferences and symposia has paused professionalization. Many of us have had to leave the country or take care of dependents, and some of us will become ill ourselves. The global recession will affect all graduate students approaching the job market. Brown has a responsibility to act quickly to minimize economic insecurity, provide better healthcare, and protect graduate students and other vulnerable university employees.
In order to protect graduate workers and our broader community, Brown must:
- Settle a fair contract,
- Provide a year-long extension of funding and increase summer funding,
- Ensure equity by protecting international grads’ visas and positions & providing one-time financial assistance to grad parents,
- Cover all costs of coronavirus testing and treatment & guarantee paid sick leave, and;
- Commit to a termination freeze for all university employees.
Click here, or scroll below, to read the detailed explanation of our Demands for Immediate Relief for Graduate Workers. In the face of a global public health emergency, these demands represent the absolute minimum protections. We ask that the University immediately implement these provisions to protect public health and the well-being of the Brown graduate student community. RSVP to join us at the General Membership Meeting call next Weds. at 6 to start taking action to make this a reality!
We know that the changes we propose will require revising budgets, but our livelihoods are at stake. The dramatic impacts of COVID-19 aren’t an abstract threat; they are happening to us and our families, now. Brown can uphold its commitment to its graduate workers, and to the whole University community, by guaranteeing stability in this time of intense disruption.
Over the next few weeks we will be reaching out to grad workers individually to hear and share their stories. To any grad worker: SUGSE is here for you. To all workers on campus: we are in this together, and SUGSE stands in solidarity with you. To anyone who wants help organizing their coworkers: email firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s make a plan.
Demands for Immediate Relief for Graduate Workers
- 1. Contract now
Commit to quickly finishing a contract with SUGSE that would guarantee stable funding and support. The COVID-19 crisis accentuates the need for a recognized, independent union and a fixed-term contract for graduate student workers. With a settled contract, graduate workers can teach and complete research no matter what economic disruptions this crisis brings, and be confident in the university’s commitment to fair pay and benefits.
- 2. Stop the clock and extend our funding
Extend our employment, our positions in academic programs, and our visas by one full calendar year. Graduate students’ work and study have been radically disrupted. We are attempting to mitigate the strains of online-only teaching, cancelled fieldwork and research trips, delayed and collapsed experiments, and a frozen academic job market. Tuition-paying graduate students have invested thousands of dollars in their education and will miss out on crucial aspects of their training as well as face a severely constrained job market. Many of us are now parenting full-time or caring for family members who are sick. We fear becoming sick ourselves. Normal progress toward degrees is impossible for most of us to sustain.
Guaranteed full summer pay for graduate workers. Graduate students will still need to seek supplemental income over the summer, though opportunities for grants, fellowships, and other remunerated work will be reduced. Graduate students require full summer stipends comparable to their AY monthly stipends.
- 3. Ensure equity
Protect international grads’ visa status while working and learning conditions change. Maintain stipend pay and insurance coverage for any graduate students unable to return to the United States after returning home or traveling abroad for research.
One-time special financial assistance for all graduate parents. Graduate student parents are facing some of the greatest interruptions in their ability to complete scholarly work and teach during the crisis. The university should double their child care subsidy through the next calendar year.
Guarantee that relief policies will be nondiscriminatory. Commit to protecting the interests and resources of underrepresented and minority graduate student workers.
- 4. Protect our health
Fully cover the costs of COVID-19 testing, treatment, and eventual vaccination for grad workers and their dependents. Extend healthcare and institutional affiliation by six months for graduating students.
Keep the campus healthy and prevent the new infections by offering unlimited paid sick leave and paid family care leave for every Brown employee through the duration of the pandemic.
- 5. Commit to community
Don’t fire if you won’t hire. Commit to a termination and layoff freeze for all university employees to last at least as long as the university hiring freeze, and renew all current contracts, including those about to expire, for at least the length of the hiring freeze.
If you were at our cacerolazo this week, you know that we brought the noise! Almost a hundred and fifty graduate student workers and allies marched from the Van Wickle Gates, banging pots and pans and raising their voices together to say: CONTRACT NOW! The members of the bargaining committee went into that round of negotiations feeling strong and proud to represent your needs, and stood up to tough questions about what we want and why we deserve it. We were able to do this because of you.
The administration was forced to acknowledge the fact that they are not just dealing with a few people at the table, they are reckoning with a union that has support from a strong and growing base. They were unable to make a counter to our proposal and cancelled the session the following day. Now we won’t see them for another three weeks.
In that time, we need to continue to show the university that we are not going to settle for less than what we deserve. We deserve better wages, better benefits, and a fair contract—but we aren’t going to get these without a fight. It has become clear that if we want to win a contract, we have to keep standing up for one another and making ourselves seen and heard.
Come join us on the picket lines this month to make more noise and march for your union:
- Our first PICKET on Thursday, March 5th at 12 PM on the main green! If you can’t be there, make sure to wear your Contract Now button or SUGSE t-shirt that day.
- GENERAL MEMBERS MEETING on Wednesday, March 11th, in Friedman 101, to discuss next steps and strategies for finishing this thing! RSVP here to help us know how many to expect.
- Even bigger and louder PICKETS on Thursdays, March 12th and 19th!
- Our next round of bargaining will be on March 18th and 19th.
If we continue to demand together, we will win together!
After months of meetings with the administration, we’re finally getting close to a contract we can be proud of. We’ve already won improved anti-discrimination protections, a grievance procedure, and, for the first time, clear definitions of our work responsibilities. Now, it’s time to fight for higher pay and better health care. It’s time for a contract. But we won’t get there unless the administration takes us seriously. If we want them to make concessions in negotiations, first we need them to see how many of us want to see a FAIR contract NOW!
At our General Members Meeting last week, the room was packed. We talked through our plan for the semester. We have actions planned every week from now until Spring Break. It’s ambitious, it depends on all our members getting involved, and it’s going to make the difference to get us the contract we deserve.
We’re asking you to come to our first major action of the semester, on Feb. 25th, 12:15 PM, gathering at Van Wickle Gates then going with the SUGSE bargaining committee their negotiations with Brown admin. This is going to be a CACEROLAZO: a rally where we make as much noise as we possibly can, with pots, with pans, with whatever you can bring. We’re going to show the administration how many people have a stake in this fight, in a way that they can’t ignore. Will you come make noise with us?
Please make sure to RSVP by filling out this commitment form.
We will also be holding regular leaflets and wear-a-button days, and if admin still won’t listen, we will start holding MASS PICKETS that they won’t be able to ignore. Please tell us if you can commit to participate in the cacerolazo and the pickets by filling out the commitment form.
This is a crucial phase of our negotiations. We need everyone to show up. And if you can help some more, we need your help by volunteering with SUGSE, by organizing colleagues in your department or lab, and by asking undergrads and faculty to support us. You can let us know what you can do on the commitment form. You can also promote the cacerolazo by sharing this Facebook event.
Let’s make some noise and win a fair contract now!
Max Weinreich, Mathematics
We have been working very hard to get you the contract that you deserve, and we wanted to let you know where we are and what has changed. If you attend today’s General Membership Meeting, Wednesday 6:00 PM at 108 Friedman Hall, you’ll also get a chance to hear from our bargaining team members, so come by if you can.
As you know, we are in the middle of a national debate over our status in the university: whether we are workers or students. We believe that Graduate Student Employees work hard for the university, and that we should be recognized as such. To that end, we are making sure that our contract gives us rights and protections regarding our work at Brown. Yesterday, we reached a Tentative Agreement (TA) on our Appointments and Assignments Proposal, which requires departments to describe specific duties for assignments, delineate reasonable workload expectations, delimit class sizes, and deliver professional feedback and support for Graduate Student Employees. We also included a means of addressing discrepancies and concerns to the administration, so that we have a way to resolve issues when things are not working for us. This agreement took months of negotiation, and it was very hard won. We feel that we had to fight hard to have some control over our labor, but are optimistic that these changes will clarify and improve our working conditions for years to come.
Unfortunately, we are afraid the fight over our economic proposals may be even more difficult. As of now, the university seems unwilling to invest in areas that we think are fundamental to improving our quality of life, including vision insurance, lower mental health costs, increased parental support, and year-round salary. It seems that the administration is hoping that things remain the same as they are, save for some minimal and routine improvements on their terms. We are not satisfied with the status quo, and we will not settle for anything less than what we deserve. In the next few months, we promise to press on in the struggle to secure a better paycheck and benefits that reflect the value of our work. We truly believe that we can win this thing, and we will keep fighting the good fight until we do!
We are continuing to fight for your contract this semester, and we have some serious news to share.
On Tuesday, we reached a Tentative Agreement (TA) on our grievance procedure. This proposal will offer graduate workers the means with which to address systemic insufficiences relating to our working conditions, appointments, and other aspects of the labor that we do for the university. No TA is final until our contract is ratified, but this TA marks a meaningful step in good faith negotiations and is a good sign of Brown’s willingness to cooperate with us in the future.
Yesterday, however, a new test of that spirit of cooperation appeared. On Friday morning, the National Labor Relations Board put forward a proposal that could reverse all of our hard work, organizing, and bargaining efforts. Here are some FAQ about this proposal: what it is, what it means for us, and how you can help.
- What is the NLRB proposing?
The National Labor Relations Board would implement a rule reversing its previous ruling that graduate workersat private universities have the right to form or join a union under the protection of the National Labor Relations Act.
- What does this mean for me and for SUGSE?
By reclassifying us solely as “students” rather than “employees,” the NLRB seeks to deny us labor protections, such as an employer’s obligation to bargain in good faith with its employees’ union representative. This means that if the University were to decide to stop coming to the table to bargain with us, or if it refused to recognize SUGSE altogether, the NLRB would not intervene.
- How can I help protect our right to unionize?
Your participation is invaluable in this crucial time! We need to take action so that the NLRB, the Trump administration and the University can see that we are serious about our right to recognition. First, we need to voice our opposition to the NLRB’s proposed rulemaking. Use this Action Toolkit to learn how to submit a public comment on the proposal and other ways to take a stand against this attack.
While Trump appointees keep trying to rollback workers rights, we will keep striving to reach a contract, our best protection as employees. We believe the University will honor its commitment to negotiate in good faith and not choose to take advantage of the Trump NLRB’s efforts. We will hold them to this expectation by continuing to speak out about how #OurWorkHasVALUE.
Bargaining Committee Co-Chair
The school year is just beginning, but as graduate teaching and research assistants, we haven’t stopped working hard for the University—in fact, many of us took home a reduced paycheck for the summer season, without any reduction in our workload. As the new semester begins, SUGSE needs to take stock of the progress we’ve made and put our heads together on how to win a strong contract.
Last year, after a strong majority of us voted to form a union in November, we elected a bargaining committee of our fellow grads to represent us in negotiations with Brown (read the opening statement for further details about our bargaining platform here). They’ve been hard at work this summer, arguing that we deserve a living wage, more comprehensive healthcare, better parent services, visa support, and a grievance process we control ourselves—so that we can truly take on discrimination and harassment. In our last session, the University responded to our proposals for anti-discrimination protections and a grievance procedure. They want grads to exclusively use existing Title IX and Title VI procedures to address issues of workplace harassment, cutting out our union in the process. It’s clear we will all need to stand together throughout these negotiations so that our voices are heard.
The first SUGSE General Members Meeting of the semester will be on September 9th, 6:00–7:15 PM, at Kassar Foxboro Auditorium, 151 Thayer Street. This meeting is a space where members will collectively decide how to move forward to get the strongest contract possible. Will you join me for the meeting? RSVP here.
Looking forward to seeing you at the meeting!
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
We hope you’re having a wonderful Labor Day weekend! We, your Bargaining Committee, are writing to give you an update after our bargaining session this past Friday, August 30th.
At this point in the bargaining process, we are beginning to get responses from the University to our proposals. This last session focused on their response to our proposals for anti-discrimination protections and the grievance procedure. We know grads need a grievance procedure to address unfair work practices, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination. The goal of our proposal was to have a process that worked side-by-side with University Title IX and Title VI procedures in order to quickly address workplace issues with a minimum of disruption to grads’ research and work. In this most recent bargaining session, the University gutted our proposal: they want grads to exclusively use existing Title IX and Title VI procedures to address issues of workplace harassment, cutting out our union in the process.
We know these current processes are insufficient. In our survey, among grads who experienced harassment, discrimination, bullying, or disparagement in the workplace, only 23 percent agree that the existing University process sufficiently met their needs. While Title IX and VI protections are important, they are vulnerable to sabotage by a Trump administration. Subjecting cases of discrimination and harassment to a union grievance procedure ensures that Brown is held to the highest standard.
In order to win a contract that offers protection from workplace harassment and discrimination, we need your help. Join us at September’s General Members Meeting on September 9th, 6:00–7:15 PM, at Kassar Foxboro Auditorium, 151 Thayer Street. There we will plan a day of action to show the University that we will stand together to demand a fair contract. It will help us plan if you RSVP online here.
There are many ways to get involved and help us win our collective bargaining agreement. Get in touch by writing to email@example.com or by contacting an organizer you know for more information. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates as we head into the fall.
Thank you for being a part of the movement!
Bargaining Committee Co-Chair
We hope you are enjoying the final month of summer! We, your Bargaining Committee, are writing to give you an update after Tuesday’s bargaining session.
During this session, we continued our conversation with administration about healthcare. We wrote our proposal using the feedback you gave us through the survey and through hundreds of conversations. You told us that you just can’t afford your healthcare expenses. We’ve heard countless stories of grads forgoing medical care, unable to pay the out-of-pocket costs for necessary medications, devices, appointments, and tests. We’ve also heard your concerns about dependent premiums and inadequate dental and vision care. While researching for our proposal, we discovered that faculty pay lower co-pays for common medications and services than we do. Brown can offer us coverage that provides the enhanced care and reduced out-of-pocket fees of the faculty plan, but we need to fight for it.
There are many ways to help us win our very first collective bargaining agreement! Please get in touch by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting an organizer you know for more information. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates as we head into the fall.
Thank you for being a part of the movement!
Bargaining Committee Co-Chair