Boston University Graduate Workers Announce Strike

Over 3,000 graduate workers will go on strike starting March 25 unless they can reach an agreement with the university on fair pay, healthcare, and benefits.
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Published on March 22, 2024
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  • Graduate workers at Boston University held a strike authorization vote from Feb. 28 to March 11.
  • The union said they want better pay and more comprehensive healthcare and benefits.
  • The vote passed with 90% approval.
  • Shortly after the authorization vote, workers announced they would go on strike March 25 unless the university meets their demands.

Less than 10 days after voting overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, graduate workers at Boston University (BU) announced they would go on strike starting March 25 unless they reach an agreement with the university for better pay and benefits.

The over 3,000 graduate student workers are organized as the Boston University Graduate Workers Union (BUGWU). They are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509, which also represents adjuncts, salaried lecturers, and residential advisors at BU.

Members voted 90% in favor of strike authorization between Feb. 28 and March 11.

In a press release sent to BestColleges on March 20, the union said graduate workers are going on strike to fight for fair pay, comprehensive healthcare, and stronger benefits to help with the cost of living in Boston.

I came to BU because they have a strong reputation as an academic institution, but their failure to invest in workers is making this work unsustainable, Pol Pardini Gispert, a graduate worker and international student in the philosophy department, said in the release.

The union also emphasized claims of unlawful bargaining practices against the university. Since bargaining began eight months ago, the union has filed five unfair labor practice charges against the university.

For eight months, we have been urging BU to bargain in good faith and provide the basic information our members need to bargain, David Foley, president of SEIU 509, said in the release. BU's conduct continues to signal that they do not value the contributions of the workers that keep this university running, and we are committed to supporting our members as they fight for the fair contract they deserve.

In an email to BestColleges, Rachel Lapal Cavallario, associate vice president for public relations, said, Boston University continues to negotiate in good faith, and referred to the resources page the university put together concerning negotiations with BUGWU.

A strike would affect undergraduate and graduate classes, along with laboratory research.

During the strike, graduate workers withhold all labor and will not teach classes, lead discussion sessions, host office hours, grade assignments, or submit grades. Graduate workers will also pause research unrelated to their dissertations.

According to BU Today, the university's news website, the university has provided schools and colleges with contingency planning documents to decide how to continue teaching and research during the strike. While each department and program has the flexibility to determine how they work around striking workers, the university requires that all classes, teaching, and research operations continue uninterrupted.

We have a responsibility to continue the education of all of our students, and a disruption to students' lectures, seminars, discussions sections, and labs is not acceptable, Dr. Kenneth Lutchen, university provost and chief academic officer ad interim, said in a March 19 letter to faculty.