A Case Against the Union

I don’t know about you but I didn’t come to graduate school for the dental care. I came to study, to learn, and sometimes to teach. I applied wanting and expecting precisely this. Apparently I’m in the minority.

Apparently the majority of graduate students want to form a union in order to better represent their interests in the face of the brutal and domineering Boston College administration.

Did you hear their latest chant? They say they are advocates for the newest class of oppressed: graduate students. Did you know that graduate students are an oppressed class? Just as the auto worker on the shop floor daily risks the safety of his life and limbs, so too the graduate student risks … what exactly? Is there any class of people more pampered than graduate students?

To those agitating for the union I say the following: Please, check your privilege.

Better yet, use your privilege to advocate for those less fortunate than you: the undergraduates. Indeed undergraduates deserve a union far more than graduate students. Not only do undergraduates have to pay for their tuition, they often have to take five or six classes per semester and work a part-time job, for which they are no doubt inadequately compensated.

I miss the days when these do-gooder types were collecting lunch money to send to Africa. (But really, guys, Africa could use the help).

In truth, I do not blame those that favor the union. They are innocents deceived by the extortion racket which is the United Auto Workers (UAW), an extortion racket looking for its next victim: universities.

Here’s how it works: the UAW has been sending its representatives out to each of the big-time private universities. These representatives scour the campus for the frustrated idealist-types. They hire these students to work part time ($25 per hour, 20 hours per week—it’s true, I’m not making this up). They canvas the school, collect the signature cards, petition the National Labor Relations Board, and the NLRB sanctions the election.

It sounds like a lot of work, but, remember, the payoff is huge: $1 million annually (2,000 students multiplied by $500 in dues). Establish a local union at 10 new universities per year and you’ve got yourself quite the racket.

I feel pity for the tender souls suckered in by the scheming of the UAW reps. And yet, I can’t help but admire the attachment they display to the principle of justice. By and large, these unwitting mercenaries are moved by a pure and unselfish philanthropy.

But we must not allow our noble feelings to get the best of our reason. The truth of the matter is that our indignation is far too great and our grievances far too small. We are bringing a cannon to a knife-fight.

If we were wise, we would have used the prospect of a union as a threat to bring the administration to the negotiating table. But we were not, and now we are facing the prospect of a perpetual tribute to the union bosses in the hope that they might negotiate on our behalf.

We revolted against a mild, generally beneficent administration in order to curry favor with treacherous tyrants. Thankfully, we still have time to mend our ways.

BC will receive us with gratitude for the good sense we display when we VOTE NO on Sept. 12 and 13.

  • Julia

    Hi Brad, you ask what risks graduate students take in the workplace, so here are a list of just a few: chemical and heat burns from lab work, sexual harrassment from faculty, systematic racism, microaggrgessions, being required to go years without a vacation or a visit home, and cavities and gum disease from going years without dental care. That’s only the beginning! Grad workers live and work in precarity because we aren’t all as privileged as you are. Some of us don’t have a safety net or inherited wealth to support our studies. We can’t sneer at risk the way you do. Please check YOUR privilege!

  • Margaret

    Hello Brad! You mentioned that undergraduates, rather than graduate students, deserve a union, partially because they “have to pay for their tuition.” This is actually the main difference between graduate students and undergrads: graduate students are employees of the university. Undergraduates, for the most part, are consumers of the university’s product. Undergrads are a vital part of the university’s ecosystem, but they do not teach or research for the university as their primary job. This is an important distinction, and one worth making.

    • Hayley Margules

      And, for the record, I am a grad student, and I pay my tuition. I have no remission. I don’t understand how this rumor started, unless Brad himself doesn’t pay his tuition (and enjoys favored status from administration. Hrm.)

      • Margaret

        Tuition remission is definitely worth bargaining for!

        • Hayley Margules

          Agreed. It’s almost like Brad is either 1) misinformed about the rights guaranteed to graduate students at BC, and so his opinion is irrelevant, or 2) Brad knows that we’re not all granted remission, but he was put up to this by the administration.

        • Mikayla

          I agree! In 2015 (the year before I entered BC as a graduate student), Master student TAs in the Arts and Sciences received a stipend, tuition remission, and health care coverage as compensation for their work. This was taken away by the administration in 2015 despite GASA’s efforts to work with the administration on a solution. Grads were left powerless to the unilateral decisions made by BC administration.

          With a union, we will have a democratic voice in our workplace. We will be able to sit down and work with the administration to bargain a contract that provides us with job security. Since we, grad students, are the union, and decide what issues we want to see in a contract, the contract is what we want it to be. A contract could address raising stipends, securing tuition remission, expanding health care coverage, creating a parental leave policy if we think these are most important.

  • Jess

    I didn’t come to graduate school for dental care either, nor did I accept my last job offer for it. However, the loss of such benefits is one of the catalysts for the effort to unionize at BC. While many graduate students are indeed privileged, many more are not, and the current structures of pay and healthcare, the lack of social support, and the racism and sexual harassment that many graduate students face ensures that the less privileged among us are systematically pushed out of academic work.

    And that’s what it is – we perform labor for the university when we teach and do research and work in labs. While many undergraduate students also work to make ends meet, their status as students does not give them the legal right to unionize…it is the labor they perform as classroom aides, research assistants, or outside the university which would qualify and enable them to form and join a union.

    Finally, Brad, to argue that your fellow graduate students are unwitting mercenaries at the hands of a tyrannical union is not only a fundamental misunderstanding of how a union functions but an insult to your colleagues’ intelligence.

  • Brian Barone

    I have some serious concerns with an author who relies on the racist trope of struggling, impoverished Africa (way to generalize about the second-largest continent on Earth, by the way) in the same argument in which he urges others to ‘check their privilege.’

    Brad, if you could take a moment’s break from sneering at your colleagues, perhaps you’d have the mental space to notice how nonsensical your arguments here are. For one thing, your contention that paying tuition ought to entitle students to a union betrays a rather flimsy understanding of labor unions—that is, organizations of workers. But insofar as undergraduates often work low-wage jobs, you’re right! They do deserve better. Which is why, no doubt, the majority of BC students who are going to vote UNION YES this week would love to see these workers organize, too. Because they recognize that the best way for workers to bring effective, positive change to their workplace is by building collective power. It’s also why the labor movement nationwide—including the UAW, and the dues that support its work—back efforts like the Fight for $15 and other campaigns that seek to bring dignity and a living wage to *all* kinds of work.

    For another thing, I’m a bit confused as to who or what you think the administration would bargain with in the absence of a union, as you suggest is the best course of action. A body tasked with collectively bargaining in the interests of a group of workers is, after all…a labor union!

  • Chris Staysniak

    “If we were wise, we would have used the prospect of a union as a
    threat to bring the administration to the negotiating table. But we were
    not, and now we are facing the prospect
    of a perpetual tribute to the union bosses in the hope that they might negotiate on our behalf.”

    This
    strikes me as an odd claim. How does one use the prospect of a union
    without actually organizing a union? Isn’t that the point of collective
    organizing?

    Moreover, it seems that Boston College administration has had the chance to try and meet this effort and “undercut” organizing efforts (by BC graduate students, not the UAW) by meeting
    grievances through more generous benefits, family leave, etc., since at least the last academic year when the motion was first filed with the NLRB. But in that time period the university administration has shown its hand by not actively advocating for some sort of
    compromised position short of a union by trying to proactively meet graduate student concerns. Indeed, treating workers generously as an effort to in part keep them from organizing is not an uncommon management practice (look no further than the likes of Costco
    and Starbucks for modern examples of this practice). Indeed, even Catholic social teaching has advocated for a more compassionate middle ground between laborers and their employers. But BC administrators never seemed to have considered this as an option. Rather, their time, energy, resources, and arguments against the union have been largely legalistic in regards to NLRB jurisdiction, include vague references to BC’s Catholic mission (which does not seem to include Catholic social teaching and its longstanding support of labor). Finally, they have failed to at least acknowledge the very real grievances and demands of this
    campus’ graduate workers, denying graduate students the dignity they deserve as critical pieces of the BC community.

  • Paul Goldberg

    It’s hard to know where to begin with an article written in such pathetic prose and that’s filled with virtually nothing but lies or misleading statements. Suffice it to say: Brad van Uden doesn’t really know anything about this movement that he writes against with such invective. Just to correct some of Brad’s misstatements:

    -Despite Brad’s cartoonish, straight-out-of-bad-Hollywood-movies portrayal of UAW, people should know that progressives regard UAW as amongst the best unions historically .

    -The money from dues goes to helping the union infrastructure in terms of legal representation and countless other benefits. And contractual benefits virtually always outweigh the costs of dues–that’s why union members vote to ratify these contracts in the first place!

    -Check our privilege? Check your privilege! Maybe Brad doesn’t care about dental and other benefits because his parents are rich enough to afford it for him. Not so for most graduate students.

    -Pampered graduate students? How about overworked and underpaid teachers and researchers! Has Brad ever even spoken to another graduate student worker?

    Really, there are too many pathetic comments to reply to. All I can say: forget about this embarrassing, insulting, dumb article. The graduate student workers at BC should be proud of their efforts to unionize and empower themselves and those in their community.

  • Michael Bailey

    “I don’t know about you but I didn’t come to graduate school for the dental care. I came to study, to learn, and sometimes to teach. I applied wanting and expecting precisely this.”

    I, too, Brad, came to BC to study, learn, and teach. However, I cannot do so with a hungry stomach, a toothache I cannot afford to deal with, nor high levels of economic anxiety and stress concerning paying my rent, concerns about what might happen if I need paternity leave, or various issues that are currently uncovered. I cannot be the best graduate student, as a researcher, student, or teacher, without a livable wage, sufficient medical and dental care, and proper benefits for leaves of absence, childcare leave, etc., etc. Most of all, I seek a contract that guarantees my precarious situation.

    “Did you hear their latest chant? They say they are advocates for the newest class of oppressed: graduate students. Did you know that graduate students are an oppressed class? Just as the auto worker on the shop floor daily risks the safety of his life and limbs, so too the graduate student risks … what exactly? Is there any class of people more pampered than graduate students?

    It is no secret that universities’ importance have increased over time and have become major employers and economic players. Indeed, the universities of Boston, naturally connected as they are to Boston’s hospitals, are one of the (if not the) critical economic sectors of our city’s economy. To make this machine run, universities rely on us, graduate students, to do menial labor, research for our advisers and ourselves, teach and grade, and reproduce the university itself as future (if we are incredibly fortunate) faculty. Our labor is critical to the production AND reproduction of arguably the most important economic sector in Boston and one of the most important in America today. Further, universities have seen booming rises in endowment, including BC’s multi-billion dollar endowment. I think we, graduate student employees, deserve a democratic say in how our university allocates its resources. We are here to represent our interests, since they are being ignored and denied as it stands.

    “To those agitating for the union I say the following: Please, check your privilege.”

    Our privileges are built off of the heroes of the past: the labor movement. I recognize and thank my radical forbearers for their fight, yes fight, for my rights. As to other privileges, it is unequivocal and has always been a part of our platform that a union will allow us, the graduate student employees, to insert language and protocols in our contract to guarantee minorities, LGBT, immigrants, international students, and other marginalized peoples their proper representation and protections.

    “Better yet, use your privilege to advocate for those less fortunate than you: the undergraduates. Indeed undergraduates deserve a union far more than graduate students. Not only do undergraduates have to pay for their tuition, they often have to take five or six classes per semester and work a part-time job, for which they are no doubt inadequately compensated.”

    I think the privileges of undergrad/grad students vary per case. I welcome the idea of the undergraduates organizing in their own right: a union, however, perhaps makes less since given they are not employees (and in their workplaces, if they work, they can make the decision to unionize if they choose)

    “I miss the days when these do-gooder types were collecting lunch money to send to Africa. (But really, guys, Africa could use the help).”

    Irrelevant, stereotypical.

    “In truth, I do not blame those that favor the union. They are innocents deceived by the extortion racket which is the United Auto Workers (UAW), an extortion racket looking for its next victim: universities.”

    We, the graduate student employees, began this process because WE WANTED THIS. (note: I was not an original organizer, though I know a few of them)

    “Here’s how it works: the UAW has been sending its representatives out to each of the big-time private universities. These representatives scour the campus for the frustrated idealist-types. They hire these students to work part time ($25 per hour, 20 hours per week—it’s true, I’m not making this up). They canvas the school, collect the signature cards, petition the National Labor Relations Board, and the NLRB sanctions the election.”

    Straight up lies. WE BEGAN THE PROCESS. WE ARE THE UNION.

    “I feel pity for the tender souls suckered in by the scheming of the UAW reps. And yet, I can’t help but admire the attachment they display to the principle of justice. By and large, these unwitting mercenaries are moved by a pure and unselfish philanthropy.”

    How patronizing.

    “But we must not allow our noble feelings to get the best of our reason. The truth of the matter is that our indignation is far too great and our grievances far too small. We are bringing a cannon to a knife-fight.”

    We merely seek our right to collective bargaining. My reason told me this, thanks.

    “If we were wise, we would have used the prospect of a union as a threat to bring the administration to the negotiating table. But we were not, and now we are facing the prospect of a perpetual tribute to the union bosses in the hope that they might negotiate on our behalf.”

    The threat of a union often does force concessions from administration, in all economic sectors. The problem is that when the union is then dismantled or voted against, the workers are powerless to resist the rollback of whatever it is they were given. This is union-busting 101. There is no tribute to anyone. There are union dues of 1.44%. We will not negotiate ourselves a pay cut. Additionally, WE DO THE NEGOTIATIONS. No one else. WE DO IT. We are the union.

    “We revolted against a mild, generally beneficent administration in order to curry favor with treacherous tyrants. Thankfully, we still have time to mend our ways.”

    There was no revolt: we merely are exercising our right to collective bargaining. This is nothing against BC, this is nothing against anyone. There are no tyrants: we are the union. The union is us. This is democracy.

    “BC will receive us with gratitude for the good sense we display when we VOTE NO on Sept. 12 and 13.”

    When we VOTE YES, we will be able to negotiate with our employer, Boston College, to bargain in good faith on behalf of our own interests. We will have the power of a unified voice and the standardized procedures of collective bargaining.

    #UNIONYES

  • Hayley Margules

    Why did you spam us with emails from a listserve we didn’t sign up for, Brad? Moreover, where did you get the list of all of our emails in the first place?

    • Maru Baez

      I was shocked actually and emailed him back saying to please take me out of the list I did not sign up for and his response was very rude: “You are on the mailing list of eligible voters. If you want political propaganda to stop coming to you, you must vote NO and put a stop to this nonsense.” More reason to vote yes, as these “concerned BC grads” have no manners.

      • Hayley Margules

        Interesting–he didn’t respond to me when I told him to never talk to me again. And that doesn’t answer the question of how he obtained the list. Yeah, we’re eligible voters. How did he know that? Either 1) a union organizer leaked him the list (highly unlikely) 2), he hacked a union organizer or administration for the list (hard to say, I know nothing about his coding ability), or 3) the administration gave him the list.

      • Hayley Margules

        You can take yourself off with the unsubscribe button on the bottom =).

  • Kelsey

    Hi Brad,
    I’m not sure it’s fair to describe a significant group of PhD and MA student workers as “tender souls suckered in.” That seems like a presumptuous and disrespectful way to describe people who, by and large (per their status as graduate students at BC), are rigorously trained to assess the quality of arguments and make well-reasoned conclusions as a result of their research. I decided to support the union after discussing the issues with my colleagues on multiple occasions and familiarizing myself with likely outcomes based on changes that have occurred in similar institutions with grad student worker unions. Several other student workers in my department went through the same process before signing on. Graduate students advocating for this union have taken care to provide prospective voters with carefully collected factual information–statistics about the effect of union representation at other institutions, for example–while your primary contribution to this debate has been fear-mongering rhetoric.

  • Kelsey Oakes

    Your point about undergraduates deserving a union more than grad students shows your lack of familiarity with the different graduate departments and burdens of many grad students. As a student in the School of Social Work, I was enrolled in five courses in the Spring semester (only a portion of which was covered by scholarship), I was required to work an unpaid internship, and I had a part-time GA position on campus, which I can assure you I was inadequately compensated for. Please, check your privilege.

  • Kim Crowley

    Hi Brad. My name is Kim Crowley, and I’m a Boston College undergrad alumna, a current graduate student, and for the past two years, I have been helping to organize a UAW union at a local but world renowned museum, Plimoth Plantation. I am also a former Opinions columnist for this paper, and I have to say, I’m extremely disappointed to see you using the paper as a vehicle to spread union misinformation to Boston College’s student body.

    Facebook is a terrible way to talk about these sorts of things, so I am happy to discuss unionization and the UAW with you (or anyone reading these comments) in person, but I learned an important lesson about what a union is and isn’t in organizing a union campaign and weathering a vicious anti-union campaign full of the same sort of misinformation at the Plantation, and I hope that some people skimming this wondering how to vote might be able to take something away from my experience.

    To make a union drive happen at the Plantation, we, the staff, reached out to the UAW to ask them to discuss unionization with us. This is the way it is done, and it is the way it was done at BC. There was no puppet master who came in pulling strings for us, nor for the exceptional graduate students at BC. This occurred at the Plantation, despite knowledge of past unionization attempts leading to firings by management, because people began to realize that a community can gain power in working together. They realized that they deserved to feel respected at work — to feel that they wouldn’t be fired for speaking out when they saw harassment or unsafe. These were our concerns, these were what we organized around; and these are what we are now negotiating for.

    Every union has their own concerns, and that because of one truly important thing to understand: a union is not a third party. There is no “us” and “them” in a union drive. Make no mistake, the people organizing the union right now are your peers. A union is made up of the people around you — the people you work with, the people you respect, the people you yourself would fight for – and those are the same people who will be walking into that bargaining table to fight for the things you think are important as well. Maybe it isn’t dental care. But is it protection for international students? Child care? Workplace safety? I can give you an example not just from UAW unions nationwide, but from specifically public university graduate student unions that have won those provisions in their contracts.

    Not only that, but I can give you examples of important issues to places as diverse as Plimoth Plantation, the New York Historical Society, the American Red Cross of Manchester, NH, the ACLU of NY… the list goes on, and it gets increasingly diverse as I go. Is the UAW expanding? You bet. The UAW is not just autoworkers anymore, and this is thanks to a realization that all workers deserve respect — no matter where you work or what you do. Academic, nonprofit, manufacturing… all of the sectors work, and all those workers deserve the benefits collective bargaining affords them should they choose to join together and vote for it.

    I am telling you about my experience because I want people reading this to realize something else they likely felt reading this article: a union is not the uncertain, risky choice an anti-union campaign will make it out to be. As someone who tried and failed to negotiate with the Boston College administration to advocate for several issues that mattered to my community during my undergraduate career, I can tell you that the uncertainty lies not in the idea of a union contract but instead in not knowing what programs, protections, funds, etc. BC will choose to invest in next year. It is the same as in any other work place. Right now, decisions are made unilaterally at BC. With a contract, you are GUARANTEED that your peers will have a chance to sit down and advocate for graduate students interests before a decision is made — whether that decision leads to changes or simply maintains the status quo in tough and uncertain times.

    As I said, anyone reading this, few free to reach out. I am a proud graduate of the BC Honors Program, and I am always happy to connect with other students, undergrad and graduate alike. This is a phenomenal opportunity to make a real change at BC — to truly be the “men and women for others” that the Jesuit tradition exalts. Good luck!

  • Lizzy

    To reduce your colleagues into passive patsies and vilify an organization that has been standing by millions of American workers and unionizing graduate employees since the 1980s is disrespectful and distasteful. Graduate employees propel a unionization effort after struggling with an institution that is failing to provide them with adequate compensation, financial stability, clear procedures to handle discrimination and harassment, and acceptable childcare policies, health coverage, and workplace protections. This is no scheme. This is a tested, efficient, democratic method that ensures the administration has to listen to the voices of the students on whose labor they heavily rely and does not ignore their rights as workers. Your colleagues are neither “tender souls” nor are they “unwitting mercenaries.” They are informed, educated scholars adept in critical analysis and reasoning, and they are dedicated to building collective power to address the systemic precarity of graduate labor. The principle of justice (and organizing graduate employees’ adherence to it) is robust here; perhaps you should continue to admire it without insulting your peers.

  • Zachary Klein

    This might be one of the most self-righteous and intentionally misleading op-eds I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading in my short life. Mr. Van Uden, I don’t know what happened in your life to make you so angry and unsympathetic to those around you, I trust that the learned minds of Boston College–of BC’s graduate schools in particular–can see through your groundless speculation and circular logic, and vote Yes for the union on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    First of all, Mr. Uden, you begin the op-ed with a shameless attempt at establishing credibility by claiming that you’re in graduate school “to study, to learn, and sometimes to teach.” The irony that your classmates and colleagues are using their time outside the classroom to improve their own quality of life by fighting for their own financial stability and improved quality of life while you use your own to take the significant time to make and distribute the anti-union flyers around campus, and now to write this op-ed, is not lost on me and should not be lost on your audience. And anyone who comes across this op-ed should note that Mr. Van Uden also fails to provide sources for any of his claims or substantiate his opinions with any data or research in the slightest. I can applaud only the transparency that you demonstrate by revealing your hypocrisy to your audience so quickly, lest they actually take the bait and take your demagoguery seriously even for a moment. Onto the substance of your opinion…

    Mr. Van Uden clearly misunderstands the meaning of the word “privilege”, as well as the notions of relativity and rational self-interest. Is the work of a grad student as dangerous as that of an auto worker? For the most part the answer is no, though Mr. Van Uden is clearly not familiar with the far reach of academia if he thinks that grad students cannot find themselves in dangerous situations. For example, graduate students in a variety of scientific fields often encounter dangerous plants, animals, and weather conditions in the course of collecting data for their research. But, unlike auto workers, graduate students are not guaranteed the workplace protections and legals rights that auto workers are able to use for their own benefit when injured on the job.

    Danger also undeniably works in turning a blind eye to the disturbing frequency of sexual assault in academia across the country, including in prestigious graduate school programs. Many schools, including BC, currently lack an established grievances policy that allows graduate students who are harassed or assaulted to report and seek justice for their experiences without going through their advisor or department–which is a problem for students who are harassed or assaulted by their advisor or someone else within their department. The physical, mental, and emotional consequences of being assaulted are well-documented, and I find Mr. Van Uden’s attempt to prevent his classmates and colleagues having a strong grievance policy to report and prevent these incidences to be absolutely horrifying.

    And then there’s Mr. Van Uden’s cruelly ironic appeal to the “Yes” crowd’s privilege. Based on BC’s graduate student demographics, we can surmise that the majority of this group fit the very broad demographic and socioeconomic notion of privilege that is thrown around in and by the media, true. But this invocation not only demonstrates Mr. Van Uden’s total lack of sensitivity to Boston College’s graduate students of color and poverty, but also demonstrates a blindness to the notion of relativity and context that can only be intentional. Even for the stereotypical BC graduate student of privilege, BC graduate students remain woefully unprivileged when it comes to negotiating with–and extracting desperately needed workplace expectations from–the BC school administration. In addition to the aforementioned concerns regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault, which cannot be understated, graduate students also lack uniform workplace expectations regarding the intersection of their work and their time–e.g., how many hours they should be spending on the job in a given week or month, or how many vacation days they can invoke in a year. In this respect, graduate students remain at the mercy of their advisors, and this system only lends itself to inconsistent (and thus inherently unequal) results and remains rife for abuse.

    Maybe Mr. Van Uden isn’t aware of these issues because he has a benevolent advisor. In that case, I can only take a page from his book and ask Mr. Van Uden to check his privilege.

    Despite Mr. Van Uden’s claim, the graduate students of BC are incredibly dedicating to helping those less fortunate than themselves–both inside and outside of the classroom. The work being done by BC graduate students–be it in the Nursing School, the Law School, the School of Social Work, or elsewhere–quite literally saves lives or prepares BC graduate students how to do so in the future. Graduate students who sincerely believe that they are working to improve and save lives after graduation should not be so quick to disregard Mr. Van Uden’s slight, as it fits into his pattern of narcissism and egomania. And, Mr. Van Uden, you being upset by my saying so doesn’t make it less true. You repeatedly belittle your colleagues with absolutely no consideration to *why* they are taking valuable time from their days to fight for a union. And the answer is this: no matter how much BC graduate students want to help others, they *need* to help themselves before being able to cross that bridge.

    A member of the BC family who is studying at the School of Nursing won’t be able to make it to an emergency room if he or she can’t even make it graduation because s/he burned out after working three jobs while in school to make ends meet. A potential social worker isn’t going to be able to touch and change god-knows how many lives after graduation if he or she drops out after being taken advantage of by an advisor. Future scientists may not be able to make a world-changing breakthrough if their own health deteriorates after not being able to take a vacation for years.

    I am disturbed not only by the content of Mr. Van Uden’s op-ed, but also by its tone–the word “snowflake” is practically on Mr. Van Uden’s lips throughout. Your classmates and colleagues in Boston College’s various graduate programs are human beings, sir. How can we expect the university administration to treat us with respect when we don’t even receive such a minimal degree of decency from our classmates and colleague?

    Unlike Mr. Van Uden, however, the words and deeds of the administration actually affect the student body as a whole, both as it exists now and exist in perpetuity. The Mr. Van Uden and administration have made their position clear on the upcoming vote. The many BC students who have a gripe with the university policies or lack thereof regarding their work–and the lives they build around their work–will finally have a chance to have their voice heard on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I trust they will vote for their own rational self-interest–a vote for unionization.

  • Christine

    Yes, the UAW does pay some graduate students. They understand that work deserves just compensation. However, the majority of those spreading the word about BC’s effort to unionize are volunteers. The “do-gooder types” are doing what they believe is good.

  • Timothy Groth

    To be clear, how are you planning on studying when basic needs like health and dental care are poorly met?

    Also how do you plan to hold the university to account when it comes to the work you do for it if you have to do it on your own, while trying to learn?

    These are some basic issues that have to be addressed and a union gives the proper tools for addressing these things.

  • Lewis

    Here’s all you need to know about unions: that they’ll even extend the benefits they win to people like Brad.

  • Aaron Rose

    Brad,

    Actually, I’m one of the ‘do-gooders’ who served for two years in ‘Africa’ (Burkina Faso, to be more precise) as a US Peace Corps volunteer, and I’m proud of it. It’s in this same spirit of service that I volunteered my time around campus advocating for a union.

    As a parent, the need for a union is starkly clear. Parents need to be able to provide for their children. Yet, childcare costs as much as rent around Boston. Add to that healthcare, a car which becomes more necessary with a child, and the time off you’ll need to take when the child is born or gets sick, and you can see what a tenuous situation it is. My wife and I delayed having a child for over a year just to save for a few months childcare.

    I don’t believe grad school and parenting should be mutually exclusive. As a TA or RA, we are working for the university and it’s reasonable to expect that our job provides stability and the ability to provide for our families. Right now we don’t have this and efforts to ask for it by our student reps have fallen of deaf ears. This is why I support the effort of the ‘do-gooders’ in every department of campus to unionize.

    Yours,
    Aaron
    PhD candidate, Department of Physics

  • Allison

    Best of luck to my colleagues on the east coast with this important upcoming vote! As a postdoc at UCLA, I can confidently say that UAW has been a huge help in improving the working conditions and compensation for UC postdocs. UAW does not run our union, the postdocs of UC do!