Georgetown Graduate Student Union Reaches Voluntary Election Agreement

In February, Boston College reiterated its commitment to not voluntarily recognize the Graduate Employees Union in the aftermath of the union’s decision to drop its petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

But on April 2, BC’s fellow union in Washington, D.C., the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees (GAGE), reached a voluntary election agreement with Georgetown University, joining Fordham University as the second Jesuit university to enter into a labor agreement. GAGE’s election will take place sometime this fall.

“This is everything we’ve been bargaining for the last couple months,” said Kevin Carriere, an organizing committee and election negotiations committee member of GAGE. “It was really exciting.”

GAGE’s next step is to secure an election victory, something BC’s union is not pursuing because it secured a victory in its NLRB-sanctioned election in September. BC’s union has paid close attention to the process GAGE went through to secure its agreement, according to Gage Martin, a first-year Ph.D. student in mathematics.

“It’s given us a really big lift to know that there is so much support, and it’s just another indication of how much of a growing movement graduate worker unionization is across the country—it’s not just something that’s happening on this campus,” Martin said. “As we see Georgetown and Fordham doing these things, BC’s becoming increasingly isolated in their stance that they can deny us our rights on religious grounds.”

But in regards to graduate employee unionization, at first, Georgetown and BC were in lockstep.

Both universities are Jesuit-run, which might appear to make them an optimal match for conducting business in similar fashions.

But they do differ in the way they do business. For instance, Georgetown has now broken with BC’s resistance to graduate student unionization.

When it came to graduate union business, initially, both cited their statuses as religious institutions and the student-teacher relationship as the reason behind their resistance to unionization. The biggest difference when it comes to the issue, though, is despite releasing two statements that condemned unionization, according to Carriere, Georgetown’s administration was much more receptive to an independent election agreement than BC’s.

GAGE had been negotiating with Georgetown’s president and provost on the side, trying to gain some ground, when they presented the possibility of negotiating an independent election agreement. Georgetown’s administrators were more than intrigued.

“They wanted to make sure that it is framed that we are, in their minds, students first,” he said. “So they aren’t changing from the language other universities are using, but it’s okay for us in the fact that they’re saying ‘yes you’re students first,’ but, say, if you’re 70 percent student there is that 30 percent that you are still a worker.”

“So they just wanted to make sure that what we bargain over is that 30 percent and not the 70 percent that they consider student and academic. So a lot of our negotiation was around what is what is academic and what is work.”

Featured Image by Taylor Perison / Heights Staff

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