Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley issued a letter to the Boston College community last Tuesday that criticized the BC Graduate Employees Union’s demands of the University. This notice was also sent to graduate students via email. A few days prior to the letter’s release, the union announced that it would picket the annual Pops on the Heights fundraising event that occurred Friday evening.
BC’s statement claimed that the union was relaying false information in a letter their United Auto Workers representative wrote to trustees and the union wrote to faculty members. Quigley’s letter follows a question-and-refutation format, and it demonstrates that the two groups cannot agree on some facts, such as considerations regarding grad workers’ standard of living. Since graduate workers began to actively pursue unionizing two years ago, BC’s tone has remained consistently condescending and defensive. Perhaps it’s justified: We recognize that the union’s election last September was very close, with 270 votes in favor and 224 against collective bargaining rights.
Since the union dropped its petition with the National Labor Relations Board in February, it has had the same goals: get recognized by and bargain with the University. But BC continues to communicate with the union through public statements, refusing to meet with its members.
What is the endgame here? The University appears to be waiting for this to blow over, but the union’s persistence suggests it won’t, at least not soon, and the debate has gone more public, as we saw on Friday night when about 30 members of the union demonstrated at Pops on the Heights.
The annual gala is a fundraising event—contributing to 431 students’ scholarships this year—that has been supporting students for over 25 years. If you approach the picketing with the understanding that the ultimate purpose of the event is to raise funds for student tuition, demonstrating at Pops on the Heights is arguably inappropriate, especially when BC is one of few universities that uses need-blind admissions and commits to meet 100 percent of undergraduates’ financial need. Under normal circumstances, it would be unfortunate that the union feels compelled to protest at an event from which so many students benefit.
These circumstances, however, are unusual. BC is adamant that it will not meet with the union, which, in the past, has tried to appeal to students for support through organized “work-ins” and rallies on campus. Now, the union has publicly extended its reach to the next available population, trying to increase its visibility with influential trustees and donors. Quigley’s letter indicates that BC has no intention of changing its course of action regarding the union. When the University won’t communicate with these students, what else can they do? We are not calling—and have never called—for BC to bargain with its graduate workers. But we do think that the union’s Pops on the Heights demonstration is the result of BC’s yearslong effort to avoid meeting with them, and that BC bears some of the blame.
Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor