“The workers united! Will never be divided!” chanted a crowd of more than 50 graduate students, undergraduate students and professors at a rally in support of collective bargaining at Hornbake Plaza on Thursday.
The rally was organized and attended by members of at least five labor unions and organizations that represent undergraduate students, tenured and professional track professors, and other faculty and staff. The event comes ahead of Friday morning’s Board of Regents meeting, where the board will discuss collective bargaining, among other topics.
The Graduate Labor Union, formerly known as Fearless Student Employees, has been pushing for collective bargaining rights for graduate workers for years. This would make them a legally recognized union with the ability to improve the wages and hours for the university’s graduate workers.
However, according to Dan Greene, an assistant professor of information studies and the organizing director of this university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, this is one of the first times that so many labor unions with representation on campus have collaborated on a single front.
“What’s really special about this moment in comparison to the past 20 years … is that all of the unions on campus are united together and working together because we need each other,” Greene said. “The grads have been on the trail for a long time, and faculty are catching up. But the university divides us naturally.”
Greene added that they are not just fighting for bargaining rights or individual raises, but to create what he hopes would be a better place to work.
The GLU launched a card campaign earlier this month asking graduate workers to sign union cards. However, the campaign solely addresses graduate workers, not faculty or part-time faculty.
Greene said that the groups are looking to New Jersey’s Rutgers University as a blueprint for what they hope could be possible at Maryland.
At Rutgers, faculty and graduate workers are represented by AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers. The Coalition of Rutgers Unions represents around 19,000 workers at the university, 5,000 of which are part of AAUP-AFT.
According to a spokesperson from the University System of Maryland, which the Board of Regents is a part of, USM started meeting with AFSCME members regarding consolidated collective bargaining for AFSCME-represented employees last year.
“The USM was happy to get this process underway and has been engaged in this process throughout the past year,” USM spokesperson Mike Lurie wrote in an email to The Diamondback. “The USM welcomes continued discussions with our workforce representatives in the months ahead on compensation and other issues that we know are of importance to these valued USM employees.”
In July, USM employees received a 2% cost-of-living adjustment and a 2.5% merit increase, with an overall increase of 10% for the 2023 fiscal year.
USM institutions are committed to providing competitive wages and benefits for its highly skilled employees, Lurie added.
Tita Chico, an English professor at this university, spoke at Thursday’s rally about the need for a collective voice to represent all faculty, regardless of track or tenure.
“Even though we are in different employment categories, all of our working conditions are intertwined,” Chico said. “This is a collective issue, and I am just too young for the university to burn.”
Andrew Goffin, a fifth year electrical engineering doctoral candidate, attended the rally and agrees that a union for faculty and graduate workers is a necessity on campus.
“I’m just here to support labor wall-to-wall across campus,” Goffin said. “I hope we get a lot of people involved, faculty, grad assistants, undergrads, everyone involved in labor or across campus.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the number of people at the rally. This story has been updated.