Essay: A Call to Recognize Our Union and Negotiate with Graduate Workers

Katie Anthony | The PhoenixThe Loyola Graduate Workers’ Union has been organizing for five years, fighting for recognition and higher stipends, among other things.

We, as graduate workers at Loyola University Chicago, are amidst  a wave of labor activism on campus and throughout Jesuit institutions of higher education. 

 On campus, non-tenure track faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences associated with SEIU Local 73 unionized and successfully bargained with the university to achieve wins and set a great precedent not only for Loyola, but for the Chicago region. The university also has workers in transportation represented by Teamsters Local 727 who threatened to go on strike back in 2019. Most recently, dining staff as part of UNITE HERE Local 1 are pushing Aramark to give them a living wage. We stand by all workers at Loyola, especially dining workers at this present moment. 

 Elsewhere in the United States, graduate workers made huge strides for union representation at Jesuit universities. Georgetown University graduate students led the way, successfully forming a union and bargaining with their university. Most recently, graduate workers at Fordham University voted successfully for a union and are in the process of bargaining there. There is likely more union organizing to come at universities and colleges as the economic precarity of graduate work and education increases along with the economic precarity of the current climate in the United States. 

 For our part, we successfully organized and voted for the Loyola Graduate Workers’ Union in Fall 2017 as part of a federally-sanctioned election through the National Labor Relations Board. Loyola in October of that year refused to bargain with us claiming that we are students and not workers. The university has also argued religious exemption against us, explaining that we all are “religious workers.” Despite push back from the university administration, we achieved many wins in the years since 2017 including increased travel funding, dental insurance, and most recently a raise in PhD stipends from $18,000 to $28,000 a year. 

 Yet, with all of these gains, both at Loyola and beyond at Jesuit institutions, the administration has yet to comply with the law to recognize us as a legitimate union, and meet us at the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract for graduate workers. While it is true that graduate workers have gained much in the last few years, without a contract it can all be taken away at the whims of the administration. It is far past time for the university to recognize our union.  Loyola, the ball is in your court–Go Ramblers! 

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