Eighteen months after forming their union, Loyola University Chicago still refuses to negotiate a labor contract with graduate workers denying their status as employees. The group of workers took to aboat to make their demands clear during a closed orientation session on Lake Michigan.
As the 2018-2019 school year begins, members of the Loyola University Chicago Graduate Worker Union are returning to campus with the demand that the university administration recognize their union and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with them. Today, during the closed graduate worker orientation session, graduate workers boarded a boat to make their voices heard. Behind huge picture windows where the orientation was being held, the group dropped a banner the carried the message “Bargain Fair Contract Now! #Bargain LUC,” calling for the administration to come to the bargaining table and uphold their Jesuit values.
“Only after strikes last spring was the administration pushed to do the right thing for its faculty,” said Claire Lockard, a graduate worker. “Now, once again Loyola is dragging its feet and failing to live up to its social justice values and denying our value as employees.”
Since unionizing, Loyola graduate workers have fought for and won stipend increases, increased professionalization funding, and the addition of dental coverage to their health care plan. However, without a union contract, the group says the changes are not permanent. Loyola administration can alter, reverse, or eliminate these new benefits at any time and without graduate worker input.
“I’m fighting for a union contract so that grads at Loyola will have a voice in the decisions that affect changes in our lives,” said Jean Clifford, a graduate worker that teaches Philosophy. “It is time for the administration to recognize our contribution to the school’s and student’s success.”
Graduate workers united together to build the Loyola University Chicago Graduate Workers Union, under SEIU Graduate Workers Forward, to combine collective political power and demand the change that is needed. The union is a continuation of a larger movement among graduate workers and non-tenure track faculty at colleges and universities nationwide, who are unionizing to raise work standards, improve wages and benefits, establish job security and restore respect for their professions.
In April, Loyola University non-tenure track faculty ratified their first contract with the university, after nearly two years of negotiations, a strike and other actions. Graduate workers supported the efforts of the faculty as a sign of solidarity in the struggle. In July, non-tenure track faculty at Fordham University won a new three-year contract, after a long fight, that secures huge wage increases for most adjunct faculty. In April, Georgetown University agreed to allow a union election through a third-party process. Non-tenure track faculty at Saint Louis University have also formed a union. Now, the pressure is building for Jesuit institutions to live up to their values for all their workers, including graduate workers.