Liz Polcha, English: I am a fourth year PhD candidate in the English department. I’m helping to organize a union for student employees at Northeastern because I’m tired of seeing my friends and colleagues who have children, suffer from chronic illnesses, or who are disabled pushed to the margins of academic life because of the precariousness of their financial and healthcare situations. We deserve child care, better mental health care, dental and vision care, and summer funding, and a union would give us a seat at the table with administrators to collectively bargain for these basic needs. I’m excited for Northeastern graduate students to join the national movement for better working conditions for all university employees.
Ashkan Ghanbarzade, Mechanical Engineering: Among the goals of this union are to enhance the working conditions of the graduate students in the university and to improve the relationship between the student and their advisors by taking the responsibility of all the work-related matters. I am hopeful that graduate students will have a better experience in their programs and their research quality will also be enhanced subsequently.
Alex Press, Sociology: I’m a third year doctoral student in the Sociology department researching urban development. I want a union for grad employees at Northeastern because we need stronger workplace protections against sexual harassment and assault on our campuses. Many female graduate students experience sexual harassment or assault by a superior. Rather than facing this injustice on our own, we need a body who will fight for us and have our back. A graduate union offers exactly that. For that and so many more reasons, I’m proud to build the Graduate Employees of Northeastern University with my colleagues.
Daniel Patterson, Computer Science: I’m a first year PhD student in Computer Science. I believe that graduate students workers will benefit from a union: not only to negotiate over pay and benefits, but also to also to give power to graduate student workers, especially in grievances with the university where a single student will never have a strong enough voice. Even in departments where graduate students are happy with the work-load and stipend, a union will get us binding contracts so we don’t have to worry about pay or benefits changing suddenly.
Alex Ahmed, Personal Health Informatics: My name is Alex Ahmed, and I am a third-year PhD student in the Personal Health Informatics program. The union matters to me because I want to pressure the university to protect queer and trans graduate student workers by placing transparent and meaningful guidelines on how research advisors are trained with respect to queer and trans issues. And I want actionable grievance procedures in place for when we’re hurt. In the past, graduate worker unions have been at the forefront in securing benefits for trans students, including transition-related healthcare. My goal is to continue this legacy at Northeastern by centering the needs and experiences of other queer and trans people in my organizing.
James WJ Robinson, History: I’m a second year PhD student in the History Department. I believe in a union because we are workers as well as students, and unions bring a voice to real workplace issues. We need better pay, more consistent funding, especially in the summertime, a real dental plan, protection for our immigrant co-workers, and a real voice at the table for the entire university. Our society is better and stronger when all workers are well organized into unions that represent our interests. Northeastern University would fulfill its mission, as an international research institution building a better world, if its graduate workers had a union, as well as all other workers.
Sam Maron, Sociology: I am a third year PhD student in sociology, where I study globalization and social movements. I support the union because in this era of precarious work, graduate students are often asked to work more for less. We deserve greater stability, travel and research funding, and healthcare benefits like family coverage and vision, as well as the protections of a union contract. With a union, we can have a democratic say in negotiating the policies and benefits that shape our lives and work, and can build a stronger Northeastern. By joining with my colleagues across the university and joining the thousands of other unionized graduate workers across the country, we can win the benefits, voice, and power to focus on our research and teaching.
Billy Rainsford, Law: I’m a third-year student at the School of Law. I’m a former union member, having been a member of the United Auto Workers while a student-employee at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The union at UMass helped me feel secure in my job and gave students a voice in our working conditions. We deserve the same voice at Northeastern, and so I strongly support a union for graduate students and my fellow law students.
Jimmy Duggan, English: I’m a fourth year Ph.D. student in the English Department. I support a Union of student workers at Northeastern because, in order to manage the decisions that affect our everyday lives as workers (such as fair wages, improved health insurance, and job security), we need to have a voice in collective bargaining. The university benefits from the work we do as committed teachers and researchers, and the more we have a voice in how it operates the more we will all benefit, students and faculty alike.
Kristin Lees, Population Health: We need a graduate student union at Northeastern so that we have a mechanism through which we can formally address the diverse issues affecting student employees at NEU. These include fair wages, protected hours, adequate health insurance and childcare benefits, protection from and response to issues of discrimination, and collective bargaining rights for issues that arise over time.
Daniel Rubin, Physics: I am a fifth-year PhD candidate in the physics department and I support a union of student workers at Northeastern. With a union we can effectively address the varied issues affecting our diverse population. These issues include fair compensation, adequate health insurance, protections from discrimination any form, and protections for international students. With a union we can work with our peers and the administration to find equitable solutions to all these problems and any that will arise in the future.
Marhabo Saparova, Sociology: I am a first year PhD in Sociology and Anthropology Department. I believe that grad worker’s union will enforce the effective recognition of our rights to collective bargaining, ensure our social security and provide us with spaces to negotiate, improve and protect our salaries/benefits. We have to have the say over our working and research conditions.
Benjamin Levy, Sociology: I am a third year doctoral student in the Sociology and Anthropology Department. Having received my Master’s degree in Canada – where graduate workers’ unions are a standard presence at all major universities – I experienced first-hand the degree to which unions enable graduate workers to practice democracy and realize their collective strength. For these reasons and more, we need a union at Northeastern!
Ezgi Deniz, Sociology: I am a second year doctoral student in the department of sociology. I want a union for grad employees because I believe a university should be a place where all workers have sufficient financial security and can participate democratically in the decision-making process. A union is the best way to have both of these effectively. I am also an international student, and I believe that international grad workers, we need a strong union that can effectively address the particular challenges we face, and collectively negotiate to improve our precarious presence at Northeastern.