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BUGWU organizes first strike rally after unsuccessful negotiations

See more Daily Free Press coverage of the BUGWU strike here.


Following eight months of negotiations with Boston University, the BU Graduate Workers Union will hold a rally at noon today in Marsh Plaza, marking the beginning of their strike. 

David Foley, the president of Service Employees International Union Local 509, wrote in a press release that BU has not acknowledged the needs of the graduate student workers. SEIU Local 509 is a union organization representing nearly 20,000 workers, among those other BU unions, such as the part-time faculty union and the ResLife Union.

Boston University Graduate Worker Union (BUGWU) members march down Commonwealth Avenue at a combined union rally last October. BUGWU will begin striking on Monday at Marsh Chapel, following eight months of negotiations. KATE KOTLYAR/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

“For eight months, we have been urging BU to bargain in good faith and provide the basic information our members need to bargain,” Foley said in a press release. “BU’s conduct continues to signal that they do not value the contributions of the workers that keep this university running.”

BUGWU and Local 509 began contract negotiations with the university back in July 2023, most recently meeting on March 22, according to BU. As of publication, no agreement has been reached.

“We are united in fighting for a contract BU graduate workers deserve,” Foley wrote in an email interview. “Workers are fighting for higher wages, better benefits, child care funding for working families, manageable workloads, and more.”

In an Instagram post, BUGWU wrote that administrators have only offered “time-wasting tactics [and] insulting counteroffers” to the union, demonstrating “no interest in what it takes to live and work in Boston as a grad.”

Union members have voiced their concerns about the working conditions at the university.

Pol Pardini Gispert, a student pursuing a doctorate at BU and a parent of an eight-month-old child, said in the Local 509 press release that he has delayed buying basic necessities because of the lack of benefits offered to student workers.

“My partner and I are putting off important things like dental care to prioritize paying our rent and putting food on the table,” Gispert said in the press release. “We need to feed our child, we need to make sure we have housing, and on a $38,000 stipend it is really difficult to juggle all of our expenses.” 

Gispert said he came to BU because of their “strong reputation as an academic institution,” but has now chosen to strike. 

“Their failure to invest in workers is making this work unsustainable,” he said in the press release.

In a February email to all College of Arts and Sciences faculty, Dean of Arts and Sciences Stan Sclaroff asked faculty to create “contingency plans” to minimize “potential disruption to teaching and research.”

An attached spreadsheet provides faculty with a template that helps organize how many teaching assistants and teaching fellows are currently on strike, as well as a template providing a list of possible substitutes. 

“It will likely take some time to come to full agreement, but as we proceed, we do not want to in any way damage the relationships between graduate students and faculty and our college and university culture of collaboration,” Sclaroff wrote in the email.

With the start of the strike, many undergraduate students are showing support for the graduate workers.

Lily Greenberg, a freshman in the College of Communication, said that even if the strike “interrupts our education” it will be “for the best.”

It’s for a greater BU in the future that’s going to have well-paid, stronger, better TAs and TFs, in general grad workers, because of this strike,” Greenberg said.

Jacqui Conlon, a junior in CAS, said she supports the graduate workers who are “the glue that holds all of our classes together” as her labs have become virtual since the strike. 

“I feel like a lot of the professors are kind of trying to meet us halfway so it doesn’t compromise our education,” Conlon said.

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