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City Council passes resolution in support of Boston University Graduate Workers

Boston City Council passed a unanimous resolution in support of the Boston University Graduate Workers Union during its Wednesday meeting.

Boston City Hall. On Wednesday, the Boston City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Boston University Graduate Workers Union’s strike. KEVIN NGUYEN/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

BU graduate workers went on strike on Monday following eight months of unsuccessful negotiations with the university. The union is demanding better pay, comprehensive health care and stronger benefits, BUGWU said in a press release on March 20.

“This resolution echoes the voices of 3,000 union members, underscoring the importance of fair treatment and dignified labor practices within our academic institutions,” City Council President Ruthzee Louijeune said.

Councilor Sharon Durkan, who offered the resolution alongside City Councilor Liz Breadon, acknowledged BU graduate workers who were present at the meeting, thanking them for “stepping off the picket line to be at the City Council.”

“Grad workers are the heart and soul of our academic community, and they are the backbone of many institutions striving for excellence,” Durkan said. “Their journey of teaching, mentoring and providing research is unparalleled, yet their labor often goes unrecognized and undervalued.”

Breadon voiced her support for the resolution, noting that Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the country and the current wages of many BU graduate workers are insufficient for the cost of living.

“It’s very, very difficult to have adequate housing and … quality of life if you are on limited wages,” Breadon said. “[With] the combination of low wages, the cost of living and the high cost with food insecurity and housing insecurity, it’s really important to be supportive of graduate students.”

Louijeune said many local institutions, such as universities, had a “return on their investments” in their endowment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can afford to make sure that we affirm your dignity and how you were treated and how you get paid,” Louijeune said.

Councilor Benjamin J. Weber also supported the resolution, citing his background as a workers’ rights attorney.

“The only way workers can be treated fairly is to organize and bargain collectively,” Weber said. 

Councilor Enrique J. Pepén addressed the present graduate students, saying he heard some of them earn $40,000 a year or less. 

“That’s not enough to have a livable wage in this city of Boston,” Pepén said. “I just wanted to … stand with you and make sure you all get the bargaining agreement that you deserve.” 

Councilor Julia Mejia said the City Council understands what the graduate workers’ fight is about.

“BU is occupying a lot of space in the city of Boston, and this is an opportunity for them to show what it looks like when they share that wealth,” Mejia said.

Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson was the last to give remarks before the unanimous vote to pass the resolution.

“BU, get it together,” Fernandes Anderson said. “I’m interested in the proactive conversations … and looking at how we can hold these universities accountable.”

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