Labor and Power


Let’s talk about power and organizing. We can often spend a lot of time getting lost in a rush of actions and updates that happen while we’re here at UMass – while we’re dealing with the university time and time again and the updates can often feel depressing at times, because it’s an endless treadmill and a constant fight – well. We have to see what it is we are fighting for. We have to see what victory looks like.

And fortunately for us, we’ve got a few examples of that. 

Howard University faculty threatened a strike two weeks ago over low pay and bad conditions – and after threatening the strike, the university gave in. Howard’s faculty were given a raise to bring their non-tenure-track faculty up to pay parity with tenure-track faculty, as well as one that would guarantee longer term appointments so that faculty would not be working semester to semester.

Sound familiar? It’s the same way we’re appointed – or “non-reappointed” – every semester. It’s a way we’re fighting the university to ensure that graduate students get job security. And we can see that it’s something that we *can fight* and a fight that we can win – as long as we all fight. But what we have to offer about Howard’s situation is second-hand at best, and it’s best that you hear directly from people who were on the ground and fighting the good fight, one that’s been in the making for over a year now. 

It’s not just Howard’s non tenure-track faculty pushing on its employer. Across the country, Starbucks have been unionizing in a wave of ratification votes to push for better wages and rights – and Starbucks is terrified. We know Starbucks is scared because of how it is they’re responding. Rather than let the employers unionize and back off, or work in some way to increase benefits, the company is trying to fire employees for their union organizing – while claiming that it’s for violations. In the meantime, those employees are seeking to fight back against their retaliation… and while Starbucks resorts to failed terminations, the best they have to show for it is their anti-union website. Their anti-union website is hilariously bad. We won’t link it here, but it’s good for a laugh and a reminder that the people fighting us often rely – heavily – on money and institutional moment.

While Howard faculty are winning by threatening strike actions, and Starbucks are unionizing across the country, there’s another larger labor win – and it’s JFK8, one of the Amazon warehouses in Staten Island, which voted to unionize the other day. Amazon is pushing back in every way that they can, but the ALU is already beginning to move toward unionizing other warehouses in the area. This win is one that we should view as empowering and one that we can take strength from. An employee fired by the company for unionizing efforts leads an election and unionizes the first Amazon warehouse – and if Amazon employees can do that, then we can fight, too. [See ALU’s website here:]

When we fight together, we win together.

Let’s fight together.

This Thursday, we’re holding our next action on campus. Join us at the union office between 945am and 1015am – and then join us as we march up to Quinn-03 to present our open letter to the Chancellor. If you haven’t yet, you can read the letter here – it’s arguing that we need more and better from the university. 

Sign the letter – and spread the word. Everyone and anyone can sign onto the letter, and the more, the better, so share this URL widely! When we fight together, we win together, and we have to fight together to get that win.

Join us Thursday.

Let’s push back.

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