Members of NC State’s Graduate Workers Union (UE 150) gathered outside of Holladay Hall for a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 10. The union criticized what it called a “lack of response” by NC State leadership to secure essential graduate workers’ protections.
UE 150 is a member-run North Carolina Public Service Workers Union. Statewide, there are several chapters of the organization made up of city and state employees. According to the organization’s website, their goals are advocating for better wages, working conditions and protection from unfair treatment. Within the UNC System, there are five chapters of UE 150.
“We, the NC State Graduate Workers Union, are here today because the UNC Board of Governors, the UNC System and the NC State leadership have refused to directly address the public health safety and work concerns that we, UE Local 150, have expressed regarding the University's reopening,” said union chapter vice president Brent Boland, a Ph.D. student in physics.
In January, the union released a petition to the University and held a news conference. The union’s full list of requests include:
All classes and work that doesn’t require a physical presence be moved online.
Limit on-campus housing to only those who have no alternative.
Provide consistent and transparent communication about COVID-19 cases on campus.
Provide adequate personal protective equipment and offer free and regular testing.
Allow for sick and family leave and use endowment and university funds to cut administrative salaries so that no one experiences job or hour cuts.
As of the most recent COVID-19 tracking numbers, 256 employees have contracted the virus, compared to 2,450 students since the beginning of tracking.
In the fall semester, the University announced furloughs for essential workers in auxiliary units, such as dining and housing, an idea the union has vehemently rejected. All three graduate student speakers also called for the University to utilize emergency funds in order to pay worker salaries. Additionally, they petitioned the administration to take pay cuts before frontline workers.
“We are the people who make up the University, the people who bring its reputation for excellence, and we’re the people whose lives are on the line,” said union representative Alex Wall, a research assistant studying toxicology. “It's time that the administration started listening to us and protecting us instead of their profits.”
The union also asked that UE 150 be granted a seat at the table when it comes to representative matters.
According to Wall, the union has not discussed this with the administration. The union feels as though it is being ignored by the University and that students’ rights are being overlooked.
Chapter President Grace Ullman, a third-year Ph.D. student in plant science, said that members of the Graduate Student Union will continue voicing their demands until the University addresses them.
“The reality is that no one knows what's going on, and we, as university employees, are being kept in the dark with the hope that that is going to placate us,” Ullman said. “But it's not working. We in the union know that we deserve to know what's going on in the workplace, and we deserve a safe environment, and we deserve to be fairly compensated for any risks that we take on in the workplace.”