Top Social Menu


The Point: Boston University Graduate Workers on Strike – Their Fight is Our Fight!


This week’s edition of The Point was written by Professor Steve Striffler of the Labor Resource Center.

Thousands of Boston University graduate student workers went on strike last week.   After bargaining for nine months in fourteen different sessions, and filing five unfair labor practice charges, the Boston University Graduate Workers Union (BUGWU) finally called a strike that had been authorized by the overwhelming majority of its members.

The BU grad workers are striking for reasons that are all too familiar to the UMass Boston campus unions.  Is it about pay, workload, benefits, etc.?  Sure.  Of course.  But according to BUGWU, the immediate impetus for the strike is “the intransigence of the bosses at the bargaining table. BUGWU has been negotiating with BU since June 2023 and for much of this time BU’s strategy has been to stall and delay. We have also seen commonplace proposals like union security met with aggressive opposition from BU’s negotiations team….It is becoming increasingly clear that we have to take action to put pressure on the bosses if we want to win a fair contract.”

Like GEO, UMB’s own grad worker union, BUGWU is bargaining to get grad worker salaries to a living wage, and have brought a series of important issues to the bargaining table – healthcare, workload protections, international student protections, and housing affordability.  The Administration says they “hear” the union’s concerns, but then dismisses them or changes them to something unrecognizable.   Stall + delay = intransigence.   UMass Boston campus unions know this tactic well.

So how have the BU faculty/staff and Administration responded to the strike?

After the BU administration emailed faculty/staff, saying striking grad workers would not be paid and must be reported to the Provost, faculty/staff started a petition to support the striking workers.  They noted that BU “remains committed to financially punishing non-compliant departments,” and that reporting students to the Provost was “a moral and political breach of our obligations to students.” “Please do not coerce us into jeopardizing the core of Boston University’s graduate educational mission.” (See this article).  The petition quickly got signatures from over 150 faculty and staff.

The BU administration continues to make all the wrong moves.  It started by saying it would deduct pay from faculty and staff who did not report striking students – and to financially penalize offending departments.  And then the Dean, who apparently did not want to let a good crisis go to waste, suggested in an email that caught national attention that grad student workers could be replaced by AI.   An Associate Dean offered up the following brilliant analysis: “Some student members are very emotional and do not act rationally, so now we have a strike.”   Yikes.

So what can we do?

BU Graduate Student workers are picketing every day and have invited fellow union members to join the picket line.  Information about picket lines, rallies, and other ways to support the striking workers can be found at the BUGWU website

Please support the BU grad workers.  Their fight is our fight.