By Stephon Johnson
Graduate workers at Princeton University have followed the lead of their University of Chicago and Cornell University peers.
Last week, members of Princeton Graduate Students United voted to join the American Federation of Teachers and its state affiliate, AFT New Jersey, after the recent National Labor Relations Board decision to classify private colleges’ graduate teaching and research assistants as workers.
“I think the movement to unionize graduate workers in Princeton is part of a larger struggle to highlight the value of academic labor,” said Edna Goodman, a sixth-year doctoral student, in a statement. “Graduate students, undergraduates and adjunct professors have continued to provide cheap labor with little protection, and unionization can help ensure that we are protected as workers. Not only is it a question of labor, but it is connected to job prospects after college, austerity in the university system and autonomy in the workplace.”
“I’m pro-union because I think graduate students at Princeton University need a firm, independent advocate for our interests,” added David Walsh, a third-year doctoral student in the history department, in a statement. “I’m pro-AFT because it has a proven track record of successful organizing in the state of New Jersey.”
AFT New Jersey President Donna Chiera said she appreciated the work graduate workers have put in to get to this point.
“We see organized graduate student workers achieving many gains for themselves and helping our colleges and universities thrive,” said Chiera. “Graduate student workers make significant contributions to research and academics at their schools and deserve respect and a professional voice. We are proud that Princeton University graduate workers are coming together to learn about the many benefits of joining us and encourage them to be part of the union movement.”