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Wrapping up 2022 and looking forward to 2023! (Thank you!)

15 December 2022

With the year wrapping up, the Steering Committee wanted to update everyone on how much Graduate Student Voices have grown and where we’ll be heading next in 2023.

First, we had our first group of 10 community builders, supporters, and steering committee members undergo a 6-week international Organizing for Power training offered by the Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation and Jane McAlevey. These members learned about the fundamentals of growing power for the community and people and met unions and other organizing communities there, including other organized units of graduate workers. This winter, another training will be offered from February 8 - March 15th and GSV is gathering people to make this a reality! If interested, please contact us either by email or on one of our social media channels by January 15th.

These members have been instrumental in our big recruiting period that has happened this fall. Graduate Student Voices is now 170 voices strong from 27 different departments and programs. We have quadrupled our numbers from last year with our being public.

Whether you found us by word of mouth, through our canvasing efforts at Parks Library, by reading our op-ed piece in the Iowa State Daily, attending our 70+ person hybrid listening session, or just happening upon us, THANK YOU for being here.

If you’ve been following our updates, GSV will continue to grow with the members' help, particularly with our community builders. Information around graduate worker stipends has been collated, discussions with supporters both within and outside of the university have happened or been planned, and we are still getting the word out there!

Our actions have caused some discussion within the university, as you may have seen from notifications from the Graduate College newsletter over the last month regarding our benefits as graduate workers. That means that our efforts are having a real impact, and with your help, we’ll be addressing specifically how the university can improve our graduate worker experience in the new year. GSV has established a website, secured volunteers to help with maintenance and communications, and the steering committee will bring in new folks to keep the momentum going. Every collective action we take puts us one step closer to officially forming our union, a goal that is finally in sight! 

This all would not have been possible without your support. Thank you for your essential work in higher education, and thank you for continuing to spread the word about GSV. 

Let’s continue moving forward–see you in 2023!

Organize the Lab!

14 December 2022

Science for the People has released a collection of essays entitled Organize the Lab.  Each of the eight chapters in the volume discusses a specific aspect or event related to the movement to unionize graduate student workers.

Update 18 November 2022

Hello Graduate Student Voices,

We're 162 voices and counting, with a number of supporters across the university also signing up to show solidarity!

This week we had a lot of ground to cover, including:

  • Preparing for our Actions Day with Community Builders, this coming Monday, November 21st, 6-7 PM Ames Public Library | Zoom. Folks will sign up to help be a) our point of contacts across programs/departments, b) aid canvassing efforts, c) organize more listening sessions, d) participate in some organizing training, and more projects that help graduate student voices to be heard at Iowa State!

  • Our virtual chat sessions offered twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays through the end of the semester (December 14th is the last day). Anyone unsure about what GSV does? Send them our way to this WebEx link:

  • We have a Community Builder dedicated to GSV's communications - Go M! Below, you'll find the socials for GSV if you want to follow up in other spaces.

  • The Graduate College recently spotlighted information regarding healthcare benefits for graduate workers. GSV is clear about advocating for healthcare-specific to graduate workers' needs aren't necessarily addressed with a student health center as the primary provider. It has also been brought to our attention that faculty are talking about graduate workers and their cost as a budget item, but the reality is that doesn't track to a livable wage for many. If you see more messages from the university trying to neutralize GSV's points, feel free to share!

We are grateful for you all and wish you the best (and rest) this break!

Update 14 November 2022

Hello Graduate Student Voices!

The Steering Committee will be providing updates a bit more frequently, so we wanted to let you all know the key points that were discussed at last week’s committee meeting.  

  • We discussed inviting a speaker as part of the University Lecture series, or as something separate (e.g., working lunch or collaborative space). This will help bring attention to organizing broadly and provide a dedicated time to discuss our goals in a productive space. 

  • As mentioned in a previous email, we will be holding a meeting for Community Builders at the Ames Public Library (and virtually; Zoom link pending) on Monday, November 21 from 6-7 pm. We will be discussing various action items we want to take, but we need your help to accomplish these! If you are a Community Builder, please plan on attending, either in person or virtually, so that we can initiate these items and continue building on our progress this semester. 

  • We will be wrapping up our Steering Committee meetings for the semester in December, and are looking for some new members! There are a few current committee members who will need to step back this spring as they continue their graduate responsibilities, so if you are interested in joining the committee and leading our movement with us, please reach out so we can get you on-boarded. 

Finally, as a reminder, we will have virtual chats with Steering Committee members starting on Monday (11/14). Check out the attached flyer for more information.

Thank you for your continued support! We’re looking forward to what we can accomplish as a group!

October 18th Listening Session

Summary and Next Steps

October 18th's listening and organization session was a major success! There were over 60 graduate workers and supporters present in the hybrid session, which was our biggest meeting yet. It’s obvious that our movement is gaining momentum. Here’s a recap for everyone:

  1. GSV Steering Committee volunteers shared the recent work of the community builders, including the recent op-ed in the ISU Daily and canvassing efforts to spread the word about our mission to organize Iowa State graduate workers and build a community of support.

  2. The anti-union article responding to our op-ed in the Daily was exactly what we expected.

    • Anti-union articles from members of the community (often suggested or encouraged by the employer) are a standard technique in the union-busting toolbox.

    • The University has access to many more resources than we do, including a complete list of graduate student emails, a dedicated legal team, a much larger staff, and significant funding to support an anti-union campaign. 

    • We expect to see further anti-union efforts from the University.

    • We disagree with many of the points made in the anti-union article and are currently working on a multi-pronged response.

  3. The meeting included a long and productive open forum where graduate workers voiced their questions and concerns.  We’ve listed some of the topics and our brief responses here, but see our FAQ for more details.

    • The disparity of graduate student stipends across the university. Is there data? Yes, the information is out there,and we’re in the process of gathering the data.  We will post the analysis results to the website and mail them out to members on our mailing list. Many people shared their stipends during the meeting, and numbers ranged from $18,000 to $27,000 per academic year. Since the meeting, two GSV members have started pulling the information from the State of Iowa website for further analysis.  You can join the GSV Discord to follow the conversation.

    • What kind of grievance procedure is being advocated by GSV?  Would grad students be employed in full-time positions associated with the grievance process?  GSV believes that Iowa State University does not have an effective mechanism for handling grievances by graduate students against faculty members or administrators.  Turnover in the Ombuds position has been very high over the past decade, and the Ombuds office has been closed for extended periods of time.  GSV members’ (and other graduate students') experiences with the Ombuds and University administrators have not led to effective resolution of grievances.  For this reason, GSV advocates for an independent organization to handle grievances, employing staff specifically trained in conflict resolution.

    • What’s the timeline to hold the unionization vote?  We don’t want to hold a vote until we know we can win.  We’re in the process of building support, and that could take another several months or longer. The faster we work together to grow our movement, the sooner we can move forward with establishing the union.

    • What are the healthcare benefits GSV is advocating for?  Health care benefits for graduate workers at Iowa State fall short of what we need in several respects–we are currently working on an analysis that identifies shortfalls and proposes solutions.  The graduate student union at University of Iowa has successfully negotiated for a University contribution to dependent health care.  We are currently required to go through Thielan Student Health Center, whose staff primarily address the health needs of younger undergraduate students, and who sometimes are not equipped to address the needs of graduate students.  

    • If the University decides to work with us without a union, would that be an alternative way to get our needs met?  Possibly, but we are not optimistic that graduate workers can substantially and permanently improve our working conditions without the power of an organized union.

    • Who will be in the bargaining unit?  What about undergrads?  Post-docs?  The exact membership of the bargaining unit will be determined at the time of the union vote.  Because graduate workers occupy a unique place in the University system, our bargaining unit probably would not include undergrads, post-docs, staff, or faculty.  We certainly support the efforts of workers in all positions to unionize.

  4. We ended the meeting with a call to action.  What can you do to support graduate workers?

    • Sign up for our mailing list.  A critical mass of support is needed in order to for us to get resources and help from the national union.

    • Spread the word.  Talk with other graduate students about unionizing, and direct them to our website with our mailing list and resources.

    • Volunteer as a GSV community builder, or a member of the steering committee. Even a little bit of your time can be incredibly helpful in moving us forward.

    • If you are not a graduate worker–if you’re an undergrad, staff member, faculty member, administrator, or community member–check our FAQ for things you can do to help.  We're working on significantly expanding our list of resources for tenure-track faculty and administrators, especially, so check back frequently.

We thank all the graduate workers and supporters who attended the meeting.  If you couldn't make it this time, we'll be posting the date soon for our next meeting.  Remember that we are stronger together! 

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