X-Campus May Day Press Release
Graduate Student Workers Nationwide Unite on May Day, Take Online Action in the Face of Pandemic Austerity

May 1, 2020

Virtual Campuses Nationwide – Graduate student workers across the country are uniting on May Day in a coordinated, nationwide social media action against university austerity in the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our action is unprecedented in scope to meet an unprecedented threat to higher education, involving graduate workers at more than seventy-five public and private universities in over two dozen states and Canada. Mobilizing with the common hashtags of #HigherEdWorksBecauseWeDo and #MayDay2020, we are drawing attention nationally to our shared conditions of precarity including frozen job markets and funding streams, coalescing a nation-wide movement united to defend the public role of higher education, and giving voice locally to issues on our campuses and to our numerous campaigns.

We are a coalition of rank-and-file graduate workers organizing across campuses and unions. Our coalition includes union locals, active unionization campaigns, unaffiliated graduate organizations, and individuals. We believe that this collective action marks the start of a national movement to both protect the public mission of higher education and to fundamentally transform higher education in the interest of all university workers and their broader communities.

In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, universities have repeatedly failed to protect their most vulnerable workers. On many campuses, the employment of dining and other service workers has been terminated without guarantee of payment or of access to healthcare, all the while endowments and the salaries of executive-level administrators have been overwhelmingly protected. Many other service workers, including custodians and bus drivers, have been forced to continue working without personal protective equipment or hazard pay. Adjuncts and contingent faculty have already been furloughed, while mass layoffs are anticipated in the future. As other sources of funding have dried up, many graduate students are struggling to pay for food, rent and medical care, and also to support their families. Online teaching has dramatically increased our workloads, research has been indefinitely disrupted, and international students have been left without promises of support or sometimes even without assurance they will be able to finish their degrees. While we have petitioned universities for support and fair compensation, gathering thousands of signatures from graduate students, faculty, and allies, our demands have not been met.

Universities are already unveiling austerity policies that promise to make all university labor even more precarious in years to come. Indefinite hiring freezes will render secure employment a virtual impossibility for current graduate workers, postdocs, and contingent faculty. And sweeping college closures will permanently take away employment from all university workers, both academic and non-academic. The future of higher education stands in doubt.

It is in response to this crisis that we are rapidly organizing across departments and disciplines, campuses and timezones, and across all types of university labor. Our working conditions and career prospects are fundamentally shared. We also know that the university works because we work. Without our labor, universities would not be able to function. Cafeteria food would go unserved, seminar rooms uncleaned. Laboratory research in the medical sciences and studies of the social, cultural, political, and economic impacts of the pandemic would halt, countless undergraduate students would go untaught and unsupported by their first and most-frequent points of contact and care with the university – ever more critical in a period of extreme isolation, anxiety and fear.

We therefore have the leverage to effectively oppose the further precarization of university labor and the very real possibility that this push for cuts to postsecondary education will forever change it for the worse. In coming together nationally, we increase our collective power, and become a force to protect the public role of higher education and for the positive transformation of the university. In coming together nationally, we win. Our May Day action is part of a new era of university organizing, of a new movement built from rank-and-file coordination and cross-campus solidarity.

We invite all university workers to participate in our action by tagging their social media posts with our hashtags: #HigherEdWorksBecauseWeDo and #MayDay2020, and by giving their own testimonials of the issues they face due to COVID-19 and university austerity, or by highlighting their campuses’ actions and campaigns. And we call on all university workers and allies to join us!


Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition
Northwestern University Graduate Workers
UC Santa Cruz Graduate Workers
University of Illinois-Chicago Graduate Employees Organization
Vanderbilt Graduate Workers United
COGS/UE Local 896
Duke Graduate Student Union
International and Immigrant Student Worker Alliance
WashU Undergraduate & Graduate Workers Union
Wayne State University Graduate Employees' Organizing Committee
University of Chicago - Graduate Students United
COGS (Concerned and Organized Grad Students) Yale
Coalition of Graduate Employees at Penn State
Loyola University Chicago CAS NTT Union
UF Graduate Assistants United
Rutgers University AAUP-AFT Graduate Worker Steering Committee
Graduate Student Employee's Union Stony Brook University CWA Local 1104
COLA Agitation Committee
Loyola Graduate Workers' Union
Teachers and Researchers United, Johns Hopkins grad union
Columbia COVID-19 People's Response
Solidarity (a socialist, feminist organization)
Resident Assistant/Peer Mentor Union at UMass Amherst
University of Michigan Graduate Employees' Organization
Graduate Employees' Organization at UIUC, AFT/IFT Local 6300
Pay Us OSU; Oregon State University
Caltech for Affordable Healthcare
Princeton Graduate Students United
Socialists of Caltech
Graduate Employees of Northeastern University - UAW
Stanford Solidarity Network
University of Arizona Graduate Student Coalition
Harvard Graduate Student Union-UAW Local 5118
Stand Up For Graduate Student Employees, Brown Graduate Union
DePaul Student Worker Solidarity
United Campus Workers of Georgia Local 3265 - University of Georgia Chapter
Pitt Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC-USW)
Graduate Employee Organization UAW 2322 UMass Amherst
Academic Labor United, University of Hawaiʻi
Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution
Young Democratic Socialists of America (Columbia-Barnard chapter)
UC Santa Barbara Wildcat Strike
GTAC, University of Kansas, AFT Local 6403
GSOC-UAW 2110, New York University
Graduate Rights and Our Well-Being, Purdue University
GET-UP (Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania)
Graduate Employees Union at Michigan State University
Underpaid at UT (Austin)
URI Graduate Assistants United
Solidarity Tulane
United Graduate Workers of the University of New Mexico
Florida State University Graduate Assistants United (FSU-GAU)
Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation AFT local 3544, University of Oregon
University of Wisconsin–Madison Teaching Assistants' Association, AFT Local 3220
Villanova Student Health Organizing Committee (SHOC)
Marquette Academic Workers Union
Temple University Graduate Students' Association (TUGSA - AFT Local 6290)
Coalition of Graduate Employees, AFT 6069
SENS UAW, Student Employees at The New School
Teamsters Local 727
Communist Party of Loyola University Chicago
United Campus Workers Colorado, CWA Local 7799
The Graduate Center Chapter of the Professional Staff Congress (CUNY)
Rank and File Action (RAFA) at CUNY
GEO UAW 2322 International Caucus, UMass Amherst
United Campus Workers of Louisiana
UMass Boston GEO-UAW 1596
Kalamazoo College YDSA
University Workers United for a Fair Future (UWUFF)
unaffiliated graduate workers collective at UNC
Illinois Federation of Teachers
UA Graduate Student Coalition
GEU of Portland State University, AFT Local 6666
Syndicat des étudiants et étudiantes employé-e-s de l'UQAM, AFPC local10721
Sick Out NYU
DePaul University PGSA
Cornell Graduate Students United
UE 150 The Workers Union at UNC
Research Assistant's Union Stony Brook University CWA Local 1104
North Carolina State University Graduate Workers Union (UE 150)
Boston University Grad Workers Union
USC Graduate Student Organizing Committee
Texas Tech Graduate Student Association
Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3906
United Campus Workers, U. of Tennessee Chattanooga Caucus
the Emerson College Student Union
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