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Students must support the graduate workers union as they fight for better working conditions

Students must show solidarity with the graduate workers’ union

Over the summer, the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild went on strike after contract negotiations failed to secure their desired protections. For many of our generation, this was their first experience of the power of a union. Before, it might’ve just been an abstract concept to some. They may have known people who work union jobs but never saw directly what a union can do. This was the first time I, and many others, saw workers stand up to corporate entities and demand fair treatment. Now, we have a chance to see this in our own community. The University of Maine Graduate Workers Union is on the frontline of negotiations, fighting for basic protections that the University has rejected. It’s important for undergraduate students to demonstrate what we learned over the summer and show strength in solidarity.

Currently, the union is still in the bargaining process. The most important way you can show support as an undergraduate with this phase is to be educated on their goals. Their website’s bargaining page has a list of their 14 key bargaining goals, and they also have notes from each bargaining session. Spreading awareness is crucial, and can only be done by staying up to date with the union’s demands and their attempts at securing them. 

There are also other opportunities to get involved more directly for undergraduates who want to show support from the frontlines. Recently, for example, the UMGWU hosted a sit-in where students could do their work together and a march through campus right to the union’s first in-person bargaining session. Both of these events presented opportunities for undergraduates to help raise awareness and show strength in solidarity. Unions are founded on the principle of the collective, and it’s important for undergraduate students to show that, while we may not all be graduate workers, we support them and will stand with them. To create significant change, we must demonstrate that there is enough of a public outcry that wants the union to meet their demands. 

Support for the union is high, and we must not let it waiver while crucial bargaining meetings are still happening. At the UMaine Drag Show, the UMGWU was met with overwhelming applause when they spoke on stage about their cause. This applause needs to translate into real-life support as well. The union is not allowed to strike by Maine law, so we must support their other acts of resistance. Our generation knows how to show support for a cause. I recommend starting by following them on Instagram at @umaine_gradworkers. From there, you’ll see updates about their rallies, their bargaining and their student testimonials. You should spread these however you can. Post them on your Instagram story, and share them with friends. Do whatever you can to get eyes on the union. After doing that, you can participate in these events to show undergraduate student support. Show up at the sit-ins and the protests if the union asks for support. Strength in solidarity is important, and Mainers should understand this more than anything.

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