Madison Polkowitz / Gavel Media

Boston City Council Schedules Public Hearing on Student Labor Practices

The Boston City Council will have a public hearing on June 27 regarding student workers and labor practices at local universities, according to an announcement from City Hall.

The hearing will take place before the council's Committee on Jobs, Wages, and Workforce, headed by Councilor Frank Baker. The hearing is sponsored by Councilor Lydia Edwards.

The announcement of the date of this public hearing follows the city council's Resolution Affirming the Rights of Graduate Student Works to Organize for Fair Working Conditions. The resolution, passed in April, explicitly supports the organizing efforts of the Boston College Graduate Employees Union - United Auto Workers (BCGEU-UAW).

With the resolution, Edwards called for "the Boston College administration to respect the democratic choice of its workers by, without delay, bargaining a contract with the BCGEU-UAW that reflects the values of fairness, equality, and justice the University promotes."

The BCGEU-UAW has turned to the city council to express their grievances following the Boston College administration's refusal to acknowledge their union. A majority of graduate student employees voted to be represented by the union in a National Labor Relations Board election in September 2017.

According to the university website, BC opposes unionization because "graduate student research and teaching assistants are students—not employees."

The university claims that "the collegial relationship among our faculty and their graduate student teaching and research assistants would be irreparably altered by a change in this dynamic, at the expense of future generations of teachers, researchers and scholars."

Additionally, the administration states that "respecting the rights of workers to organize does not require support for government control over matters involving our graduate students, or outside interference in our academic enterprise."

Despite the administration's refusal, graduate student employees continued their organizing efforts throughout the past academic year.

In addition to reaching out to the Boston City Council, graduate student employees have continued to call for union recognition through the "#BCBargainNow" photo campaign, a demonstration outside of the Beanpot in February,delivery of a petition supporting the union with state senator Jamie Eldridge in December, and union organizing efforts during Pops on the Heights and Parents' Weekend in September.

In a statement to The Gavel in April, the BCGEU-UAW expressed their continuous commitment to securing union recognition from the university.

"[The administration's] decision to refuse to bargain has been, in the words of Councilor Edwards, 'shameful,' and is contrary to Catholic and Jesuit social teachings, as well as the values of the city of Boston," said the BCGEU-UAW statement. "We continue to call on the BC administration to do the right thing and come to the bargaining table. The entire city of Boston is now watching and judging what decision the administration makes." 

The public hearing is Jun. 27 from 5:30-8:00 p.m. at Boston City Hall.

I’m a future elementary teacher who enjoys dabbling in news coverage of politics and social issues on the side.