Monday, November 29, 2021

Union should be welcomed by U

On April 19 and 20, MSU graduate employees will be voting to become members of the Graduate Employees Union. If I were an MSU graduate teaching assistant, I would vote yes.

Before I was elected to serve in the U.S. Congress, I worked as a probation officer and belonged to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. As a boy, I saw my father throw sandwiches over the fence to the United Auto Workers sit-down strikers, who were the forebearers of today’s labor movement. Those experiences taught me there are many reasons to form a union - including better pay, better health care, protection against overwork and even to have time off on the weekend. But for me, the underlying reasons to join a union are to be treated with dignity and respect, and to have a voice at work.

Unions enable workers to meet their employers as equals and come to reasonable agreements on issues important to everyone. Without a union, all the big decisions are made without worker input.

One of my dearest friends, Professor Harley Shaiken, was teaching at the University of California at Berkeley when graduate employees there voted to unionize in 1999. According to Harley, the campus is a better place because of the union.

He once told me, “The union has meant a more collegial relationship between students and professors, and a more constructive dialogue for the campus.


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