OPINION: Why you should care about the Labor action at Washington University

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By KEVIN FITZGERALD

The Washington University Graduate Workers Union (WUGWU) is fighting to gain $15 an hour, child care and recognition of the union.

Along with support from “Show Me 15” and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, this group has staged marches, rallies, demonstrations and occupations. Their on-campus encampment “Martinville,” named after Chancellor Andrew D. Martin, is the site of “teach-ins” (where professors hold classes outside and the public is welcome), movies, letter writings and other actions for the campaign.

This is a well-organized, planned, intentional struggle/agitation propelled by serious, intelligent, knowledgeable young professionals. It’s an incredible asset to Organized Labor.

CHANGING FACE OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT
We no longer have factories. Once this state was second to only Detroit in auto production, but that’s no longer the case. However, we do have Washington University, and it’s the third largest employer in this region, according to a 2017 article in the St. Louis Business Journal.

Basic undergraduate tuition, room and board is right under $70,000 a year. Enrollment stands at 15,400 students. The university received $711 million in research support in 2018 and another $353.3 million in voluntary gift support in 2018. All these numbers are from the Washington University website.

Washington University is a non-profit institution, increasingly run as a for-profit business and corporate guided – Google the minutes from the Board of Trustees. These WUGWU workers are spearheading this crusade in the true spirit of solidarity, including ALL campus workers – custodial, dorm attendants, etc. – in their demands. True Labor solidarity. Again, what an asset to Organized Labor!

In many ways, the results of this campaign will fan out into our city, region, state and country. Please visit Martinville. Talk with the bright, brave men and women standing for others, taking chances and making a stand. I care about the current Labor action taking place at Washington University. My hope is that you will as well.

(Kevin FitzGerald is a vocal workers’ advocate, member of Missouri Jobs with Justice and a retired member of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1)

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