Weekend News & Commentary — November 10-11, 2018
Graduate student workers at Georgetown University voted overwhelmingly to unionize with the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees (GAGE), an AFT affiliate. Following an agreement reached between the union and the university, the election was overseen by the American Arbitration Association, rather than the NLRB. Student workers at Georgetown join an increasing number of graduate student workers who are unionizing at public and private universities around the country. Graduate student workers at Brown University will vote on unionization next week.
Marriott workers — represented by UNITE HERE — continue to fight for better wages, job security, fair schedules, and freedom from workplace discrimination and harassment. On Friday, Marriott workers in San Jose reached an agreement with the company to end their strike. A number of companies, organizations, and informal groups are boycotting the Marriott in solidarity with striking workers. For instance, Blavity, an internet media company that aims to “economically and creatively support Black millennials across the African diaspora,” announced that it will move its annual tech conference out of a San Francisco Marriott. Blavity CEO Morgan DeBaun wrote, “as the CEO of a company that works daily to represent community for Black and Brown people, it goes against our core values to cross the picket line . . . [Marriott workers] are not just fighting for a fair livable contract for themselves, they’re fighting for all of us.” Law students and lawyers are also signing a letter in support of striking Marriott workers.
Meanwhile, some of the wealthiest residents of Boston are upset that the workers fighting for justice are inconveniencing them by protesting loudly on the picket lines. Three condominium associations representing residents of the Ritz-Carlton Towers are suing the city of Boston to force the city to enforce noise ordinances — something they claim that the city has refused to do. As Nestor Ramos at the Boston Globe points out, “The tradition of public protest, union and otherwise, suggests that it is effective not in spite of being inconvenient but because of it. Marching in the streets was a hallmark of the civil rights movement. And it worked.”
In response to pressure from activists, the city of Gainesville, Florida will phase out its use of prison labor by October 1, 2019. In lieu of unpaid prison labor, the city is planning to set up a pilot program to pay young adults to do landscaping work for the city. Activists are calling for Gainesville to immediately cut ties with the Department of Corrections, to whom it pays around $110,000 annually for unpaid prison labor.