We stand in solidarity with our fellow graduate workers striking at Columbia University – the need for strong graduate support, apparent before the shutdowns began, is even more acute now!
Graduate students are facing drastic changes in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers are being expected to work in an entirely different medium without the guarantee of adequate material support, while research assistants will be set back weeks if not months as experiments are cancelled or lay idle. Graduate workers caring for ill loved ones, those with children, those with pre-existing health conditions or who are immunocompromised, and international students face particular challenges. The impacts of this virus will continue for some time, continuing to affect our research, teaching, and degree progress.
As we work to support our undergraduate students and research projects, let the university know that we expect them to support us too. Sign the petition below to demand that our funding, degree progress timelines, and health insurance remain secure in the face of this severe disruption.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION!
Teachers and Researchers United at Johns Hopkins University stands in solidarity with students, staff, and faculty at Jamia Milia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University facing police brutality in the wake of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Students, staff, and faculty have every right to protest the rising tide of Islamophobic nationalism in India, and there is absolutely no justification for the horrific violence police forces deployed against them. As an organization concerned with the rights of students to protest and curbing the power of police repression, particularly on campuses, TRU condemns in the strongest possible terms the police actions on these campuses as well as the government officials lending support to these actions. We urge international support and solidarity with students, staff, and faculty at Jamia Milia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University.
We encourage all of our members to sign the following petition to express support. The bravery and sacrifice of these protestors cannot and will not be forgotten as their struggle continues. Physical and mental brutality is never appropriate or okay, and we back all those who fight against it.
Content warning on the petition: descriptions of police violence/sexual violence
This Thursday, we are holding a Work-In to publicize our labor as graduate students and to show our opposition to the proposed NLRB rule change denying our status as workers. Come join us on Thursday, December 12 to grade essays and exams, conduct research, write grants, or perform any other work connected to your roles as Teaching or Research Assistants. If you cannot attend the event in-person, we encourage you to contact the Organizing Committee so you can participate remotely over Skype. Or, take a picture of yourself in your workspace, tag us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/teachersandresearchersunited) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/TRUhopkins) with the hashtag #WeAreWorkers. Ask if your lab can showcase its contributions to the university!
Work-In Event Details:
• Date/Time: Thursday, December 12, from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM
• Location: Eisenhower Library, M-Level | Homewood Campus
• Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2645492598870422/
Please feel free to attend any part of the event depending on your schedule, and make sure to invite anyone you know who wants to learn more about TRU. We will have copies of our NLRB petition to sign (https://forms.gle/4iuye6WSYePe7bzi8) as well as buttons and union cards for graduate students who want to demonstrate their support.
Below you can find pdf posters which you can print out and hang to publicize the event. If you have any questions, we welcome you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today the Johns Hopkins News-Letter published a feature about the ongoing struggle to prevent the National Labor Relations Board from de-classifying graduate students as workers. Since 2016, graduate students at private universities have been classified as employees of their institutions under the National Labor Relations Act. This means we are entitled to certain protections under Federal law, including the right to organize or discuss working conditions without threat of retaliation. A rule change proposed in September of this year seeks to remove these essential protections.
We are fighting this proposed rule change through multiple avenues:
1. By encouraging supporters to sign our petition: https://forms.gle/didt5EkiqJFCN1cf6
2. By encouraging supporters to submit an individual comment to the NLRB: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/09/23/2019-20510/jurisdiction-nonemployee-status-of-university-and-college-students-working-in-connection-with-their
3. By participating in solidarity actions with other grad unions at the NLRB offices in Washington, D.C.: http://trujhu.org/index.php/2019/11/16/national-nlrb-action/
and 4. By holding a Work-In at the Eisenhower Library, M-Level, on Thursday December 12, 8AM-3PM. Check out our Facebook event (https://www.facebook.com/events/2645492598870422/) and stay tuned for more details to come.
The Hopkins News-Letter interviewed two graduate students active in TRU about their thoughts on the ongoing struggle with the NLRB and about organizing on the Hopkins campus. You can read more in the article at the link below.
On Thursday TRU participated in a national day of action at the offices of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in D.C. Alongside other graduate unions including groups from Georgetown, American, Duke, and George Washington Universities, we delivered over 20,000 comments to the NLRB affirming that We Are Workers! This event was covered by multiple media organizations including Newsweek:
In addition, we spoke with elected officials, including Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Mark Pocan. Representative Pocan has just introduced legislation to the House that would enshrine in law the rights of grads at private universities to unionize. If passed, this bill would stop the NLRB’s move to strip worker status from graduate students. For more information on this, see Representative Pocan’s press release below. This bill has been endorsed by SEIU – the larger union of which TRU is a part of SEIU Local 500.
The NLRB has extended the time period for which they are accepting comments – all the way to December 30th! If you haven’t signed on to TRU’s petition yet, we encourage you to do so. The Hopkins Graduate Representative Organization has also voted and signed on to the petition.
TRU stands in solidarity with the Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGS). Recently, the Deans of KSAS announced the cancellation of graduate teaching fellowships for this program. This was done without consulting WGS-affiliated faculty and without consideration of the current or former Teaching Fellows. Many graduate students depend on these fellowships for funding, and graduate teaching labor comprises the vast majority of WGS classes taught on campus.
Here’s a letter from former and current WGS fellows explaining the details: https://wgsjhu.home.blog/2019/11/07/women-gender-and-sexuality-studies-teaching-fellowships-an-open-letter-to-the-deans-of-johns-hopkins-university/
Last night, members of TRU attended a town hall with Vice Dean for Graduate Education and Centers and Programs (what a mouthful) Matthew Roller. We received very unsatisfactory answers to our questions. We still don’t know where the money they are taking away from WGS would go to. We don’t know why WGS has been singled out form all programs that offer their own fellowships. We don’t know why Hopkins feels it is necessary to go after a program which amplifies marginalized voices on campus. We also still don’t know why WGS isn’t an independent and fully supported department, as it is at many peer institutions.
The town hall was covered by the Hopkins News-Letter:
We also encourage folks to continue to sign the following petition to show support: https://www.change.org/p/the-deans-and-president-of-johns-hopkins-university-saving-women-gender-and-sexuality-studies-scholarship-at-johns-hopkins
In addition, we are pleased to report the results of the strategy vote from the online votes and from the general body meeting last night. After counting the votes, the union has chosen to move forward with a voluntary recognition campaign in which we push for a contract. Thanks so much to all of you for voting! Stay tuned for updates and plans for future actions!
TRU has sent an email to our supporters regarding both the recent decision of Hopkins to cancel its contracts with ICE and the NLRB ruling regarding Graduate Student Unions at private universities. Below is the text of the email. If you would like to receive regular updates from TRU straight to your inbox, go to the “Contact Us” tab or email us at email@example.com.
Dear Fellow Graduate Workers,
After months of pressure from the Hopkins Coalition against ICE, Garland Hall Sit-In, Coalition for a Humane Hopkins, Teachers and Researchers United, and other advocacy groups on and off campus, the administration has finally decided to cancel its contracts with ICE! Although the university has not acknowledged how the efforts of students, faculty, and community activists led to this decision, we want to congratulate everyone for helping secure a more compassionate and equitable campus. We hope that this achievement will pave the way for our continued work to end the militarization of Hopkins, sexual harassment, and other abuses at and beyond the university. As we strive for recognition as the official Hopkins graduate workers union through our calls for social justice and for six years of guaranteed funding for doctoral students, this victory demonstrates what our combined influence can achieve.
At the same time, we need to address the recent verdict of the National Labor Relations Board that graduate students do not “work” for their universities. Under a proposed NLRB rule change, the federal government will deny graduate workers the right to unionize and hinder our capacity to improve our labor conditions. The current members of the NLRB refuse to recognize our contributions as teachers, researchers, conference panelists, laboratory scientists, and community builders, all of which ensure the success of our universities. TRU condemns the proposed NLRB rule and will not end its activism until graduate workers nationwide have earned the legal right to collectively bargain for contracts with their home institutions. Just as protest compelled Hopkins to end its contracts with ICE, so too can sustained pressure enable us to bypass the NLRB and demand that the administration offer us a seat at the negotiating table.
We must stand together against the NLRB decision and have the opportunity to comment on its proposed rule change for the next sixty days. We urge you to send your own response to the NLRB at this hyperlink: https://act.seiu.org/onlineactions/2KiN7tevZ06OiP0KD5FR7Q2. We also encourage you to show your solidarity with your fellow graduate students by signing a TRU-SEIU Local 500 union card, which you can acquire from any member of the TRU organizing committee or through the TRU email address. Finally, as we continue to connect departments across Homewood and the School of Medicine, we invite you to help us build our grassroots membership so we can pursue our shared objectives. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your continued support, and we promise to fight with you both as students and as workers.
Teachers and Researchers United
We did it!!! It has been confirmed that even after JHU renewed a contract between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the School of Medicine, that contract will be canceled.
This victory is a direct result of the tremendous effort, organizing, struggle and love of many different individuals and organizations – on and off campus. This victory is a clear example of how we as Hopkins workers can hold our university accountable, and how we can work with the wider communities of Baltimore, Maryland, and the United States to change things for the better.
When we work together, listen to each other, care for each other, and refuse to give up, great things are possible. We thank the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE, the JHU Sit-In, the Coalition for a Humane Hopkins, Hopkins Nurses United, ACLU of Maryland, Sanctuary DMV, CASA, and so many more who have stood in solidarity together to make this happen.
More details are available in an article by the JHU News Letter. This victory was also covered in The College Post.
Coalition for a Humane Hopkins, Hopkins Nurses United, and TRU attempt to get a meeting with JHU Hospital Administration
Today TRU stood in solidarity with Hopkins Nurses United and Coalition For A Humane Hopkins- CAHH as we tried to get a meeting with Hopkins Hospital administration. Here is an account of the events of this morning.
First, our group of Hopkins workers, activists, community members, and more entered the lobby of the Billings administrative building. We were looking for the office of Redonda Miller, the president of Johns Hopkins Hospital, to have a meeting with her and deliver a petition concerning improvements to the hospital.
As soon as we walked past the large statue of Jesus in the lobby we were approached by a security guard. “You’re not allowed back here. Do you have an appointment?” he asked.
Tours go through this area fairly frequently but there was something about our group which immediately signaled to the guard that despite the fact that many of us are *employees of Hopkins* we were trespassing.
Is it because we weren’t dressed in fancy suits?
Is it because many of our faces don’t look like those in the portraits hanging on the walls?
Or is it because there is a little too much fire in our eyes?
Our assorted group attempted to show the flaws in the system to the security guard. How can we set up a meeting if no one will return our calls or emails? “Not my problem,” he said.
As Jesus looked on in the background, we continued to ask for the guard’s assistance. Can they or someone else set up an appointment for us? Is there an administrator who can meet with us here? Would someone be willing to relay a message?
Instead, the guard called for backup.
*Eight* security guards surrounded our group. We continued to ask for help in setting up a meeting or delivering our message. Instead we were told to disperse and leave the building. That “the doors are locked for a reason.” That we don’t have a right to trespass on private property (even though many of us are Hopkins employees). And as some people filmed the interactions with the guards, we were told to put down our phones, that filming is “against policy.” For some reason it seemed much more urgent to the guards that we not film them than that we exit the building (although they wanted that too).
Father Ty Hullinger was with us, and he tried to appeal to the humanity of our cause. No luck. Although, if the Jesus statue came to life and asked to speak with an administrator they’d probably tell him to make an appointment too!
Finally, we read out our petition and delivered the demands and signatures to the most senior security guard in the hope that they would pass them along. The demands included:
- Suspending the filing of medical debt lawsuits, and dropping all current medical debt lawsuits against patients.
- Reviewing prior cases in order to reimburse those patients who have been billed more than they should have paid under charity care rules.
- Screening all patients for charity care eligibility at admissions and increasing signage and notifications about charity care.
- Removing the citizenship requirement policy for charity care.
- Meeting with the Coalition for a Humane Hopkins to negotiate a process for implementing these demands in a transparent manner that is accountable to the community.
We left the building and rallied on the sidewalk outside the hospital. Although it was hot as blazes out, we felt invigorated, because Hopkins hospital had shown they are afraid of us! They are afraid because they know we are right and they know we can AND WILL win!
The next rally to improve patient care at Hopkins is coming up July 20th and we hope all the members of TRU will be there to show our belief that a better Hopkins is possible!
Our march with Hopkins Nurses and the Coalition for a Humane Hopkins was covered online in Med Page Today.
On October 17, President Daniels and Provost Kumar responded to the petition which we delivered on September 21. They did so in a letter emailed only to Dr. Drew Daniel, TRU, Students Against Private Police, the undergraduate Student Government Association, and the Graduate Representative Organization. A copy of their email is attached and transcribed below, along with the response written by the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE and endorsed by TRU.
October 17, 2018
Via Electronic Delivery
Dear Dr. Daniel and Members of the Johns Hopkins Community,
We are writing to you in response to your petition requesting that the university end its contracts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). We appreciate your efforts to engage our community in debate around significant national policy issues and the work and role of our university. The concerns you raise are serious and deserve a considered response.
At issue are two long-standing educational programs that provide emergency medical training and leadership education:
- The School of Education’s Division of Public Safety Leadership (PSL) has taught leadership and management courses in degree and certificate programs to law enforcement and public safety personnel at the local, state, and federal levels since 1994, including under a contract with ICE since 2008. This contract will expire in 2019, and the
PSL program as a whole is currently being wound down.
- The School of Medicine’s Center for Law Enforcement Medicine provides specialized physician oversight and education for federal law enforcement personnel who are cross-trained as paramedics and emergency medical technicians, including under contracts with the U.S. Secret Service (since 1999), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (since 2007), the U.S. Marshals Service (since 2007), and ICE (since 2004).
Your petition focuses on the role of ICE in carrying out the immigration policies of the current administration, particularly with respect to family separation and deportation. The petition argues that the policies and actions of ICE are so repugnant to the widely shared values of our
community that we should intervene to terminate the contracts and disassociate the university from the agency.
What we believe is not at issue in your petition, but we want to reaffirm based on other questions we’ve received, is the university’s unwavering commitment to supporting our international and DACA students; offering broad access and support to our students, faculty, and staff without regard to immigration status; and providing exceptional care to immigrant and refugee populations in our hospitals and clinics in the United States and around the world. Johns Hopkins does not provide information about the immigration status of members of our community unless required by law, and Johns Hopkins’ safety and security officers neither request information regarding citizenship nor enforce federal immigration laws without a specific court order. We have been unequivocal in our public statements concerning the consequences of recent immigration policies that have a clear, direct, and demonstrable impact on members of our university community.
After carefully considering your petition, we have concluded that it would be inappropriate and inadvisable for the university to agree to your request.
Our reasoning is grounded in the university’s long-standing deference to faculty decisions made in relation to their research, teaching, and clinical work. This stance is an aspect of our more generalized commitment to the principle of academic freedom.
Here, the two programs at issue were initiated some years ago by members of the faculty in the School of Education and School of Medicine; today, these and other faculty colleagues are responsible for fulfilling and overseeing the programs and remain committed to undertaking educational activities with the agency. Notably, colleagues who lead and participate in these programs do not regard their work as constituting an endorsement—explicitly or implicitly—of the current administration’s immigration policies. In fact, colleagues involved in the programs
share the reservations you have raised about aspects of the federal government’s current immigration enforcement activities. Yet, despite these concerns, our colleagues believe that their programs serve the public interest by providing quality education and emergency medical training
that ultimately benefit those who interact with the agency. Their conviction is buttressed by the fact that the two programs appear to function at some distance from the policies and operational decisions of the federal government, decisions that necessarily change over time and across
We believe that it would be antithetical to the mission of the university if we were to insist that faculty members withhold instruction or medical care in order to have the university express its disapproval of certain aspects of current federal policy.
In this respect, we see a similarity to the view held by faculty elsewhere in the university who conduct research and educational activities in foreign countries where the governments’ norms and policies are regarded by many in our university community as harmful, offensive, or unjust. Despite our colleagues’ criticism of, and opposition to, those countries’ norms and policies, they believe that the benefit of their work—in public health, medical care, engineering, or policy development—merits continued engagement, and even direct work, with these governments. And the university has been unflinching in its support for these activities.
While the claim to protection for research, education, and clinical activities by faculty and students on the grounds of academic freedom is not unbounded, the university must be exceptionally reluctant to abridge that protection. In this case, and after careful consideration of the views of affected faculty, we have concluded that it would be wrong to insist that these contracts be terminated. Thank you again for conveying your views and concerns on this important matter.
Ronald J. Daniels, President
Sunil Kumar, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
The Hopkins Coalition Against ICE has drafted a response, which has been endorsed by a number of groups, including TRU, rejecting the administration’s specious logic.
Endorsement of the Anti-ICE Coalition’s Response to University
In September, nearly 2,000 university affiliates petitioned Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to immediately end its partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). On October 17, President Daniels rejected our demands, emphasizing that the Public Safety Leadership program is winding down and claiming that ending the Center for Law Enforcement Medicine’s cooperation with ICE would infringe on academic freedom. The administration also highlighted that the university does not abridge existing contracts on the basis of changes in federal policy.
These justifications are unacceptable. Facilitating the activities of ICE — including family separation, indefinite detention and mass deportation — is antithetical to the university’s proclaimed values, lacks the academic merit warranting the invocation of academic freedom, and is indefensible under any administration.
JHU has at least three ongoing contracts with ICE, including a program in the School of Medicine that provides medical training to law enforcement agencies and another in the School of Education that provides organizational leadership training. These contracts amount to over $1.6 million in revenue for JHU. But the university’s collaboration with ICE has not been limited to these 5 contracts: since 2009, the university has held 37 contracts with ICE, with the most lucrative worth nearly $950,000. In total, the university has received $6.5 million from ICE since 2008.
Their defense of these contracts is increasingly untenable by the day. In the time since the university’s response to our petition, President Trump sent 5,200 troops to the US’s southern border in response to an imaginary migration crisis and announced plans to eliminate birthright citizenship. At least 220 children separated from their families still remain in custody, four months after a judge ordered all families to be reunited.
These policies are a continuation of the xenophobic logic that ICE was founded on 15 years ago. Their effects are devastating and far-reaching. JHU’s claim that the contracts are made at a “distance from the policies and operational decisions of the federal government” is irrelevant. Our position is that there is no justifiable way to participate in an oppressive institution regardless of whether one supplies the bullets or the band aids.
The university administration defends these contracts by claiming that to terminate them executively would infringe on academic freedom. In this defense, the administration appears to offer protection for faculty to teach controversial subjects without fear of reprisal. The instructional manner of these contracted courses belies the validity of this defense.
The Department of Homeland Security has contracted with Johns Hopkins University, not individual professors. Many of the courses, both in the School of Medicine and School of Education, are led by part-time instructors who are hired on a course-by-course basis, meaning that the instructors do not have a say in whether to maintain these courses.
Under the proposed definition of academic freedom advanced in the letter, JHU is obliged to accept any contract that has the support of a faculty member. This is not the purpose of academic freedom protections. These “courses” are not forums for controversial discussions, venues for critical examination of fraught topics, or tools for research and knowledge production. They are training programs which enable human rights abuses.
JHU administration also claims that the medical training it provides “ultimately benefits those who interact with” ICE. This is an irrelevant point. If JHU wishes to provide medical services to migrants, they need not to do so through ICE. Academic freedom should not give cover to the immense human cost of facilitating this agency’s activities.
JHU’s response to our petition also underlined the services the university provides to immigrants and proclaimed its support for its students, faculty, and staff “regardless of immigration status.”
Currently, there are several constructive ways in which JHU members contribute to the migrant community. Faculty and students at the School of Public Health, for example, carry out important research to expose the deleterious effects of family separation on children, and have been addressing how the fear of deportation contributes to suicide. We believe in the value of this work and support its continuation and expansion.
At the same time, some of the university administration’s recent actions detract from this positive legacy. Over the summer, the university informed one of its employees of five years that it had failed to submit her H1-B visa application on time because it “would no longer be accepted by the people who scrutinize these things.” Tamsyn Mahoney-Steel, Digital Scholarship Specialist and Adjunct Professor of Digital Humanities at Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries, was given only ten days to leave the US—forcing her to leave her family behind. When she appealed to the university administration she was met with indifference. Nearly 2,000 people petitioned the university on her behalf, but the administration remains silent to this day.
We call on JHU to end its complicity with mass deportations and family separations, and take concrete steps to protect international students and employees. We will not cease our demands until the JHU administration terminates its contracts with ICE.
American Civil Liberties Union (Maryland)
Teachers and Researchers United
International Socialist Organization (Baltimore)
Students Against Private Police
Party for Socialism and Liberation (Baltimore)
Johns Hopkins Student Government Association
Industrial Workers of the World (Baltimore)
Jews United for Justice
Students for Justice in Palestine (JHU)
On September 26, TRU announced the public formation of a union of graduate students across all divisions at Johns Hopkins. Representatives from the National Nurses Union (NNU) at Hopkins, the grad union at Georgetown, and the union of security guards also spoke at the rally. A letter in support of unionization signed by over 200 graduate workers was distributed after the event.
The rally and announcement was covered by multiple news outlets including the JHU News Letter, the Real News Network, and the Baltimore Sun.
In light of recent events and the continuing human rights violations committed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), TRU calls on Johns Hopkins University to drop its contract with the agency. As TRU member Sam Agarwal stated in an article in the JHU News-Letter, if Hopkins wants to live up to its pledge to be a sanctuary campus, it must terminate this financial partnership.
TRU will co-sponsor a “playdate” rally and march to bring attention to the contracts and call on JHU to end them.
Teachers and Researchers United (TRU) marked International Women’s Day with the announcement of a new subcommittee, new organizing goals, and new demands, while some of our members participated in a local march honoring working class women. The JHU News Letter covered the events of the march.
First, TRU announced the work of its recently established Gender Equity Subcommittee. Since 2014, TRU has been speaking to graduate students about working conditions, revealing a host of issues relating to gender, from sexual harassment and high attrition rates to lack of healthcare and services. TRU’s gender equity organizing seeks to address these problems and fight for justice and fair treatment within our workplace, as well as ensuring that gender equity guides the principles and workings of our own organization.
In conjunction with TRU’s ongoing healthcare campaign, the Subcommittee took International Women’s Day as an opportunity to draw attention to one glaring issue: childcare. While other universities offer support to parents, at Johns Hopkins graduate workers pay thousands out of pocket for child care expenses. Flyers posted around campus drew attention to this disparity and demanded that the university administration take steps to offer real support to graduate parents.
In addition to TRU’s organizing, a group of TRU members joined in the Baltimore International Working Women’s Day March. The march, which was sponsored by a number of undergraduate organizations and activist groups, rallied in front of the Eisenhower Library. There, various speakers took up a number of issues– from dealing with anti-Semitism and racism in the United States, to struggles of women in Palestine, Syria, and elsewhere in the global south facing the brunt of climate change, exploitation, and military violence – highlighting the multitude of experiences and struggles that define International Women’s Day.
From the university, marchers proceeded to the People’s Park, and shouted chants supporting Black and Trans lives, calling on the US to condemn fascism and welcome immigrants, and an end to police violence.
At the park, additional speakers focused on issues that intersect with the aims of TRU’s gender equity organizing. First, from Maryland where the lack of a just minimum wage forces many women to work multiple jobs to support their children, to the Philippines where the legacy of US military occupation force women to work overseas to support families back home, gender relations are labor relations. Second, that gender equity is not limited to cis women, but must aim for a much more expansive and complex idea of justice and liberation.
(Photo credit Valeria Villanueva)