TRU starts working with UE to build toward a union election process through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has now swung back in favor of grad labor after several years of hostility under the Trump administration.
TRU’s campaign for relief for grad workers impacted by COVID bears fruit on Friday April 2nd 2021, when it is announced by President Daniels and Provost Kumar that the university will be directing $5 million towards aid for PhD students! This comes in the form of 100 travel and research awards averaging about $5000, and 200-300 dissertation completion awards that include tuition, health insurance, and stipend for one semester. It’s not sufficient to mitigate the financial impact of COVID on graduate workers, but marks a victory worth celebrating.
After our calls for COVID-19 relief appear to have fallen on deaf ears, TRU members take to the streets in a vehicle caravan from the Medical Campus up to the Homewood campus, to raise the profile of our campaign. Even so, a few weeks later graduate students are excluded from university employee bonus pay, spurring a new TRU letter writing campaign. A few weeks later, the Homewood Faculty Assembly (HFA) passes a resolution in support of TRU’s demand for universal grad pay extensions. The resolution specifically calls on the admin to tap into the sizable reserves of the central university to fund graduate pay extensions.
TRU collects over 800 signatures on a petition articulating the relief necessary to protect grad workers, including universal extensions of grad pay, no retribution for delayed research progress, suspension of non-resident tuition fees, and extensions of health insurance coverage. TRU members author a series of op-eds to draw attention to the conditions grad workers are facing, including one in the Baltimore Sun, and share testimonials on social media about how COVID-19 has affected their working conditions.
TRU members organize around financial insecurity and the need for at least six years of guaranteed pay for PhD students, after their core concerns are left unaddressed by the Provost’s office. Later in the year, as the Trump administration moves to threaten grad collective bargaining rights, TRU collects hundreds of comments from supporters opposing the rule change and delivers them in DC alongside several other graduate worker unions.
Over the course of the Fall 2018 / Spring 2019 academic year, TRU works in coalition with other groups, including the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE working to end JHU’s contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Students Against Private Police seeking to stop the university’s plans for a police force, and the JHToo movement, formed to support survivors of sexual assault and hold the university accountable for mishandled cases. The year culminates in an over one-month sit-in and occupation of Garland Hall. Hundreds of students and community members participate, in an effort to halt the militarization of the university, and act in solidarity with local groups like West Wednesdays which are organizing against police violence in nearby communities.
TRU goes public as the JHU graduate workers’ union for the first time, publicly announcing our intentions to win collective bargaining rights for graduate workers at Hopkins and negotiate a union contract.
Grad workers finally win improvements to health insurance, including vision and dental coverage, as some of PATH’s recommendations are incorporated into new student insurance plans.
TRU’s healthcare campaign culminates in an action delivering hundreds of signed postcards from graduate workers demanding better healthcare. Later in the year, JHU finally introduces parental leave for grad workers, and creates the Provost’s Advisory Team on Healthcare (PATH) to review existing grad health insurance.
In the middle of their summer break, the students of the Humanities Center learn that their department would be shut down as of June 30, 2017. Dean Beverly Wendland makes the decision behind closed doors and without public oversight – stranding students and faculty and setting an extremely dangerous precedent. Throughout the 2016 Fall Semester, TRU and graduate students in the Humanities Center demand clarity and oppose the closure of the distinguished 50-year-old department.