Racial and Social Justice

Working toward a better JHU for all.

TRU is committed to making  JHU a safe place for all graduate workers to live and work, regardless of race, gender identity, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation. We are unionizing in order to defend our rights and those of our co-workers and ensure equitable opportunities for everyone. TRU recognizes that labor organizing work is social justice work, and that all our members lead complex lives with unique challenges. To this end, we are devoted to fighting all forms of harassment and discrimination in academia and our community at large.

TRU and Social Justice

Since its inception, TRU has been an avid supporter of campus activism. Many of our members have been leaders in campaigns and movements against sexual violence, transphobia, and campus militarization, and TRU as a whole has partnered with various activist groups.

In Spring 2019, for example, TRU collaborated with #JHToo to promote a letter-writing campaign to pressure administrators to take appropriate disciplinary action against Anthropology Professor Juan Obarrio, who had been accused of sexually assaulting a visiting graduate student. The campaign ultimately played a pivotal role in the University’s historic decision to revoke Obarrio’s tenure and terminate his employment with JHU.

In that same year, Maryland lawmakers gave Johns Hopkins the green light to launch a private armed police force. This, in combination with the discovery in Fall 2018 that the University had been profiting for years from lucrative contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), sparked outrage amongst students and the greater Baltimore community. In Spring 2019, hundreds of students and community members came together to participate in a series of collective actions led by Students Against Private Police, Hopkins Coalition against ICE, TRU, and other organizations to protest campus militarization. This included a month-long sit-in at Garland Hall– the administration building on campus where the Office of the President is located.

In the fall of 2021, PhD student Luce DeLire organized a protest in partnership with TRU to address transphobic University policies. Among the issues being protested was JHU’s refusal to cover gender-affirming care under its health insurance plan and the requirement that students and instructors input their dead name into the Student Information System (SIS) if they are unable to legally change it. These policies are unacceptable! The leaders of this campaign outlined their demands in a letter to the administration which garnered over 200 signatures from students, faculty, and staff.

We know Johns Hopkins still has a long way to go. TRU is ready and willing to put in the work. We’re here not only to fight for labor, but for our community too.

UE’s History of Fighting for Racial Justice and Gender Equity

“The forces of reaction and monopolies in this country know that they can only achieve their fight to maintain power and control over the working people as long as they are able to divide them and keep them apart.”

Delegate Clifton Cameron, Local 475, at the 12th national UE convention in 1947

TRU has chosen to affiliate with UE due to their long-standing commitment to fighting for racial and social justice in the workplace and society as a whole.

For much of its history, UE was far ahead the rest of the labor movement in the fight against racial discrimination. In the late 1930s, UE became the first American union to seek no-discrimination provisions in all contracts and launched national campaigns advocating for anti-lynching laws and abolition of poll taxes which suppressed millions of voters in the south. Additionally, UE members played a significant role in the campaign to free the Trenton Six– six African American men who were wrongfully accused of murder. Thanks to a deep internal commitment to racial justice, by the 1950s UE had made many great strides in the fight against employment discrimination in the electrical manufacturing industry. By 1954, 87% of all UE contracts contained “no-discrimination” clauses which meant union members were able to win legally binding protections from on-the-job discrimination a full decade before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

Similarly, the fight for equal pay and job opportunities for women has been a priority of UE for decades. In 1945–decades before the women’s movement of the 1970s– UE took a grievance to the National War Labor Board (NWLB) charing GE and Westinghouse with gender-based discrimination. The brief called for “the complete elimination of sex differentials in pay rates, the abolition of so-called ‘women’s jobs,’ and their reevaluation in relation to men’s pay scales.” Despite the fact that these demands were revolutionary at the time, UE workers won the case and the NWLB ordered the electric companies named to end sex-differentiated job classifications and pay inequity for women. Unfortunately, this order went unenforced, but the demands of UE members persisted. The following year, when workers at GE went on strike nationwide, UE workers stayed on the picket lines an additional two weeks to win an additional pay raise for women workers.

Today, UE remains committed to social justice causes and continues to apply pressure on politicians and bosses to maintain equitable treatment and opportunities for all.