On February 28th, GW Graduate Students United delivered a letter to university President Thomas LeBlanc requesting a meeting to discuss a process through which we could gain recognition as a labor union. On March 6, we received a response from Provost Forrest Maltzman rejecting our request. On March 8 we, along with campus allies and in concert with a national push for recognition of graduate student unions, issued the following public response. You can view the letter as a pdf here. Maltzman's rejection of our request for a meeting is pasted at the bottom of the page.
To: President LeBlanc, Provost Maltzman,
We are disappointed by the administration’s refusal to meet with members of GW Graduate Students United. Not only has the university refused to recognize the essential role that we play in the operation of our university, but you have chosen to disengage on serious issues that are affecting the day to day lives of hundreds of graduate workers.
We are forming a union in order to forge a more constructive relationship with the university, one in which we, as GW employees, are treated fairly and have a greater say in our working conditions. Some of our concerns include securing adequate healthcare and sustainable pay, concerns not easily addressed individually or through our departmental advisors. Addressing these concerns will not only enable us to provide higher quality education to our students but will also ensure that GW remains competitive with other institutions of higher education in the recruitment and retention of the most talented graduate students. These goals are not attainable under our current status of employment.
In light of these concerns and in solidarity with labor actions taking place around the country today, our members—along with the undersigned student groups—request that the university immediately take action to move forward with the process of voluntary recognition for our union. This includes scheduling a vote on unionization, overseen by a neutral third party, wherein our members and supporters can demonstrate clearly their desire to form a union.
GW Graduate Students United
GW College Democrats
GW Feminist Student Union
GW Progressive Student Union
GW Queer Radicals
GroW Community Garden
Fossil Free GW
Roosevelt Institute @ GW
Students for Justice in Palestine @ GW
On March 6, Provost Maltzman sent us the following e-mail in response to our request for a meeting to discuss recognition of our union:
Dear Graduate Students United,
As GW’s chief academic officer, I am responding at President LeBlanc’s request to your February 28, 2018 letter. In that letter, you ask that GW recognize you as the representative of GW’s graduate students.
Although I do appreciate that unions have made important contributions in many industries and over time, I view our graduate students as primarily students. Nor do I believe it is appropriate to utilize a collective bargaining process to shape the graduate student experience. As a result, I must decline your request that GW recognize you as the representative of our graduate students.
That said, I view dialogue and discussion with graduate students about graduate education at GW as being critical to enhancing our programs. Currently, student input is received through a variety of means, but ensuring more student feedback and input can make our great programs even stronger. Accordingly, I have asked my academic team, including school deans primarily responsible for graduate education, to discuss and develop mechanisms to better ensure that all graduate students have more meaningful opportunities to share their ideas and concerns.
Provost and Professor of Political Science
George Washington University