“Things are going pretty well for me,” admitted a graduate worker in the History Department, “but I worry about my colleagues who have different needs.” This sentiment has appeared during many conversations with employees across campus. Organizing a union is not just about securing age-appropriate health care, adequate wages, and equitable working conditions, but also about building community and a sense of solidarity across disciplines.
GAGE is not just committed to establishing a formal channel for individual workers to express our concerns, but to empowering our collective voice. GAGE is fundamentally an alliance—an opportunity to enrich the graduate experience through exposure to others.
The fact of the matter is that there is something cathartic about passing a graduate employee from another department in Red Square and knowing their name. In unionizing, we join a coalition of graduate employees that hold yearly conferences, and our support page of many other graduate unions shows our collective efforts.
There are other tangible benefits to unionizing as well. Michigan State University gets 20% off at a local coffee shop and 10% off at a local bar and the University of Florida receives a multitude of discounts from local vendors.
From long hours in the lab to days in the archive, graduate work can be isolating. Graduate workers are at particular risk of experiencing depression and other mental health concerns. Imposter syndrome is real, and anxiety is an unwelcome reality. Since GAGE is a community, it provides a unique means of confronting these issues in a supportive environment.
Empathy requires exposure, and where there is solidarity there is power. The Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees believes that community is not just a means to an end, but a valuable goal in itself.