Boston Faculty Welcome Graduate Employees in Movement to Improve Higher Education

Following federal decision to restore graduate workers’ rights, local educators highlight victories on pay, benefits and their voice in campus decisions through FacultyForward/SEIU Local 509

Tufts Lecturers Welcome Grad Employees 82316

Tufts University FacultyForward members gather to send a message of congratulations to their graduate employee colleagues.

BOSTON, MA – Unionized faculty throughout Greater Boston hailed today’s historic Columbia decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – a landmark ruling that asserts the rights and protections of graduate employees nationwide under the National Labor Relations Act. Educators at local private colleges and universities celebrated the prospect of graduate assistant colleagues joining the robust movement to improve teaching and learning conditions in higher education.

“Today marks an important milestone in a greater union movement that is fighting back against the corporatized reality of modern higher education,” stated Max White, an English lecturer and FacultyForward/SEIU member from Northeastern University. “We know first-hand how precarious the graduate employee situation can be, and we welcome all who choose to join us in the fight to steer higher education to invest more in the classroom.”

At Boston University, Writing Program lecturer Marie McDonough expressed enthusiasm for the decision: “We are excited to start off the school year knowing that graduate students who teach and do research in our universities now have a right to a join us in the fight to improve the learning environment for our students.”
Non-tenure-track faculty at Boston-area universities form the backbone of a robust, nationwide campaign to address the crisis in higher education – winning a series of impressive victories that have improved compensation and teaching conditions through unionization. Nearly 4,000 educators have now joined in the shared effort to raise standards and improve the overall quality of higher education through SEIU Local 509’s Faculty Forward initiative. Contingent faculty broke new ground earlier this year with strong first contracts at Bentley, Boston University and Northeastern, following landmark agreements at Tufts and Lesley in 2015. Negotiations are underway among non-tenure-track faculty at Brandeis University. Full-time lecturers and instructors have also entered the fray in recent months, netting landslide union victories at Tufts, BU and Lesley.

“We are thrilled to welcome graduate students into our movement for equitable wages and benefits, as well as course stability and security,” said, Tufts University Senior Lecturer and SEIU 509 member Elizabeth Lemons. “Graduate students with teaching and research assistantships likewise deserve fair treatment and respect for the crucial work that they do with students and as researchers. We look forward to their help building a hospitable academic community—one that values the contributions of all university workers. A respectful community with equitable working conditions is the best environment for student learning.”

The educator-led movement to improve teaching and learning conditions has resonated nationally as well. Just days ago, faculty from around the country convened with other underpaid workers in Richmond, Virginia at the first-ever Fight for $15 convention. Together, the delegation raised calls for better pay and union rights for all workers.

“Any opportunity for fellow instructors to have a say in shaping their working conditions is great news,” said Melissa Wolter-Gustafson, a lecturer from Northeastern’s English Department. “These new voices will strengthen our collective call for universities to begin reinvesting in teaching and in the learning conditions of their students.”

Graduate workers interested in the fight to raise standards in higher education can visit the Faculty Forward website to learn more and get involved.


**For interviews with faculty standing in solidarity with graduate employee colleagues, contact Gabriela Camargo Martins at (774) 326-0535 or**

SEIU Local 509 represents more than 20,000 human service workers and educators throughout the commonwealth, including nearly 4,000 part- and full-time faculty in the Greater Boston area. SEIU 509 members provide a variety of social services to elders, at-risk children and people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities — as well as educational opportunities from early learning to higher education. Local 509 is part of the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in the United States. For more information, visit

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