3,000 Boston University workers begin indefinite strike for pay, healthcare and benefits

POL PARDINI GISPERT, a striking graduate worker addressing a rally on the Boston University campus

The SEIU union that represents over 3,000 Boston University (BU) graduate student workers started an indefinite strike on Monday.

The decision came a week after the BU graduate workers voted to authorise the strike.
The union, which is part of SEIU Local 509, is calling for fair pay, better health care coverage, and stronger benefits including child care assistance.
David Foley, president of SEIU 509, said: ‘For eight months, we have been urging BU to bargain in good faith and provide the basic information our members need to bargain.
‘BU’s conduct continues to signal that they do not value the contributions of the workers that keep this university running, and we are committed to supporting our members as they fight for the fair contract they deserve.’
Pol Pardini Gispert, a graduate worker and international student in the Philosophy department, said: ‘My partner and I are putting off important things like dental care to prioritise paying our rent and putting food on the table.
‘We need to feed our child, we need to make sure we have housing, and on a $38,000 wage it is really difficult to juggle all of our expenses.
‘I came to BU because they have a strong reputation as an academic institution, but their failure to invest in workers is making this work unsustainable.’
Maggie Boyd, a worker in the English department said: ‘Two years ago, I had a medical emergency that cost me thousands of dollars and took many months to address.
‘I strive to provide the best education possible for my students, and I need to make sure I am healthy enough to do that.’
Graduate workers, who conduct research and serve as teaching assistants and teaching fellows, currently earn between $27,000 to about $40,000 per year, which the union says is far from a living wage.
Both sides met last Monday to negotiate but were unable to reach an agreement.
The university has stated that it is withholding the compensation of the graduate workers if they strike.
The BU Office of the Provost issued a message to departments warning them against paying striking graduate students.
The workers launched their strike with a rally on Monday afternoon at Marsh Plaza on BU’s campus.
Meanwhile, Stellantis the motor company is cutting about 400 jobs in the United States as the maker of Jeep and Ram vehicles works to shift its product lineup toward electric cars.
The decision affects about two per cent of the vehicle maker’s global engineering, technology and software staff.
Stellantis said in an emailed statement that the cuts will take effect from 31st March.

  • Starbucks has agreed to sit down with workers representing its 400 unionised stores in late April and start hammering out principles for a labour accord, another sign the coffee chain and the union may be on the cusp of a new, productive relationship.

Both sides say the bargaining sessions are meant to create a framework for collective bargaining agreements at the stores represented by the union, Workers United.
Each union store will have its own delegate, though how many take part in the in-person talks hasn’t been determined yet.
Starbucks said specific arrangements still needed to be worked out, but called the bargaining dates ‘a further demonstration of our joint commitment to a positive working relationship.’
Starbucks Workers United said: ‘We remain committed to charting a new path forward with Starbucks and are making progress on bargaining details.’
Until now there have been no broad, nationwide negotiations between Starbucks and Starbucks Workers United on settling contracts for the 10,000 employees who have unionised.
The limited bargaining that’s taken place pertain to certain individual shops scattered around the country, making progress on a national accord all but impossible.
Getting representatives from Starbucks and the union stores together in one location would be a major step forward, although much bargaining remains before the two sides can reach first contracts.
Starbucks Workers United noted that any agreements that come out of the talks would still be subject to ratification by the individual stores.
The union has a list of bargaining demands that includes base pay of $20 per hour, expanded paid time off, guarantees for consistent scheduling and a fair process for organising stores.
If the union manages to secure strong contracts with the company, it could encourage more baristas to organise their stores and join Workers United.
The negotiations could also pave a smoother path to unionisation with less opposition from the company.
The campaign, known as Starbucks Workers United, has been one of the most high-profile worker organising efforts in years.
None of the chain’s roughly 9,000 corporate-owned US stores had union representation until Starbucks Workers United began organising them in Western New York in 2021, with the campaign soon spreading to other states.

  • Workers at MV Transportation in the City of Los Angeles, represented by Teamsters Local 572, have voted overwhelmingly to strike.

The 360 Teamsters serve hundreds of thousands of residents in downtown Los Angeles and surrounding areas such as Echo Park, Crenshaw, Fairfax, and Grand Central Station.
Lourdes Garcia, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 572 in Carson, California said: ‘Our members are the heartbeat of LA, tirelessly ensuring that residents – especially those from our most vulnerable communities – reach their destinations safely.
‘From school to crucial medical appointments, our drivers are the lifeline connecting people to essential services.
‘It’s high time our city leaders and MV Transportation recognise the invaluable contributions of our members and the indispensable role they play in our communities. Local 572 members have been in negotiations for months with the City of Los Angeles contractor MV Transportation, demanding fair wages and improved benefits.’
Katanya Currie, a driver at MV Transportation said: ‘As a transit driver, every day feels like a battle.
‘We’re stretched thin, trying to keep up with the demands of our routes while dealing with the harsh reality of constant understaffing.
‘Being overworked by MV Transportation has become the norm as they struggle to fill vacancies and maintain service levels.
‘Despite our commitment to providing reliable transportation, constant staffing shortages result in longer hours, increased stress, and compromised safety for passengers and drivers.
‘It’s time for MV Transportation to take real action to address these issues, starting with fair wages and improved benefits to attract and retain talent in our essential roles.’
Carlos Romero, a mechanic at MV Transportation said: ‘The truth is that we have been forced into this position after years of neglect by MV Transportation, and Los Angeles city leadership has the power to make it right,’ he said, adding:
‘We’re simply asking to receive what other transportation workers in Los Angeles get – fair wages and a fair retirement.’

  • The US and Japan plan the largest update of the security agreement in over 60 years in what they claim is a bid to counter China and North Korea.

According to the report, US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida will announce plans to restructure the Japanese military command during the meeting in the White House on 10th April .
Former Japanese Self-Defence Forces Chief of Staff Ryoichi Oriki said that there is a need to appoint a higher-ranking US officer in Japan, because it is the US that takes the key role in the regional defence.
‘It sends a strong strategic signal to China and North Korea and it’s meaningful from the point of view of deterrence to say that the US will strengthen the command structure in Japan,’ Oriki said.
The Biden administration may also consider upgrading US military units deployed in Japan.